Connecting with the Caucasus

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 to Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Download the event program


Scroll down to access recordings of those lectures that have already taken place.

Growing out of the tradition of more than four decades of scholarship and conferences on the Caucasus at The University of Chicago, CEERES will host a speaker series entitled "Connecting with the Caucasus" during the 2012-13 academic year. We hope to build on the results of our highly successful 2007 conference “The Caucasus: Directions and Disciplines" which outlined the critical agendas that orient regional studies and achieved a high level of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization. This series will bring together both younger and senior scholars from a variety of fields (Linguistics, History, Politics, Anthropology and Sociology, Literature/Music/Art) to revisit the histories, analyze the contemporary situations, and encourage the creation of new knowledge with regard to an area of considerable humanistic, social scientific, and strategic significance. The speaker series will set the stage for a follow-up to the 2007 conference in winter 2014.


CEERES "Connecting with the Caucasus" speaker series is co-sponsored by the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Center for International Studies Norman Wait Harris Fund, and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.


May 21, 2013

5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
Stephen Jones (Mount Holyoke College)
"Why the Saakashvili System Failed"

Professor Stephen Jones received his Ph.D. (Georgian Social Democracy in Opposition and Power, 1918-1921) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1984. He has taught at the University of California, the University of London, and University College, Oxford.  He was a Research Fellow at Harvard University and a Senior Associate Member at St Anthony’s College, Oxford. Since 1989 he has taught at Mount Holyoke College in the US. Professor Jones has written over 70 articles and chapters on Georgian affairs. He published Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, 1883-1917 (Harvard University Press) in 2005; War and Revolution in the Caucasus: Georgia Ablaze (ed.) in 2010; and Georgia: A Political History Since Independence (I.B. Tauris) in 2012. His edited volume, The Birth of Modern Georgia: The First Georgian Republic and Its Successors, 1918-2010, (ed., Routledge), will be out in 2013. He has organized multiple conferences on Georgia, the latest in Tbilisi in 2009 on the Georgian Democratic Republic. Professor Jones has received grants and awards from, among others, the Fondation Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He was the Marjory Wardrop Scholar in Oxford from 1980-1983, and in 2011, he became a Foreign Member of the Georgian Academy of SciencesIn 2012, Tbilisi State University, Georgia, awarded him an honorary doctorate. He has worked for UNHCR and the World Bank, and has delivered presentations for the US State Department and universities around the world.  He sits on a number of editorial boards, including Central Asian Survey and Caucasus Journal, has worked with Georgian libraries in the 1990s on the creation of electronic catalogues, has chaired Georgian NGOs, hosted Georgian programs for the State Department, and is secretary of the Georgian Association in the US. He is proud of his long association with Tbilisi State University, from his student days in 1978-79 to his work there today with the Center for Social Sciences.



May 14, 2013

5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
Tasha Vorderstrasse (Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago)
"Medieval Wall Paintings of Georgia: Iconography of Patronage"


April 15, 2013

3:15 - 4:45pm
Foster 103
Ramaz Kurdaze (Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia; Dartmouth College)
"Georgian Script and Literary Language through Centuries"


April 10, 2013

International House, Home Room
1414 E 59th St
John A. Graham (Princeton University)
"Workshop-Masterclass on Georgian Traditional Music"

More information here:


The country of Georgia is renowned for its striking vocal polyphony. Featuring a unique tuning system, unusual harmonies, and advanced vocal improvisation, this ancient three-part vocal tradition remains part of daily life in the mountain valleys of the Caucasus. Workshop leader John A. Graham bring this music to life with songs and stories that are accessible to all audiences. Please read more about the program below.

This workshop is also sponsored by International House and WHPK-FM (88.5 fm).



April 9, 2013

5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
John A. Graham (Princeton University)
"The Last Master: Georgian Orthodoxy and the Oral Chant Tradition"

In 1966, just one year before he would die at the age of eighty, Artem Erkomaishvili recorded 108 polyphonic chants of the Georgian Orthodox liturgy. He did so at the invitation of the well-known Tbilisi Conservatory professor, Kakhi Rosebashvili, who used cassette-tape playback technology to record him singing all three voice parts. At the time, he admitted knowing 2500 chants by heart, with the assistance of his notebook of texts. But no other singers were available to take part in the historic recording session as Erkomaishvili was the last one alive who knew the intricacies of this semi-improvised, complex repertory. When he died in 1967, many secrets of his vast knowledge, passed down for centuries through oral transmission, vanished with him.


