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#19 - JRL 7007
Chronicle of Higher Education
January 10, 2003
Journal Seeks to Forge U.S.-Caucasus Connection

WORSE THAN EDITORS: Even after the end of Soviet rule, writing remains a perilous occupation in Georgia and surrounding states of the Caucasus.

So David Zurabishvili, an award-winning author of children's books, learned last July, when 10 thugs severely beat him and his colleagues in the offices of the Liberty Institute, in T'blisi. It was not Mr. Zurabishvili's books they objected to, but the institute's efforts to speed the transition to a civil society with a free press, democratic government, and market economy -- and an end to Soviet-era corruption. The attackers, Georgian Orthodox nationalist fundamentalists, objected in particular to the institute's support of the rights of religious minorities, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Undeterred, Mr. Zurabishvili is now among a group of writers who are planning, with colleagues in the United States, to publish a new journal, CaucasUS Context, to forge links between that region and the United States.

He and two colleagues visited fellow organizers at Yale University and Washington University in St. Louis in November. Members of a new generation of young, often Western-educated movers and shakers in Georgia, "they're incredible people, people who still, in order to do the intellectual work they're doing, are in great physical danger," says Michael Holquist, a Yale expert in Slavic studies.

The writers are negotiating with American publishers for print and online versions. CaucasUS Context will be a revised, broader-ranging version of Profile, a four-year-old, English-language journal primarily about Georgia. "We'd like to have something like an Atlantic Monthly for a Caucasus-U.S. readership," says James V. Wertsch, a professor of arts and sciences at Washington University, who is coordinating activities on the American side.

One of the ideas behind the new magazine, says its editor, Zurab Karumidze, via e-mail, "is to 'translate' (in the broad hermeneutical sense) the Caucasus and its problems into language readable for the West." One focus, he says, will be education reform, which is hotly debated as the region decides, for example, how to tell its history.

Mr. Karumidze, editor of Profile, is an expert in Caucasus-U.S. relations and will soon become director of the new U.S.-Caucasus Institute, a T'blisi organization sponsored by Washington University and the 21st Century Foundation of Georgia. He is also a fiction writer known for his experimental approach. He plans to include fiction in the new journal, particularly work by young authors who are creating a distinctively Georgian, post-Soviet literary voice.

"There, translation gets to be a big issue," notes Mr. Wertsch. "These are voices in Georgian, which is not an Indo-European, Turkic, or Persian language."

The first issue, which should appear in May, is slated to include articles about civil society, Georgia's uneasy relationship with Russia, and the Azerbaijani diaspora in the United States.

In one article, Wayne D. Fields, director of the program in American cultural studies at Washington University, will describe the struggle in the United States, around the turn of the 20th century, between advocates for civil society and more self-serving, moneyed forces. His article will show readers in the Caucasus, says Mr. Wertsch, "that it wasn't just God's will or God's blessing that made the United States relatively open and democratic."

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