Practices of tangible and intangible exchange, negotiation and intercultural communication

The practices of tangible and intangible exchange, negotiation and intercultural communication are key to a number of research projects. These examine empire societies via intra- and inter-community relations within one empire, across the frontier and in the diaspora: between Jews and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire based largely on the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle; between Armenians and Azeris in the Russian Caucasus; between émigré Caucasians in opposition to the USSR (Claire Mouradian). Marie-Karine Schaub, studying the professionalisation of diplomats at the turn of the 17th-18th centuries, examines the practices of negotiation between government and central and local elites, involving cultural, political and international issues key to also understanding the construction of the empire other than in war-time. Radu Paun’s project on the Ottoman Empire’s vassal states placed between the Orthodox Russian Empire and the Catholic Habsburg Empire examines the notion of cultural communication between sides that do not speak the same language or share the same values, with consequent complicated negotiations and multiple misunderstandings. One aim is to analyse the practices of government on the frontiers of the Ottoman Empire, the transfer and implementation of symmetrical ideas, and the treatment of revolts. Claire Mouradian is working on a comparison of the administrative practices of the three empires that divided Armenia in the 19th century, via the biographies of three statesmen of Armenian origin, Mikhail Loris-Melikov in Russia, Mirza Melkum Khan in Iran, and Nubar Pasha in the Ottoman Empire, men linked across frontiers by a similar desire to turn autocratic empires into constitutional monarchies. Dissertations by Oykü Gurpinar on memories of the Armenian genocide in schools, with a comparative study of history textbooks in Turkey, Armenia and the diaspora, and by Élodie Gavrilof comparing the construction of homo turcicus and homo sovieticus in Armenian schools in the Turkish Republic and Soviet Armenia, are also parts of this research theme of intercultural negotiation and communication, particularly in education policy.

Research into heritage and its associated exchanges and circulation also belongs to this set of questions.  Ana Cheishvili’s doctoral work on the circulation of the collections of Caucasian artefacts acquired by French museums from the many French scholarly expeditions during the 19th century aims to reconstruct the journeys of these artefacts, and examine the biography of the “collectors”, their exchanges with the “collectors” in the Russian Empire and the contributions these collections make to discussions of cultural transfers and the comparative development of the social sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries in France and Russia, and in Europe generally. Ketevan Djavakhishvili is preparing a dissertation on the construction of Georgian heritage within Georgia since the 1960s, retracing the economic and political aspects and identifying the people involved, former and current cultural policies, with their international dimension. Astrig Atamian is examining another type of exchange and circulation, that of luxury goods between the Soviet Union and France, focusing on the caviar trade, where the Petrossian company, founded by Armenians from the Caucasus, had the monopoly and whose archives have been made available to her.

The religious factor in political assertion and distinction in empire societies

The religious factor in political assertion and distinction in empire societies links another set of projects, whether in the role of various faiths as frontier operators on the eastern edges of contemporary Europe, or in the Caucasus, in the comparative role of the Armenian Church in the three empires—Russian, Ottoman and Persian—in the 19th century, examined by Claire Mouradian as one stage in a political and social history of the Armenian Church at the present time, in empires, nation states and diaspora. Laurent Tatarenko is mapping parishes from the 16th to 18th centuries, particularly in Ukraine. Radu Paun’s research has two major themes. One is exchanges between the Orthodox countries and Mount Athos, describing the mechanisms and importance of devotional activities. The other is the complex relations between the prophecies of the imminent collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the anti-Ottoman movements that emerged in the Balkans in the 16th-18th centuries. Elena Astafieva is studying the relationship between theology, religion and politics in Imperial Russia (late 18th-early 20th centuries) through the processes in the church’s education system by which the “official” line of the Russian church on “heterodoxy” and orthodoxy was formed and then disseminated to the wider Russian Orthodox population. The aim is to examine how this line was adopted and implemented by the Imperial government in its internal policy (management of “foreign faiths” such as Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc.) and outside the Empire, particularly in Palestine and Syria, where Russia took up a place as a major power with respect to European countries. For the most contemporary period, Silvia Serrano is researching into Islam in the Russian Federation (particularly in Volga-Ural), examining the religious question as a “public service” in terms both of social dynamics and state responses to them. David Abulazé’s dissertation concerns the formation of Georgia’s public policies towards its Muslim communities since independence, with the growing importance of the religious question both because of Orthodox self-assertion and the repercussions of international events, particularly the war in Syria, where some members of Georgia’s Chechen minority are fighting for Daesh against a Russian ally, and may return home radicalised.

Warrior and military skills

Warrior and military skills are a third research topic in this theme. Masha Cerovic, appointed lecturer at the EHESS in 2017, is exploring the irregular warfare waged by the Cossacks (compared with the Hamidye cavalry regiments of the Ottoman Empire, formed on that model) and its use by the government to conquer and run the Empire’s frontier areas from the late 19th century until the Revolution and Civil War with the Red Armies. Lina Tsrimova’s PhD research, supported by a grant from Tepsis, analyses the construction of the image of the Caucasian by Russian soldiers and the discursive arsenal that justified violence throughout the conquest of the Caucasus from the late 18th century to the 1860s, and the expulsion of the Muslim mountain peoples to the Ottoman Empire. Another form of irregular warfare is studied by Lusiné Navasartyan in her PhD research into the Armenian volunteers in the Russian army on the little-studied Caucasian front in the First World War. This concerns the “mythology” of these volunteers, the embryo of a national army, in the reconstruction of the Armenian state. The violence, disruption and forced displacement on the Caucasian frontier between the Russian and Ottoman Empires are also central to the research of two other team members. Shivan Darwesh’s dissertation examines the migrations of Yazidi Kurds throughout the “long 19th century”, particularly to the Russian Caucasus, while Burak Oztas is studying the construction of a new Chechen diaspora following recent wars, bringing together former exiles from the 19th-century Caucasian wars and those from the post-Soviet hostilities.


École française de Rome
École française d’Athènes
Centre français de Jérusalem
Centre d’études en sciences sociales du religieux
Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques (CETOBaC)
Centre de Recherches Historiques (CRH)
École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE)
Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Centre d’études franco-russe (CEFR), Moscow