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Language policy and national identity in Georgia
Language has been long recognised as a powerful marker of national identity, as has its role in transforming multi-ethnic societies into unified nations. Such is the case of multi-ethnic and multilingual Georgia, where language has today become a crucial factor in interethnic relations and in the Georgian nation-building process. This thesis sheds light on the nature of kartveloba (Georgianness) by examining Georgian language policy over the entire history of the nation. Despite the country’s long-standing civilisation and its established culture, Georgian statehood began to decline from the second half of the thirteenth century, until the country was eventually incorporated into the Russian empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since then, there have been several attempts to instigate a ‘national revival’: 1) the cultural/linguistic movement of the nineteenth century, 2) the struggle to build a nation-state in 1918-1921, 3) the national liberation movement during the Soviet period (1921-1991), and 4) nation-state building in the post-Soviet period. All of these periods display common features with regard to language policy. After investigating language policy and identity developments in the pre-modern period, this thesis examines Georgia under Russian rule (both Tsarist and Soviet), which made the country vulnerable to ethnic conflicts, and tries to explain the violent outcomes. The thesis goes on to examine public debate of language and minority issues, as well as efforts to elaborate inclusive language and ethnic policies in contemporary Georgia. The main body of the thesis consists of six chapters. The first sets out the nature of the problem, the practical importance of this study, and its methods and structure. The second discusses the main concepts and theoretical considerations. The third traces the development of kartveloba before modern times. The fourth chapter examines the origin of modern national identity, whose main marker was the Georgian language. Chapter five analyses Soviet language policy in the wider context of the ethnic policy and analyses the nationalist aspirations of the Georgians in the twentieth century. Chapter six deals with official policies in the post-Soviet period, but also looks at language practice and attitudes among minority groups. Drawing on primary sources (such as government decrees, laws and other documents, media publications, social surveys and interviews), as well as secondary sources, it seeks to explain how Georgia has dealt with and reflected its multicultural character under different governments. It also investigates the role of language policy in the process of nation-building and makes proposals regarding ways that formulating language policy might help form civic society in Georgia.
- Theses