Colloquium: Revolution on the Black Sea: The Remaking of “Muslim Georgia” under Soviet Rule / Harrison King

On May 31, at 7 pm Tbilisi time, the biweekly research colloquium of the Institute for Social and Cultural Research at Ilia State University will host Harrison King’s presentation “Revolution on the Black Sea: The Remaking of “Muslim Georgia” under Soviet Rule.”


Why was Ajara granted autonomy in 1921 and how did the Soviet “experiment” unfold in this strategic corner of Transcaucasia? To what extent did the Bolsheviks build upon earlier techniques of imperial rule versus distancing themselves from their tsarist predecessors? Using sources from Georgian, Russian, and Turkish archives, I will discuss how the Bolsheviks perceived and struggled to govern Georgia’s southwestern Muslim borderlands during the Stalin era. In particular, I focus on the sovietization of the Ajaran Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (or “Ajaristan”) and the neighboring district of Akhaltsikhe in the 1920s-30s, drawing attention to the Soviet authorities’ conciliatory approach towards Muslim believers, ad-hoc policies, and compromises as they went about building socialism on the Georgian-Turkish border. I also interrogate the rhetoric of friendship between the nascent Soviet and Turkish states by showing how the majority-Muslim regions of Ajara and Akhaltsikhe were focal points of tension between these revolutionary allies who probed the outer limits of their sovereignty in the Black Sea hinterland.


Harrison King is a Ph.D. Candidate in Late Modern European history at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation project is a political and cultural history of the Russian-Ottoman and Soviet-Turkish border region from 1878-1961. His research is broadly focused on the comparative history of the late Russian and Ottoman empires and the intertwined rise of their revolutionary successor states, the Soviet Union and the Turkish Republic. Harrison holds an MA in Comparative History from Central European University and a dual BA in International Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Miami University (Ohio). Currently, he is conducting archival research on a Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship in Georgia and Turkey. 

The event will take place in English via Zoom. Registration is required.

To register, please click here.

Photo: Yearbook of Red Ajaristan, 1922, courtesy of the Archive of the Ajaran Autonomous Republic