Client Ilia State University
Categories Conferences
Location Tbilisi, Georgia
Date 2018
URL Launch Project

On February 21, 1921, the Socialist Republic of Georgia adopted its first and alas, its last constitutional project since the existence of the republic was cut short after the Bolshevik overturn and annexation of Georgia. Both in its time and in retrospection, the document has been hailed as an impeccable legal specimen due to its unapologetic focus on equality and human rights. One particularly enticing feature of the 1921 Constitution is strict separation of the church and the state, a strikingly bold proposition not only for that particular time period, but also for the Georgian context wherein the Georgian Orthodox Church and Chrisitan identity at large figured prominently throughout the country’s history, and particularly in the national identity building projects of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a budding social democracy built on Marxist ideals, the First Republic was naturally averse to religious institutions.  Utmost dedication to equality as the crowning point of class and revolutionary struggle propelled Georgian Mensheviks to avoid directly tackling the leverage of religion in the public sphere. Instead, with Engelsian patience they opted to stand by until religion disappeared as a side-effect of organizing and educating the proletariat  (Engels c1878). Conceptually, this manoeuvre was built on the post-Enlightenment understanding of religion as a “private matter.” The article takes a close look at constitution debates surrounding the topic of church-state separation as well as its reverberations in religious circles and common public. Moreover, it explores the mechanics of building the perception of “the people” in the process of nation-building without utilizing the bonding power of religious association.