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GEORGIA’S EUROPEAN WAYS Political and Cultural Perspectives


Supported by the Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration

EDITORS: Zurab Karumidze Mariam Rakviashvili Zaza Shatirishvili ENGLISH EDITOR: Paul Rimple TRANSLATORS: Irakli Beridze Noah Kankia DESIGNER: Tamar Potskhishvili









Ivliane Khaindrava ISLAND GEORGIA




Zurab Kiknadze A EUROPE IN ASIA















FROM THE EDITORS What’s European about Georgia - its identity, history, culture? What makes Georgians dream of Europe as their home, their family? Can Georgians make “good Europeans” (to highjack Nietzsche)? These are the questions that the essays below address. These questions might sound untimely though, as Europe itself is going through an identity crises, but our book is about Georgia’s European Dream, not of Europe’s domestic nightmares. Identities are imaginative constructs. This book presents how Georgian political, cultural and esthetic imagination shaped Europe in Georgian minds – directly or indirectly: bringing Europe into Georgian context, or developing ideas and values that bear family resemblance with those European. For the last three centuries, Georgia gravitates towards a European identity. This has had various motives: the awareness of common roots – Greco-Roman-Christian; seeing Europe as an institutional and broader governance model to emulate in Education, Culture, Social and Economic organization; the quest for stability and security in the context of a hostile geo-political neighborhood. You will come across some names of Georgian authors, poets, public intellectuals, who travel from story to story in this book: Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, David Guramishvili, Nikoloz Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze, Galaktion Tabidze, Merab Mamardashvili – the apostles of Georgia’s European identity throughout those three centuries. If you look at how the modern and post-modern Georgian intellectuals read the history of their nation, you will see one obvious narrative template: we were the springboard of Christianity towards Europe from the Middle East; we were the final stop on the Silk Road for centuries, before the goods of Asia reached Europe; we were the first producers of wine in Europe; anchored in Europe, we were the bridge of the western lands to other worlds. Vaclav Havel’s call for a “return to Europe” had for Georgians a deeper civilizational significance. Indeed, the making of Georgian culture has a strong affinity to European civilization, but the historical period when Europe matured into its present form – the late middle-ages, with its Renaissance and Enlightenment – largely passed Georgia by (with the notable exception of Shota Rustaveli, whose 12th century poem was written earlier than its Renaissance analogues where created in Europe). This is the period when European social, cultural and esthetic life forged


the liberal and democratic mindset which laid the foundation for modern and post-modern Europe as we know it today. “Europe is maximum diversity on minimum space” – as Milan Kundare put it concisely. But starting from the early 19th century, first through Russia and then directly – Georgians restored their contacts with Europe, absorbing major cultural and artistic tendencies. It was not a blind imitation, but adaptation, translation in the broadest sense of the word – European cultural forms were loaded with Georgian realities. The richest episode in the history of Georgian and European rapprochement, during which “democratic esthetics” materialized and, moreover, coincided with political democracy, was the age of Georgian Modernism (1910s and late 1920s). It spanned three dramatic historical periods: the collapse of the Russian Empire, the emergence of the Georgian Democratic Republic, and the Sovietization of Georgia. The so-called “First Republic” proved to be quite a successful experiment in social-democracy. As for the Georgian Modernism of that period – it was a genuine explosion of artistic freedom, liberty and diversity in visual arts, theatre and literature. Sovietization ended with another separation from Europe by Stalin’s Iron Curtain. Georgia had to wait until Khruschev’s Thaw (late 1950s, early 60s) to reestablish its encounter, though rather meager, with Western cultural and artistic life. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia embarked on the rocky road to join the Euro-Atlantic Family. Despite difficult geo-political, domestic political and economic conditions, Georgia resolutely keeps moving westward. Is the West ready to embrace this small but committed nation? Does the West regard Georgians as “good Europeans”? Can Georgia deliver on the commitments it has made on its way to full-fledged membership of Euro-Atlantic structures? It seems that Europe is divided on this, like on various other issues. One thing is clear, however – Europe should open up towards Georgia, open eastward. Self-enclosure and isolationism cannot be a European trait. Umberto Eco was once asked – “What is the major European Language?” And he answered: “The Language of Europe is Translation.” Exactly! Europe historically has been molding various cultures into each other – this hybridity has been Europe’s true nature and civilizational mission. We hope that Europe is going to stick to this mission. Compiling and editing this book, we wanted to support this mission. You can accept this book as a “meta-book”: it is opening many pages of the “book of Georgia”, seeking to make this country readable to decision-makers and the broader public in the West.





GEORGIAN LAW AND EUROPEAN TRADITION INTRODUCTION: LAW AND VOLKSGEIST Friedrich Carl von Savigny, one of the greatest German jurists, should be credited for insisting on parallels between volksgeist (national spirit or character) and law. Civil law reflects the characteristics of one nation or another, similar to its language, traditions or political structure, and builds upon inward conviction and necessity.1 Savigny formulated both volksgeist and law, which he claimed stems from volkgeist, in conformity with Hegelian tradition: “Law grows with growth, and strengthens with the strength of the people, and finally dies away as the nation loses its nationality.”2 Law is a historical phenomenon, and its codification, unless it organically matches the legal culture of the people, can only be detrimental.3 This is why Germans adopted a unique civil code that matched German thought as late as 1900, a century after the coming into force of the French Civil Code. Before that time, Germans spared no effort in thinking of Roman law as an organic constituent of German law and history and to group casuistic material into abstract categories. At first glance, the modern-day Civil Code of Georgia, which came into force on 25 November 1997, does not seem to be based on volksgeist by any stretch of the imagination. It was composed quite hastily by a joint Georgian-German commission led by its spiritus lector, Professor Rolf Knipper. The code was not based on its predecessor, Soviet civil law, either. On the contrary, it prided itself on rejecting the principles of Soviet law in favour of German, and partially French civil law. Naturally, adopting achievements of even the most advanced culture of law could have been futile or even harmful if Georgian legal tradition had rejected this innovation as something alien. The fact that the law was not rejected is an indicator of a strong Georgian legal tradition, which had worked hard for centuries in order to keep pace with reception of the Roman law in the Europe.

F. C. Savigny, Vom Beruf unserer Zeit für Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft, Heidelberg 1814, 8. Savigny, Vom Beruf unserer Zeit, 7. P. Caroni,Savigny und die Kodifikation, in: Zeitschrift Savigny Stiftung Germ. Abt. 86 (1969), 97; Savigny, Vom Beruf unserer Zeit, 29: „Law exists independently, and its existence lies directly in the coexistence of people as seen from a very different angle.“ 1 2 3


ROMAN LAW AND EUROPEAN TRADITION In his conversations with Eckermann and Goethe the most celebrated German jurist likened Roman law to a duck sometimes it is visible, swimming prominently on a surface of the water, and at other times it is hidden, diving amid the depths, but it is always there.4 Similar to a duck, the Roman law would sometimes disappear from legal discourse only to re-emerge in the spotlight later. Ultimately, however, the Roman law had always been within range of the European legal discourse and had never disappeared from surface or submerged deeply enough to have its importance questioned.5 The Digests, the main compendium of the Roman law are the very foundation of the European law without which European culture in its current form would be unimaginable.6 It is not only the source of the European legal culture, but, at the same time the most comprehensive surviving monument of the Roman law, a summary compilation of reasoning of Roman jurists.7 At first glance, it is not clear how a law, composed centuries ago in a totally different social and cultural environment could have been applicable in times like the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and with power structures such as Nationalism, monarchies, and republics, and to continue to define a structure of thr European law to this day. Today, a law of one country may prove useless in another, not to mention in different eras. The laws of other nations in classical antiquity have failed to rise to prominence, consequently sinking into oblivion. The Roman law, on the other hand, is a different story, and with a good reason. The Romans were the first to reject a notion of national law and to establish the so-called ‘open legal system’, where several legal concepts, such as ius civile, ius gentium, and ius honorarium coexisted and the legal status of peregrini or non-Roman citizens equalled that of Roman citizens. The Romans succeeded in overcoming a strict formalism of ancient legal codes, which stemmed from ritualistic considerations. No formalities, only mutual consensus were required to execute bills of sale, rental agreements, and other legal documents,8 which is characteristic to an advanced personal autonomy. Along with rejecting ritualistic formalism a binding power of civil agreements rested upon a different foundation, bona fides or good faith and fair dealing between parties, which applied to legal agreements between both Romans and peregrine. Mutual trust, as a foundation of obligations set forth in an agreement, enabled the parties to execute a contract. Should a given party violated this mutual trust, it would have been ordered by the magistrate to provide goods or to perform acts stemming from mutual trust (quidquid dare facere oportet ex fide bona). Thus, the Romans were first to place protection of trust in the very heart of legal discourse, which is a cornerstone of contemporary legal systems.


Overcoming a narrow national character of civil law, turning personal autonomy into its fundamental norm and protecting mutual trust between parties are the principles for which the Europe and civilized world in general are forever indebted to Roman law.9 At the same time, Roman jurists never ceased to ensure development of their laws; which is why Heinrich Mitteis, a great legal historian of the twentieth century, believed that freedom from legal positivistic stagnation and from blind faith in legal dogmas to be Rome’s greatest achievements.10 Legal theoreticians continue to debate how to categorize laws of the European countries. According to one theory, the European law is divided into the family of Roman, German, and common laws (the first two make up continental law, and the third covers all of the Great Britain with the exception of Scotland).11 The other insists on differentiating between only the Roman law and common law countries.12 Both theories agree, however, that Roman legal tradition is a foundation of continental law.

Goethe zu Eckermann, 6. April 1829; Rainer, Das RömischeRecht in Europa, Wien 2012, 1. Rainer, Das RömischeRecht in Europa, 1. H.-D. Spengler, Römisches Recht und europäische Rechtskultur, in: Die kulturelle Eigenart Europas, Freiburg, Basel, Wien, Herder 2010, 48. 7 Spengler, Römisches Recht und europäische Rechtskultur, 53. 8 Spengler, Römisches Recht und europäische Rechtskultur, 61; Roman jurist Ulpian quotes his colleague, Quintus Pedius Paulus: „Agreement has a general significance, as Pedius put it neatly, there is no contract, no obligation, which does not consists of agreement, be it in deed or word“ (Ulp. D. 2.14.13: Adeo autem conventionis nomen generale est, ut eleganter dicat pedius nullum esse contractum, nullam obligationem, quae non habeat in se conventionem, sive re sive verbis fiat). 9 Spengler, Römisches Recht und europäische Rechtskultur, 61. 10 H.Mitteis, Vom Lebenswert der Rechtsgeschichte, Weimar 1947, 129, 131. 11 K. Zweigert/H. Kötz, Einführung in die Rechtsvergleichung I, Tübingen 1985, 72 ff. 12 H. Honsell, Lebendiges Römisches Recht, in: Gedächtnisschrift für Theo Mayer-Maly , Wien 2011, 227. 4 5 6


GRECO-ROMAN LAW AND GEORGIAN LEGAL TRADITION The Roman law was introduced in Georgia through influence of the Byzantine law. An obvious impact of Byzantine culture on Georgian legal culture is confirmed by adoption of the Nomocanon and the Lesser Nomocanon, monuments of the Byzantine canon law.13 Byzantine influence can also be seen in the 1103 Ruis-Urbnisi Code of Canons under Davit Aghmashenebeli (David the Builder).14 As for civil law, the Code of Laws compiled under King Vakhtang VI between 1705 and 1708 deserve special mention. It consists of the following parts: 1. Mosaic Law 2. Greek Law 3. Armenian Law 4. Law of Catholicoi 5. Law of King George 6. Law of Aghbugha and 7. Law of Prince Vakhtang, that is, the code of laws compiled by Vakhtang VI himself. Besides the Code of Armenian Law of Mkhitar Gosh, the Armenian law section also contains Syrian and Roman law, a late antiquity monument created in Greek language shortly after death of the Emperor Leo I in 474 AD.15 Its composition is credited to Ambrose, a professor of law16 at the time, and the body text, divided by genre, seems to be a summary of his lectures. For the most part, this monument is based on the Late Antiquity compilation of laws, such as the Code and the Novellae Constitutiones of Emperor Theodosius, the Novellae Constitutiones of Valentinian III, the Codex Gregorianus, and the Codex Hermogenianus, as well as excerpts from the Institutiones of Gaius, the Sententiae of Paulus, and other unknown jurists of Classical Antiquity. Although this supposedly Syrian and Roman Laws was applied in Georgia and Armenia much earlier than Vakhtang’s laws, its old translation had been lost by the time of Vakhtang, so it was necessary to translate it from Armenian language along with the Law of Mkhitar Gosh.17 The Roman law entered Georgia in its original, albeit unsystematic, fragmented form through the book of Syrian and Roman laws. The Greek law, with its 418 surviving articles covers a second section in King Vakhtang’s Code of Laws. It consists of laws from the third period of the Byzantine law,18 which comprise a compilation of the Syntagma by Matthew Vlastar (a Thessalonian canonist and theologian in the fourteenth century) and a book by Constantine Harmenopoulos (a jurist of the same period).19 Most likely, an abridged redaction of the Syntagma was adopted, and excerpts from Harmenopoulos and other Greek sources may have been used to fill the gaps. As for the hierarchical order of different books within the Code of Laws of Vakhtang VI, the laws compiled by the King would be given priority, but



foreign laws were not merely non-obligatory texts containing only general guiding principles for judges; imported legal provisions were equally obligatory applicable. As King Vakhtang VI points out in the introduction to his work, “The judge may use whichever at his discretion” and “Consider and reason which [law] is preferable and rule accordingly.” Documents from different periods bear witness to the application of foreign laws in Georgia.20 This is why, in the time of King Vakhtang VI, late antiquity Roman and Byzantine laws were not only organic parts of Georgian legal thought, but also applicable laws, due to which old Georgian law, similar to other Eastern Orthodox Christian countries, took to adopting the Greek and Roman laws.21

B. Zoidze, Reception of the European Law, Tbilisi 2005, 38. B. Zoidze, Reception of the European Law, Tbilisi 2005, 38. D. Liebs/P. Nagel, Rezension des Werkes von Selb/Kaufmann,in: Savigny-Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte, Rom. Abt. 121 (2004), 560. 16 Liebs/Nagel,Rezension des Werkes von Selb/Kaufmann, 560. 17 Вл. Сокольский, Греко-римское право в уложении царя Вахтанга VI, Журн. Мин. Нар. Просв 1896, 88. 18 T. Bregadze, Greek Law from Vakhtang VI Code of Laws, Tbilisi, 1964, 20. 19 T. Bregadze, Greek Law, 23 (with reference to V. Sokolsky). 20 T. Bregadze, Greek Law, 17 ff. 21 Вл. Сокольский, Греко-римское право в уложении царя Вахтанга VI, 92. 13 14 15


IUS GENTIUM: THE LAW OF OTHERS AS ONE’S OWN Including foreign laws in the Code of Laws of Vakhtang VI resembles a phenomenon found for the first time in Rome among the states of classical antiquity. The concept of ius gentium, that is, law of nations,22 is a Roman heritage applied in Europe until the emergence of nation states.23 A brief history of this concept is as follows: ius proprium civium romanorum, the law of Roman citizens and its institutions applied only to its citizens, much like in other nations. The Romans used ius gentium to establish a general legal environment, which they took from experience of other nations24 and incorporated it in their own law. Creation of ius gentium or the law of all nations,25 was triggered by a number of factors, mainly economic, which followed territorial expansion of Rome and then its citizenship after the third century AD. Yet, factors that drove it are not as important as an idea behind ius gentium, because it is a Roman equivalent of natural law that emerged in the Age of Enlightenment.26 According to Cicero, although a state ensures the binding force of ius gentium, it is equally binding in a case of non-citizens, as it befits a nature of all people.27 In his definition of ius gentium, Gaius ties it to natural reason: “Quod vero naturalis ratio inter omnes homines constituit, id apud omnes peraeque custoditur vocaturque ius gentium,” (The rule which natural reason has established among all men is called the law of nations). Ius gentium is not “the law of others”, as it applies to the citizens of Rome as well, nor is it private international law in its modern sense, which aims to address possible contradictions between different legal systems.28 Ius gentium is a directly applicable law and an idea of turning someone else’s law into one’s own, as long as it builds upon naturalis ratio. The same idea was a basis of King Vakhtang VI’s code, which as mentioned earlier, consisted of Georgian legal sources, biblical, Greco-Roman and Armenian laws, the latter included fifth century AD Syrian and Roman laws. Incorporating legal codes of other nations in the Georgian code of laws was not uncommon among Georgian lawmakers before the time of Vakhtang VI, which is illustrated by the Law of Beka-Aghbughadating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.29 Vakhtang VI’s Code of Laws, however, is the most complete embodiment of this idea. As Vakhtang VI said himself, it was not about simply borrowing foreign norms to complete Georgian law, since it was up to the judge to choose the most adequate provision in line with the naturalis ratio. For example, one of the court decisions of King Solomon II (ruler in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) was substantiated by the biblical law, the French Law and the Code of Peter I of Russia, and made refer-


ences to “the laws of the Tatars, Jews, pagans”, and “all believers and unbelievers” alike.30 This reference to the Greek law is followed by a quote from the Code of Laws of King Vakhtang VI. Consequently, Solomon II concluded that “In willing his servants and estate to his daughter, Khutu Mikeladze has made a solid and truthful judgment,” and the king upholds her right to inheritance.31 This decision shows that foreign legal norms were used not to fill inconsistencies (which were absent in the first place) in Georgian law but rather to substantiate and prove the lawfulness of a decision based on local laws. All this lead the King to the notion of “solid and truthful judgment” and, therefore, the Roman principle of naturalis ratio.

Which is an incorrect translation of the term due, in part, to the impossibility of this phenomenon in modern legal systems (W.Kunkel/ H. J. Schermaier, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, Köln, Weimar, Wien 2005, 96). 22

In 1495, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I established the Imperial Chamber Court which was guided by the General Written Imperial Law (the same as Corpus iuris civilis of Justinian) if other legal sources were not in place. 23

According to an opinion circulating in Roman studies (for example, Kunkel/Schermaier, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, 97), the Romans never bothered to scrutinize the laws of other nations, only cultivating their own law within the framework of ius gentium in order to incorporate other nations in their legal framework. This opinion was refuted after the discovery of the so-called Babatha cache (comp. T. J. Chiusi, Babatha vs. The Guardians of Her Son: A Struggle for Guardianship – Legal and Practical Aspects of P. Yadin 12-15, 27, in: Ranon Katzoff and David Schaps. Law in the Documents of the Judean Desert. Leiden2005). 24


M. Kaser, Iusgentium, Köln, Weimar 1993, 42.

F.Wieacker, Zum Ursprung der bonae fidei iudicia, in: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Rom. Abt. 80 (1963), 10. Unlike Roman Law, however, Natural Law aimed at precisely defined terms and a self-contained, closed system wherein the effect stems from the cause by means of deduction, which is a questionable method in law as a social phenomenon (Honsell, Lebendiges Römisches Recht, 226). 27 Cic. de off. 3.17.69; Cic. dehar. resp. 14.32. 28 M. Kaser, Römisches Privatrecht, München 1971, 202. 29 Iv. Javakhishvili, Selected Works in 12 Volumes, Vol. VI, Tbilisi. 1982, 114. 30 I. Dolidze, Monuments of Georgian Law, VI, Tbilisi. 1977, 431-434. 31 B. Zoidze, Reception of the European Law, 42. 26


FROM THE HISTORY OF ROMAN LEGAL DOGMAS Besides said general principles, contemporary European law is also indebted to the Roman law for concrete institutions, such as property, contracts, and testaments.32 Of subject of the history of modern dogmas in Europe is to study purpose and economic, social and ideological preconditions of dogmas stemming from the Roman law. It is an unity of these factors that explains why only a part of dogmas were adopted in a particular cultural environment, while others faded into insignificance. This essay does not aim to cover fully, or even in part, reception of the Roman legal dogmas in the old Georgian law. It will rather describe two quintessential examples of categorizing legal systems into the Roman group. Legally binding agreements between parties, one of the most important achievements of the Roman law, is found in Article 4 of the Greek Law section of King Vakhtang VI’s Code of Laws. It reads, “All men are entitled to sell and buy, and buyer and seller shall have an agreement upon the price.” In addition, based on analysis of the eleventh century Nikortzminda document and several surviving bills of sale, Ivane Javakhishvili asserts that legally binding Georgian laws of that time had successfully passed a historical stage of formalism.33 The Bills of sale could be executed in both verbal and written forms. Observation of formalities, such as presence of witnesses is not a mandatory precondition for validity of a given deal, but rather a means to ease a burden of proof in the future. Since such laws do not progress on their own, the fact that as early as the eleventh century Georgian legislation had passed a stage of ritualistic formalism and recognized significance of consensus between the parties as the only and primary precondition of a lawful deal.. For example, the German law in the middle ages exhibited characteristics peculiar to the Roman law in the fifth century BC. Ivane Javakhishvili emphasizes following formulas in the bills of sale: “May God grant happiness to you and your posterity” and “May you possess it and may God grant you happiness.”34 The author believes that these formulas served the following purpose: “Since the buyer could enjoy and own a subject matter of sale purchased from seller only after paying in full, these formulas must have been designed to confirm receipt of the contractual price in full.” This detail proves that the Georgian law at that time had already adopted personal autonomy, that is, a right of privacy in legal relations. The seller may have confirmed in a bill of sale that “the price had been paid in full” or verify that he or she had no claims against the buyer by adding “May God grant you happiness.” In addition, Georgian legal monuments contained multiple terminological and institutional similarities with the Greco-Roman law. For example, the Roman legatum (a bequest) is translated into Georgian as leghati.35 The



Georgian Law uses a term jdoma (to sit) as the equivalent of the Roman legal term possessio (possession), which derives from Latin sedere (to sit). Stolen or illegally obtained property cannot be bequeathed in the Georgian law, which also echoes the Roman law, and sentence of hanging for multiple thefts in Georgia must be credited to Byzantine influence. According to the Ruis-Urbnisi Code, a marriageable age for females begins at twelve, which was most likely copied from the Code of Justinian. These individual terminological and instructional similarities, however, do not suffice to categorize the Georgian law as a member of the European legal family and a participant of the reception of the Roman law in Europe, as equally numerous similarities also exist with laws of other Eastern countries (Arab, Persian, and Turkish).36 What make Georgian legislation a historical part of European law are not individual terms or institutions, which confirm familiarity with the Greco-Roman law, but rather an understanding of a method and fundamental principles described earlier.

