In This Review

Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire
Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire
By Erik R. Scott
Oxford University Press, 2016, 352 pp

Scott argues that the experience of Georgians who have made their way in Russia reveals the Soviet empire’s uniquely multiethnic quality. Rather than think of the Soviet Union as a checkerboard of territorial units with Russia at its core, one could better understand it as “an empire of mobile diasporas that . . . helped construct a truly multiethnic society,” Scott writes. He explores what it meant to be Georgian outside the borders of Georgia, distinct in one’s nationality but also viewing oneself as an integral citizen in the Soviet project. He draws comparisons not only with other nationalities in the Soviet mix but also with the experiences of other empires and the United States. But his focus is on the evolving role of the Georgian diaspora: its early contributions to revolutionary politics; its growing cultural prominence, particularly in cuisine, in the 1930s; its place in post-Stalin arts and entertainment; its role in sustaining the “informal economy”; and, ultimately, its struggle to adapt when its home base was sliced away from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.