Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Peter Holquist


This dissertation asks how nation-ness “happens” at the level of experience. Although the Soviet state was founded on principles of Marxism-Leninism, which sought ultimately to transcend national distinctions, the experience of the Soviet project constructed and consolidated rather than dissolved nationality among its multiethnic population. Existing scholarship on Soviet nationality policies has largely focused on the interwar era from Moscow’s perspective, when the state’s distinctive approach toward managing ethnic difference was conceived and initially implemented. Relying on archival materials in Georgian and Russian, this dissertation examines nationality from the viewpoint of the post-World War Two Georgian SSR, when early Soviet nation-building policies gained traction among its multiethnic citizenry.

By the late Stalin era (1945-1953), internal understandings of Georgian national identity were closely intertwined with pride in Stalin as a co-national. Newly endowed Soviet institutions of nation-building from this period gave form to nationalizing aspirations of local- and republic-level actors in Georgia, from Party cadres to academics. I refer to these processes as productive and excisional institutions of nation-building. The aftermath of Khrushchev’s revelations in 1956 of Stalin’s crimes marked a crucial turning point in Georgia, yet for different reasons than the resistance, confusion, or hope expressed elsewhere in the USSR. The violent suppression in 1956 of demonstrations in Tbilisi against Khrushchev’s perceived denigration of Stalin as a Georgian national figure compelled a reevaluation of what it meant to be Soviet and Georgian in a post-Stalin society. This reevaluation took place among republic leaders and “ordinary citizens” alike, as a new national-social contract emerged that facilitated the hegemony of the entitled nationality by the late 1970s. From the nationalization of the republic’s capital to negotiation of cultural practices to political mobilization toward national interests, citizens in Georgia increasingly inhabited nationality through – rather than in spite of – Soviet institutions and collectives. This study sheds new light on shifting imperial, republican, and local center-periphery dynamics in the postwar Soviet Union and situates the subtleties of the Georgian case within a broader trajectory of twentieth-century Eurasian nation-building practices.

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