As I mentioned on my Media page, one of the greatest joys and frustrations of those living in or working with Georgia is the lack of easily navigable, up-to-date resources. On the one hand you get to experience the sense of adventure that comes with experiencing new things primarily on your own terms, instead of after reading about what to expect from an expert. On the other hand you may also become hopelessly lost (physically or figuratively) and feel frustrated by the lack of guidance.
Unless you are a fluent Georgian speaker, however, you are bound to run into many informational roadblocks. Unlike in the U.S. or Europe, where you can easily find all the information you need online, many services, events, etc. are shared by word of mouth or through local print advertisements. This is partly due to the fact that the internet (and its associated culture of sharing) is not as widespread in Georgia as it is in many other countries. Additionally, foreign visitors were not allowed to work or travel freely in Georgia until fairly recently, so Georgia never had need to develop a coherent system of multi-lingual resources.
So unlike the Media page, which contains resources about regional history and culture, these Resources are intended to provide links to more practical information: restaurant reviews, transportation, events, news sources, entertainment, housing, etc.
Georgian Language Learning Books
Anyone learning a non-“mainstream” language will know that books and materials are expensive, hard to come by, outdated, or non-existent at certain levels. The following is a selection of highly-rated Georgian language textbooks and guides.
This mini-textbook is probably the most widely used self-teaching book available. It was published much more recently than other books and has the benefit of audio. Hippocrene’s format is dialogue-based, so students learn Georgian grammar and conversation skills by reading and listening to characters discuss certain topics (visiting a friend’s house, touring a city, making dinner, etc.). After each lesson are a few exercises for practice, supplemented by grammar explanations. Dr. Kiziria, my Georgian language instructor at Indiana University’s SWSEEL program, said she is glad the book is helping so many people, but was disappointed that important grammar lessons took a backseat to the dialogues (a demand from the publisher), which does become a problem over time.
Language School Georgia, run by Nana Shavtvaladze, offers a series of textbooks and workbooks called “Biliki” (the way). She developed these over years of teaching Georgian to English speakers at embassies and NGOs. Levels I and II (beginner, early-intermediate) come as sets, each with an activity/workbook, textbook, and dialogue book with audio. Levels III and IV (intermediate) are forthcoming. As of now, this series is only available in Georgia (Prospero’s carries them), and they are quite pricey, but you can look at PDF samples of each level online to determine if you think it would work for you.
This is a much more in-depth self-teaching textbook. It is designed for beginners, but can be a bit dense. I find it makes a good companion for “Beginner’s Georgian,” as then you have both your conversation and your grammar sections covered. The 2005 reprint comes with 4 CDs, which are really essential for Georgian, which can at times be difficult to pronounce.
This book is for an early intermediate Georgian student–not a beginner. This is helpful, however, considering there are few to no intermediate-level Georgian books, so it fills a major gap. “Georgian Language and Culture” does not have an audio component like Aronson’s first book, but it does include sections on literature and poetry, which enable the student to see the language at work while learning about Georgia’s history and culture. Many of these texts are difficult if not impossible to find in a side-by-side translation as is done here. Also helpful are the extensive glossary and dialogues written by a native speaker.
Not only is this book 2-3 times more expensive than other books on this list, but it is widely recognized as inferior. I would strongly suggest the Aronson/Kiziria books over this one, which I once managed to check out from a university library to avoid buying it. Like Aronson’s books, it is dense. But unlike Aronson, Hewitt uses rather obscure examples to illustrate his grammar points (i.e. “apparently she has a fish bone stuck in her throat”), which is not particularly helpful for those hoping to master everyday Georgian. He has also been called out on using inappropriately slangy expressions without explaining their subtexts, as well as using not-so-comical negative stereotypes of Georgians in his dialogue scenarios. Even strictly on an educational basis, the book can be hard to follow because the author does not establish a clear structure and the lessons don’t build on one another.
This is essentially a phrasebook produced by an independent publisher, and can easily be ordered from survivalgeorgian.com. I like it because it’s fairly compact and covers a wide range of topics, phrases you would use if you are at a doctor’s office, babysitting, grocery shopping, etc. I don’t like it because some of the words are quite specific, particularly the “Romance/Relationships” section, and I am hesitant to use any phrase for which I do not understand the more subtle shades of meaning.
