Transcaucasia and the Tribes of the Caucasus

(ISBN: 978-1-909382-31-2)
2016 London
375 pages
Size: 6" x 9"
Language(s): English

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In the spring of 1843, German Baron August von Haxthausen commenced his journey throughout the Russian Empire.  His famous account of his travels became a sensation and his writings on the Russian peasant commune fueled Russian intellectual debates of the day.  To this day, Haxthausen’s work remains a major historical resource on Russian history.  Less well-known is his comprehensive study of the Caucasus.  The baron traveled to the region as part of his broader expedition to Russia.  Intrigued and enchanted by its distinct character and its multitude of cultures and nationalities, Haxthausen felt that the Caucasus deserved a study of its own.  His resulting work, Transcaucasia, though not as renowned as his general study of Russia, is nevertheless just as significant.

Haxthausen’s fascinating survey is filled with valuable historical information.  He recounts his travels along the Black Sea coast and into Georgia, its capital Tiflis (Tbilisi), the city of Gori (the future birthplace of Joseph Stalin), and the fertile province of Kakheti.  Traveling south to Armenia, he was joined by celebrated Armenian writer Khachatur Abovian who accompanied him through Erivan (Yerevan) and its vicinity, including an encampment of Yezidis.  Haxthausen also met with the Armenian Catholicos Nerses V and, in the present-day disputed region of South Ossetia, he surveyed Ossetian village life.  Additionally, his work presents fascinating accounts of the Karabagh region and the oil-rich city of Baku.  It also includes numerous tales and legends from throughout the Caucasus.

Haxthausen’s study was originally written in German but first published in its English translation by John Edward Taylor in 1854.  Curiously, an additional volume written by Haxthausen and translated Taylor, entitled The Tribes of the Caucasus, was published a year later.  That thin work focused almost exclusively on Imam Shamil and the eastern theatre of the Caucasian War, and appears to have been intended by Haxthausen to be an additional chapter of Transcaucasia.  Consequently, this new edition of the Taylor translation includes the content of both Transcaucasia and The Tribes of the Caucasus.

This new edition of Transcaucasia also features a critical introduction by Pietro A. Shakarian and a foreword by the eminent Russian scholar, Dominic Lieven, whose great-grandfather, Prince Paul Lieven, accompanied Haxthausen on much his journey through the Caucasus.  Further, it includes the gorgeous full-color illustrations from the original English edition of Haxthausen’s book, reproduced with the assistance of the Cleveland Public Library’s John G. White Special Collection of Folklore, Orientalia and Chess and Digital Public Library.  All of these elements underscore the significance of Haxthausen’s text—a must-read primary source for students and scholars of Russia and the Caucasus.

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