Caucasus Journey XI: Second week in Tbilisi

April 28, 2009

Things are going pretty well in Tbilisi. In general, I like Georgia a lot. The people here seem very laid back and friendly, and the food is really good. None of this is a surprise after my experiences in Russia with Georgians and Georgian cuisine, but all the same it's nice to have my expectations in these regards confirmed.
The archive here has really been a pleasant surprise. When I was first advised by Robert Geraci five years ago to come and research, I had no idea what a great font of information this archive would turn out to be. I'm finding a great amount of material and am really glad that I was lucky enough to get funding to come here. The archive also has a small library, which is open for two hours after the archive reading room closes. Today I worked in the library for the first time, making use of their extensive holdings in late nineteenth century regional government publications.

The archive is closed at the weekend, but the parliamentary library is open on both Saturday and Sunday and I spent the past weekend working there. While the individual cards in the card catalogues of the parliamentary library are written in Russian (when the book or article it refers to is in Russian), the labels on the catalogue drawers are in Georgian. Nevertheless, the four women working in the catalogue section were extremely helpful, running back and forth between my table and the catalogues and constantly coming up with new ideas about where books relating to the topics I'd described to them might be located. At the library I'm allowed to photograph books with my digital camera, so it's been easy to get through a lot of material even though I only work there two days a week. 

I've also been working in the library of the Oriental Studies Institute of Georgia. While this library does not have a very large collection of books that I found useful, they do have an impressive collection of newspapers written in the languages of Russia's Muslim communities.  I'd already worked with closely with most of the ones that interest me when I was researching in Baku during graduate school, however, so I've been spending just about all of my time at the archive and the other two libraries instead.
After working in the archive today, I went to the archive library and worked for a couple of hours with Anastasiia, an historian from Moscow State University who is also researching here in Tbilisi. Once the archive closed, Anastasiia and I went out for tea and dessert with Keti, the director of the library reading room, and Anastasiia's friend David.

The good news with me is that I've been awarded a nine-month research scholarship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. It seems like a really amazing opportunity, but since I'm already tied up for next year I'm not sure if I'll be able to accept it. Hopefully we'll be able to work something out. 

I'm still not quite sure how much longer I'll be staying here. There's a lot that I want to get done in Istanbul prior to heading back to the US in the middle of June, so I don't plan on hanging out here longer than my research requires. As of now, I'm pretty sure I'll be here at least until May 9, and perhaps until May 16.

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