In an effort to recreate the precepts that guided the transmission and practice of chant in the oral tradition, this presentation offers critical perspectives on the corpus of priceless sources from Erkomaishvili's archive, including the 1966 recordings, rare video footage and photographs, and samples from his personal journal of chant texts. His life and work are presented in the broader context of the decline of Georgian ecclesiastical arts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the suppression of traditional chant performance in the early decades of Bolshevik rule. Little known until recently, the modern resurgence of the Orthodox Church and traditional chant has lionized his life achievement as the most recent greatest living master.



John A. Graham is a Ph.D. candidate in the Musicology Department at Princeton University. His work focuses on the oral transmission of Georgian liturgical chant, and the large number of transcriptions collected at the end of the nineteenth century. A dynamic teacher, John combines his choral directing experience with a strong love for Georgian music to create interactive and informative workshop learning environments. The joy of singing Georgian music is infectious in John's well-paced workshops, as a centuries old singing tradition comes to sound.





February 12, 2013

5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
Georgi Derluguian (NYU Abu Dhabi)
"Guns, Maize and Foreign Trade: The Origins of Democratic Polis in the Eighteenth-Century Caucasus"
Listen to this lecture:


In the Balkans and the Caucasus, visitors insistently hear that they cannot comprehend today’s ethnic wars without knowing the history. How much truth is in this?


Professor Georgi Derluguian (NYU Abu Dhabi) will attempt to answer this question in his aforementioned lecture.



January 15, 2013
5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
Tamara Sivertseva (Independent Scholar and CEERES Associate)
"Education of Women in Azerbaijan: The Case Study of School Education in Southern Azerbaijan"
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The system of education in Azerbaijan has witnessed a series of reforms. Sivertseva's presentation analyzes the extent to which these reforms have impacted school education. Some of the topics addressed in this presentation include: how many children, especially girls, drop out of schools? What are their reasons for dropping out? What are the most popular types of professional education? How many women pursue professional careers after graduating? As a special topic, Sivertseva will discuss the impact of traditional religious and cultural values on women’s education in Azerbaijan. Among other things, her presentation will focus on the impact of early marriages on women’s education, as well as negative and positive effects of education on women’s ability to get married.


Dr. Tamara Sivertseva received her Kandidatskaya degree from Moscow State University in 1977 and defended her doctoral thesis at the Institute of Oriental Studies in 1997. She conducted original field work in social anthropology in Central Asia and the Caucasus from 1980-1999. She had several fellowships including a fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Dr. Sivertseva taught courses at Moscow State University, and for the UNESCO International Peace Program in Spain. Her major publications include two individual monographs: "The Family in the Developing Countries of the Orient" and "A Sociodemographic Analysis and Interfamily Behavior of Oriental Women." She is also the editor and a contributing author of two other books, which were published as a result of her project "Portrait of Oriental Village." Dr. Sivertseva has had numerous articles published in Russian, English, and in American journals.


November 27, 2012
5:30 - 7:00pm
Franke Institute for the Humanities (In the Regenstein Library)
1100 East 57th Street
Michael Khodarkovsky (Loyola University of Chicago)
"Empire and Identity in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus"
Listen to this lecture:
This paper is an introduction to the history of the region and its peoples.  We shall consider how and why the North Caucasus became part of Russia; Russian policies during the conquest that lasted for over three centuries; the plight of the indigenous population before and after the Russian conquest; and the emergence of new imperial identities in this contested borderland.
Michael Khodarkovsky is a Professor of History at Loyola University of Chicago.


October 23, 2013

5:30 - 7:00 PM
Classics Building, Room 110
1010 East 59th Street


Sergey Markedonov (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
"The Caucasus Region at the Geopolitical and Security Crossroads"


Markedonov will focus on the transformation of the Caucasus region from a periphery to one of the focal points of Eurasian, European, and Transatlantic security. His presentation will examine the role of various states (USA, Turkey, and Iran), the integration communities (European Union), and international organizations (OSCE, NATO and UN) since the dissolution of the USSR. Special attention will be paid to Russia’s position and its desire for keeping an exclusive role in the Caucasian geopolitics. 

The talk will stress the new status quo shaped by the August War of 2008, including the political agenda for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, new Western strategies on engagement/non-recognition, the impact of the war on conflict resolution in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.
Sergey Markedonov is a visiting fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies Russia and Eurasia Program. He is an expert on the Caucasus, as well as the Black Sea, regional security, nationalism, interethnic conflicts and de-facto states in the post-Soviet area. From 2001 to 2010, Sergey Markedonov worked as head of the Interethnic Relations Group and deputy director at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis in Moscow. He also held teaching positions at the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow State University, and the Diplomatic Academy.