Wilson Center Experts
Stephen B. Riegg is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Born in Yerevan, Armenia but educated in the United States, Riegg specializes in the methods of Russian imperialism in the South Caucasus in the nineteenth century, and the evolution of the Russo-Armenian encounter in the context of changing imperial policies and social perceptions. He holds a B.A. degree from the University of Kansas and an M.A. degree from the University of North Carolina. He is currently Student Director of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus, the preeminent scholarly organization for the study of that region in the United States. With the support of the American Councils Title VIII Research Scholar Program, Riegg will spend next year conducting dissertation research in the Russian and Armenian archives.
Stephen Riegg's dissertation, a case study of Russian imperialism, advances our understanding of the methods of rule in the Caucasus by providing the first full-scale academic history of Russia’s absorption and control of Armenia. Armenians experienced the full spectrum of imperial identities that Russian officials ascribed to them: initially recognized as distant Persian vassals known for their economic prowess, they were transformed into loyal Russian subjects crucial for imperial rule of the South Caucasus, only to find themselves a half century later labeled suspect nationalists. This unique experience makes Armenia a particularly useful lens through which to analyze the ways in which Russian imperial policies adapted to changing circumstances. This study breaks new ground by tracing how the basis of the Russian-Armenian relationship in the nineteenth century evolved from an implicitly ecumenical solidarity between two Christian peoples into an explicitly political opposition between an imperial state and its subject nation.