Stephen Jones Edits New Book on Georgia

Georgian flags. Photo by Henry Moreau

As the conflict in Ukraine turns all eyes toward Russia and adjoining states, a new book details challenges faced by transitional governments in another of Russia’s neighboring countries, Georgia.

Stephen F. Jones, MHC professor and chair of Russian and Eurasian studies, has edited The Making of Modern Georgia, 1918–2012: The First Georgian Republic and Its Successors, part of a series published by Routledge on contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe.

Jones is an expert on post-communist societies in the former Soviet Union and has previously published three books on the region. They are: Georgia: A Political History since Independence (2012), War and Revolution in the Caucasus: Georgia Ablaze (2011), and Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, 1883–1917(2005).

The new book traces how the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–1921) established a constitution, a parliamentary system with national elections, an active opposition, and a free press when most of Eastern Europe was struggling with dictatorships of one kind or another.

The Democratic Republic of Georgia’s successors emerged after 1991 from a bankrupt empire, and faced, yet again, the task of establishing a new economic, political, and social system from scratch. In both 1918 and 1991, Georgia was confronted with a hostile Russia and followed a pro-Western and pro-democratic course.

The regional experts writing in this book explore the domestic and external parallels between the Georgian post-colonial governments of the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For example, how did the inexperienced Georgian leaders in both eras deal with the challenge of secessionism, what were their state-building strategies, and what did democracy mean to them? What did their electoral systems look like, why were their economic strategies so different, and how did they negotiate with the international community over neighboring threats?

Jones says that these are the central challenges of transitional governments around the world today.

“Georgia’s experience over 100 years suggests that both history and contemporary political analysis offer the best, and most interesting, explanation of the often ambivalent outcomes.”