Honsell, Lebendiges Rรถmisches Recht, 225. Iv. Javakhishvili, Selected Works in 12 Volumes, Vol..VII, Tbilisi, 1984, 310. Iv. Javakhishvili, Selected Works in 12 Volumes, Vol. VII, 313. 35 For these and other terminological parallels, compare: B. Zoidze, Reception of the European Law, 57. 36 B. Zoidze, Reception of the European Law,, 71 ff. 32 33 34


DOMINIUM DUPLEX: DIVIDED OWNERSHIP Property rights, as set forth in the Roman law, have survived in modern jurisprudence to this day. In the first and second centuries BC, Roman legal thought distinguished a notion of absolute ownership. Along with duplex dominium or absolute ownership, the idea of divided ownership, one of the most interesting forms, also developed and was later inherited by the European law from Rome. Ownership, as absolute power over an item, due to its absolute character, can be exercised by one person only. Roman law authorized only quirites (Roman citizens) to own important agricultural items, such as lands, cattle, and slaves. To transfer ownership they prescribed mancipatio, a solemn ritualistic act during which Roman citizens in the presence of five witnesses would strike a pair of scales with a piece of bronze and pronounce: “Hunc ego hominem ex iure Quiritium meum esse aio isque mihi emptus esto hoc aere aeneaque libra.� (I affirm that this slave is mine according to quiritary right, and he is purchased by me with this piece of bronze and scales). These items were called res mancipi (mancipation items). The Mancipatio is an institution of ius civile and was therefore, unavailable for foreigners. Nevertheless, as trade with peregrine picked up, granting them ownership opportunities became necessary. To this end, Romans, who never annulled old institutions, established a new institution within ius gentium. If a quiris or Roman citizen sold or gave a mancipation item to a non-citizen without observing a relevant ritualistic form the buyer would not obtain dominium ex iure quiritium, that is, ownership according to the law of the quirites, or jus civile. However, a subject matter of sale would be in effect protected from reclamation by the quiris owner, because buyer would be considered an actual owner. With this type of acquisition buyer would have in bonus habere or bonitary ownership. In other words, along with the ownership of quiritium, Roman law recognized bonitary ownership, referred to by Gaius as divided ownership.37 Duplex dominium was adopted by the European legal thought as an official term in the Middle Ages. The absolute owner was called dominus directus and dominium utile referred to the beneficial ownership of property.38 Despite criticism and controversy a doctrine of duplex dominium gained a foothold in the Middle Ages mainly to regulate relations between the peasant, who enjoyed dominium utile, and the landlord or dominus directus. In the nineteenth century, this concept was rejected for the most part39 and the German Commission for Civil Law finally refuted it.40 However, rejection was only partial as the second part of concept protection of property rights is still enshrined in Article 1007 of the Civil Code of Germany. A term koneba or ownership, in old Georgian law bears witness to the closeness of the Georgian legal tradition with the European legal tradition. This term did not refer to an absolute ownership of an item, as the terms mamuli or inheritance, and monagebi or gain, were used to this end.41 On the other hand, it was confirmed that koneba did not solely refer to ownership.42 Due


to a complex and fragmented nature of feudal property law, the Georgian legal monuments, similar to those in the Europe, did not draw a clear line between possession of property and ownership. These terms were interchangeable and ownership often meant a right to property. The lord did not exercise unlimited power, while the vassal not only enjoyed actual ownership (ownership in its modern sense), but was also authorized to govern property. The Law of Beka-Aghbugha in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries featured quite fragmented property regulations enforced in Georgia.43 The land belongs to the lord (“the place belongeth to the lord”), but the vassal exercises ownership of the land and as long as he serves the lord the land cannot be taken away from him. The lord cannot sell or alienate the land in any form. In a way, the vassal enjoyed greater rights on property than the lord himself. This contradiction between a possession of property and old Georgian koneba ownership becomes deeper in light of the right of owner to bequeath koneba ownership.44 The dichotomy between possession of property and ownership is a Roman idea and was accepted in the Georgian law as well. The rise of nationalism in Europe brought about a decline in the Roman law.45 In Georgia, on the other hand, a similar period of decline, albeit longer and more severe, took place under the Soviet Union. Despite adopting several Roman institutions, the Soviet Civil Code failed to embrace its fundamental principles, which made the fierce debates on the protection of ownership in Soviet Georgian legal literature both interesting and strange from a foreign perspective.46 Experts of the Georgian law knew instinctively – the idea of duplex dominium was never mentioned in the debates –inheritance from old Georgian Law was not a protection of ownership only, but protection of the right of ownership as well. Article 1007 of the Civil Code of Germany is echoed by Article 160 of the Civil Code of Georgia: “If the owner in good faith is dispossessed, he or she, within three years, is entitled to reclaim item from the new owner. This rule shall not apply to holders of the rights. Reclamation of the item may be requested from the holder of priority rights if he or she has obtained the item through violence or deceit.” This seeming imitation of a German legal norm has its roots in old Georgian law. The same principle is found in a document dating back to 1741,47 wherein the identification of ownership required proof of ownership: “If Lasuri swears solemnly or produces a witness to testify that Lasuri has been in possession of the vineyard, and that the ownership of vineyard has not been taken away from him then Vakhtang shall have no claim over the vineyard.”48 In other words, the owner is the one who holds priority rights of ownership, although the actual owner may be a third party. This form of protection of ownership is found in German legislation and both modern and old Georgian laws. Consequently, this norm is not a mere imitation of a foreign corpus, but a familiar feature of Georgian legal thought.



Gai 1.54; 2.40: Iust. C. 7.25. H. J.Wieling, Sachenrecht, Bd. 1, Berlin, Heidelberg 2006, 272. H.Wagner, Das geteilte Eigentum im Naturrecht und Positivismus, Breslau1938, 71. 40 H. H.Jakobs/W. Schubert, Sachenrecht I, Berlin, 1985, 448. 41 I. Dolidze, Old Georgian Law, Tbilisi. 1953, 141; Iv. Javakhishvili, History of Georgian Law, Book II, excerpt II, Tbilisi. 1929, 403. 42 I. Dolidze, Old Georgian Law, 143. 43 I. Dolidze, Old Georgian Law, 149. 44 Contrary to Iv. Surguladze’s opinion (Iv. Surguladze, “Institute of Right to Ownership”, University Works XXXV (1949), 244.), I. Dolidze (Old Georgian Law 149) believes that koneba ownership meant just ownership even in the fourteenth century. However, as mentioned earlier, its meaning is much wider than that of ownership in its modern sense, and it often serves as the primary term for possession of property. 45 Spengler, Römisches Recht und europäische Rechtskultur, 64. On the other hand, it was impossible to fully remove Roman Law from academic environment. 46 T. Rtskhiladze, Protection of Possession, Soviet Law, 1928, # 1, 7-9; I. Futkaradze, Matters of History of Georgian Law, Tbilisi. 1979, 116-118. 47 S. Kakabadze, Historic Documents, Book V, Tbilisi, 1913, 60. 48 I. Futkaradze, Matters of History of Georgian Law,, 110; S. Kakabadze, Book V, 60. 37 38 39


PROHIBITION OF TRANSFERS OF PROPERTY (GIFT) BETWEEN SPOUSES Transfers of property without valuable consideration or gifts were most likely prohibited by the Roman law since ancient times.49 Roman jurists mention this prohibition as early as in the time of Augustus, although its true historical motives were misconstrued with a need to ensure against property damage caused by mutual feelings between spouses and to prevent one spouse from gaining wealth at the expense of other.50 “We have received a customary rule that gifts between husband and wife are invalid. This rule was received so that they are not ruined by mutual love, not sparing on gifts but with extravagance toward themselves.”51 German expert, Klutmann speculates that the Khevsurian custom of prohibiting gifts between spouses must have stemmed from the Roman law, believing that similar norms can be found in the laws of other Georgian regions as well.52 This idea has been refuted53 as the Georgian Law has never been characterized by the universal prohibition of gifts between husband and wife in the same way that it was in Rome. Contrary to Klutmann’s hypothesis, it has been suggested that the Georgian legal norms regulating gifts between spouses must stand closer to ancient Asian, Armenian, and Greek laws.54 The quote above, however, does not identify which ancient Asian legal institution could have been the predecessor of the Georgian prohibition of gifts between spouses. Article 183 of the Greek version of King Vakhtang’s Code of Laws (On Transferring Property between Husband and Wife) confirms that the prohibition was indeed enforced in Georgia.55 According to this norm, a transfer of property, or even half of it, between spouses is invalid since it is “a transfer with love”. A title and context of the article indicates that limitation, if not prohibition, of gifts between spouses entered the Georgian law through Greek legal codes and must have been a moderate version of the Roman prohibition of transfers of property between a husband and a wife. The full legal prohibition of transfers of property between spouses in Georgia has not been confirmed, though the notion that a husband and wife should not impoverish each other by transferring “gifts of love” may be viewed as a surviving element borrowed from the Roman law until proven otherwise. F.Wieacker, Hausgenossenschaft und Erbeinsetzung. Über die Anfange des romischen Testaments, Leipzig, 1940, 48 and following. 50 Kaser, Römisches Privatrecht, 331. 51 Ulp. 24.1.1: Moribus apud nos receptum est, ne inter virum et uxorem donationes valerent. Hoc autem receptum est, ne mutuo amore invicem spoliarentur donationibus non temperantes ... 52 R.Klutmann, Analyse des national-grusinischen Obligationenrechts im Kodex König Wachtangs VI, Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft, einschliesslich der ethnologischen Rechtsforschung,29 (1878), 445. 53 I. FutkaraZe, Essays of History of Georgian Law of Obligations, 40 ff. 54 futkaraZe, qarTuli valdebulebiTi samarTlis istoriis narkvevebi, gv. 43. 55 T. Bregadze, Greek Law, 90. 49


THE 1997 CIVIL CODE OF GEORGIA The current Civil Code of Georgia was adopted in 1997. In terms of its structure, overall dogmas and content of particular norms it stands closest to the Civil Code of Germany, and German jurists have contributed most to its creation. The work on the Civil Code of Georgia, which started in 1993, did not aim only to copy German norms and institutions. Its outcome was supposed to be a new Georgian legislation that would share a system of values with German law and serve as the precondition for establishment of the contemporary Georgian civil society. It was not an easy task. The Soviet Civil Code, directly applicable legislation in the Soviet Union, only partially, if at all, shared these values. For example, the Soviet Civil Code failed to build civil order on the protection of private property. Georgian lawmakers, on the other hand, aimed to establish a law upon new values, with personal autonomy, contractual freedom, and protection of private property as its cornerstones. With the help of Rolf Knipper, a lawyer and professor at the University of Bremen, lawyer Hartmut Fromm and Mario Pellegrino, Georgian lawmakers succeeded in fulfilling this task. Goethe’s opinion about the German law equally applies to the Georgian legislation. The Roman law and its principles have had a continuous impact on the Georgian law through direct copying of modern German laws, which in turn stemmed from the Roman and Syrian legal system at first, then the Byzantine and finally the Roman laws. Unlike the Western Europe, the Roman law entered Georgia not through the Digests of the Roman law, but through books of the Syrian and the Roman laws, parts of which are referred to as “vulgar laws” in academic discourse, and Byzantine law texts, which are simplified and abridged versions of the Roman law in classical antiquity.56 They proved sufficient enough to ensure a full acceptance of Roman legal principles by Georgian legal thought. The Digests are the cultural beginning and, to some extent, the end of the European law. In his article Return of Legal Constructions, Mayer-Maly, a prominent expert in Roman studies in the twentieth century, clearly described how Roman legal dogmas sink into oblivion only to make a comeback later.57 Jurists, often without even realizing it, “reinvent” long-forgotten Roman dogmas, which are universal models of legal thinking and, therefore, cannot be neglected. Georgian lawmakers did not reinvent Roman legal dogmas, but only adopted them from the German law. These dogmas were rediscovered and taken to their rightful places, where legal cultural ground suitable for their application was prepared centuries earlier. 56 57

Kunkel/Schermaier, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, 228. Th. Mayer-Maly, Die Wiederkehr von Rechtsfiguren, JZ 26 (1971), 1-3.




Today, socialism is seen as dated, defunct and detrimental to human liberty. Few politicians, among them Georgians, take any of its ideas, no matter how they have evolved, seriously. Socialism, Marxism, social democracy and even socially tolerant liberalism, have been put into one large bag of outdated and harmful collectivist ideas. Nothing good can come of them. This is, of course, a myopic interpretation. Socialism, just like capitalism, has multiple variants and multiple ideas; some of these ideas may be better, some worse, some practical, some not. But the triumph of a reinvigorated global capitalism after the collapse of the USSR, has led to the eclipse of almost all alternative perspectives on economic development. We are now almost exclusively focused on the gleaming but utopian orthodoxy of the unfettered and “efficient” market (how, we might ask, is that efficiency measured)? A new global economic consensus, in many ways drawing on the same psychology of ideological utopianism and orthodoxy which characterized Soviet-era propagandists, has narrowed our perspectives of the past, and hence of the future. This should be particularly thought provoking for contemporary Georgians, who neglect a national history rich in alternative philosophies and practices that could have relevance for today’s problems. Western historiography has not done much better in enlightening us as to Georgia’s modern past. Georgian social democracy,1 for example, despite its theoretical contributions to debates on nationalism, democratization, and social change (by no means an exhausted debate as the early 21st century shows), has still not found its proper place in the modern European history of ideas and social movements.

Today, social democracy is understood as an evolutionary, reformist, egalitarian and Western ideology that works within the confines of capitalism. In Georgia at the turn of the 20th century, social democracy was a more radical ideology based on Marxist precepts. However, my argument is that from the beginning, Georgia’s social democracy had a distinct pro-Western flavor - pragmatic, democratic, decentralized, and open to internal dissent. By 1918, it abandoned much of its Marxist radicalism for a social market model, in which capitalism was modified by a welfare state. Calling Georgian socialists “social democrats” may be confusing to Western readers and not entirley accurate, as pro-Marxist sentiments continued to thrive in the Georgian party. But given Georgian socialism’s major differences with Bolshevism, its gradualist aproach to change, and its strong pro-Western bent, social democracy is a reasonable description of mainstream opinion among the Georgian party’s rank and file. 1


SOURCES OF GEORGIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRACY In the late 19th century, when Georgian social democracy emerged, socialism was considered emancipatory and progressive; it promised a better future for all. It was novel, European, and scientific. By 1905, thirteen years after the formation of the Georgian socialist group known as mesame dasi (the Third Group), social democrats (as they called themselves), commanded a mass following in Georgia. They were extraordinarily influential within the all-Russian socialist movement, particularly in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) and its Menshevik wing. Georgians made up one quarter of the Menshevik delegation at the Fourth and Fifth Congresses of the RSDLP, and Georgian socialist leaders such as Noe Jordania, Akaki Chkhenkeli, Nikoloz (Karlo) Chkheidze, and Irakli Tsereteli, played a leading role in Russia’s national politics. They sat on the leading organs of the RSDLP, led the Dumas’2 united social democratic factions between 1906-13, represented the RSDLP at the Second International, chaired or sat on the Executive Committees of All-Russian soviets and participated in the Russian Provisional Government in 1917. Irakli Tsereteli was Minister of Posts and Telegraph, and interim Minister of the Interior in the Russian Provisional Government, and Nikoloz (Karlo) Chkheidze was president of the Petrograd Soviet Executive Committee. By 1918, on the eve of Georgia’s independence, Georgian social democrats had the backing of almost all Georgian social groups from the miniscule working class and nobility to the 85% or so of the population that resided in the villages. It was an oddity - why did social democracy find such a firm base in the rural remoteness of Georgia? What made it one of the most successful revolutionary movements in the empire? Why was it such a vital source of cadres, ideas, and leadership? Wladimir Woytinsky in his book La Democratie Georgienne, had an answer. He argued that in Georgia, “the very character of local life contributed to the consolidation of a single party uniting all the people, qualified to speak and act on behalf of the whole country.”3 The “character of local life” included a small Georgian intelligentsia and impoverished Georgian workers facing foreign domination by Armenian factory owners and Russian administrators. Second, Georgia’s “working class” was multiethnic, employed predominantly in small workshops or minor commercial enterprises; workers were often themselves small-time owners. Social democratic leaders, faced by such heterogeneous interests and demands, developed a broad ideological roof to incorporate this mélange of “working people.” The very structure of Georgian society, as Woitinsky suggests, led to the idea of an inclusive “people’s party” rather than an exclusive and proletarian avant garde. The rapid growth of the party along with its charismatic leadership, quickly squeezed out nationalist alternatives, such as the Georgian Socialist Federalists and Georgian



National Democrats. The Socialist Federalists under Archil Jorjadze, for example, promised national unity and socialist equality, but the party was never able to challenge the Georgian social democrats’ powerful party organization. Georgian social democracy had a more diverse and heterodox character than in Russia. This helps to explain why Menshevism appealed to Georgia’s leaders (as it did to other non-Russian social democratic organizations like the Jewish Bund and the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers’ Party) rather than the centralized and conspiratorial view of the Bolshevik world. The youthful Georgian elite, like so many that followed them in the African and Asian continents in the 1950s and 1960s, saw socialism as the best way to overcome their country’s backwardness and liberate it from colonial subjection. Socialism promised Georgia’s social democrats an end to Georgia’s political and cultural vulnerability as a small nation; it would, they believed, bring peace to the region characterized by multi-ethnic rivalries.

