The Clash of Mythsa Review of The Value of the Past : Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasiaby Victor A. Shnirelman 【Research Note】
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In ethnic conflicts of the former Soviet Transcaucasia, each conflicting group is trying its best todemonstrate the legitimacy of their claims mainly by the criteria of homeland and language. Such choiceof criteria is based on Soviet practice, when ethnic groups could enjoy degrees of privilege of territorialpolitical autonomy only when they were considered to be indigenous ethnic groups of the territories inquestion. Thus, most of the ethnic groups had to show that they were an autochthonous population in aparticular territory which had continued to live there using their own language from the very beginningof their existence as a unique ethnic group.Victor A. Shnirelman's recent book, The Value of the Past: Myths, Identity and Politics inTranscaucasia, examines in great detail the process of how one or another ethnic group was trying hardto reinterpret and rewrite its own history in order to prove its autochthonousness and continued use of itsown language, and, eventually, to create a new ethnogenetic myth. However, a myth of ethnogenesis ofone group often clashed with that of another - often a rival group. The clash set in motion another cycleof historical reinterpretation and rewriting, pushing the parties further and further back into the past.While the book provides us with rich and complex information concerning the whole process, itseems that the author is a little too much interested in the rich details of the practice of rewriting historyto consider the issue of generalization. In this review, therefore, we have tried to describe an approach to formulate a theoretical framework in which Shnirelman's thick descriptions can be generalized andplaced in a proper theoretical perspective, and which enhance, rather then reduce, the value of preciousraw materials of the volume.