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Doctoral dissertation project of Jonas A. Löffler

In the Centre of the Periphery. Music in Multi-Ethnic Tiflis around 1900 (working title)

My doctoral dissertation project “In the Centre of the Periphery. Music in Multi-Ethnic Tiflis around 1900” is centred around the question of the nexus between music and identity formation on the fringes of the Tsarist Empire around the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, Tiflis (today’s Tbilisi) was the cultural and political hub of the Caucasus region. Its population was ethnically diverse, with a plurality of Armenian inhabitants and large numbers of Georgians and Russians living together with smaller ethnic groups, including Turkic people (Azeris) and Germans. The ethnic diversity of the city was mirrored in its musical life, in which highly different musical styles ranging from opera performances to staged concerts of Georgian and Armenian folk songs coexisted with a hybrid urban folklore, amalgamating Persian, Armenian, Georgian and Western musical elements. As questions of ethnic/national identity came to the fore in Tiflis among Armenians, Georgians, and Azeris, so also music entered the sphere of public discourse. At the same time, Tiflis was the seat of the Russian regional administration, which in the course of the 19th century pursued a colonially motivated cultural “civilising” mission in Southern Caucasia. Numerous articles, reviews and advertisements in newspapers and journals published in the main languages of the city (Russian, Armenian, Georgian) paint a lively and multi-layered picture of urban musical life. Representing a central source corpus of the project, a thorough analysis of contemporary periodicals will isolate discourses, events and controversies relevant to questions of musical ethnic identity, self-affirmation, othering, and cultural hybridity as well as colonialistic influence. Biographical spotlights on important musical figures of the city shall add more depth to the overall picture.

The project carries out fundamental work in a field, that has so far not received greater academic attention and is relevant to many disciplines. Interdisciplinary at its core, it unites musicological, historiographical, and ethnological methodologies and contributes to current research on identity, nationalism, empire, cultural transfer, global history and not least musical performance and reception. While the historiography of music is still often limited to a monolinear model within the bounds of Western (classical) music, this project seeks to widen its scope, proposing a polylinear, globally oriented model.


Short biography

Jonas Löffler is a doctoral student at the University of Cologne in Germany. He holds a scholarship of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and is member of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne. Jonas studied classical guitar and musicology at the Conservatoire and the University of Basel, Switzerland, and at Oxford University. At Oxford, he was a recipient of the Clarendon Scholarship as well as a grant from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Besides his musicological undertakings, he is a performer on the classical guitar, having received various scholarships and awards. His solo album «Terra» was released in 2014. Above that he works as a translator from Georgian, having published, amongst other things, a collection of short stories for learners of the language and a translation of the Georgian Futurist/Dada journal H2SO4.

Contact: jloeffl3(at)



Löffler, Jonas. Review of Georgien zwischen Eigenstaatlichkeit und russischer Okkupation: Die Wurzeln des Konflikts vom 18. Jh. bis 1924, by Philipp Ammon. Ab Imperio 2020, no. 2 (2020): 267-272. doi:10.1353/imp.2020.0043.

H2SO4. Futurismus und Dada in Tiflis, aus dem Georgischen und Russischen von Jonas Löffler, Berlin: ciconia ciconia 2019.

Lia Abuladze, Jonas Löffler (Hg.), Georgisches Lesebuch (Georgisch-Deutsch), Hamburg: Buske Verlag 2018.

Gaga Nakhutsrishvili, Tutu Kiladze, Meer-Sehnsucht, aus dem Georgischen von Jonas Löffer, Berlin: ciconia ciconia 2018.

Art. „Notation“ im Glossar, in: Nicola Gess und Alexander Honold (Hg.), Handbuch Literatur und Musik, Berlin: De Gruyter 2017, S. 607–608.

Bericht zur Ringvorlesung „Selbstaffirmierung und Othering in der europäischen Musikgeschichte“ 2012/13 am Musikwissenschaftlichen Seminar der Universität Basel, in: Katharina Hottmann (Hg.), Liedersingen. Studien zur Aufführungsgeschichte des Liedes, Hildesheim 2013 (Jahrbuch Musik und Gender 6).



„Imperial Sounds. The Beginnings of a National Choir Culture in Late Nineteenth-Century Tbilisi/Tiflis“, 8. Juli 2020, Vortragsreihe „Works-in-Progress “, Caucasus Research Resource Center, Tbilisi.

„In the Centre of the Periphery. Music in Multi-Ethnic Tiflis around 1900“, 13. Juni 2018, Vortragsreihe „Works-in-Progress “, Caucasus Research Resource Center Tbilisi.

„In the Centre of the Periphery. Music in Multi-Ethnic Tiflis around 1900“, 13. Juni 2018, Workshop „Toward a Global History of the Caucasus“, Staatl. Ilia-Universität Tbilisi.


Cover photo: The Azeri tar player Sadiq and his Sazandari ensemble in Tiflis, 1878. Photo by Aleksander Roinov. // Portrait photo: Patric Fouad