Map section of the Black Sea with the surrounding countries. The coastal cities are marked and labeled with black dots.

Batumi, Odessa, Trabzon. The Cultural Semantics of the Black Sea from the Perspective of Eastern Port Cities

150 years after the Crimean War, the Black Sea, with the Russian annexation of the Crimea in spring 2014, returned to the centre of world politics. The Black Sea region has, once again, become the scene of shifts in the basic order of Europe, reflecting its geopolitical importance as well as the strong symbolic and affective charge of the Black Sea. The project examined the deep cultural dimension of these current tensions, in which unresolved 19th century conflicts were reactivated as imperial legacies.

The specific approach of the project was to examine different (symbolically and affectively charged) imaginations of the Black Sea from the perspective of the three Black Sea ports of Batumi, Odessa and Trabzon. These cities had played a decisive role in the Oriental question of the 19th century and were also the focus of military and cultural conflicts.

The project was guided by three concepts: 1. cultural semantics—in the sense of charging spaces with affective meaning; 2. imperial legacies—understood as the historical dimension of current political conflicts, especially in view of the discrepancies between the spatial conceptions of imperial predecessor states (or those imagining themselves to be imperial) and the current states; 3. port cities—as privileged “exceptional places” in which the state order is disrupted and a distinct economic and cultural space is created.

Thus, from the perspective of the eastern port cities, the Black Sea region could be characterized as a connecting space that represents an alternative—albeit unstable and oscillating—spatial order to the imperial and national orders. It was shown that free ports especially, such as Odessa or Batumi, but also other port cities of the eastern Black Sea, are exceptional places in the economic sense, because they fall outside the economic order of a state, instead being part of an international trade order. They also developed a subversive and latently anti-imperial character, markedly different from the basic order of the tsarist empire. In addition to the economic one, port cities also have a cultural specificity that emerges, for instance, in literary texts such as Isaak Babels “Tales from Odessa.”

The project drew from and extended the findings of the research conducted from 2012–2015 in the project Cultural Semantics of Georgia between the Caucasus and the Black Sea, which was also funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

A cooperation between the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL) and Ilia State University Tbilisi.


Fig. above: Black Sea map, source: Wikipedia

Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation 2016–2018 and Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2019 2016–2019
Head researcher(s): Giorgi Maisuradze, Franziska Thun-Hohenstein
Associate Researcher(s): Zaal Andronikashvili, Esma Berikishvili, Giorgi Ghvinjilia, Eka Tchkoidze

In Cooperation with the Ilia State University Tbilisi

ZfL Research on Georgia


Manfred Sapper, Volker Weichsel, Zaal Andronikashvili (ed./eds.)

Traumland Georgien
Deutungen zu Kultur und Politik

Osteuropa 7/2018
Berlin 2018, 144 pages
ISBN 978-3-8305-3890-5

Zaal Andronikashvili

Giorgi Ghvinjilia

Candan Badem

  • Trabzon as a port city and point of exchange between the Russian and Ottoman empires, in: Zaal Andronikashvili (ed.): Port Cities as Contact Zones and Cities of Exception. Identity Studies in the Caucasus and the Black Sea Area. Tbilisi: Ilia State University Press (forthcoming)
  • From Empire to the Republic. Cultural Semantics of Trabzon, in: Zaal Andronikashvili, Mzagho Dokhturishvili, Alexis Nuselovici, Bela Tsipuria (eds.): Black Sea as a Space of Literature and Culture. Tbilisi: Ilia State University Press 2019

Ekaterine Tchkoidze

  • Russian empire’s strategy to make port-cities as contact zones (South Caucasus railway network and Batumi in the 1880s–1910s), in: Zaal Andronikashvili (ed.): Port Cities as Contact Zones and Cities of Exception. Identity Studies in The Caucasus and the Black Sea Area. Tbilisi: Ilia State University Press (forthcoming)
  • Oil and Soil: the role of Batoum’s economic development in shaping of geopolitical significance of the Caucasus, in: Gelina Harlaftis, Victoria Konstantinova, Igor Lyman (eds.): The port-cities of the eastern coast of the Black Sea. From the Azov to the Caucasus, late 18th – early 20th centuries (forthcoming)
  • The Black Sea in Georgian pilgrims’ writings (18th–19th cc.), in: Zaal Andronikashvili, Mzagho Dokhturishvili, Alexis Nuselovici, Bela Tsipuria (eds.): Black Sea as a Space of Literature and Culture. Tbilisi: Ilia State University Press 2019
  • The Greeks on the Black sea coast and the Caucasus (1917–1921), in: Teona Iashvili, Ketevan Asatiani, Nino Badiashvili (eds.): Archival and Source Studies – Trends and Challenges. Tbilisi: Ilia State University Press 2019, 107–113
  • “ra vaḳetet, ras všvrebodit” anu sakartvelos istoria meoce saukunisa [in Georgian: “What did we do, what did we push” or the History of Georgia in the 20th Century], in: Tamar Neparidze (ed.): resbublikis 100 celi – 26 esse [100 Years of the Republic – 26 Essays]. Tbilisi 2018, 205–211
  • Roma e i georgiani nel contesto del pellegrinaggio cristiano (IV–XI ss.), in T. Grdzelidze (ed.): Roma e i Georgiani. Cultura Studium 109. Roma: Studium Edizioni 2017, 104–113
  • Ṗolitḳuri orientaciis sakitxi me-19 sauḳunis kartul literaturaši vasil barnovis “armazis msxvrevis” mixedvit [in Georgian: The Question of Georgia's Political Orientation in Georgian Literature Using the Example of Vasil Barnov's “The destruction of Armazi”], in: Maia Baramidze, Manana Mikadze (eds.): Sprache und Kultur 5. Kutaissi, 519–525


