International Alert has published the second edition of the South Caucasus Literary Almanac, a collection of prose and poetry from the five literatures of the South Caucasus – Abkhaz, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Ossetian – published in one volume in Russian language. The purpose of the Almanac is to stimulate a virtual dialogue between peoples of the South Caucasus through literature and culture, harnessing the unused potential of cultural figures and intellectuals in promoting tolerance and peace.
This second volume has so far been launched in Baku, Yerevan and Nagorno-Karabakh and will also be launched in Tbilisi, Sukhum/i and Tskhinval/i in the coming weeks. Cross-regional presentations are taking place with the participation of different conflict “sides" presenting together.
The Almanac represents a first phase in Alert’s Cultural Dialogue initiative, which aims to establish cultural ties between the peoples of the South Caucasus, encouraging them to rediscover the “human” face of their “enemies” and thus bridging the psychological and emotional divide between them.
This second edition presents a new, previously unpublished writer from each region, expanding the opportunities of cultural dialogue to new authors and to a new generation of writers that are often more familiar with distant literatures than with what is written by their neighbours. This second collection also includes old and contemporary photographs from across the region.
Speaking about the Almanac, Guram Odisharia, member of the Editorial Board says: ’The Almanac should be of equal interest for political analysts as well as writers and the general public, because literature presents history in a slightly different way and retains different facts… after reading this kind of work people understand each other better and they have a renewed dialogue‘.
Odisharia explains that ’the South Caucasus is the birthplace of five literatures and three deadly conflicts. Caucasian writers should not turn their back on each other - they must listen to each other’.
While literature alone cannot settle the conflicts, the power of the written word has long been exploited by those seeking to mobilise people through hatred. Logically, therefore, literature can be put to work for building peace as well – to weaken the stereotypes and ”enemy images” that have built up over so many years of division and propaganda.
Elchin Huseinbeyli, member of the Editorial Board in Baku explains that ’through literature the writers are trying to create a culture of dialogue and peace, and overcome the isolation of peoples from one another resulting from the conflicts. The peoples of the Caucasus have drifted apart as a result of political collisions which have destroyed cultural and information exchange’.
Distinguishing literature from politics, Nadezhda Venediktova, Literary Editor of the Almanac says: ‘There’s a saying – to understand is to forgive. People are just people first and foremost, and their nationality is only secondary to their human nature. Feelings such as kindness, love, sympathy, the desire to do good are all common human traits. We hope that the Almanac will contribute towards creating a common cultural space’.
Subsequent editions will continue diversify the themes, authors, media and literary genre, and in June 2012 Alert will start the second phase of our Cultural Dialogue initiative by hosting a meeting of cultural figures from across the region to discuss how culture can contribute to peace in a more strategic manner.
This initiative is made possible thanks to the generous support of the European Union and the UK Conflict Pool.
FIND OUT MORE
Watch the videos of the launch (in Russian) here:
Visit our South Caucasus Literary Almanac Facebook page for more information, updates, pictures and videos.
Read an article about the publication of the first edition of the Almanac in September 2011 here.