NOTE: Lincom, a German publisher, offers a book called “Essentials of Georgian Grammar” by Shorena Kurtsikidze. This book is used by UC Berkeley’s Georgian language students, and it is actually very good, better than almost all of the books listed above. Unfortunately, it is now obscenely expensive (unless they print a second edition). If you can find a used copy, it is well worth it.
Georgian Language Learning Online
Malmo University, a Swedish school with many online offerings, runs an online Georgian course in Beginner and Intermediate. Unfortunately, the program used to be completely free, with only a nominal student union fee. Now it is only free to EU citizens, while Americans must pay a few hundred dollars.
Expat Life in Georgia
Internations.org, Tbilisi Branch, is by “invitation only” (you send in a very short application, which is usually approved). Basic membership is free, but still grants you access to incredible resources: reviews of restaurants, language tutors, daycare providers, sports clubs and teams, housing, insurance; pretty much everything. It is also has events pages and social networking components to meet other expats.
Research in Georgia
The director of American Councils in Tbilisi put together this custom Google map, “The Researcher’s Guide to Tbilisi.” Pins on the map indicate helpful libraries, archives, universities, and other organizations (even cafes with reliable wifi), with website links for each if available.
Jumpstart Georgia is an NGO that uses open-source technology to open up public data relevant to current social issues. This is particularly helpful in Georgia, where even supposedly public data is disorganized and hard to find.
Feradi.info is a fun visualization site that turns statistics (public health, transportation, political spending, etc.) into creative infographics.
Universities with East European/Eurasian/Caucasus Studies Programs
ARISC.org maintains a well-updated list of programs on their Resources page
- University of California, Berkeley: Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEES)
- University of California, Los Angeles: Center for European and Eurasian Studies (CEES)
- University of Chicago: Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES)
- University College London (UK): School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)
- Columbia University: Harriman Institute (MARS-REERS degree)
- Ilia State University: International School for Caucasus Studies (ISCS)
- George Washington University: Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES)
- Georgetown University: Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies (CERES)
- Harvard University: Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus)
- Indiana University, Bloomington: Russian and East European Institute (REEI), Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS)
- Johns Hopkins University: Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Silk Road Studies Program
- Nazarbayev University (Kazakhstan): School of Humanities and Social Sciences
- Malmo University (Sweden, online): Caucasus Studies
- University of Michigan: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREES), Armenian Studies Program (ASP)
- Oxford University (UK): Russian and East European Studies (REES)
- St. Andrew’s (UK): Centre for Russian, Soviet, Central, and Eastern European Studies (CRSCEES)
- University of Wisconsin, Madison: Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA)
Scholarships, Fellowships, and Internships
CRRC (Caucasus Research Resource Centers) International Research Fellowship
NCEER (National Council for Eurasian and East European Research) Title VIII National Research Competition, Hewett Policy Fellowship, Short Term Travel Grants, James R. Millar Graduate Student Prize, Junior Scholars Training Seminar, and Carnegie Research Fellowship
The Eurasia Partnership Foundation offers grants for professionals and groups looking to start non-profits or projects with the aim of promoting civil society and democracy in the South Caucasus
ACTR-ACCELS (American Council for International Education) Collaborative Research Grant in the Humanities
SSRC (Social Science Research Council) Postdoctoral Transregional Research Fellowship, and Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (Travel Grants)
Havinghurst Center (Miami University) Postdoctoral Fellowship
Georgian Diaspora/Georgians in America
Babajana.com, Craigslist-type website for Georgian expats
Georgian America, a news and community site for Georgian expats in the US
Argo Georgian Bakery, Chicago, IL
Dancing Crane Georgian Dance Theatre, Brooklyn, NY
Pirosmani Georgian Cuisine, Brooklyn, NY
Mtskheta Cafe, Brooklyn, NY
Tbilisi Restaurant, Brooklyn, NY
Georgian Bread Bakery and Sandwiches, Brooklyn, NY
Tamada Restaurant, Brooklyn, NY
Mamuli, a Georgian language newspaper published in the U.S.
St. Tamar Georgian Orthodox Church, Washington DC