Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The Caucasus is so rich in poorly managed and ready-to-explode conflicts that it is quite remarkable how peaceful this unruly region remains amidst the sea of troubles in the Middle East and the stream of strife emanating from Russia. Georgia appears to be a perfect candidate for a ‘hybrid’ contestation between the West and Russia; yet it remains tranquil. Thus, its recent and apparently intractable violent conflicts, Abkhazia being the most important case, are attractive for research re-examination. This slim and elegantly designed book makes a claim for rethinking the 25 years old conflict but regrettably falls far short of the ambition to promote its ‘possible federalist transformation’ (p. ix). Two separate studies are placed under one cover, and both give commendable attention to the Abkhazian position, which is often neglected in scholarly examinations. Still, Gabelia’s historical study has so little new perspective that the expressed ‘conviction’ that the past should be left behind us (p. vii) gains credibility, while Gurashi’s sociological study serves as an illustration to her point about the ‘centrality of skepticism’ (p. 104). The generation of activists who developed useful skills in designing proposals for winning grants in international NGOs has apparently morphed into a cohort of scholars who excel at mixing bits of popular theories in politically correct narratives for landing positions in academia, in this case the Sapienza University of Rome. Federalism may indeed be the most promising way out of the deadlock of the Georgian-Abkhazian-Russian conflict, but neither party has any interest in exploring the power-sharing solutions, which are deeply unpopular in the affected societies. Shallow scholarship doesn’t make necessary compromises agreeable.