Melissa Gayan

Melissa Gayan


BA in Political Science and History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
MA in History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Research Interests

Modern Europe
Soviet Union
Georgia and the Caucasus
Nationality and Ethnicity

Dissertation Topic

"The First Crack in the Ice: How the 1956 Protests Altered Soviet Cold War Hegemony"

Faculty Advisor

Matthew Payne


My dissertation examines the impact of one of the many violent incidents between the Soviet Union and Georgia, the 1956 Tbilisi massacre. This massacre occurred when students gathered in Tbilisi on March 5th to hold an unofficial demonstration in memory of the third anniversary of Joseph Stalin¿s death because the government failed to recognize it in the wake of Nikita Khrushchev's "Secret Speech," which exposed the extent of Stalin's crimes and weaknesses, of the previous February. This example of state violence against its constituents is significant because the Tbilisi protests were pro-Stalinist, a technique glorified and encouraged by the Stalinist cult of personality which was only overturned by Khrushchev's "Secret Speech." The research focuses on the multi-leveled contested and cultural nature of national identity in the Soviet Union. Additionally, it will determine how this protest, in tandem with Khrushchev¿s de-Stalinization efforts, forced changes upon Georgia¿s relationship with Moscow.