There were four Russian Dumas between 1905-1917; they were national legislative assemblies, but with limited powers to legislate. 3 W. Woytinsky, La Democratie Georgienne, Paris: Alcan Levy, 1921, p.49. 2


THE GEORGIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC MODEL European socialists rarely agreed on goals or methods; socialism was rebellious and orthodox, moralistic and scientific. It had room for Vladimir Lenin, Eduard Bernstein, and Rosa Luxemburg; its banner was shared by intellectual Fabians in England, millenarianist peasants in Italy, authoritarian Bolsheviks in Russia, and anti-colonial liberators (M.N. Roy and Ho Chi Min) in India and Vietnam. The (second) Socialist International, founded in 1889 to unite diverse socialist strands, was an ideological carnival. However, there were deep rifts in the socialist movement at the turn of the 20th century which, in the end, went beyond the clash of ideas to wars between contending socialist ideologies. These rifts centered on four fundamental issues: the relationship between reform and revolution; the link between nationalism and socialism; the role of class (could peasants be socialist?); and the character and function of the socialist party in the new revolutionary state. Georgian socialism was a relatively minor movement in the annals of socialist struggle, but its fate was bound up with all four concerns. After coming to power in 1918, it presented a model that suggested socialism could work in non-industrial systems, could successfully co-opt nationalism, could unite a wide spectrum of classes, and would strengthen individual and collective freedoms. Georgian social democracy, when it began to build a new state in a hostile international environment, was seriously compromised by realities of power, but it was for a few brief years, Bolshevism’s democratic nemesis and the hope of Europe’s democratic socialists. The Democratic Georgian republic was led by veteran Georgian (and Caucasian) socialists who in European exile had debated Western socialist “stars” like Karl Kautsky and Karl Renner on the prospects for revolution in the Russian Empire. Leaders of Georgian social democracy like Noe Jordania, Akaki Chkhenkeli, Karlo Chkheidze, Irakli Tsereteli, Evgeny Gegechkori and Noe Ramishvili, were recognized on the international stage as important contributors to what was known as “the national question,” or how multiethnic states and socialism could cohabit. After 1918, Georgia’s version of democratic socialism failed to offer an answer, but it preserved the integrity of revolution as an instrument of change, and captured the imagination of Europe’s social democratic leaders. In 1920, Ramsay MacDonald, Emile Vandervelde, Karl Kautsky, Thomas Shaw and Camille Huysmans, visited Georgia as members of the (second) Socialist International to verify - and laud - the triumph of the Georgian socialist model. Ramsay MacDonald, after his visit, wrote in The Nation, that in social democratic Georgia “there was no ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ no armed struggle between classes, no suppression of liberty, or of the press and association…”4


The Georgian model of socialism, like all socialist systems in the 20th century, was, despite international aspirations, an indigenous hybrid. It grew out of specific conditions in the cultural and political periphery of the Russian empire’s Caucasian territories. It inherited the aspirations of Georgian intellectuals and activists of the 1860s and 1870s - figures like Ilya Chavchavadze, Giorgi Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze, and Sergi Meskhi, who demanded self-governance, greater equality, and political participation for the mass of imperial subjects. Known as the tergdaleulni, they were Georgian students who had crossed the river Terek (which symbolically separated the Caucasus from Russia) and studied at Russia’s universities. These Georgian versions of the shestidesiatniki propagated European ideas of national self-determination, citizenship, and national education at home. The cultural and liberal legacies of the tergdaleulni sensitized Georgia’s young socialists - among them the mesame dasi - to the ideas of civil rights, national rights, and greater economic equality. Georgian socialism, despite the Marxist rhetoric it gleaned from the writings of Giorgi Plekhanov, Iulii Martov, Lenin and others, remained a national movement too. Until 1917-18, the Georgian social democratic leadership supported political, economic and cultural self-determination for Georgians in a multinational Russian (Rossisskii) federation. But socialism was always seen as an instrument for Georgian self-government and cultural - including linguistic - development. Akaki Ckhenkeli, one of the founding fathers of the Democratic Georgian Republic, declared in 1917 that “the struggle for socialism is at the same time a struggle for national liberation.”5 In 1918, Georgia’s social democrats took their campaign for national autonomy a step futher, and fused social democratic ideas with a call for independence.

Ramsay MacDonald, “Un Etat Socialiste au Caucase, ” l’International Socialiste et la Georgie, Paris: 1921, pp.3-9. “Kavkasiis mushata da glekhta delegatebis siezdi” (The Congress of Workers and peasants Delegates), ertoba, June 1, 1917, p.3. 4 5


A GEORGIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT The chasm posited between socialist and nationalist movements is exaggerated. Lenin drew on Russia’s native socialist prophets such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Petr Tkachev; Ukraine’s socialists looked to Mykhailo Drahomanov and Ivan Franko. In the two decades of ideological polemics leading up to 1917, Georgian socialism drew on its own native influences, such as the writings of Giorgi Tsereteli and Niko Nikoladze. This generated - most evidently among the grass roots and in local organizations - a syncretic model of socialism and nationalism. It envisaged a coalition of all classes - including the idealistic children of the nobility - in an anti-imperial popular front which demanded cultural and political autonomy for Georgia. Georgian social democracy was pioneering a twentieth century socialist evolution which moved beyond dependence on a single class to the creation of a national coalition of classes (these ideas were developed further by the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci in his proposal for a “historic bloc” of progressive forces in the 1930s). It was a pattern adopted in almost all native-born socialist revolutions after 1917. They became, above all, popularly-based national liberation struggles against imperial domination. The leaders of Georgian social democracy would have understood well the socialist projects of Third World leaders like Amilcar Cabral and Julius Nyerere. Georgians pioneered an egalitarian ideology in more ways than one. Not only did they challenge the established social hierarchy under Tsarism, but the orthodox interpretation of Marxist revolution, defined as exclusively proletarian and destined to take place in the most advanced countries. Georgian socialist practice changed the concept of the party avante garde into a “people’s party” (something many other non-Russian socialist movements in the Empire shared), and expanded socialist revolution into the “backward” peripheries of the world. This was similar to the anti-imperial model adopted by Lenin on the eve of World War One, but Georgia’s leaders, unlike Lenin, did not see the last stage of capitalism developing into a global, de-nationalized world where “non-historical” peoples would disappear. Rather, their egalitarianism extended into the world of nations, where both small and large would thrive side-by-side (even if they were in a single decentralized state). Socialism for Georgian social democrats meant accession to the new world in which modernization stimulated national consolidation, not national withering. Noe Jordania, who became the Democratic Georgian Republic’s first head of state, recognized the historical trend of the twentieth century as the free development of nations. He wrote in 1915:



“The present basic development in society is the renaissance of the nation, its strengthening, and the establishment of its own state, … And this is such a powerful movement that no force will be able to stop it, before it every obstacle will be smashed, every raised limit will be destroyed.”6 He went on: “Contemporary society must take on a national face and until this happens, the cycle of national catastrophes will continue. Everything which aids and hastens this process is acceptable and desirable, and …everything which hinders and prevents it, is negative and undesirable.”7 This was a very different interpretation of Marxist doctrine from the Russian version, Bolshevik or Menshevik. In time, the Georgian view became the dominant practice of socialist revolution in the developing world, and after 1945, in Europe. Every native-led socialist movement promoted national content as well as form. The Georgians’ ideas were close to those of the Austrian Marxists, such as Otto Bauer and Kerl Renner, who were developing their own theories of national-cultural autonomy before World War One. But there was an important difference. Until 1917, leading Georgian social democrats promoted Georgian national cultural autonomy within a democratic Russia. This was a pragmatic position shared by most of Georgia’s parties such as the Socialist Federalists and even National Democrats. Noe Jordania believed in Georgian national consolidation, but not in a nationalist state that would suppress national minorities. However, by 1918, the Georgian social democrats - especially after the Bolshevik insurrection in November - rejected large federal states in favor of the development of small na-



tions. Unlike the Austrians, they saw no point in preserving large post-imperial states which no longer represented national minorities aspiring to greater economic development and autonomy. Unlike the confident German-speaking elites from former imperial Austro-Hungary, Georgians viewed the world as a post-imperial and insecure minority; they needed a state, as Jordania put it, “ to guarantee… national existence.”8 They were not promoting nationalism, but were arguing that genuine internationalism was built upon each nation’s free existence. Georgian socialism had its roots in the explosive popularity of Marxism in late nineteenth century Europe, but the legacy of the tergdaleulni in Georgia was a vital balance to the abstractionism of Marxism. The tergdaleulni, who exalted Europe’s national independence movements in Greece, Italy, and Ireland, and who emulated cutlural and educational activities of Europe’s civil society activists by building early infrastructure of Georgian nationhood and citizenhip, passed onto Georgia’s young radicals one vital notion -- Georgia was European. This had a crucial impact on Georgian socialism in two ways. First, it allied Georgian socialism with European values of pluralism, individual rights, and private property. Second, it promoted a European pattern of political activity such as participation in Duma (parliamentary) elections, local government work, legal activities in trade unions, and educational work. Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, also pro-European, came round to these ideas too, but Georgians were the most consistent advocates of Europeanization. This was unusual as it came from one of the most backward regions of the empire. Yet it is crucial to explaining why Georgian socialists followed their distinct national path. Elsewhere, I have called this “socialism in Georgian colors.”9


Until 1918, Georgia’s social democrats were formally members of the RSDLP. They fought Georgia’s own nationalist orgnizations like the Socialist Federalists, condemning them as “bourgeois” and un-Marxist. However, within the RSDLP, they tilted decisevely toward the more tolerant Menshevik wing, and promoted “Western” ideas of political organization. Along with other non-Russian groups in the RSDLP, like the Bund and the Latvian Social Democracy (which later rejoined the Bolsheviks in 1914), they pushed the Russian Mensheviks at party conferences and debates into support of greater political decentralization and self government for national minorities. For Georgian social democrats before 1918, these were not simply tactical issues, but based on the conviction that Georgia’s economic and political future was tied to a broader democratic Europe. This brings us to why Georgian socialism is misinterpreted (or misunderstood?) by Georgians today. Georgia’s most prominent national leaders were associated with Menshevism. But Menshevism was a broad church, a movement rather than a doctrine. In the interlude between 1905 and 1918, when Georgia’s social democrats finally abandonned the RSDLP to create their own party and an independent state, they developed a distinct Georgian political personality. By 1918, they were no longer Mensheviks, they were Georgian Social Democrats. They were supporters of Menshevik ideas of political pluralism, mass parties, and an evolutionary path toward socialism, but they abandonned certain central assumptions promoted by their Russian Menshrevik allies. By 1918, they no longer accepted the inevitability of large centralized states, or even large decentralized states. They believed that small states were aligned with history. The Georgian leadership, with some exceptions like Valiko Djugeli, leader of the National Guard, no longer considered the party a proletarian organization, but a Georgian movement which included peasants, nobles and petty traders. This did not mean they abandonned left-wing policies or their strong support for internationalism, but now they represented citizens rather than classes. As early as 1905-6, Georgian social democrats were beginning to shape a separate path from the Russian Mensheviks, and after 1918, there was a definitie “parting of the ways.” The misinterpretation of Georgian social democracy in today’s political context promotes the view that Georgian social democrats were anti-national and politically irrelevant to the course of 20th century history. Far from it. Despite Georgian social democrats’ polemical critique of their nationalist rivals like the Socialist Federaists, they initiated one of the most successful national models for political and social change in Europe in the 20th century.


Georgian social democrats were offering a “third way” before the term was ever heard of. The “third way” for Georgia’s social democrats exemplified a transition from a radical abstract Marxism to a pragmatic social democratic program of parliamentarianism, a mixed economy, political neutrality in foreign policy, and tolerance of political opposition at home. It maintained trust in the power of the state as manager of public goods.10 However, Georgia was to be no ordinary republic, but a “democratic republic” with broad emancipatory aims. It rejected the concentration of power in the executive (presidentialism was vetoed), and advocated popular power through institutions of direct democracy, such as the referendum and self-governing structures in the regions and in local communities. Socio-economic rights (which were written into the constitution of 1921) would enhance genuine participation, and regional self-government, it was believed, would ensure national minority protections. More importantly for Georgia’s social democrats, the “third way” meant a balance between individualism and collectivism, and a foreign policy orienation that recognized Georgia’s Europeanness, but also its location in Eurasia, and its historical and cultural links with Russia.

”omi da zavi,” (War and Peace), akhali azri, February 25, 1915, pp. 2-3. Ibid. “kartuli erovnuli qriloba,” (The Georgian National Congress) ertoba, November 21, 1917, 2. 9 Stephen F. Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy 1883–1917. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. 10 This is not quite the same as “The Third Way” concept popularized in the 1980s by Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder and sociologist Anthony Giddens, which tried to reconcile social democratic ideas of egalitarianism with the market economy and liberalism; it advocated a reduced role for the state and an end to universal forms of public welfare. 6 7 8


DILEMMAS OF POWER Robbie Burns tells us that the “best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley,” (or “go awry”), and the ambitious plans of Georgia’s leaders quickly collided with the unforgiving necessities of power and survival. On 26 May 1918 the Georgian National Council declared independence. Georgia’s social democratic leaders took a long time to reach this decision, but their caution was understandable, based on Georgia’s vulnerability to both Ottoman and Bolshvik aggression. In 1918, Georgia was barely a recognizable country and had no established borders. The new state faced internal rebellions as well as hostile neighbors and international instability. Compromise and consensus-building had to be part of Georgia’s new future, and Georgia’s revolutionary leaders appealed to Germany for support. Germany, had its own interests in the Caucasus - the region was seen as a vital transit route to the Middle East and part of Germany’s wartime policy of Drang nach Osten (“Drive toward the East”). During the war, Georgia’s social democrats condemned Germany as an imperial aggressor, but in May 1918, it became an essential patron protecting the young Georgian state against the avaricious claims of the Ottoman state. The newly formed government faced the insuperable task of nation and state building without financial resources, experience, or support from abroad in what was formerly an impoverished, rural province of the Russian empire. How, for example, was the government going to nationalize the Georgian state - that is, create conditions for a functioning Georgian state - while promoting territorial and linguistic rights among the large multiethnic population (Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Abkhazaians, Ossetians, Greeks, Kurds, etc). National identities during the revolution had solidified around particular parties such as the Dashnaktsutiun (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation), the Muslim Müsavat (Equality), the Russian Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), and around territorially based organizations like the Abkhazian People’s Council and the (South) Ossetia’s People’s Congress. The situation was complicated by economic collapse, which meant limited government resources, and by neighboring powers (what Rogers Brubaker calls external national homelands) such as Turkey, Russia and Armenia, promoting their own ethnic, linguistic or ideological interests within Georgia.11 Georgian social democracy’s goals, set out in Noe Jordania’s “Social Democracy and the Organization of Power,” of a decentralized multinational Georgian republic, were compromised by existential issues of national security.12 Despite theoretical innovations and public aspirations, Georgian social democrats failed in the end to provide lessons for subsequent generations on how to peacably incorporate national minorities into the state. This was a tragic failing, which was repeated in the 1990s,


leading to wars against Abkhazian and South Ossetian secessionists, and to a war with Russia in 2008. These events paralleled the inter-ethnic tragedies of 1918-21. Underpinning and, at times cutting across national sentiments, were powerful economic and social identities – whether among newly enfranchised peasants moving to the cities, guild members joining trade unions, workers getting schooling, women voting alongside men, and students finding themselves in new universities, or leading national parties. The Democratic Georgian Republic was succesful in promoting ideas of modernity including the vote for women, the separation of church and state, the establishment of a multiparty parliament, private property, free and universal education, unemployment pay and a minimum wage, the redistribution of land in the countryside, and a free press. These policies encountered major obstacles - an empty treasury, a constant state of war (Georgia fought five wars between 1918-21), a lack of state capacity, resistant norms of behavior, economic isolation, and corruption. But collectively, such policies were the foundations of the modern state in Georgia. Georgia’s new leaders were attempting to fashion a balance between entrepreneurial rights (including policies of privatization in the countryside) and state responsibilities to impoverished citizens; their own ideological inclination toward greater equality and full employment was reinforced by a need to stabilize the economy. In conditions of economic collapse and transition, this meant protective tariffs, licenses for exports and imports, and domestic monopolies, but they came alongside laws protecting employers rights, and even restrictions on strikes. Lobbying of foreign capitalists to invest became a priority for the new government. Georgian social democrats understood their republic would only survive as part of the global economy. The suppression of private trade was impractical and harmful. A mixed approach was essential. Noe Khomeriki, the new Agriculture Minister, declared that economic and political stability, along with social justice, would be achieved “by aid to social production, not by the oppression of private initiative... Our country is in the first stage of economic development … only gradual movement is possible”.13 Facilitating a social market in Georgian conditions of undervevelopment and capital flight required state intervention. This should not be interpreted as a form of wild economic radicalism. Georgia had to survive as part of a global economy. Neither laissez faire policies, nor radical socialism, were sustainable in conditions of mass unemployment, economic crisis, and dependence on foreign trade and investment after WW1. State support for industry, combined with the principles of economic liberalism, was wide-



ly practiced among other European states emerging from the First World War, driven by goals of national self-determination and economic sovereignty. The new Czechoslovakia of the inter war years was perhaps closest to the Georgian model of 1918-21, combining ideas of social justice, state planning, civil rights and economic emancipation for its citizens. The Georgian experiment of a social market (which in many ways was based on Bismarck’s ideas of a welfare state in the 1880s), despite its multiple failings, is a reminder that there are economic alternatives for low and middle income states to the current unthinking emphasis on neo-liberal austerity.

On the discussion of “external national homelands” and what Brubaker calls the triadic nexus of nationalism, see Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, esp. Ch. 1 12 This analysis can be found in N. Jordania, Za Dva Goda. Doklady I Rechi (mart’ 1917 - Mart’ 1919), Tiflis: Izdania istoricheskii komissii I.K. Soveta Rabochikh deptatov gorod Tiflisa, 1919. 13 Konstantin Kandelaki, sakartvelos erovnuli meurneoba (The Georgian National Economy), Vol. 2. Paris: Institute for the Study of the USSR, 1960, p.205 11


CONCLUSION Georgian social democracy was a movement of national liberation as well as an innovative model of political organization based on principles of a mixed economy, representative government, state responsibility for public welfare and a more equitable distribution of wealth. It was a precursor of the European social democratic model, which secured for European citizens after WWII, unprecedented prosperity and social stability. For this reason alone, Georgian social democracy requires more study. But there is a more important lesson for Georgians. The present shapes the way we look at the past; today’s economic consensus has created a woolly-headed prejudice against Georgia’s past, promoted by unthinking politicians and journalists. A more objective analysis of Georgian social democracy would be a surprise for most Georgians; it would show that Georgian social democracy - certainly by 1918, if not before - had developed into a national movement intent on the creation of a sovereign and democratic republic, based on the principles of private ownership and public welfare. Sovereign independence was not just a panicked reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution and the threats to the Georgian population from the advancing Ottomans, but a philosophical change building on national seeds that had always been apparent in Georgia’s version of social democracy. The Georgian government did not always adequately defend its pluralistic principles - President Saakashvili’s libertarian governments of 2004-2012 also failed in this regard - but Georgian social democracy created the beginnings of liberal-democracy and modern statehood which deserves far more attention from Georgia’s historians, and far less prejudice from its politicians.




ISLAND GEORGIA IN LIEU OF A PREFACE About a decade ago, I happened to visit the German town of Potsdam together with my Azerbaijani and Armenian colleagues. At the entrance to our hotel, early in the morning, we passed by a middle-aged craftsman who was laying out his tools on the staircase. A small fragment had broken off a slab on a stair. We went to our rooms, had breakfast, and decided to take a stroll because we had several spare hours and the weather was excellent. The craftsman was still there. During hour or so we have spent in the hotel, his work had had no impact on the slab. We Caucasians exchanged apprehensive looks. A craftsman in our countries would already have finished the work. About two and a half hours later, we encountered the German craftsman on our way back to the hotel. He had already repaired the stair and there was no trace of the defect to be seen. We were not sure whether it was the fourth or fifth step that was damaged or whether the broken slab had been on the left or right side; we just couldn’t find it. We exchanged looks again. While I cannot speak for my colleagues, I remember full well thinking, “If we want to join the EU, we should learn to work like this.” It turned out that our international group had also attracted the craftsman’s attention. “What country could they be from?” he thought. “They are dark, but they do not look like Turks. Yugoslavs? No, from somewhere else. It seems that they were speaking Russian to each other, but they do not look like Russians either. They must be from the Caucasus,” concluded the middle-aged craftsman, who proved to have quite a good knowledge of geography and other moderately difficult fields of knowledge. “Why are they here? Probably to see Stalin’s residence during the days of the Potsdam Conference,” he surmised. In addition to precisely identifying our geographic homelands, the craftsman proved to be quite close to guessing the nature of our visit. We did not come to see Stalin’s residence, but we did have meetings in the building where Churchill stayed during the Potsdam Conference in 1945. We took advantage of the unique opportunity to adopt our own “Potsdam Declaration” that set forth principles of cooperation between the three


South Caucasus countries that were close to each other ideologically. However, this is another story. There was one flaw in the logic of the observant and highly-professional German craftsman. His vision of “Yugoslavs” (Slovenians, Serbs, and Macedonians) and “Caucasians” (Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis) was similar to how he viewed Germans (Bavarians, Saxonians, and Swabians). In his imagination, one large “Caucasian ethnos” encompassed several small “sub-ethnic groups,” which only ethnographers were able to distinguish. The respected craftsman seemed not have been attentive to the processes that unfolded somewhere at the crossroads of Europe and Asia - the South Caucasus - and in a short time, led to the formation of three states that were very different from each other. The differences are due to numerous factors. If you ask Georgians about their identity, they will say without thinking that they are Georgians, which is not surprising, as Armenians will say they are Armenians and Azerbaijanis will also say they are Azerbaijanis. Presumably, the first identity of Germans is also German. However, if you ask people to identify themselves in a broader context, many Georgians will take thought. In the 1990s, most of my compatriots would probably have said after a bit of consideration that they are Caucasians. Now, in the 2010s, most of them will say they are Europeans without batting an eye. On the second level of self-identification, Azerbaijanis regard themselves as part of the Turkic world, but they still keep an eye on Europe too, via Turkey. The situation is more complicated with regard to Armenians. They find it prestigious to identify themselves as Europeans (the Armenian diaspora is not alien to Europe), but they do not know how to approach their ties with the broader Middle East, where they have historically lived (and continue to live now). “Let us leave history in peace,” a rationally-minded reader will say, because the deeper we go into history, the fewer answers to present-day challenges we will find. I shall agree with the rationally-minded reader and switch to the current reality in the South Caucasus, noting that my assessment of this reality is subjective and I have no claims to possess the ultimate truth, not only globally, but even on the smaller regional level, particularly as the South Caucasus region does not effectively exist in the direct political science sense of the word uses.


