The First Independent Republics in the Caucasus, 1918-21: A Centennial Workshop

Conveners: Prof. Edmund Herzig and Prof. Robert Service

Speakers: Jo Laycock, Harun Yilmaz, Beka Kobakhidze, Sarah Slye 


Four expert speakers will each discuss the tumultuous history of one of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the North Caucasus between Russia’s February Revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik takeover in 1921. Their presentations and Q&A will be followed by an open discussion to bring out points of comparison and explore the longer-term significance of this brief but momentous episode in Caucasian history. 

Among the themes for discussion will be:
Caucasian nationalities and identities in the Tsarist Empire, the 1917 Revolution and the road to independence
Making nation states: building states and feeble democracies
Regional and intra-Caucasian entanglements
The Caucasus Republics, the Russian and Ottoman Empires, and Iran
The Caucasus Republics and the West
Remembrance of the First Republics: what are the narratives of the first republics in national historiography? What do contemporary politicians have to say about the first republics? How was the centennial marked in today’s republics?

15.45 Registration and tea / coffee
16.00-16.05 Edmund Herzig (University of Oxford), Welcome
16.05-16.15 Robert Service (University of Oxford), Introduction
16.15-16.45 Jo Laycock (University of Manchester), Armenia
16.45-17.15 Harun Yilmaz (independent expert), Azerbaijan
17.15-17.45 Beka Kobakhidze (academic visitor, University of Oxford), Georgia
17.45-18.15 Sarah Slye (University of Cambridge), North Caucasus
18.15-19.15 Discussion / Q&A led by Robert Service
19.15-19.45 Reception
20.00 Dinner for speakers

Attendance is open to all and free of charge, but spaces are limited so registration is advised. To register, please send an email to Beka Kobakhidze <>.

Speaker biographies:
Jo Laycock is Senior Lecturer in Migration and Diaspora History at the University of Manchester. Her research addresses population displacement, diasporas and humanitarianism, focusing on Armenia. Her current project examines responses to displacement in the South Caucasus in the aftermath of the First World War and the Armenian genocide. Her publications include Imagining Armenia (Manchester, 2009) and articles in Kritika, History and Memory and Revolutionary Russia. She is currently co-editing a volume on international humanitarianism and Armenia for Manchester University Press.

Harun Yilmaz received his doctoral degree from the University of Oxford and subsequently worked as a research fellow at Harvard University. He was also a British Academy research fellow and lectured on Stalinism / the Soviet Union at Queen Mary University of London. He is a regional expert on history, politics, national identities and political propaganda. His academic and popular publications cover the Caucasus, Ukraine and Central Asia. He worked in these geographies for long periods and acquired an excellent grasp of existing political and cultural issues at the grassroots level. His last book’s title is National Identities in Soviet Historiography: The Rise of Nations under Stalin (Routledge 2015). He is working on another book on the Soviet construction of modern national identities.

Beka Kobakhidze obtained his PhD degree at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in 2015. He is an Associate Professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA), and Invited Lecturer at the University of Georgia and Caucasus University. He taught at Ilia State University from 2015 to 2017. Currently he is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford (Russian and East European Studies, Oxford School of Global Area Studies). His research interests lie in the foreign policy of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921), the historical intersection between Russia and the Western Great Powers in the Caucasus, and the contested regional history of the Caucasus in the 19th and 20th Centuries. His ongoing research project is Paris 1919-1920: Independence of Georgia in the Political West. 

Sarah Slye is a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Cambridge. She has a master's degree in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona and Russian Studies degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She is writing her dissertation on debates surrounding the potential for regional unity in the Caucasus during the Russian Revolution and Civil War.

Map credit: Andrew Andersen and Giorgi Partskhaladze

georgian map