20 Dec 2019

Zaal Andronikashvili: Hoax im Zeitalter des Künstlichen Intellekts. Viktor Pelevin's Roman »iPhuke 10«


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03 Dec 2019 · 4.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Tbilissi als Kosmopolis

Universität Potsdam, Campus Am Neuen Palais, Haus 9 Hörsaal 102, Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam

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16 Nov 2019 · 12.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvilli: The Other Empire

Centre Pompidou, Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris (FR)

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23 Nov 2018 · 9.00 am

Zaal Andronikashvili: Non-Simultaneity in European Development

Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), Charlottenplatz 17, 70173 Stuttgart

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19 Nov 2018 · 6.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Nationbuilding und kulturelle Hegemonialkämpfe im Kaukasus. Georgiens kulturelle Semantik

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Wilhelmstraße 36, 72074 Tübingen

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Concluding conference
25 Oct 2018 – 27 Oct 2018

The Black Sea as a Literary and Cultural Area

Ilia State University, Kakutsa Cholokashvili Ave 3/5, Tbilisi 0162 (GEO)

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Book presentation and talk
12 Oct 2018 · 12.00 pm

Literary bridges. Georgian-german academic collaboration

Frankfurter Buchmesse, Halle 5.0 / Stand 5.0/B100

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Readings and talks
10 Oct 2018 – 14 Oct 2018

Events with Zaal Andronikashvili at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Ludwig-Erhard-Anlage 1, 60327 Frankfurt a.M., verschiedene Orte

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14 Sep 2018 · 7.30 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: »Das Land, das die Literatur sehr liebte«. Ein Streifzug durch die georgische Gegenwartsliteratur

Kur-Apotheke Wolter, Poststr. 15, 57319 Bad Berleburg

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Reading and Talk with Zaal Andronikashvili et al.
30 Aug 2018 · 8.00 pm

Der Held im Pardelfell. Eine georgische Sage

Buchhandlung ocelot, Brunnenstr. 181, 10119 Berlin

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09 Jul 2018 · 4.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Georgische Literatur zwischen keiner Literatur und Weltliteratur

Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Logenstr. 11, Logenhaus 001

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20 Jun 2018 · 6.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Das Richtige Leben im Falschen. Die Freiheit der Kunst und Wissenschaft in Sowjetgeorgien

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Senckenberganlage 31, 60325 Frankfurt a.M., Campus Bockenheim, Juridicum, Raum 1001 (10. OG)

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Reading and discussion
25 May 2018 · 7.30 pm

Neue Lyrik aus Georgien (moderated by Zaal Andronikashvili)

Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstraße 23, 10719 Berlin

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Panel discussion
02 Dec 2017 · 7.30 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Kiew. Stadt der Helden? (Einführung und Moderation)

Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, Schlossstraße 2+4, 82327 Tutzing

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15 Nov 2017 · 4.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Rosa Mai vs. Roter Oktober. Der Kaukasus vor und nach der Oktoberrevolution

Universität Hamburg, Hauptgebäude, Flügel West, Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, 20146 Hamburg, Raum 221

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01 Nov 2017 · 6.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Rosa Mai vs. Roter Oktober. Demokratischer Sozialismus in Georgien als eine Alternative zur Diktatur des Proletariats

Institut für Slawistik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Dorotheenstraße 65, 10117 Berlin, Raum 5.57

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04 Oct 2017

Zaal Andronikashvili: Theater and Populism from Marx to Laclau

Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi State University of Theatre and Film, 40 Davit Aghmashenebeli Ave, Tbilisi (GEO)

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28 Sep 2017 · 3.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Literary and Political Romanticism in the XIX century Georgia

Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature, Tbilisi, Kostava Str. 5, Assembly Hall

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20 Sep 2017 · 4.20 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Demokratischer Sozialismus. Georgische Alternative zur Diktatur des Proletariats

Staatliche Iwane-Dschawachischwili-Universität Tiflis, 1 Chavchavadze Avenue, T'bilisi 0179 (GEO), 115

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Conference in Batumi, Georgia
05 Sep 2017 – 06 Sep 2017 · 10.00 am

Port Cities as Contact Zones and Cities of Exception (with a special focus on the Black Sea after 1774)

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Wednesday Lecture
20 Apr 2016 · 7.00 pm

Hannah Baader (Florenz): Laden, tauschen, übersetzen. Praktiken und Ästhetiken an den Schwellen zwischen Land und Meer

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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04 Feb 2016 · 7.00 pm

Zaal Andronikashvili: Glaubensbrüder oder das Reich des Bösen. Die Russlandbilder der georgischen Literatur

Botschaft der Republik Georgien, Rauchstraße 11, 10787 Berlin

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Media Response

29 Jan 2017
Von Puschkin bis heute. Der Kaukasus in der Literatur

Radio programme by Olga Hochweis, with ZfL-colleague Zaal Andronikashvili, in: Deutschlandradio Kultur, program: Literatur, 29 Jan 2017

18 Jan 2017
Georgien und Europa. Europäische Perspektiven und Hoffnungen im Südkaukasus

Podcast with Zaal Andronikashvili and Tim Pritlove about Georgia and its relationship to the European Union, in: Fokus Europa (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung), 18 Jan 2017


19 Sep 2016 Video
“Thalassophobia. Georgia and the Sea”
A conversation between Zaal Andronikashvili and Gogi Gvakharia in the program “The Red Zone,” a collaboration between Georgian Public Broadcaster 1 TV Channel and Radio Free Europe Georgia (in Georgian)
Video: © Radio Free Europe