SOME PARTICULAR FEATURES OF THE NON-EXISTENT REGION Armenia is effectively a mono-ethnic country. At the same time, Armenians scattered throughout the world are at least twice as numerous as the population of Armenia proper, which is close to 3 million. Georgia is quite varied ethnically. Ethnic Georgians make up 85 per cent of the population of 4.5 million. The shares of ethnic Armenians (6 per cent) and Azerbaijanis (7 per cent) are quite significant among the others and both ethnic groups are dominant in the southern and south-eastern areas of Georgia. The population of Azerbaijan is bigger than Georgia and Armenia together (about 9.5 million) and it is somewhere in the middle between Armenia and Georgia as regards ethnic composition. It is also noteworthy that the north-western provinces of Iran that are often called Iran’s (or South) Azerbaijan are much larger than Azerbaijan proper in the size of both the territory and (predominantly ethnic Azerbaijani) population. Demographic trends are also different. The size of Armenia’s population is diminishing, because emigration has become stable. In Azerbaijan, on the contrary, a stable increase is observed in the size of the populations due to a traditionally higher birth rate. And the population of Georgia has undergone insignificant changes in both directions over the past years. The religious situation is quite different in the three countries. Gregorian Christianity has effectively no competitors in Armenia. Orthodox Christianity is dominant in Georgia, but it exists in quite a varied environment, as Catholic, Gregorian, Muslim, and Judaic confessions are legally recognized as “traditional.” Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a predominant share of Shia Muslim believers and a Sunni minority. The constitutions of all three states say that the countries are secular, but the role of religious institutions and their influence on the state and population are specific in each case. No-one has ever tried to establish the percentage of atheists or honest agnostics, which makes any description of how religious the population is quite incomplete. It is noteworthy that even the Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani languages belong to various linguistic families (Kartvelian, Indo-European, and Turkic respectively).


REASONABLE AND NOT SO REASONABLE The contours of problems entangled in the South Caucasus became outlined on the verge of the 1980s and 1990s, when against the background of the collapsing Soviet Union, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan started to politically identify themselves in time and space, searching for their places and functions and shaping and implementing national projects in a complicated geopolitical environment. The characteristic features and dynamics of internal situations and the influence of external factors initiated the process that began drawing them apart, increasing differences in their state structures and economic systems. In the same period, we could observe two main models of the behavior of Soviet republics - rational (Baltic republics) and emotional (Caucasus republics), which confirmed once again the generalized opinion that northerners are “cold-blooded” and southerners are “explosive.” In the dynamic of the events that unfolded, the aforementioned was expressed in the following: The Baltic threesome are members of NATO and the EU and the South Caucasus threesome have failed up to now to settle ethnic conflicts which have failed to be advantageous even for the winners, never mind the losers. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought for Karabakh and the conflict had interstate dimensions from the very beginning. As regards to the settling of matters between Georgians on the one hand and the Abkhaz and South Ossetians on the other, the events soon went beyond the boundaries of the country and resulted in the direct intervention of Russia and the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We will not discuss the ordeal of hundreds of thousands of people or lost opportunities. Had the latter been used, qualitative changes would have taken place in the status quo in the South Caucasus. In the meantime, the situation has taken the following shape: Armenia occupies part of Azerbaijani territory and part of Georgian territory is occupied by Russia. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in a state of “neither war, no peace”. More or less intensive clashes constantly take place on the frontline and there are no full-scale combat operations just because external forces do not need additional problems and military parity between the sides does not provide any grounds for a hope that the destroyer of the fragile balance may ultimately be successful. At the same time, no one knows which of the external forces may change its mind and when Azerbaijan decides that the balance of forces has changed in its favor (Azerbaijan’s military budget is much larger than Armenia’s state budget) and it is time to restore the country’s territorial integrity.


SPECIAL NEIGHBOR In the case of Russia and Georgia, the potentials of the two countries are so asymmetric that there can be no talk about a parity of forces. It is only western support for Georgia that keeps Russia from expanding further in this direction. Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states and then signed an “alliance and strategic partnership” agreement with Abkhazia and a “partnership and integration” agreement with South Ossetia. The West, meanwhile, is pursuing a firm policy of non-recognition of these regions of Georgia, which is essentially directed not just against Georgia’s breakaway regions, but also Russia’s actions. Russia is involved in a military campaign in Ukraine but it is not ignoring the South Caucasus by using its “soft power“ (specifically in Georgia). Russia’s plans are transparent and clear. The very smallest plan is to hinder Georgia’s integration in Euro-Atlantic structures and, if possible, drag Georgia into the frames of the Eurasian Union. The “frozen” conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Russia’s major tools for applying pressure on Georgia. The Georgian political paradigm has undergone certain changes over the past few years. Although the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty continues to be a major objective (and is going to remain so until the goal is achieved), democratic modernization and Europeanisation have come to the fore, among other goals, as a precondition for the creation of advantageous conditions for the peaceful settlement of the conflicts. Georgia as a European country and part of the Euro-Atlantic area is regarded by the mainstream political class and civil society as a priority that is supposed to facilitate the resolution of other problems, including the conflicts. European Georgia will have a chance to mend the orientation of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, where the only direction they know is North.



PROBLEM OF POLITICAL NAVIGATION Since the late 1990s, the vector of Georgia’s foreign policy has constantly been aligned to the West. In 2014, Georgia signed the Association Agreement with the EU, reinforced its status of an aspirant country at the NATO summit in Wales and received an “essential package” to deepen its cooperation/compatibility with NATO and found itself on the honorable five partners list - those who have made a special contribution to NATO operations. Over the past 25 years of independence, the consistency in the country’s foreign policy has manifested better than in any other sphere. It was based on two pillars: 1. Euro-Atlantic and European integration; 2. Good-neighborly relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. (We would like to establish good-neighborly relations with Russia, too, but the Kremlin understands such relations as absolute neighborly obedience.) It is no less difficult to implement the second priority than the first. Establish good relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan (and Turkey) at the same time really needs a refined diplomacy. For its part, Armenia established a strategic partnership with Russia and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), created under Russia’s patronage. On September 3, 2013, it joined the Kremlin’s most beloved organisation - the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union. Although there are sympathies towards the EU in Armenia, its compass constantly points in one direction - North – as it lies in Russia’s powerful magnetic field. At the same time, it keeps some distance from Russia in order to prevent its trump card - natural resources - from becoming a tool in the political games of others. In the meantime, Azerbaijan has joined the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement. If the country’s compass were to be let loose, it would probably point to Ankara. Azerbaijan is free from Russian military presence on its territory. However, Karabakh and seven Azerbaijani districts around it are under the control of Armenian troops. Georgia also negotiated the full withdrawal of Russian (formerly Soviet) troops, but precisely at the moment it could breathe freely, it found itself engaged in a war with Russia in August 2008. Two Russian military bases have been built on its territory (in Abkhazia and South Ossetia) since the war and they are much stronger compared to those military units that had been in Georgia during Soviet times. Given the spirit of the strategic partnership with Russia, Armenia has legalized the presence of a Russian military base and Russian border guards on its own territory for 49 years. At the same time, Russia lavishly supplies weapons both to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The South Caucasus looks like a powder keg we


remember from adventure stories we read in our childhood. According to the annual Global Militarization Index by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), which depicts the relative weight and importance of a country’s military apparatus, Armenia is in 3rd place (after Israel and Singapore), Azerbaijan is in 10th and Georgia is 47th . Incidentally, the neighbors of the South Caucasus rank as follows: Russia 5th, Turkey 24th, and Iran 30th (2013 estimates). We have mentioned neighbors of the South Caucasus and it is necessary to note in this context that each of the three countries have unsettled/tense relations with one powerful player outside the region: Armenia and Turkey have failed to establish diplomatic relations because they have failed to find a common language on such fundamental issues as the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (100 years ago) and Karabakh (at present). Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have failed to be neighborly and trustworthy because of different approaches to the role of religious institutions in governing the countries (theocracy in Iran and secularism in Azerbaijan); the potentially explosive problem of Iran’s (South) Azerbaijani populrion; and sharply differing attitude towards Israel. Given the geopolitical situation, the South Caucasus does not have a common security system. Moreover, all three countries seem to exist in different dimensions. Armenia’s security relies on Russia, Georgia’s on the West, and Azerbaijan relies on its own forces and Turkey. It is noteworthy that in coming to power or retaining it, the leaders of the three countries seek the confirmation of their legitimacy in various capitals (and make their first visits to them): Georgians go to Brussels and/or Washington, Armenians to Moscow, and Azerbaijan to Ankara. The situation in the South Caucasus and its vicinity is marked by two more paradoxical aspects: 1. The most European-looking country among its neighbors (Russia) is the only one that is trying to erect insurmountable obstacles on Georgia’s path of European integration; 2. Particularly close bilateral relations have been established between the countries that do not have a common border. This is true of the relations between Armenia and Russia on the one hand and Azerbaijan and Turkey on the other. The 15 km of the common border between Azerbaijan and Turkey in Azerbaijan’s Naxcivan exclave cannot serve as a bridge connecting the two countries (as Naxcivan is separated from Azerbaijan by Karabakh). The aforementioned proves the theory that the South Caucasus is not a region, as there are effectively no signs of consolidation (It is also possible to speak about the common Soviet heritage, but this factor is gradually becoming a thing of the past). In this non-region of the world, Georgia is a European island in the South Caucasus.


SEA Juggling terms mostly used in maritime affairs (navigation, compass, powder keg, and island), I naturally reached the sea - the Black Sea that washes Georgia’s western coast. In the adventure stories I mentioned earlier, it often happens that a sailor sitting on a mast shouts “Land-ho!” with admiration and delight. It is the reaction of a person who is sick and tired of seeing the ocean day and night for weeks on end and is longing for fresh water, food and women. And I shout “Sea!” with no less admiration, for it gives us hope, connects us to Europe, and paves our way to the Atlantic. It is from this sea that warm and humid air reaches Georgia, neutralizing the cold coming from the north and ensuring abundance. The small town of Gagra, the most beautiful town I have ever seen in my life is also on the shore of this sea. Our ports that Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asian countries use to establish ties with Europe are also on this sea, but the truth is that as soon as they enter Georgia, they are already in Europe, because it starts where Georgia starts. Incidentally, reading A History of Europe by Norman Davies, I again became convinced that it is sometimes useful to change the angle of vision. On the map in his book, Davies turned Europe 90 degrees in a clockwise direction. As a result, the map present the west (Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Britain) “above”, the north (Scandinavia) “to the right”, and the south (Italy and Greece)”to the left.” God, I never realized how many interesting things this map permitted me to see! Among them was the fact that one Iberia was on the top of the huge European peninsula and the other Iberia (i.e. Georgia) was at its bottom.


AND SPORT In 1962, basketball players from Tbilisi won the European Champions Cup (beating Real Madrid in the finals!). I rejoiced together with adults at that time. However, I could see that my father was particularly happy and I could not understand the reason for his happiness. In 1981, Dinamo Tbilisi won the football Cup Winners Cup and my happiness was also special like my father’s in 1962. They were European cups.



IN LIEU OF AN AFTERWORD Several years after my visit to Potsdam, I visited a country in south-eastern Europe that had just joined the EU. Like in Germany, I arrived early in the morning, checked in at the hotel and decided to sleep for several hours before my planned meetings, as I had not slept all night. However, my sleep turned out to be short. The window of my room looked out on the courtyard and I soon heard such a brattle that I lost all hope of falling asleep again. I peeped out and saw seven or eight people emotionally instructing the operator of an excavator that was digging a hole in the only road leading to the hotel. I did not bother to find out what their purpose was. I did not find the process intriguing and since any attempt to go to sleep was definitely futile, I decided to trim myself up and have breakfast. All that took me no more than one hour. Having returned to my room after breakfast, I could no longer hear the excavator, but I could still hear the not so harmonious and explosive pattering, typical of southern people. I took another look at the courtyard. The excavator had made the hole and was standing still. A truck that had come to take the soil away from the hole was next to it. But, it was impossible to load the truck with the soil because the excavator and truck were on one side of the hole and the soil on the other. The excavator had managed to put the soil from the hole along the narrow road without damaging the plants and lawn there, but it could not pick the soil up again and load the truck. The seven or eight people who had guided this complicated process from the very beginning seemed to be discussing ways of solving this impasse with minimum losses. And I thought at the moment: “What could prevent Georgia’s membership to the EU?”




LITERARY CANON AND NATIONAL NARRATIVES THE GEORGIAN LITERARY CANON Borges said that every literature has a special artistic figure -- a meta-literary image -- that comprises not only the whole cultural memory of a specific literary language, but also every consequent – future -- actualisation of the memory. For example, such an image or figure in Spanish-language literature, a book that expresses meta-fictionality is the novel by Cervantes, La Galatea, kept in the Don Quixote’s library. It follows from the book that Don Quixote is Cervantes’ reader and Cervantes himself is a character of his own work. In Mist by Miguel de Unamuno, Unamuno enters his own work and executes his main hero. It is unimaginable, but in The Continuity of the Parks, Cortazar kills the readers, and so the book that is the world and the world that is a book is already the main issue of Borges’ creation. The stage is obviously such a figure or meta-image in English-language literature, the stage and the theatre as life and life as a stage, starting from Shakespeare and ending with Faulkner. As regards German literature, the main image is the contract with the Devil in it; and since Moliere’s Tartuffe, the main issue of French literature has been the division of masks and reality from each other. Balzac, Flaubert, or Proust were all engaged in clarifying this “French” motif. Bronze Horseman has become such a meta-literary image for Russian literature. On the one hand, it is the image of Peter I as the Europeanist and moderniser; and on the other, it has a “dark” mythic side: Bronze Horseman as the demiurge that created Cosmos from chaos and a figure that is beyond motionlessness and motion, life and death, real and imaginary. A tiger was to become the main metaphysical character in Georgian literature, which would have definitely inspired Borges to familiarise himself with the literature and read it. However, this did not happen. Instead, the mythical stallion Merani became that main figure in our literature.


Of course, Rustaveli is nevertheless the foster father and godfather of Merani, yet the genuine father of this meta-literary image is certainly Baratashvili. The main issue in our culture - surmounting the Homeland, rushing ahead somewhere far away without a homeland (heeding “no trail, nor spoor”) and radical transcending from one’s own context - has been linked to Merani since Baratashvili. This is what Vazha Pshavela did, using his mountains (this is the reason, why they did not like his language, albeit the language was not an issue there), and the whole poetry of Galaktion Tabidze is nothing but going and rushing beyond the Homeland (“I have no other homeland / and this snow is my homeland”; “I have failed to find my Homeland on old routes / and I did not remember whether I had ever had it or just recalled it”). It is quite paradoxical that after Baratashvili, the figures of Rustaveli and Guramishvili are viewed in a different manner. The legendary exile of the former and the real one of the latter should now be considered within the context of Baratashvili’s Merani being lost without a trace. Even philosopher Merab Mamardashvili can be placed in this cultural model. He expressed his “Georgian legend” in other languages (Russian and French) and his death in an airport of Moscow could also be viewed in the same context. However, let us start everything from the beginning: It is known that Plato and Aristotle introduced the notion of fiction or, more precisely, creation (Greek poiesis). According to Aristotle, creation is imitation (Greek mimesis), and imitation implies fiction. Aristotle said that “mimesis [invention] is composition of narratives”. It was the notion of mimesis that determined the European literary tradition. Georgia is one of the most ancient Christian civilisations. The conversion of Georgia took place in the 4th century. A full translation of the Bible in Georgian was made in the 5th-9th centuries. Georgian became the language of liturgy back in the 5th century. In spite of this, the concept of fictionality was introduced in Georgian culture from Persian literature (13th-14th centuries). The notions of literary genres and poetics also came from Persian literature. Of course, it is worth noting that literary reflection and practice started in Persian literature under the influence of Arabic literature, and the conceptualisation of literature in Arabia was due to the influence of Greek culture, specifically Aristotle. The main paradox of Medieval Georgian culture is that the religious canon and the literary canon were both of heterogeneous origin. In other words, before the 18th century, the religious canon in Georgian culture was Christian and the literary canon was Muslim (Arabic-Persian).



The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli (13th century) is the main text of Medieval Georgian literature. Up to now, it is regarded as the central work of the Georgian literary canon, playing the same role in Georgian culture as the Divine Comedy by Dante in Italian culture, Don Quixote in Spanish culture, and Faust by Goethe in German culture. The Knight in the Panther’s Skin is a medieval tale of chivalry and love. Its poetics follow the paradigms of Persian poetry, Ferdowsi, Nizami, and so forth. Its ideology was aristocratic-monarchic and the theological background was Orthodox Christian. The text comprises numerous quotations from the Bible and in some passages, we encounter allusions to the texts written by a person known as Dionysius the Areopagite (Corpus areopagiticum). From the 1820s, Georgian literature became a wholly European-type literature and the literary processes in Georgia were determined by European literary trends and tendencies. However, it is noteworthy that a great poet emerged in Georgian literature in the late 18th century and ended the “long Middle Ages” of Georgia. David Guramishvili (1705-1792) bore the signs of Western poetry (in particular, Baroque poetry). He was a great poet involved in deep Christian meditation, a lyric poet, who was quite close to the mystic poetry of San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591) with his mystic sensitiveness and Christian allegories. At the same time, he was the first Georgian poet to turn his exile into an issue of sharp poetic reflection, having spent most of his life in forced emigration and died in the Ukrainian town of Mirgorod,which is familiar due to collection of works of great Nikolay Gogol. The exile made David Guramishvili similar to his great predecessors such as Ovid and Dante, who reflected their exile in their poetic meditation.


Starting from 1801, Georgia gradually acceded to the Russian Empire and Georgian Romanticism was born in the 1830s. How did the new literary tradition take shape? What were Georgian Romanticists referencing and building upon? What served paradigmatic models for them? As regards issues and stylistics of Romanticism, Georgian poets Alexandre Chavchavadze (1786-1846), Grigol Orbeliani (18041883), Nikoloz Baratashvili (1817-1845), and others were inspired by such representatives of Russian Romanticism as Vasily Zhukovsky (1783-1852) and Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). What did Georgian Romanticists borrow from Zhukovsky and Pushkin, who also had Byron and the European Romanticist tradition behind them? Of course, among their themes, there were such literary topics as the “great past” (romantic time), “elevated” landscape (romantic space - nature), and melancholy – “grief and sadness” (fit of passion) that were due to the time (“the great past”) as well as space (nature – “elevated” landscape), because a “romantic individual” was distanced from both. The central work of Georgian Romanticist literature is Merani (1842) by Nikoloz Baratashvili. Merani is a lyric poem that consists of nine strophes. This work has two main intertexts: The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Rustaveli and the lyric poem Farys (1828) by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855). Merani describes a lyrical individual (lyrical ego) heeding “no trail nor spoor” (“rushing along”) and going “beyond the bounds of fate”, in other words, making a futile, yet heroic attempt to overcome the frames of nature and culture. The death of the hero is perceived as leaving a “smoother path” for future generations. An in-depth analysis of the poem shows full well that it implies a hidden dialogue between Russian and Georgian romantic poetries. The main message the work conveys is full transcendence of the lyric hero from the ethnocultural and imperial institutions. At the end of the work, the romantic landscape (the sphere of nature) becomes utterly empty and the hero falls out of his cultural and social ties. The work does not show what lies beyond this transcendence. What matters is the act of transgression itself. Farys by Mickiewicz also describes a Bedouin’s aspirations, but the poem remains emphatically “Orientalist”. The death of the lyrical hero here bears the signs of “appeasement” and “Oriental Nirvana”. Baratashvili radically changes the intertext of Mickiewicz. The rushing of Merani has no “end” with him; it is endless in principle. As regards The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, Baratashvili deliberately refers to one central passage in this canonical text, in which the main hero of



Rustaveli’s epic poem, Avtandil, goes to help his friend (the motive of helping him “who follows in our wake” can be seen transformed in Baratashvili’s poem). However, Avtandil knows that if he dies far from his homeland, he is going to be remembered and mourned by his suzerain, the king, and what is most important, even if a man is doomed in his earthly life, “he will not be doomed by God”. The hero is completely deprived of this prospect in Baratashvili’s Merani. The only thing that remains is that the hopeless act of transcendence – “the yearnings of my restless soul” – “will not in vain have glowed” as an example and paradigm for descendants. To a certain extent, this can be understood as a hope beyond hope.


