The Imaginaries and Claims of 20th Century Forced Migrants: A Comparative Study of Georgian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani Exiles

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Kekelia, Elene, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Olick, Jeffrey, AS-Sociology (SOCI), University of Virginia

This dissertation investigates the construction and role of national memory in exile through the intersection of memory studies, nationalism, and forced migration. It systematically compares the Georgian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani exiled communities who found refuge in Europe around the 1920s until the onset of World War II. Occasionally, I extended the analysis to include materials from subsequent decades and the 21st century in addition to those from this interwar period. Using historical archives and interviews, two sets of research questions are examined on the agency, claims, nature, and role of the subaltern exilic national memory. In considering these communities of exile, my research examines how national memory is created, stored, safeguarded, and utilized both in exile and beyond. This is a story of postcolonial intellectuals and nationalist elites who acted as a carrier group in the 1920s, advocating internationally against the suffering of Soviet Georgians, Ukrainians, and Azerbaijanis. Exiles produced an alternative account, comprised of four counternarratives, to that of the Soviet Union. These identified narratives (a memory of occupation and independence, “the civilized ,” the victorious nation, and the politics of differentiation) constitute a stored memory that became an available past for their respective countries. In the case of the Georgians, the safeguarded émigré memory was negotiated, recovered, used for centennial celebrations in 2018 and finally reintegrated into the national body.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Collective memory, commemoration, diaspora, exilic national memory, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, nationhood/national identity, postcommunist/ post-Soviet, Soviet narratives and émigré counternarratives, suppressed and stored memory, USSR, centennial
Related Links:
  • National memory in exile: The case of the Georgian émigré community 1921–2018.
  • Notes:

    Kekelia, E. (2023). National memory in exile: The case of the Georgian émigré community, 1921–2018. Nations and Nationalism, 29( 1), 246– 263.

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