The politics of memory plays an important role in the ways certain figures are evaluated and remembered, as they can be rehabilitated or vilified, or both, as these processes are contested. We explore these issues using a transition society, Georgia, as a case study. Who are the heroes and villains in Georgian collective memory? What factors influence who is seen as a hero or a villain and why? How do these selections correlate with Georgian national identity? We attempt to answer these research questions using a newly generated data set of contemporary Georgian perspectives on recent history. Our survey results show that according to a representative sample of the Georgian population, the main heroes from the beginning of the twentieth century include Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Ilia Chavchavadze, and Patriarch Ilia II. Eduard Shevardnadze, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, and Vladimir Putin represent the main villains, and those that appear on both lists are Mikheil Saakashvili and Joseph Stalin. We highlight two clusters of attitudes that are indicative of how people think about Georgian national identity, mirroring civic and ethnic conceptions of nationalism. How Georgians understand national identity impacts not only who they choose as heroes or villains, but also whether they provide an answer at all.

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Nationalities Papers

Gugushvili, A., Kabachnik, P., & Kirvalidze, A. (2017). Collective memory and reputational politics of national heroes and villains. Nationalities Papers, 45(3), 464–484. doi:10.1080/00905992.2016.1261821