*** In the late 19th century, there emerged three other writers, who are members of the so-called seven-men-team of the Georgian national literary canon - Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907), Akaki Tsereteli (1840-1915), and Luka Razikashvili (penname Vazha-Pshavela, 1861-1915). The first two belonged to Realism and Vazha-Pshavela was Neo-Romanticist. Ilia Chavchavadze was first and foremost a public intellectual and a political figure, referred to as the Father of the Nation (padre della patria) in Georgia to this day. His importance for Georgian culture is comparable to those of Victor Emanuel II, Cavour, and Giuseppe Verdi together. It is also noteworthy that like Italians, Georgians refer to their writers and creators by their first names: Ilia Chavchavadze is just Ilia, Akaki Tsereteli is Akaki, and Shota Rustaveli is Shota. Moreover, Luka Razikashvili’s penname Vazha-Pshavela was reduced and he is usually referred to as Vazha. Akaki Tsereteli is an excellent lyric poet. His poetic syntax is flawless. To a certain extent, his contribution to the formation of the new literary Georgian language is the same as that of Pushkin to the formation of the Russian literary language. Russian culture distinguishes between “the Russian language before and after Pushkin”. Precisely the same can be said about Tsereteli. As regards Vazha-Pshavela, he is an absolutely unique phenomenon in Georgian poetry. He transposed the paradigms of Classical tragedy and epos to the mountains of Georgia. His poem Host and Guest (1893) is effectively Antigone by Sophocles transposed to the mountains of the Caucasus, where two neighbouring tribes are engaged in rivalry. From the very beginning, the narrative is isolated from the ethnographic features, acquiring cosmic dimensions. In accordance with Hegel’s dialectic (Vazha-Pshavela highly thought of Hegel), categories of community and family, heaven and earth, general and individual clash here.


MODERNISM IN GEORGIA The first 30 years of the 20th century was the era of Modernism in Georgian culture. Symbolists, Futurists, Dadaists, and Neo-Classicists shaped the literary landscape. Galaktion Tabidze deserves particular attention in this context, as Symbolist, Futurist, and Neo-Classicist elements merge in his works. His poetic genealogy is close to Baratashvili, Tsereteli, Blok, Bryusov, and Verlaine. Tabidze is the last classic of the Georgian national literary classic. With his emergence, the Georgian national literary canon took its final shape and was called the seven-men-team: Rustaveli, Guramishvili, Baratashvili, Chavchavadze, Tsereteli, Vazha-Pshavela, and Tabidze. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the second collection of poetic works that had the French name Crâne aux fleurs aristiques - Skull with Artistic Flowers (1919) (it is clear that the name refers to Baudelaire’s famous Les fleurs du mal) is the most important event in the Georgian literature of the 20th century. This small book comprises a total of 86 poems, of which at least a half has become exemplary for future generations of poets and canonical texts for readers. One of the central works in the collection of poems published in 1919 was Azure Horses. Merani by Baratashvili is the main intertext of this poem. Tabidze makes a major change in the main motif of the intertext. Merani implies transcendence and an act of transgression. Although Merani’s



rushing ahead is endless, it is an irreversible rectilinear movement. In a certain sense, Merani is a metaphysical character that expresses impossibility of liberation. On the other hand, Tabidze’s azure horses go round in circles, which is an entropic cycle of eternal repetition. “Lukewarm” despair (“the eternal pillow is not moistened with dew”) replaces here the desperate but dignified gesture of “hopeless hope” in Merani. Up is the same as down. Therefore, the vertical movement of azure horses is also an eternal movement in circles, where up and down are nothing but signs of a pure distinction. The unmatched sound imagery of the poem, which is effectively impossible to translate, expresses this eternal and entropic repetition - the purposeless “booming and roaring” of azure horses - on the phonetic level. A new “post-Tabidze” era began in Georgia in the 1960s. It became obvious that the literature of Panther and Merani was becoming fragmented, which corresponds to the situation in Europe in general. The readers were also fragmented. There was no literary consensus on the new canonical authors any longer. The national literary canon as a whole became a thing of the past. However, individual attempts were made now and again to re-evaluate the past and the dismantlement of the national canon was just a matter of time.


GEORGIAN NATIONAL NARRATIVES It is possible to speak about three national narratives in the context of Georgian culture. The first is the “old”, or “classical” and “monolithic” narrative. It is the story of the survival of the Georgian nation despite centuries of invasions and imperial aggression. At the same time, it has an eschatological dimension, in which the present is always tragic and the future is bright. The “father of the nation” Ilia Chavchavadze and other liberal writers and publicists of the late 19th century and the first 30 years of the 20th century are at the origins of this narrative. Narrative 1 was institutionalised through literature, philology, and history as disciplines at universities in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The institution of the bearers of this narrative was first the Kartvelology Department of St. Petersburg University (from the start of the 19th century to 1917) and then Tbilisi State University, the first Georgian university founded in 1918. The “Golden Age” of the classical national narrative dates from the 1960s through the 1980s, when the Georgian Republic was part of the Soviet Union, and the future hero of Perestroika, Eduard Shevardnadze, was the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party. In those years, the narrative was particularly expressed through literature, cinematography, and theatre. However, the narrative was genuinely triumphant in 1988-1991, when on the wave of Perestroika, the Georgian national liberation movement defeated the Communists in the October 1990 Supreme Council of (still Soviet) Georgia elections and declared Zviad Gamsakhurdia president of the Republic of Georgia in May 1991. However, this triumph ended not only in a military coup and civil war, but also in fragmentation of this “classical” and “monolithic” narrative. There are several “local” versions of the narrative now, of which one belongs to the “old” (“Soviet”) intelligentsia and another to the fragmented supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The third version is “kneaded” in the remaining two narratives to be discussed below. While Narrative 1 is a narrative of salvation and survival, Narrative 2 is told by the “new intellectuals”. It started with the Rose Revolution that saw President Shevardnadze’s resignation and the start of the Mikheil Saakashvili era in November 2003. The Rose Revolution is a “cosmogonical” narrative that tells us about the emergence of a “powerful Georgian state” from Shevardnadze’s corrupted chaos. A monument to St. George by Zurab Tsereteli, who was a successful artist back in the Soviet era, is the visual expression of this narrative. The monument shows a young man on horseback killing a dragon with a spear. The man embodies, according to


a cosmogonic myth, the demiurge (creator) of the cosmos and the killed dragon embodies primordial chaos.1 It is important that this monument was erected in the central square of the capital in the place of a monument to Lenin that stood there in the Soviet times (and the square bore his name, too). The Lenin monument was dismantled in 1990, when the Soviet Union was falling apart, and the square became Freedom Square. Nothing stood in the square for 15 years, until the new government erected the monument to St. George there in 2006. Narrative 3 may be labelled “Orthodox Christianity as Georgians’ genetic religion”. It is clear that the establishment of the Georgian Orthodox Church the Patriarchy - is its institutional base. The third narrative claims that it is the only full-fledged representative of Georgian culture. The Georgian church is now the national church of the Georgian nation and the national religion is its narrative. The Sameba (Trinity) Church in Tbilisi is the visual representation of this narrative. The construction of the church started under President Shevardnadze in 1996 and was completed after the Rose Revolution. It is the mutual diffusion and struggle between these three narratives that determine Georgian nationalism today. The sides are effectively struggling for the heritage of Narrative 1.2 The marginalisation of Narrative 1 and the “old” intelligentsia started after the Rose Revolution by means of “conspiracy rhetoric”. The new government told to “old” intelligentsia: “you are Soviet relicts and Russian agents,” or in other words “you are people of Russian culture”,. Typological and phenomenological rhetoric was used against Narrative 2 and the “new intellectuals” (the establishment): “you are genuine Bolsheviks”, the “old” told the “new”. The “new intellectuals” (i.e. Narrative 2) resorted to the same “conspiracy rhetoric” regarding Narrative 3: “you are a branch of the Russian church”, they told the ecclesiastic establishment. It is noteworthy that all of the three styles of rhetoric are a kind of amalgamation, where elements of rationality and conspiracy are intermixed. The second post-Soviet period under Shevardnadze (1992-2003) was marked by the confluence of “new businessmen”, old nomenclature, and “old” intelligentsia; the new establishment took shape as a result of the merger of the non-governmental sector and the “new academy”.3 The self-assertion of the new intellectual elite started with the victimisation of the “old” (Soviet) intelligentsia and misappropriation of their narrative. That is why Soviet now implies both to old structures and “Russian culture”. It should be noted here that in general, the “Russian argument” determines all the three styles of rhetoric. The intelligentsia and the government


are “Russian” and the “new” intellectuals are “Bolsheviks”. As regards the church, it is also “Russian” – “a branch of the Russian church”. If the marginalisation and victimisation of the “old intelligentsia” and, at the same time, the misappropriation of the “old narrative” make sense of the modern cultural process, a major question arises: Who do the history of the Georgian nation and Ilia Chavchavadze as the “father of the nation” belong to? As regards the gigantomania of the fight between the monument to St. George and the Sameba Church, it raises the following question in the field of visual culture: Who is going to own the “White Temple” of the Tbilisi State University, that visual expression of the “classical” Georgian national narrative and the realm of its memory? All three narratives are linked to what modern French historian Pierre Nora termed as lieux de mémoire (realms of memory). Nora noted: “Our interest in lieux de mémoire where memory crystallises and secretes itself has occurred at a particular historic moment, a turning point where consciousness of a break with the past is bound up with the sense that memory has been torn - but torn in such a way that posed the problem of the embodiment of memory in certain sites (realms) where a sense of historic continuity persists. There are lieux de mémoire, sites (realms) of memory, as there are no longer milieux de mémoire, real environment of memory”. 4 The realms of memory linked to the first narrative are Javakhishvili Tbilisi University (founded in 1918); the Mtatsminda Pantheon, where the “father of the nation”, Ilia Chavchavadze (1907), and other Georgian writers and political leaders are buried; the museums of Georgian history and art; “Old Tbilisi” (the old area of Tbilisi); April14 (a day in 1978, when students and intelligentsia of Tbilisi held a large demonstration to defend the status of the Georgian language in the constitution under the Soviet rule); May 26 which marks the Independence Day of the First Georgian Republic (1918-1921); Kartvlis Deda (monument by sculptor Elguja Amashukeli to the Mother of the Georgians erected in 1958 as a symbol of Georgia); and others. Of course, these realms of memory are constructed, as they are not part of “live and spontaneous” memory.5 Therefore, some of the public react

F.B.J. Kuiper, “Cosmogony and Conception: A Query”, History of Religion 10, 2 (Nov. 1970), 91-138. It is noteworthy that “leftist intellectual discourse” has not emerged in Georgia up to now. To be more precise, it exists, but it is absolutely marginalized. 3 At the same time, a major redistribution was under way in the business sector. A new alliance between the revolutionary government and businesses became outlined, but this sphere is beyond our competence. 4 P. Nora, Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire, Representations, 26 (Spring, 1989), 7. 5 Nora, 8-9. 1 2



with protests to any criticism of these realms, fearing deletion and loss of memory. For example, when certain attempts were made in several articles published on the Kartvlis Deda monument in the 1990s to deconstruct the symbolic figure, opponents started speaking about an infringement on “national values”. It is noteworthy that from the aesthetic point of view, Amashukeli’s sculpture is an embodiment of totalitarian monumentalism rather than a stylisation of traditional “national” art. This example shows full well that most realms of memory in Tbilisi were created precisely in the period of totalitarianism - the museums of history and art were built in the 1940s and 1950s and the Mtatsminda Pantheon became a pantheon under Stalin in the 1930s. This is what the revolutionary government and some part of society want to forget. As noted above, the Mtatsminda Pantheon is one of the major realms of memory in Tbilisi. It was a prestigious necropolis in the 19th century. Representatives of imperial aristocracy and military and official establishment, as well as prominent public figures were buried there. The history of the necropolis is also noteworthy. In 1829, the Russian author and diplomat Alexander Griboedov (1795-1829) was buried on Mtatsminda (where a monastery named after St David of Gareja has been situated from the early Middle Ages, which is the reason why the mountain was given a second name - Mamadaviti).


A purposeful purge of the pantheon was carried out in the 1930s. The graves of generals and officials of the Russian Empire were abolished. Georgian writers and top Communist Party officials, who were buried in different places, were reburied on Mtatsminda instead. Since those times, Georgian writers, representatives of various spheres of art, and scientists have been buried there. In a certain sense, the Mtatsminda Pantheon reflects the Georgian cultural canon of the 19th and 20th centuries. Another purge of the pantheon started in the 1990s. Prominent figures of the Communist Party were reburied in other places. Merab Kostava (1939-1989), the leader of the national liberation movement in the 1980s and prominent Soviet-time dissident, and Alexander Sulkhanishvili (19001990), a Georgian emigrant and a participant in the 1924 anti-Bolshevik rebellion, were buried there instead of them. It is noteworthy that only one site of Soviet memory has remained untouched up to now. The grave of Stalin’s mother Ekaterine Jugashvili (1856-1937) remains on Mtatsminda. This points to the fact that unofficially, Stalin continues to be part of the Georgian national narrative. Other visual signs that confirm this are the monument to Stalin in the centre of his native town of Gori and his grandiose museum. The small one-room house looking like an embryo, where Joseph Stalin was born in 1879, is in the middle of the museum. Some people say that the house is an installation, not a genuine “halidom”. The first revolutionary attempt to deconstruct Soviet realms of memory and construct national memory was made in 1990, when the monument to Lenin was demolished and smashed to pieces. At the same time, the bas-reliefs of Stalin and other leaders of proletariat were chipped off the building of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and broken to pieces and monuments to other leaders of the Communist Party were demolished in Tbilisi and throughout Georgia. The removal and rewriting of the “Communist” and “Soviet” realms of memory have never stopped since then. However, the construction of memory was carried out by means of demolition and deletion before 2003 and the creation of new sites of memory started after the Rose Revolution. The new realms of memory are linked to Narrative 2. The Rose Revolution as a new narrative is about the birth of a new nation. It is a story about how a new “powerful Georgia” was born from Shevardnadze’s corrupt chaos on November 23, 2003. However, the day that was to herald the birth of a new Georgia was November 23, the day when the Georgian Orthodox Church commemorates St. George. Quite paradoxically, a hybrid of two narratives was produced. Narrative 1 was linked to Narrative 2 and the revolutionary government emphasised that only they were the genuine representatives of the unified monolithic Georgian national narrative.


Paradoxes did not end there. Zurab Tsereteli, an artist, who was close to Shevardnadze back in the Soviet times and whose name is linked to Soviet monumental art and is believed even now to be quite a controversial author aesthetically, was asked to create the monument to St. George that was erected in former Lenin Square - now Freedom Square. It is noteworthy that in the times of confrontation with Russia, the new government tasked the incumbent president of the Russian Academy of Arts with making a monument to St. George. The model of the monument gave rise to intense disputes in the intellectual and artistic circles of Georgia. Several TV debates were held, but Zurab Tsereteli’s creation was nevertheless erected on the third anniversary of the Rose Revolution, November 23, 2006. The Occupation Museum is yet another constructed realm of memory. It claims to critically view the Soviet past. However, everything Soviet was presented as the same as Russian in the new narrative and the republic of 1918-1921 was declared as the direct predecessor of the government formed in 2003. One of the signs confirming this is the fact that the Occupation Museum was opened on 26 May, Independence Day of the First Republic, in 2006. The Occupation Museum is effectively an installation, where the exposition is conventionally divided into three parts. The first part is a hall that is smaller than the main hall and is perceived as an area supposed to create a general mood. There is one item that symbolises the tragedy of Georgia in the 20th century. It is a freight railway wagon reflecting the Shorapani tragedy.6 Shorapani is the place in Georgia, where the Soviet government gunned down participants in the anti-Bolshevik rebellion of 1924 in railway wagons. The train is also a hybrid image with multiple layers. The main TV clip of the 2003 Rose Revolution was also linked to the symbol of a train, and President Saakashvili’s main metaphor of Georgia in 2003-2004 was also a train. The realms of memory of Narrative 3 -“Orthodox Christianity as the only genuine Georgian identity” - are not so much found in the old Georgian churches and monasteries, but rather in the completely new Sameba Cathedral. The Sameba Cathedral is a grandiose building that is rather a continuation of the Soviet Monumentalism rather than the traditions of old Georgian architecture. From the very beginning, it was designed as “one of the tallest churches in the world”, its height and monumentality expressing the “Georgian spirit” and the “truthfulness of Orthodox Christianity”. Two important memorial events are linked to the Sameba Cathedral: The reburial from Paris in 2005 of the hero of the anti-Bolshevik resistance, 6



Kaikhosro (Kakutsa) Cholokashvili (1888-1930), and in 2007, the reburial of first Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Although both were buried in the Mtatsminda Pantheon, official funerals were held in the Sameba Cathedral and both the secular government and the Georgian Church participated in the events. One more conclusion follows: There are very few realms of memory in Tbilisi that would not be linked to ecclesiastic “legitimation” in a specific manner. For its part, this makes it clear that Georgia knows nothing of secularisation in the Western sense and that despite the revolutionary nature of the new government, they are nevertheless unable to construct “new” and secular realms of memory on the level of symbolic events. The Occupation Museum is probably the only such site. Both reburials show full well that the revolutionary government is trying to connect three eras: a) the republic of 1918-1921; b) the national liberation movement in the 1990s as Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s era; and c) the Rose Revolution in 2003. The Soviet era is presented as the time of purely anti-Bolshevik resistance and the years 1992-2003 (second post-Soviet period under Shevardnadze) as “empty illegitimate times”. Correspondingly, either the realms of memory linked to these eras are being devalued and dismantled or “valuable” realms are tied to desirable periods.



For example, 14 April 1978 is taking shape as a realm of memory of anti-Bolshevik resistance, not as a manifestation of the Tbilisi intelligentsia of the late 1970s secretly encouraged by the Georgian Communist Party establishment of that time (first Soviet period under Shevardnadze). However, the most prominent example of rewriting the memory is the deliberate obliviousness of most influential Georgian thinker and philosopher Merab Mamardashvili (1930-1990) and the site of memory linked to him. It was Gamsakhurdia’s radical nationalism that the philosopher and public intellectual Merab Mamardashvili confronted in 1990. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack effectively due to his constant and purposeful defamation (personal insults in the public and private areas) on the part of Gamsakhurdia’s supporters, who regarded Mamardashvili as “a traitor of the Georgian nation and an agent of the Soviet security services”. A monument to Mamardashvili made by his friend Ernst Neizvestny (born in 1925), an American artist of Russian-Jewish origin (and formerly a Soviet sculptor and dissident), was erected between the buildings of the Post Office and the Constitutional Court in the main thoroughfare of Tbilisi, Rustaveli Avenue, in 2001. Before 1990, the building of the Constitutional Court hosted the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and the Institute of Philosophy worked in the left wing of the building. It was in this institute that Merab Mamardashvili worked after his return to Tbilisi from Moscow where he lived from 1980 to 1990. When the monument to Mamardashvili was erected in that place in 2001, it was implied that the monument to the philosopher was next to the Institute of Philosophy. During the education reform carried out in


2005, some of the institutes of the Academy of Sciences (the heritage of the Stalinist and Soviet era, as the government regarded it) were abolished and others changed their locations. The buildings that belonged to them were handed over to private owners as a result of a radical Neo-Liberal privatization. The Institute of Philosophy also changed its location. When the monument to Mamardashvili was erected in 2001, the Shevardnadze government was creating a site of memory that was to express the confrontation between the Georgian liberal intelligentsia and Gamsakhurdia’s radical nationalism. Mamardashvili was to become a symbol of opposition to Gamsakhurdia’s non-liberal regime. Mamardashvili knowingly sacrificed himself to the moral terror provoked against him by Gamsakhurdia. Later, it was Gamsakhurdia himself who fell victim to the military coup and civil war that started at the end of 1991 and ended with his murder (or suicide) in obscure circumstances at the end of 1993. Merab Mamardashvili was not the leader of collective resistance. His confrontation with the government was personal opposition, a conceptual and verbal opposition of a philosopher. Therefore, since Gamsakhurdia was rehabilitated and reburied in the Mtatsminda Pantheon, the monument to Mamardashvili has expressed what Mamardashvili used to express in his life - the atopic nature of a philosopher and intellectual in the disposition of national narratives and realms of memory. It is noteworthy that memory was the main topic in Mamardashvili’s philosophy. Much of his philosophy was devoted to the interpretation of Marcel Proust and the concept of memory of Proust.7 Mamardashvili was buried in an “ordinary” cemetery in Tbilisi next to the graves of his parents. This simplicity and at the same time, “fitting” in the “parental” context in the direct sense of the word emphasise even better the fate of personal being in connection with national narratives and constructed realms of memory. Mamardashvili’s figure is a clear manifestation of the place of “spontaneous and living memory” or, as Proust would say, “involuntary memory” (mémoire involontaire) in modern culture. Memory is only a part of individual psychology8 and constructed realms of memory show that spontaneous and living memory has quit the forms of collective existence forever.9 7 8 9

М. Мамардашвили, Психологичискоя топология пути: Лекции о Прусте. М. Ad Marginem, 1995. Nora, 14-15. Nora, 19.




