A Regional Framework for Historical Developments in the Caucasus, 1917-1921

Slye, S. (2022). A Regional Framework for Historical Developments in the Caucasus, 1917-1921 (Doctoral thesis).
This thesis presents a regional framework for the political and military history of the Caucasus during the period of the Russian Revolution and Civil War. Based on journalistic materials, archival documents and contemporary publications in Russian, Georgian, French and English, this chronological study demonstrates that political, military and ideological leaders in the Caucasus 1917-1921 were operating in conscious awareness of their regional context and took it into consideration as they maneuvered through the challenges they faced in the international, all-Russian, national and local spheres. It does so mainly by proving that, despite their preoccupations with national or class concerns, these leaders repeatedly promoted or visited the idea of creating a shared political, administrative or security space for all the Caucasian nations, whether as a regional autonomy, a federation or a confederation. In 1917, the Caucasian leaders’ attention to the regional dimension is evidenced through an analysis of their debates, reflected in the press, about what sort of legal-political relationship the nations of the Caucasus ought to have with each other, a potential regional center and the all-Russian center, and about whether Russia should be reconstituted as a unitary or federal republic. The parameters of these debates had already been mapped in previous decades of discussion about whether the Caucasus ought to form a regional autonomy within a reformed Russian Empire or the Caucasian nations should create a regional federation, and whether this federation would be independent or part of a new Russian federation. As this thesis shows, in 1918 the “national-regional” question in the Caucasus was resolved through a spontaneous decentralization process when circumstances forced the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, and, subsequently, the four national republics of the Caucasus, to proclaim independence. Then, between 1918 and 1921 the four Caucasian republics struggled, albeit rather feebly, to reconcile their conflicting interests and territorial claims with their need to cooperate to remain viable and survive as they each tried to obtain international recognition while under the threat of reabsorption into Russia, which was seen as a recentralizing force, whether White or Red.

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