New publication – “We witnessed the break-up”

“We witnessed the break-up.” – Six Swedish and Danish researchers on the final years of the USSR seen from the Caucasus

The new book is edited by Märta-Lisa Magnusson and myself, and is published in the series Caucasus Studies, Malmö University, 2021.

We are a multidisciplinary group of Swedish and Danish researchers, recounting our experiences in the Caucasus region during the final years of the Soviet Union and the period shortly after – political scientist Ib Faurby, cultural geographer Lars Funch Hansen, researcher on minority issues Helen Krag, slavicist Märta-Lisa Magnusson, historian and Iranologist Søren Theisen and myself, a general linguist.

The book is available as an ebook and in print, links to both formats are found here.

The authors meeting at Malmö university, discussing the first draft of the book

The contributions to the anthology are written in Swedish and Danish and are illustrated with many original photos taken during our travel and fieldwork in the South and North Caucasus.

We write about the new movements for independence in the Caucasus and increasing tensions with Moscow, how the Soviet structures at different levels were breaking down and the national cultures became increasingly important. They describe how premodern traditions still play a role, despite Soviet modernization, account for specific cultural features and similarities and also witness deepening ethnic antagonism.

In the opening contribution Märta-Lisa Magnusson, based on impressions from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia at the end of the 1980s, puts the question “The Soviet people, did it exist?”. In his chapter, Ib Faurby adopts a global as well as local perspective: The disintegration of an Empire in a perspective from below. The following chapter I focus on the role of language and identity in Georgia: Four years that changed the identity of Georgia. Søren Theisen travelled extensively in Armenia and writes about the Soviet legacy and pre-Soviet traditions in A Little Trip Down Memory Lane. Travels in Armenia before and shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Lars Funch Hansen shares his impressions from Spitak, the Armenian town that was severely hit by an earthquake in 1988: When the mountains wept. Spitak, December 1989. A photo story from a field visit in snow and ice in Armenia on the 1 year anniversary of the earthquake in 1988. In her chapter Forget it if you can Helen Krag approaches silenced aspects of minority issues in the Caucasus. Lars Funch Hansen continues the topic of conflicts in the North Caucasus and focuses on the Prigorodnyj district and the conflict between North Ossetia and Ingushetia: “He is a conflictologist”. Field research in North Caucasus at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union. In the last chapter How I conquered the North Caucasian stronghold Majkop I illustrates challenges of doing field work in the Soviet period in her research on the structure and status of the Northwest Caucasian Circassian language.