A EUROPE IN ASIA Rudyard Kipling’s famous quote about East and West seems quite convincing, but how absolute is the divide between these two geographic entities and their cultures and world views? Is the poet really talking about countries located where the sun rises and where it sets? Or maybe this equation is hypothetic? Where does the sun rise and set? Where is the author of these words? The East also has its west and east, and vice versa. When pluralistic civilizations flourished in the East (Mesopotamia, India, or China), Europe did not even exist as such. From the European point of view in later times, however, something truly European may be discerned among these Eastern cultures. Even before Europe emerged, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the first European (moreover Faustian and even existential) work was created in the East, with no confirmed analogs in the ancient East. Metaphorically speaking, Mesopotamian culture was the same in relation to the rest of the East as today’s Europe is to Asia. Much has changed since in Asia, a new East was built from the ruins of the ancient East while at the same time, Europe grew from Greco-Roman and Christian foundations. Islam introduced a new trend which, on one hand, had nothing in common with the East of the Epic of Gilgamesh and on the other hand, has stood in stark contrast to the Christian West to this day. Once alien, Asia suddenly appeared alluring to Europe. Great artists expanded their world views and tried to absorb this unusual world. These aspirations were symbolically and realistically (in terms of materials used) reflected in Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan. Generally, it was thanks to Europe that colonial India discovered the East - especially India - as a cultural phenomenon and it was not the result of Eurocentrism.


GEORGIAN EUROPEAN LITERATURE Georgian culture has its geographic roots in Asia, yet it has never been Asian/Eastern as such. The greatest achievements in Georgian culture – and this concerns solely oral and written literature – are all built upon European values. Although Amirandarejaniani, a work written in the twelfth century, has Asian overtones, especially in terms of its onomasticon, it stands very close to the European world. The work describes one continuous medieval tournament. Knights who are subjects of their suzerain seek a worthy opponent and undefeated knight to challenge. Why? What is the purpose? Their goal is to put themselves to test and to make a name for themselves and their suzerains. This is their only motivation and they are absolutely altruistic. A young man rescues a queen and her dominion from the enemy and leaves to return to his valiant endeavors. He claims no reward. “I have not accepted any reward. I took my bread and left.” Are valiant deeds an end in themselves? Yes, they are an end in themselves that offer gratification and reward. Typologically, this work echoes the Western European tradition of knighthood. The young man in Amirandarejaniani has a counterpart in the European knight-errant, a seeker of adventures whose purpose in this life is to serve his suzerain loyally and encounter enemies, to protect women, and to eradicate oppression. This literary work asserts that they “have been created for valiant deeds,” which defines their identity and creed. As one such young man says, “I have sought valiant deeds, and I have put to test my valor.” Loyal to his suzerain, the young man shares typological similarities with the Japanese samurai and has no personal life. The only thing he owns and cherishes is his good name. This aspect in Persian heroic epics - dastans - is not as thematized, which is why I believe that despite certain outward similarities with Persian dastans (for example, “Karamaniani”, “Bakhtyarnameh”, and others), Amirandarejaniani is nonetheless a purely Georgian phenomenon. It echoes Western European chivalric narratives, especially Germanic (Beowulf), and namely Scandinavian (Elder Edda), which speak of the immortal names of those fallen and assert that everything is transient in this world and everyone is mortal, save the good names of those departed. In this context, we can call to mind Sumerian Gilgamesh, believed by us to be the first European, so to speak, whose only concern before engaging in a fateful battle is his good name: “I will set up my name in the place where the names of famous men are written, and where no man’s name is written yet I will wise a monument to the gods.” Gilgamesh, who pronounces these words, reminds one of the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, fighting for the name of the king and for their own reputation.


Another equally important work written around that time is Visramiani, a prosaic Georgian translation of a poem by Persian poet, Fakhraddin Asaad Gorgani. In the Georgian version, however, Persian idioms are missing altogether, which means that it was adapted for the Georgian environment and lifestyle. The translation marks the triumph of the Georgian language, with its artistic means of expression, idioms, and refined phrases. This work is an antipode of Amirandarejaniani. The term and notion of valiant deeds is not thematized here, and there is no one to assume this role. The main theme of the work is sensual love between man and woman, and this very field defines its essence. Love justifies every means, as treachery, insidiousness, and hypocrisy are used to attain love. Mind and ethics take a back seat to love. Love between man and woman triumphs over friendly or brotherly love. “A single hair of [the name of the loved one] is dearer to me than thousand friends.” Sensual love, as an irresistible feeling, prevails over every other human feeling. In this regard, Visramiani, a love story of Ramin and Vis, echoes the tale of Tristan and Iseult. The following words of the author of Visramiani perfectly describe the idea behind this work: “Those not in love cannot be called human.” The theme of love also dominates in the Knight in the Panther’s Skin, the greatest Georgian epic poem. Nine verses in its introduction are dedicated to love. Yet, Shota Rustaveli’s love and the love that infects the Visramiani characters are different as night and day. Below is the author’s take on love: “Beauty befits a lover like unto the sun on high. He must have youth and leisure, be generous, wealthy and wise, Patient, intelligent and eloquent, the mightiest among the mighty. If devoid of all these qualities a lover is not a true lover.” Clearly, love is a noble, aristocratic feeling, not characteristic of all, though it is not just a feeling, but also an existential condition that encompasses the entire person in line with Gestalt psychology. To the author, love as stated in the introduction is a special calling similar to poetic talent. In this regard, it is close to Plato’s theia mania, without which no great deed is possible, much less love. This is why, along with love, the introduction also discusses the nature of poetry. Equally important is friendship, which together with love and poetry is a gift of the chosen. In his moderately long epic poem, Shota Rustaveli laconically describes spiritual and social values on which Western Europe is built. At the same time, these ideals are universal, though they are especially relevant in the light of Christian culture. What aligns the Knight in the Panther’s Skin with the West is feudalism, with its characteristic values, such as vassalage stemming from loyalty and rapport, women’s defining role in society and


a courteous type of love for women of higher social strata. All these values are presented in the poem’s introduction as statements, rather than being parts of the plot (see the praise honoring Queen Tamar in the introduction, which is practically a confession of love to the queen). Notably, Rustaveli rejected the canonical narratives found in the Persian poetry of that time and built his poem on a very innovative plot, which presents the Georgian realm between the lines. Unlike his contemporary Persian poets, Rustaveli employs fiction, not canonically accepted plots. In terms of rejecting the Asian stratum, Davit Guramishvili (1705-1792), a poet who was forced to leave his homeland, write in Russia and meet his death in Ukraine, follows in Rustaveli’s footsteps. In his book, Davitiani, Guramishvili, alienates himself from the authors that emerged after Rustaveli, during the pseudo-Renaissance between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. Their thematic (and spirit to some extent) is filled with Persian oral and written literature, which was so powerful that King Teimuraz I (1589-1663), an excellent poet and pious Christian, wrote with pride, “The sweetness of the Persian language compelled me to compose music.”1 What force enabled the exiled Guramishvili to break free from the prevailing “slavery” to Persian poetry? Was it his new home in Russia, next door to Europe? The answer is yes, although, it cannot be called “influence,” as such. Mere influence could not alter his artistic orientation so drastically; there must have been a Western seed planted in him in the first place. As paradoxical as it may sound, this Western orientation was due to his deep roots in folk traditions, which he cherished and maintained immaculately, like a traveler walking through life in exile. The force of folk traditions elevated to an elite category in his poetry is spellbinding. Thanks to Guramishvili, Georgian poetry began a path towards Europeanization. His younger contemporary, Besarion Gabashvili (1750-1791), also known as Besiki, who lived in Georgia and passed away in Romania, also broke free from Persian storylines, but the main topics of his poetry, such as carnal love and colorful and embellished verses (alliterations, abundance of play of words and homonymic rhymes), bear witness to Persian influence. As Georgia started to emerge from the ruins of the old kingdom in the first half of the nineteenth century, Nikoloz Baratashvili’s brilliant intuition enabled him to embrace European Romanticism. His poems feature spontaneous motifs found in the works of Lamartine and Byron. Most importantly, Baratashvili, who was Soren Kierkegaard’s contemporary, offers – independently of Kierkegaard, of course – existentialist motifs focused on the individual. For the most part, Georgian existentialism rids itself of Asian motifs. Romantic poet, Russian General, and Baratashvili’s uncle, Grigol Obreliani (1804-1883), on the other hand, used to state with pride, “I am Aziatets” (intentionally erroneous Russian pronunciation of the word Asian), most likely meaning opposite of Russian. (Apparently, somewhere deep in his heart there were the inscribed words of Frederick the Great


of Prussia about Erekle II, the last Georgian king, “I am in the West, and Erekle is in the East.” The poet claimed kinship with King Erekle.). Everyday life in Tbilisi at that time was sure to strike the visitor as a quintessentially Asian city. Creative activities and everyday life seemed to be somewhat separated. While creativity and poetry in particular reached out to Europe, Tbilisi’s daily life style (leisure, festive table music, musical instruments, types of song, and others) was Asian - namely Persian - as late as the nineteenth century.2 Many European travelers who visited Tbilisi at that time were reminded of two-faced Janus, where one face looked to Asia and the other to the West. The newly emerging Georgian oral and written literature of the nineteenth century, especially its second half, abounds in patriotic motifs, which is understandable given Russia’s policy of Russification. Vazha-Pshavela (1862-1915) was the only author of that period to underline European (therefore, universal) topics along with national ideas. He offered the public topics of confrontation between the person and the community and the person’s transformation to a lone fighter for the truth. In this regard, he resembles the Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen. Like in Ibsen’s dramas, where the action takes place in provincial towns and settlements, the heroes of Vazha-Pshavela’s poems live in a remote, albeit once heroic, corner of Georgia. However, their actions are game changers in universal thought. Ibsen’s protagonist Doctor Stockmann (An Enemy of the People) stated as a revelation before being exiled, “You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.” This concept may be equally ascribed to Vazha-Pshavela’s Aluda (Aluda Ketelauri) who is shunned by the community for befriending a sworn enemy of his kin. He does not actually say these words, but the poem’s entire stance implies it. In the eyes of the reader, Aluda, who stands alone, is strong and victorious, because the future is his. While Aluda Ketelauri echoes Ibsen’s European dramas, another programmatic epic poem by Vazha-Pshavela, Host and Guest, digs deep to reach European roots. In this case, the issue raised by Sophocles in Antigone is obvious. Antigone buried his brother and thus, as an individual, defied society (the cold-hearted state). Vazha-Pshavela”s Jokola also defends his guest from a vengeful community and falls victim to this confrontation. One advantage that Jokola has over Antigone, however, is that he is not protecting his flesh and blood, but a stranger who We have no right to doubt the sincerity of the king poet, the author of these words. However, we should also bear in mind that Georgian poetry had inherited Persian lyric poetry and Georgian poets of that time who scrupulously worked on Persian epic plots (“Vard-Bulbuliani”, “Ioseb-Zelikhaniani”, “Leil-Mejnuniani”, “Shami-Paravaniani”, and others), completely ignored such Persian names as Khakan, Hafiz, Hayam, Rumi, Jami, Saadi, and others, much less Arab poetry which, despite nearly four hundred years of Arab rule, was absolutely unknown in Georgia. 2 The central square in Tbilisi, where the Sioni Orthodox Christian Cathedral, an Armenian Church, a synagogue, and a mosque stand side by side, is referred to by locals as Tatar Square (also known as Shaitan’s Bazaar) to this day. 1


murdered his brother and must be avenged. Again, an individual prevails over society, over traditions and both Jokola and Aluda appear to have established a new tradition and the superiority of individuality. Aluda’s giant leap, which freed the individual from the oppression of the tyrannical Asian community, bore fruit in the twentieth century. The twentieth century in Georgia started with the 1907 murder of Ilia Chavchavadze, a great advocate of Europeanism, and was followed by the Russian Revolution. Galaktion Tabidze (1893-1959), the most Georgian poet of that century, prophetically describes the period between these two eras in one of his poems: “When, near Tzitzamuri, Ilia was killed, A great era, its ancient songs and ease, Came to an end, and mesmerizing bridge Emerged on the horizon thence. -----------------1908 has come, so has a phantom new, So far unknown to me in dreams, New rain, new breeze, and Daland, And a whole age of Crâin aux fleurs.”3 Galaktion’s cultural orientation is evident from the French title of his poetry book. To him and all poets in general, a truly new era began and Georgian poetry (and literature in general) embarked on a European path. However, on the other side of the “mesmerizing bridge”, a grave danger awaited them along the path that was blocked by the Soviet regime. It was the new phantom seen by the poet in his dreams, yet no dream or even a nightmare could imagine what would soon happen. But despite the heinous repression, Georgian poetry remained European in form even if its content became Soviet and even this form as a vessel alone was a great achievement. Vakhtang Kotetishvili (1892-1937) was wrong when he asserted that “Asia is only slumbering in Georgia” and urges a “return to Asia in order to progress.” Today it is clear that the European path and European cultural orientation have no alternative. It has not been Asia slumbering in Georgia, but Europe, and it has miraculously awoken. It has been slumbering and now it is awake, but that does not necessarily mean that Georgia had belonged to it in its bosom from the beginning, since the dawn of European civilization. We did not participate in the making of Europe, we have only been slumbering as typological Europeans, so to speak, as evidenced by numerous examples scattered throughout our history. In terms of social relations, it would suffice to point out that the Georgian and European feudal systems are typologically similar. Historian Ivane Javakhishvili points out that patroni, the Georgian word for suzerain, which took root in Geor-


gia in the eleventh century, derives from Latin patronus and has its etymological and legal roots in Rome. As for the term kma (Georgian for the vassal) under the care of the suzerain, it has a typological counterpart in Western European terminology. The word kma derives from krma (a lad), which translates as vassus or vassalus. Although Georgia was an Orthodox Christian country within the sphere of the political and cultural influence of the Byzantine Empire, its social institutions of vassalage (so-called fundorum patrocinia) and relevant features (knighthood) were Western in character, as reflected perfectly in the Arab monarchy from the Knight in the Panther’s Skin: King Rostevan has a vassal (kma), Avtandil, who in turn has a vassal (kma), Shermadin, who also has vassals. The poem bears witness to the principle “the vassal of my vassal is not my vassal.” Another example: around the time when the Great Charter of the Liberties (1215) was adopted, an attempt to limit royal power took place in Georgia as well. In the late twelfth century, a deliberative assembly called karavi, an institution similar to parliament, was established next to the royal council, which was expected to hold legislative authority, while the king would have to settle to formally approving and executing the parliament’s decisions. This initiative was never implemented in the Asian environment of Georgia, however. It continued to slumber as the Mongol invasion prevented it from awakening. What is Georgia, an Asia in Europe or Europe in Asia (and we are not talking about the territorial aspect)? These questions about Georgia’s future and culture are actively discussed by intellectuals. Even those who intuitively consider themselves European ask these intuitive questions. According to one equation, while Asia sees Georgia as Europe, Europeans view it as Asia. Once again we ask ourselves, what is so Asian about Georgians that they themselves do not see, but is obvious to Europeans? What is that something that is so intangible and Asian about us? It is probably something that is neither Asian nor European. It may be the festive Georgian supra, which we will discuss later. This feasting phenomenon, though alien to modern Europe, has deep roots in the Greco-Roman world, which is in turn Europe’s substrate. Europe, however, has forgotten this phenomenon, which is neither Asian nor European. What else? Maybe one more nuance, something that makes our Gemeinschaft mentality stand opposite or next to Geselschaft thinking. Here is what Ferdinand Tönnies said about these German terms and concepts, which are so hard to translate and interpret. “In Gemeinschaft, we are united from the moment of our birth with our own folk, for better or for worse. We go out into Geselschaft as if into a foreign land. A young man is warned about mixing with bad society: But a ‘bad company’ makes no sense in our language.”4 While birth The title (full title: Crâin aux fleurs artistiques) of Galaktion Tabidze’s second collection of poems (1919). With its themes, topography, symbols and images, and poetic metalanguage, this book heralded the birth of new European poetry. 4 See: Ferdinand Tönnies. Gemeinschaft und Geselschaft: Grundbegriffe der reinen Soziologie. 3



to one’s own folk ensures unity and obligates the members of this unity to be loving and loyal to one another, society rests upon the cold and uncompromising law which ties members of society together. When asked what force enables him to tolerate life in a foreign land, one Georgian immigrant answered, “The law. It is the law that gives me everything you would require from a friend. You at home rely on friends and run for help to your neighbors. I, on the other hand, turn to the law, which is a surer way.” In Georgia’s environment and relations, unity (Gemeinschaft) is prioritized, which never escapes a foreigner. The warm atmosphere of unity persists in a cold-hearted society. It would be unfair, however, to characterize this unity as something Asian. On the contrary, unity is a property of every traditional society, regardless of geographic location, be it where the sun rises or sets. Although unity, in its extreme form, poses a threat of nepotism, it is also true that the blindfolded Lady Justice often causes disappointment. Is there really an irreconcilable chasm between Asia and Europe that we can see in Kipling’s quote? Is this chasm really so incompatible with the principle of democracy? Let us, however, save this existential and sociological issue for a more fundamental discussion5 and have a look at Georgian folklore to see what it has to say, on which side it is on, and what it claims.

This issue is discussed in detail by Givi Margvlashvili in his work Unity and Society: An Attempt at Thematic Analysis of Georgia Using the Example of the Notions of a Guest and Hospitality, from the compilation: Georgia at the Turn of the Millennium, edited by Zurab Kiknadze, Arete, 2005; pages 254-264; see Conversations with Givi Margvelashvili: Philosphical Thoughts I, 2001, pages 258-288. 5


PROMETHEUS OR AMIRAN? Georgians cherish Colchis and its ancient history. It is widely believed that prehistoric Hellas owes much to Colchis culture. Special attention is paid to the snatching of the Golden Fleece by the Argonauts. It is also a fact that the Argonauts came to Colchis to claim something that belonged to them, though, admittedly, they would not settle for repossession and took home a princess as well. The Golden Fleece returns home, yes. But does it return in its original form, unchanged? Medea also returns to Colchis, but is it really the same Medea? The Golden Fleece delivered something to Colchis – at this point, we cannot specify what exactly – and took something away on its way back home. Medea also left Colchis with something and returned carrying something again. We are dealing here with a mythological narrative reflecting a historical process of exchanging cultural values. This detail was fathomed to some extent by Herodotus who described the relations between the East and the West by drawing a picture of a war and the pillage and plundering following a kidnapping. Asia kidnapped Io and Helena, and the West -- Europa and Medea. Thus, princesses were exchanged and moved from Asia to Europe, and vice versa. Similarly, rele-




vant plots also change settings back and forth. Young women are of course bearers of certain values, which is a separate theme in fairytales especially, but that is a different story. The myth of Amiran chained to the Caucasus Mountains might have been snatched by the Hellenes and planted in their ancestral soil. In other words, Asian Amiran might have been Europeanized and transformed into Prometheus. This notion is quite popular with Georgians and they find it hard to abandon the notion. I, on the other hand, believe that the Amiran never left Asia and is actually more European than Prometheus. Chaining as a form of punishment is the only thing the two have in common, as the reasons behind their punishment are different. Amiran is punished for revolting, namely for challenging his godfather (Christ) to a duel, which could have only happened in the Christian era. At any rate, his archetype must be sought in the narrative of an angel revolting against his father. The following are Hans-Georg Gadamer’s laconic conclusions from the final section of his essay Prometheus and the Tragedy of Culture: “This is how Prometheus turns into a symbol of mankind tormented by its own conscience… ” and “In him, mankind, for which he suffers, sees itself...” and finally, “I believe that the story of Prometheus is everlasting, as is human history.” It seems that these words by the father of hermeneutics are better suited to describe Amiran’s existential state than that of Prometheus. Histor-


ically, the drama of Prometheus has been completed. He has been ransomed through Hercules’ atonement. The tragedy of Amiran, chained to the mountain or locked in a cave (call to mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) along with mankind, on the other hand, continues. Fate demands metanoia from Amiran, that is, repentance, which must drastically change his mentality and attitude toward the universe, man, and every creature. Only in overcoming his old man can he deliver himself from the shackles, and that is a universal cause. Amiran must survive. The force destined to liberate him, however, will not be physical in nature. Rather, it will be the force of repentance which must absorb his stubbornness and arrogance – this is what the people who have preserved this epic believe. They do not judge Amiran. They are only waiting for his conversion. They sympathize with him for his trials and tribulations. They do not judge him because they know right well that God is the only ultimate judge. New Europe has liberated man from the doom of antiquity, when it tied his fate to his own will. Odysseus may be the first person who has enough willpower to overcome fate to some extent, who refuses to accept his destiny. Amiran, on the other hand, is absolutely free from fate, and even if he is in bondage to something or someone, it is by his freewill and free choice. Whatever he does is not dictated by fate, but done of his own volition, and this will is what must liberate him. In doing so, Amiran, together with the characters of the Knight in the Panther’s Skin, echos the spirit of New Europe.



