Mikhako Tsereteli and the Conceptualization of Nation in Georgia in the Early 20th Century

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The beginning of the XX century is extremely difficult and interesting period for Georgia. Georgia faced the new challenges in this chronological distance of time. The relevance of the research topic is determined by aggravated ideological confrontation between the political parties at the beginning of the 20th century, which was expressed clearly in their discussion about the national issue. The polemic about the national issue continued in 1900- 1917, which had been started in the sixties. However, at that period it got more corrosive political character. The main participants of the discussion were the members and leaders of the political parties. Soon this polemic turned into the ideological confrontation between these parties. The inheritors of “Tergdaleulebi” (drinking Terek waters) were trying to propagandize nationalism, to foment the protection of national values. Parallelly to this, capitalism was developing in Georgia as well, which promoted not only the change of the economic forms, but also the transformations happened in political life. In the 20th century Georgia had to overcome the changes arisen as a result of collapsing of feudal system and locate itself in a new social-economic environment. On the other hand, it was to continue the struggle for the independence of Georgia in a different way, because the armed assaults were ineffective. One more way of struggling for independence was to carry out the policy oriented to Europe, which would result in bringing Georgia on the international arena and mobilize Georgian society against the conqueror. Perhaps it was the reason why the representatives of national forces found theoretical fulcrum mostly in the European thinkers’ views. The theories of nation by well-known European authors, which Georgian thinkers discussed so actively in the early 20th century, are less likely to be studied in Georgia today. It is necessary to study their thoughts and influences once again in order to see a real picture of how the concept of nation formed in Georgia. A monograph, “Nation and Mankind”, written by a famous Georgian scholar, publicist, philologist and political figure, Mikhako Tsereteli, allows us to analyze this aspect well. The concept of nation by Mikhako Tsereteli is important for several reasons: 1) Anarchists represented extreme left-wing of Georgian society and political sphere. Certain anarchistic ideas as a form of socialist doctrines have begun to exist in Georgia since the 1860s. Mikhako Tsereteli belonged to the group of anarchists, who always considered the concept of nation as prime and prioritized in spite of ideological views. Mikhako Tsereteli was a clear and rare example of how a Georgian thinker preferred to deal with a national problem existing in Georgia rather than his political ideology; 2) Mikhako Tsereteli’s opinion about the concept of nation is extremely important, because he is the author of the first sociological research in Georgia – “Nation and Mankind” (1910), in which the author tries to analyze the categories of nation and mankind and it finally leads us to the fact, that Mikhako Tsereteli denies the phenomenon of man and admits original nature of the phenomenon of nation; 3) It is worth noting, that Mikhako Tsereteli was greatly influenced by his contemporary European thinkers, especially sociologists. While formulating the concept of nation, he scrutinizes the theories of nation existing in Europe and forms his own concept of nation on account of criticizing or partially agreeing with the different thinkers’ viewpoints such as Salomon Reinach, Ernest Nys, Pasquale Stanislao Mancini, Johann Kaspar Bluntschli, Ernest Renan, de Greef, René Worms, Tard, Otto Bauer, Rudolf Springer. There is no doubt, that Mikhako Tsereteli studied the European theories of nation and created “Nation and Mankind” based on them, which doubles the interest towards the author. At the beginning of the 20th century both part of Georgian politicians and society thought, that restoration of state independence was futureless. A newly stated idea of cosmopolitism was more acceptable for those people. The idea of one society was making the problem of nationality insignificant and thus, the interest of society and political parties towards the concept of nation was slowing. In order to change such attitude in society, Mikhako Tsereteli created “Nation and Mankind”, in which nation is considered to be ideal from society values against the concept of mankind.
The concept of nation, The theories of nation, National issue, Nationalism, Mikhako Tsereteli