(Community of Servants of the Cross)

If there is a place in Georgia where democracy is found, it must be the sakmo communities in the mountainous regions of Eastern Georgia. Unsurprisingly, a spontaneous democratic system is found precisely in these sakmo communities, which unite under the religious aegis and around one central shrine (known as “jvari”, “khati”, or “khat-jvari”), since it is in these groups that we find the Early Christian substrate of the free spirit. Sakmo is a religious union structured after the feudal system, except that the suzerain here is a saint, not a feudal lord. Legally, sakmo communities were registered as the king’s domain, so they were subjected directly to the sovereign. Loyalty to the king is secular in nature, while faithfulness to a saint is sacred by definition. Royal documents refer to the earthly king and the incorporeal master of the Sakmo community as sworn brothers, which makes this community subordinate to two masters, earthly and heavenly. In their service to two masters, the members of the sakmo community are equal, which is reflected in Georgian morphology: the word sa-k-mo refers to a union of servants, and the term sa-dzm-o means a union of brothers. Their responsibilities are well balanced, and no one is exempt from duties. The word and notion kma acquires different meanings in the compounds batonkmoba and patronkmoba and in relations to the batoni master and the patroni suzerain or patron. In the case of the batoni master, his right to claim a kma for himself is given priority,6 while when it comes to the patroni suzerain, this claim takes a back seat to the kma’s responsibilities before the patron.7 The first is subjected to the master; the other is to be patronized. Although all kma servants are equal before the supreme master, there is a hierarchical order among them, which is based on a special calling. The heavenly master chooses a member of the Sakmo community and puts him in charge of sacred rituals, which, in essence, equals serving the Sakmo. The priest, as a mediator between the Sakmo and the master, is also the servant of the sakmo in the court of the master, that is, in the shrine. The only privilege of being chosen is closeness to the master, and the only right involves administering religious rights, with duties and obligations as the downside, all of which define priesthood. Closeness to sacredness is somewhat dangerous and implies great responsibility. This is why those chosen often flee from their calling to serve in the shrine as a very responsible job,8 though eventually they submit to the master’s will and accept their duties. In their service, they are expected to maintain chastity, fast in the periods preceding feasts, remain in solitude, observe taboos, and abstain from taking paths trodden by common folk, and so on. Finally, the Sakmo community is a social environment in which the spirits of Gemeinschaft unity and Gesellschaft abidance by the law coexist. In the feudal system, the term kma refers to a vassal, a person subordinate to a suzerain. In the relations between a suzerain (patron) and a vassal, the word kma also has a connotation of a child (the word kma is related to krma, which in turn means a child) under the care of the suzerain. 8 The Tzindakhu Jvari (Cross) in Khevsureti singled out goldsmith Tavelika Arabuli as its servant, who refused to obey the master and was consequently punished: The goldsmith lost his eyesight. Yet, even this punishment would not break his stubbornness. Blindness forced him to give up his craft. Later, in his old age, he was released from his curse by the Jvari. When asked why he disobeyed the Jvari, Tavelika answered, “I knew I would be able to maintain chastity, so I would not dare serve the Jvari.” 6 7


GEORGIAN AGORA While the agora of a Greek polis served both religious and political functions from the center, Georgian agoras (known in different regions as “Sapikhvno”, “Pekhoni”, “Sanakhsho”, “Bekhvnei”, “Saajmno”, “Lalkhori”, and others)9 were purely secular deliberative institutions which naturally emerged to respond to social needs. These agoras served as gathering places of adult males in the village, who made decisions on urgent communal issues. Sapikhvno members take places in the assembly according to seniority and participate in discussions as equals. Similar to the sakmo community, however, here too we see those chosen, singled out through a special calling, first among equals (primi inter pares). Vazha-Pshavela describes Aluda Ketelauri, the main character of his epic poem: “Aluda Ketelauri, A man he is Full of charisma, merit, Over sapikhvno he presides, And utters words unblemished.” Everyone in the sapikhvno assembly has a say, be it a speech unblemished or simply foolish. The Sapikhvno tries a man and reveals his hidden abilities. Even children have a chance to speak up, and their opinions receive the same amount of respect as adult members-they are often greeted standing up, as is the custom in the case of grownups. As one seasoned sapikhvno member Khevsur asserts, “It did not matter a nine-year-old kid or an elder of eighty entered the sapikhvno assembly, everyone would stand up and greet him, ‘Thou comest in peace!’10 All this goes to show that the equality among the Sapikhvno assembly members applied to both underage and adult males. When gathering in the Sapikhvno, male villagers knew they were in charge, their authority was effective, and their solidarity was unshaken. This assembly may be characterized as a place where actions match words: Its members practice what they preach-besides gathering to discuss pressing issues, they also take action. There must be some meaning behind working together in one space, otherwise they can perfectly well remain on their farms and mind their own business. Everything that happens at Sapikhvno meetings (including the custom of receiving newly arrived guests at the sapikhvno first, where they sit nearby and wait for invitation, as he is a guest of the whole village before one household or another hosts him) attests to the unity and solidarity among the villagers.11 To this end, people in the Old Testament, Ugaritic texts, and Phoenicians would gather in the square next to the inner gate, where they discussed different issues, exchanged goods, and where prophets would preach to the people. 10 Every time a newcomer arrives at the table, those feasting rise to their feet and greet him/her, “Thou comest in peace.” In reply, the newcomer exclaims, “Ye greet me in peace.” This rule applies to children as well. 11 “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them” (Genesis 19:1 and further). 9


GEORGIAN SYMPOSIUM “And there was bread and wine in abundance in Georgia,” Georgian chronicles read, and this is how the chronicler characterizes and assesses his era at the same time. These words reflect the role bread and wine, as demonstrations of prosperity, played in the life of the country. However, they are not indicative of material welfare only. Bread and wine are ethical, even religious categories, not just nourishments. In them human dignity is embodied. The compound notion bread and wine, along with bread and salt, are to this day inseparable companions of the Georgian way of life, and both bread and wine are the ultimate agricultural expressions of culture. In prioritizing bread and win, the Georgian people observe the most ancient universal tradition. In the East and the West alike, both products have symbolized everything that earth produces to nourish man since time immemorial. The Biblical psalm proclaims gratitude: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (103: 14-15). In Euripides’ Bacchantes, the wise and sagacious Teiresias pronounces these everlasting words: “For two things, young man, are first among men: the goddess Demeter-she is the earth, but call her whatever name you wish; she nourishes mortals with dry food; but he who came afterwards, the offspring of Semele [Dionysius], discovered a match to it, the liquid drink of the grape, and introduced it to mortals” (269-273). The first thing that anyone who has visited Georgia for even a couple of days is sure to notice is the strict order governing Georgian feasting, the iron discipline at the festive supra table, which makes no concessions for anyone, even guests. Nowhere else, including all fields of life and activity, do the Georgians observe order with such diligence and scrupulousness as they do at the supra table. Georgians have a notoriety for not being very law-abiding and are more frivolous than pedantic, so then why do they yield to the strict supra rules? What triggered the adoption of rules for drinking wine at the Georgian supra? Apparently the answer is the power of wine, its explosiveness. A Georgian proverb edifies: “Better be beaten with a stick than defeated by wine.” Thus, a man should defeat wine, lest he be defeated by it. The Georgian supra, with its tough rules, and ceremonial etiquette, with eloquence employed to stave off the potency of wine, serves the purpose of subduing and taming the explosiveness of alcohol. Let us call to mind the biblical description of Noah: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), and have a look what wine did to this man of God: “And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was


uncovered within his tent” (9:21). This was the Noah who, first in the history of humanity, planted a vineyard, harvested grapes, squeezed juice, and made wine, and this righteous and perfect man was the first to have experienced the power of wine. What happened to Noah, what wine made him do, albeit alone in his tent, is considered a great disgrace. It is equally disgraceful for a participant of the supra celebration to be overcome by wine, which may make him undermine the supra and the social order and so lose face. A folk verse goes: “I got drunk on Kakhetian wine, spending three days in mire; I got pulled out and dumped in the hallway, And then a gorgeous woman showed up, She beat me and hit me on head.” The anonymous architect of the festive Georgian supra table must have had experience in dealing with the ambivalent nature of wine and its dual character as a benefactor and an annihilator. Wine is associated with the very roots of Dionysian culture: Wine is Dionysian, bedazzling, threatening to overwhelm, causing a person to plunge into chaos if the Apollonian fails. At the Georgian supra table, Dionysius encounters Apollo, like he did when he arrived in Hellas for the first time. In Hellenic culture, this encounter is embodied in the tempering of wine with water. Ancient Greeks would not drink undiluted wine which could make them act like animals-apparently, their wine was quite potent-while water neutralizes the power of wine. The Greeks found another way to subdue the explosiveness of wine—they conversed when drinking wine, at a symposia. Plutarch dedicated a whole work, Symposiacs, to this topic and in the same vein, Athenaeus of Naucratis wrote Sophists at Dinner, not to mention Plato’s Symposium. Unlike the Ancient Greeks, the main merit of wine in the minds of the Georgians is its potency, its intoxicating properties, despite the fact it may trigger brawls between feasters under the influence. There is even a Georgian proverb that goes: “Wine is better when potent, and a dog is better when barking and guarding the house.” Yes, wine must be intoxicating, but a man must meet its power with dignity, lest he be overcome by its potency. The Georgian supra table, as a symposium (meaning drinking itself), equals wrestling with wine, being a competition of sorts. At the supra festive table, wine is almighty, making people loosen their tongues, turning strangers into friends who at the end of the feasting, bid farewell wholeheartedly and sincerely express wishes for repeated gather-


ings. Plato’s words about wine revealing true human nature12 is confirmed at the Georgian supra table feast, where guests socialize for hours and wine is their mediator. Similar to the Greek symposium, the word is an important component of the Georgian supra table, which imparts a meaning to this gathering. In Georgia, word takes the form of a toast. As first among equals, the tamada (toastmaster), whose duty involves conducting and guiding the supra “orchestra,” raises toasts to pay equal homage to each feaster and by doing so he attests to the unwritten law of equality, which is undoubtedly a contribution of Dionysius, since as a god of wine he is democratic in nature. Nonetheless, personal individuality and autonomy are not under his jurisdiction, therefore the Apollonian, embodied in the tamada, promotes individuality at the supra table. Despite exaggerated laudations which quite often accompany personal toasts, they serve the purpose of acquainting the participants of the supra feasting with each other. Secondly, the tamada is trying to discern and emphasize the good qualities in each feaster. When listening to good words about himself/herself, a given feaster also hears an inner voice: “Do not believe that these praises you are hearing are your inseparable qualities at every time and in every place. You know very well that you are not like that in your empiric everyday life. You might be like that only here and now, as these words are pronounced.” It is all temporal and transient. The supra festive table is an achievement of the Georgian way of life and maybe even to a greater extent, of Georgian spiritual life. The topics of toasts-the unity of which is one of the most vivid epitomes of Georgian identity13 - contain cultural and ethical values (such as family unity, love, friendship, ancestors, Georgian history, patriotism, and many others) shared by the members of a festive table. No one has studied when exactly - at which era of our millennia-old history - this tradition originated. What matters is that it exists despite the material trials and tribulations which our country has been subjected to (and maybe precisely thanks to them), it lives on and does not seem to fear extinction. While the Apollonian in the Greek symposium involves mixing the material (wine plus water) with the spiritual and intellectual (logos) elements, the same is reflected at the Georgian supra festive table in the consistent Noah’s archetypical behavior, on the other hand, reveals that wine makes one naked. The supra festive table, does not fit in the mundane picture of everyday life, but it makes a Georgian feel more Georgian than any other environment or setting. A Georgian seems reborn, rejuvenated, and his/her Georgian identity flourishes. This is why the supra metalanguage spoken by the feasters at the table sounds as familiar to a foreigner as the verbal language used to maintain conversation and convey words. 12 13


order of toasts and strict regulations. The supra ritual, which is often, and for good reason, ascribed a sacred meaning, quenches the fire raging in wine. A Greek poet has said that wine turns into fire once it enters human body. Of course, intoxication accompanies and follows feasting as its natural consequence, but this intoxication is for getting acquainted and making friends, which distinguishes collective intoxication from asocial drinking without logos and in solitude (drunkenness). As Plutarch testifies, the Greek symposium sought mainly to establish and promote friendship among the feasters. The symposium, he says, is nothing but spending time together with wine that ends in friendship. The solidarity established between the supra participants does not end with feasting, but continues thereafter: They remain fellow feasters forever, even though they may have feasted together only once. Hegel discusses the existential importance of sharing bread and wine as participation and communion in common life and the everlasting responsibility the feasters bear before one another, which perfectly conveys the essence of the Georgian supra table. Shall we conclude with the supra table? As Grigol Robakidze, a Georgian author who experienced and even reflected the synthesis of the East and the West in his life and words, wrote at the dawn of the new Georgia in 1918: “Georgia a mysterious pass between the East and the West. The Georgian festive table celebrates the wedding of the East and the West, and this festive table is the main melody of our refined words. More toasts remain to be raised at that festive table, as our cheerful feast has been interrupted so many times, and it goes without saying that the last Georgian word has yet to be said.” Galaktion Tabidze seconded this notion two years later when he said, “Many a toast unuttered yet we still have to propose.” “I am Georgian, therefore I am European,” a statement pronounced at the Council of Europe, does not mean that I, a Georgian, am of European descent. It means that I can be a European. These words formulate a program rather than stating a fact. Paraphrasing Miguel de Unamuno’s words about Spain, I will conclude by saying that Georgia still remains undiscovered and will only be discovered by Europeanized Georgians.





THE PROBLEMATIC “THEREFORE,” OR GEORGIA AND THE EUROPEAN CHOICE The late Georgian Prime Minister, Zurab Zhvania, whose death was a tragic loss, concluded his milestone speech at the Council of Europe with the following words, “I am Georgian, therefore I am European.” What created the rhetorical effect of these words were their logical inconsistency, a somewhat unacceptable jump from premise to conclusion, which in my opinion is quite indicative as it reflects the general tendency Georgians of intuitive feeling, a hunch of sorts, that belong to the European civilization; though we may not have crystal clear and logically substantiated grounds to justify this intuitive feeling or hunch. Instead of being suggestive of the weakness of our Eurocentric tendency, it may reflect strength and existential mode, since we do not need to substantiate what we feel in real life, and what we experience much stronger than any substantiation. Nonetheless, I believe that even the deepest real-life insights and intuitions must be thoroughly analyzed to better understand and shape ourselves and our identity; that is, to set goals of our liking and relevant benchmarks. I will try to fill the syllogistic gap between the Georgian and the European parts in Mr. Zhvania’s famed phrase, which is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. First, we must define what modern Europe is, what core philosophic pillars support it, and then view ourselves and Georgia in the same vein to see how we fit in Europe, what similarities and differences there are and what makes us believe that the similarities are more fundamental than the differences. I am not raising a rhetorical question, but rather taking a risk. I admit that in the process of reasoning, I may discover differences that will compel me to disagree with the words “I am Georgian, therefore I am European,” or that will force me to come up with a much more intricate phrase structured against the background of this reflection; for example, “I am Georgian, therefore I basically follow the model of European civilization, but I equally honor


certain traditions which I view as inseparable parts of my cultural and mental identity, even though these traditions are not, or are no longer considered aspects of European identity;” or something along those lines because “God is in the detail,” as they say, and in accentuating the broader picture, we often play with fire and neglect equally noteworthy and significant details. Thus, what and when defines European civilization? After all, Europe was not homogenous for centuries. Europe must be considered from the diachronic point of view in order to fathom the process which gave birth to the modern model of mentality called in its broader sense, European or Western civilization. Apparently, we cannot ignore classical culture, as the ancient Greeks and Romans saw themselves as different from Asians, and it was Ancient Greece that first positioned itself not as a polis city-state or even pan-Hellenic civilization, but rather as a global civilization. This trend was conceived and launched by Alexander the Great, the first globalist, and later picked up and developed by the Romans. One of the foundations of Europe, Classic Greek civilization predominantly encouraged the culture of philosophical thinking, as part of which mutual reasoning or dialogue is declared an objective and absolute value. Moreover, it is a precondition of the emergence of any value. In other words, the greatest achievement of Greek civilization which sustains Europe to this day, is the establishment of the culture of dialogue, enabling discussions on any subject in public and a consensus on different values or norms based on these discussions. No norm or agreement in this culture of dialogue is beyond or above it. Values in Greek culture are civil and consensus-based and they do not oppress the freedom of thought or treat it tyrannically in a society where this right is guaranteed and enshrined in law. The water clock, which was used in Greek civil court proceedings and regulated time limits for speeches, encouraged and commanded patience when a person, whether he liked it or not, had to listen to the collocutor’s arguments until his time expired. The Roman Republican tradition also followed this model. Roman law, one of the pillars of European civilization, treated all people as parts of one general legal system wherein no one was above the law, even the emperor, whom Roman law considered a regular citizen, although he enjoyed special status. Unlike Persian despotism, which places the king above the law, the Roman emperor was expected to be the embodiment of law, not someone above all other citizens. He was a role model for all to follow. Like the Greek and Roman traditions, Christianity is just as fundamental for European/ Western civilization. Of course, the connection between Chris-


tianity, its theological content, and modern European mentality - namely the European concept of the human being in its broader sense - is a separate issue requiring thorough examination. After all, the notion and term “person” (hypostasis and persona in Greek and Latin, respectively), the most important thing that may be said about the human being, emerged as a result of Christian debates on the nuances of the Holy Trinity and the incarnation of the Logos. According to Christian theology, Christianity has underlined the everlasting value of the human being, since Jesus is not the God of one ethnic or political group, but rather a God Who is in unique and personal contact with every person, imparting greater value to this relationship and giving it priority over group interests and a conjuncture of political or other factors pertaining to a given historical period. In addition, Christianity is a religion of discontent where something achieved or obtained is viewed as the foundation for seeking and conquering new heights, which to some extent has decided the fate of European civilization, which is a variable, developing, and seeking civilization. I repeat, however, that the format of this essay does not allow for an in-depth and detailed analysis of causality in the case of Christian theology and modern Western thought. To this end, we would end up engaging in extensive discussions about the reasoning process in the Middle Ages, on one hand, followed by the revolutionary Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, on the other. Modern Europe is the offspring of these two historic and spiritual phenomena and when one raises the issue that Georgia may have roots that are identical to Europe’s, all aspects previously mentioned, especially the Renaissance and Enlightenment trends, will be taken into account. I will focus mainly on writing and literature, since it is literature that paints an even clearer picture of the spirit and philosophy in a given era than historic facts, which are quite often subject to randomization, whereas fiction reflects the authors’ perception of themselves and their time more coherently and freely. Fiction not only describes what is, but also depicts what is not, and what the author wants to see, because dreams and aspirations define the identity of a person or a nation just as much as the actual state of affairs. The relations between Greek and Georgian tribes have their roots in classical antiquity, when Greek colonies were established on the Black Sea shore. These relations carried on through the Hellenistic period according to Georgian historical convention Parnavaz, the country’s first king, ascended the throne after having defeated Azo, a Hellenistic ruler. All Hellenistic governors pursued the Hellenization of local tribes, which often led to bloody confrontations. (For example, the forced Hellenization in Palestine resulted in the Maccabean revolt described in the Bible). Despite the


opposition, however, non-Hellenistic cultures in their relations with the Hellenistic world acquired new characteristics, and vice versa; Hellenistic culture also changed in the process. Numerous syncretistic cults of deities developed in the Hellenistic period, therefore, local and Greek mythological and religious traditions mingled. Archeologic materials confirm close ties between Georgia and general Hellenistic civilization. After the adoption of Christianity, but before the invention of the Georgian alphabet, Georgian aristocrats used the lingua franca of the Hellenistic period, which was Aramaic and Greek writing systems, as the Mtskheta bilingual epitaph confirms. The most interesting, however, is the influence of Greco-Roman culture after the adoption of Christianity in Georgia, as Georgians started to reflect about themselves and their identity in writing . After the conversion to Christianity, Georgia found itself between two great empires, Christian Rome and Zoroastrian Persia. The Georgian elite and the royal court maintained closer blood kinship with Iran, and King Mirian1 himself was of Persian descent. Nonetheless, a new narrative emerged in Georgian writing, insisting that the Georgian kings give priority to the religious. They chose political unity with New Rome, (the Byzantine Empire), which adhered to the progressive and true faith over their kinship with the Persians. The Georgians viewed the Christian world as the most progressive, civilized, and humane. Georgian chronicles emphasize the non-violent nature of Christianity, when describing, for example, Saint Nino’s protest against using weapons to Christianize the pagan tribes in Georgia’s mountainous regions. “It is the grace of the word of God, and not the power of weapons, that must convert pagans to Christianity”. In the minds of Georgians, the center of the universe was Constantinople, where the heart of Christianity lay. They were in the utmost periphery of Christendom; a frontier of sorts. Thus, after the acceptance of Christianity, Georgian mentality was filled with deeply-rooted awareness of universality and openness to cosmopolitism. (Clearly, this openness did not equal blind obsequious imitation. Differences between Georgian and Byzantine architecture, painting, and literature bear witness to the unique artistic energy of the Georgians). Briefly, the most important cultural and intellectual events in Georgia took place against the background and in light of the processes in the Christian world; or at least in an attempt to do so. Below are some examples to illustrate this point. The Syrian monks, who were called in the sixth century AD in order to put an end to Zoroastrianism once and for all, established a network of monas1

King Mirian (4th c.) – under his rule Christianity was introduced as an official religion in eastern Georgia.


teries in Georgia and laid the foundation for the traditions of what was the most intensive intellectual and spiritual lifestyle at that time. The development of Georgian monastic traditions has always been characterized by an openness to universality, found in the world’s renowned centers of Christian culture. Grigol of Khandzta, who ushered in a new type of monastic movement in Georgia in the ninth century AD, personally traveled to Constantinople and sent his fellow ascetics to Palestine to collect and collate the latest and progressive trends in the world. He established a new rule of monastic life in the country. Although Constantinople was the leading center and a model for the Georgians and other nations to follow, the Georgians, due to their location in the periphery, had one advantage over the Byzantines. The creative abilities of the Byzantines were somewhat limited by their sense of superiority and the immense Ancient Greek legacy, which they cherished instead of developing. They were proud of it, but not really motivated by it. The Georgians, on the other hand, were absolutely free of that kind of arrogance, that is why they were able to accept innovations. And since they lived at the crossroads of the Christian and non-Christian domains, they were able to carry out creative synthesis and even serve as a bridge between cultures. I will not discuss in details the attempt of Mobidan, a bishop in the fifth century, to synthesize Zoroastrian and Christian texts. His book was burned as heretical and we know nothing about this exciting work. Instead, we can analyze the surviving cultural materials that have influenced Georgian, Byzantine, and global culture. The most characteristic example in this regard is Sibrdzne Balavarisa (Wisdom of Balavar), the Georgian translation of a ninth century Christianized Persian version of Buddha’s life. Translated to Greek by Ekvtime Atoneli (Euthymius of Mount Athos) in the eleventh century, this text became extremely popular and influential in the Byzantine Empire and, after its translation from Greek to Latin, in the Latin West. It is unclear if the anonymous Georgian translator of the original Persian-language version of Buddha’s life knew that Iodasaph, the main character, was in reality Buddha, and whether Georgian was intentionally trying to “smuggle” South Asian wisdom into Christian culture. What is clear, however, is that Georgians were quite open, acting as mediators between cultures. The boldness and openness of Georgians also manifested themselves on Mount Athos, where Georgian monks tried to establish contact with Latin Benedictines and even financed the construction of their monastery next to the Georgian Iviron Monastery, all this taking place with rapidly growing tensions between the Latins and the Byzantines, especially after Patriarch Cerularius and Cardinal Humboldt, a papal legate, condemned each other



in 1051. Once again, Georgians assumed the role of cultural and religious mediators amid this confrontation. At an audience with the Emperor of Constantinople, Giorgi Mtatzmindeli (George of Mount Athos) easily resolved the disagreement between the Byzantines and the Latins and urged the latter to disregard insubstantial differences, focusing instead on the essence of the faith, which is the same in both the Eastern and Western Christian worlds. Furthermore, Georgians would not settle for Byzantine culture only. For example, Ioane (John) and Ekvtime of Mount Athos had planned to travel to Spain and apparently settle there, insisting that the Georgian kin lived in that region. There are many other examples, such as the good neighborly relations between Georgians and the Crusaders in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, culminating in the participation of the Crusaders in the decisive battle of Didgori (1121), and the friendship between Georgians and Latins in Jerusalem, as evident in commemorative agape lists of the departed. The immediate goal of this essay, however, is not to collect and analyze factual materials, but to introduce vivid examples to illustrate that the Georgians in the Middle Ages were open to influences from both the Western and Eastern Christian worlds. Moreover, they were capable of assuming the role of mediator between them. At the same time, the foregoing suffices to illustrate that the Georgian cultural and conceptual identity in the Middle Ages crystalized tremendously with the notion that Georgians belong to an advanced global Christian civilization.


However, when discussing medieval Christian culture, its boundaries and limitations must be outlined. Although characterized by innovativeness and development, it never accentuated or prioritized these characteristics. On the contrary, medieval authors emphasized dependence on holy tradition, while innovation was viewed as a deviation from the golden mean. Even when developing new ideas, medieval writers, theologians, and others would put up a smoke screen, outwardly remaining adherents of tradition since the term new had a negative connotation. Emphasis would be placed on keeping, protecting, and passing on the purity of the ancestor’s legacy to posterity. The collapse of the static medieval Christian model, the emergence of untraditional, divergent thinking, and the recognition of originality as a merit, played a decisive role in shaping Europe’s subsequent fate. Did the Renaissance gain a foothold in Georgia? While it was not as influential as it was in Italy, Georgia still saw powerful Renaissance or pre-Renaissance trends in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, represented by the Gelati Academy and especially by Ioane Petritzi and Shota Rustaveli. In the case of Petritzi, these trends were reflected in his bold attempts to reconcile Platonism with biblical and Christian tradition. In Petritzi’s opinion, Christ, as the Word of God, not only taught and revealed the divine truth to His immediate disciples, but to all mankind: Babylonian mathematicians, Greek philosophers, and the biblical prophets. Therefore, the divine truth may be discerned not only in the Old and New Testaments, but also in Plato’s Dialogues, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and the dialectical and rational mysticism of Neo-Platonists. Petritzi came up with terminology in the Georgian language, which he viewed as his apostolic mission, since it is only through precise philosophical terminology that one can engage in dialectical reasoning. In turn, this process leads one to contemplate the perfect incorporeal world - Paradise - since according to Petritzi, the biblical story of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise is nothing but a metaphor for the removal of the soul from the perfect world, which is attainable through reasoning. The return to this Paradise is possible through philosophy. The hermeneutical principle of interpreting reality, or our inner Hermes, as Petritzi said, uses dialectics to connect to the Divine Logos, Christ, who is illuminated by Him and embarks on a great journey from visible to invisible, from physical to metaphysical. Petritzi admits having had a mystical experience, when the Divine Logos illuminated his mind, after which “the darkness of ignorance shall never prevail against it.” The light which according to John, “shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not prevail against it,” even shines through non-Christian philosophers, such as Plato, Plotin, Iamblichus, and Proclus.


Why is Petritzi’s legacy so important? It is not just his ideas in the commentary to Proclus’ metaphysical treatise, the Elements of Theology, or the doctrines taught to the students of the Gelati school of philosophy that are significant, but his revolutionary attitude toward traditions. Petritzi urged his students to be ambitious (“Show philotomia!”) and independent in their reasoning, to link their inner word directly with the Divine Light - the Logos - and to philosophize. This approach forms an innovative human activity. It leaves behind the role of a modest defender of traditions and critically reconsiders traditions in light of philosophy, just like Petritzi himself, who unabashedly criticizes, for example, certain passages of the canonical translation by the Mount Athos fathers as incorrect, pointing out that these errors distort the original meaning of the Greek texts. In other words, Petritzi wants his disciples to go through the pains of philosophical reasoning and emerge as new persons with independent thoughts, who are capable of treating traditions critically. This is the very type of person Shota Rustaveli discusses in his poem, the Knight in the Panther’s Skin. Rustaveli might have been Petritzi’s student at the Gelati School, or at least his disciple’s student. In any case, Rustaveli’s philosophical terminology is in harmony with the terminology ushered in by Petritzi. The similarities go even further. At a more in-depth, philosophical level, Rustaveli seconds Petritzi’s aspirations to combine different intellectual cultures and traditions and to ensure creative synthesis between them. In this regard, Rustaveli’s poem is a whole library where, along with the Bible, patristic and exegetical literature, Plato, Aristotle, and Neo-Platonists, mystical works by Sufi poets, and astrological and meteorological treatises coexist, all of which is not merely an embellishment. I reiterate, in the case of Rustaveli, cultures collide and merge, giving birth to a new world with its new, previously unknown ideas. Rustaveli employs plain and metaphorical language to convey what Petritzi describes in his complex and elite philosophical terms. Philosophy aims to emancipate and free the person in Rustaveli’s case as well, which is reflected in the metaphor of seeking someone/something “new” or “foreign.” His heroine, Tinatin, is the only person in all of Arabia who does not settle for the traditionally accepted explanation of new or foreign phenomena (“I saw the vice and vileness of the devil”), but rather ventures to continue her quest and take a bold philosophical step toward the unknown. Even her name, Tinatin or Atinati, is not coincidental, as it means reflection of the sun. In Rustaveli’s poem, the sun is usually a metaphor of God or the divine light. Therefore, Tinatin, as the reflection of this light in the human soul, perfectly conveys the philosophical definition imparted to it by Petritzi, which is the thinker’s introspection illuminated by the light of the Divine Logos. This is the only way to discover a new world. Tinatin’s mission takes hold of Rus-


taveli’s hero Avtandil as well. At first, Avtandil only fulfills Tinatin’s will. The search process and its dialectics transform him into a new, independent person and the philosophical reassessment of values takes place in him too. While seeking the stranger only to be loyal to Tinatin and fulfill her will, which would enable him to marry her, he discovers values that transcend the boundaries of the familiar world, compelling him to follow the logic behind this search on his own, not at Tinatin’s orders. Avtandil emerges as the master of his own self, a person with his own sovereign will who values his conscience most, which is the divine calling of all men. As Rustaveli asserts, “And Kings ordained by Him, each in His own image,” which means that God has created all men in His image and granted them His dominion. In other words, no one is allowed to dominate sovereignty or free will. This is why, upon discovering greater duties within his conscience, Avtandil breaks the rules, disobeys King Rostevan, and puts his official duties on the shelf. First of all, he obligated himself before his will was triggered by the imperative of his conscience. “Wherever I may be, fulfill this will I will.” Fulfilling one’s will leads a human being to self-actualization. This idea is expressed by Rustaveli in Petritzi’s philosophical terminology. When Avtandil embarks on a journey to see the stranger, Rustaveli says, “He is the joy of this world, its object and duty.” Thus, since Avtandil takes this path, he becomes “the joy of this world” and at the same time, “its object and duty.” “Object” in philosophical terminology means matter, material, and potential, something that must be actualized and perfected, making Avtandil the „object” and potential which must be realized and perfected through his duty and obligation to seek and discover true and eternal values. The foregoing is akin to the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, namely Pico Della Mirandola’s edifying, Oration on the Dignity of Man, in which the author addresses Adam. “The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine”. Rustaveli’s characters also do not live in a static, fixed, and unchangeable world, but seek their purpose, and putting their trust in the inner voice, unabashedly change the hierarchy of values, break the acceptable rules and commandments (“Forgive me, for I have changed your ordinances”) and refuse to be inert followers of formal traditions.


Thus, Rustaveli ushers in the idea of positive or rightful disobedience, which is a principle of development. Like Avtandil, Nestan, the other heroine, also disobeys her father, since she believes – and has been informally taught, so to speak, by Davar, a maiden married in Kajeti – love has its source in Heaven, therefore it is a divine calling and obligation of the human being to safeguard love. Compared to this calling as a relative absolute, even obedience to her father and master (which is normally an imperative) seems second-rate. Personal and intimate space, which is characterized by dynamism, unpredictability, and motion, and leads to the unknown and infinite, seems to be a leitmotif recurring throughout Rustaveli’s poem, being more important and divine than any assumption or rule handed down unchangeably from generation to generation. The “long Middle Ages” in Georgia, slightly invigorated by weak Renaissance trends, lasted till the eighteenth century in Georgia, when European Enlightenment ideas reached Georgia and dominated till the mid-nineteenth century, serving Georgian intellectuals as a model to follow. European Enlightenment discourse as such is scarce in Davit Guramishvili’s works, as most of his poetry is symbolic and religious and fits medieval clichés. On the other hand, I cannot recall any medieval hymnographer as daring in drawing images as Guramishvili, who in his poem “Zubrovka” features a beautiful cheating wife as an image of Christ. Historical developments are also described traditionally as divine providence embodied in political disasters, which makes Guramishvili a quintessential medieval thinker. Yet, there are certain innovations akin to European democratic traditions. Religious and theological doctrines and prayers in his poems are written in simplified language that common folk can easily understand, often to the melodies and rhythms of Georgian, Ukrainian, Polish, and other traditional songs, which made theological ideas accessible and widely acceptable, diminishing the importance of the elitism of clerics and monastics in comparison with commoners. From the eighteenth century onward, new European ideas penetrated Georgia. The Georgians attempted to establish cultural and political ties with Europe; the author and diplomat Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s European mission is one example. Voltaire’s teachings gained some popularity in Georgian aristocracy. Giorgi XII, the last King of Georgia, appealed to Italian Catholic Padre Rutigliano, who was visiting in the court, to speak with the king’s only-begotten son, who had renounced the faith under the influence of European ideas. The king wanted Rutigliano to persuade the prince to return to Christianity. New European ideas turned into models to follow, sometimes radically opposing traditional Georgian principles, clearly evidenced by the 18th c.


writer Ioane Bagrationi in his book “Kalmasoba.” This is a story about Iona Khelashvili, a historical figure and an educated monk who travels throughout Georgia to collect donations for a monastery and delivers brief lectures on different subjects, such as physics, geography and sociology. After a lecture on commerce, Iona speaks about a certain European tradition that encourages the youngest sons with no inheritance to pursue commerce. An arrogant Georgian nobleman objects, “I will never embarrass myself by selling horses.” Iona Khelashvili scolds him, “You feel embarrassed selling horses, but you have no problem selling your servants at slave markets.” It is clear that Kalmasoba’s goal is not to simply provide information and teach different disciplines. The dramatic and satirical form of this work is a challenge to traditional cultural and social standards from the European Enlightenment’s point of view and its ideological and cultural models. Becoming part of the Russian Empire proved decisively fateful for Georgia’s Europeanization. Despite losing their political freedom, which tore their Georgian hearts, they became able to establish, albeit via Russia, close ties with European civilization and education. No matter how underdeveloped Russia might have been after Peter the Great, it was still a European state; its utmost frontier. This is why it is wrong, anachronistic, and naive to assume that nineteenth century Georgian intellectuals viewed the incorporation of Georgia in the Russian Empire as something exclusively negative. Even Nikoloz Baratashvili, a patriot to the core, laments over the loss of freedom in his long poem “Bedi Kartlisa” (the Destiny of Georgia) and yet in another one, the “Grave of King Irakli,” he commends the Russian Empire for giving Georgians an opportunity to embrace advanced, European education: “Scattered abroad in times of trials and tribulations, Your sons return, Bringing with them sweet sounds and education.” In terms of introducing European Enlightenment ideas in Georgia, Solomon Dodashvili was the most prominent person in the nineteenth century. His textbook on Kant’s logic was actively used across the Empire. Kant’s works and correspondence reflected Dodashvili’s good command of European philosophy and ideological environment, as well as his insightful and critical thinking abilities. Dodashvili treated European aspirations as a national idea. In his address to the students of the Tbilisi Nobility School, Dodashvili commended Georgia’s success in shedding the influence of the Persians, Tatars and Ottoman Turks whose role, he believed, was just as devastating to Georgia as that of the Goths and Huns was to the Roman Empire. He also noted that the Europeans must be thankful for their advanced education, which is the only reason why they are superior to other


nations. Dodashvili is pleased because under the Russian Monarchy, “We can now comfort ourselves, for we can scale the heights of education, and not only reclaim the prominence that befits us, but one day also claim the quality of European education.” In other words, he not only dreams of restoring Georgia’s past glory and the education of its Golden Age, but also aspires to reach the height of European education. It is no coincidence that Nikoloz Baratashvili, the first Georgian European to the bone, so to speak, emerged among Solomon Dodashvili’s students. The true Faustian spirit of harshly criticizing traditions and his daring venture into the unknown and untrodden are unmistakable features of Baratashvili’s works, all of which takes place in the tragic context of losing faith. Baratashvili is the first among the Georgians who openly admits in his works the tragedy of losing religious belief and boldly explores the outcomes of this disaster. What is the meaning of life if the traditional criteria of this meaning, as defined by religion, are shattered? This tragedy gives birth to Baratashvili’s Merani (Pegasus), which symbolizes the soul, hungry for knowledge, free from old clichés, and in search of a previously unseen cognitive reality. To some extent, Merani’s freedom is out of necessity, because the person no longer experiences rightful comfort amidst old cognitive models. Righteousness, in the form of the mysterious voice, forces him to step into the void, the unknown, and all values, such as family, homeland, even romantic love, fall victim to this imperative. Baratashvili appears as a new breed of martyr. He is martyred for the absolutism of personal conscience and honesty, while nothing, even the faith in God Himself and traditional religiousness, can be above or control conscience. An independent person is born to a free and intimate environment. In Baratashvili’s own words, “Free from duty and in quiet and solitude.” For the most part, Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) and other members of the Tergdaleulebi intellectual and educational movement, as well as their younger like-minded author and poet Vazha Pshavela, were Baratashvili’s spiritual heirs. Although, unlike Baratashvili, they are believers, after having walked down Baratashvili’s “unexplored roads.” I would say that these “roads” are those of European Enlightenment, giving the faith of the Tergdaleulebi a new dimension. In Chavchavadze’s case, free and unblemished conscience is the foundation of all values, including religious. This attitude was uncharacteristic of the Middle Ages, where emphasis was placed mainly on the essence of faith and dogmatic accuracy - not on how one dogma or another was confessed, that is, freely or forcibly, through personal search and consent from conscience, or by submitting to traditionalist inertia. According to Chavchavadze, even authentic religious dogmas are worthless unless they


stem from free thought and unique personal existential experience. “I believe in obedience only if reason rules over all,” a character in one of his short stories says, which is why representatives of the Generation of Fathers accused Chavchavadze of replacing God with human reason. Indeed, Chavchavadze rejected a god, an absolute, who disregards consent from human conscience and reason and demands blind and occult obedience. This view on God may be easily used by tyrannical political forces to manipulate people. For example, according to a certain idea developed by Mitropolit Philaret that circulated in Chavchavadze’s time, monarchy is an integral aspect of Christianity, so those opposing monarchy are inescapably regarded as adversaries of Christianity and are therefore in collusion with evil powers. Chavchavadze’s critical spirit, on the other hand, refutes this notion. Why should something transient and relative - the institution of monarchy in this case - be linked to the eternal and absolute? Especially when this monarchy resides in Saint Petersburg and is not only neglectful of the fate of the Georgia, but also carries out policies designed to ensure its assimilation. Accordingly, Chavchavadze creatively reconsiders Christianity and replaces loyalty to the monarchy with care for the homeland as the ultimate goal. Homeland in this case is not the Russian Empire, it is Georgia, not only as a territorial and cultural entity, but most importantly, as a future political project. Chavchavadze sees nation states emerge from the ruins of European empires and tries to engage Georgia in this process. His European project attempts to incorporate both traditional Christianity and the Enlightenment. Interestingly, both in the sixteenth century Europe and in the nineteenth century Georgia, the process of emancipation of individual conscience formed (with slight differences, of course) against the background of harsh criticism from the dominant religious institution. Martin Luther opposed some of the contemporaneous doctrines of the Catholic Church (indulgences, for example) as a Catholic priest at first. Later, as the confrontation grew into a fundamental conflict, Martin Luther distanced his religious conscience from the official Catholic Church, which is reflected in his famous words: “Here I stand, and I can do no other.” The Tergdaleulebi also had critical views and attitudes toward the official Church and emphasized independent, individual religious conscience all the while. The official Church at that time was an institution subjected to the Russian Emperor. Instead of having its own patriarch, it was led by the Minister of Religious Affairs. In 1811, the Russian Empire abolished the Patriarchate of Georgia, subjected the Georgian Church to the Russian Church, and carried out relevant changes, from switching to divine services in the Slavonic language to


whitewashing ancient Georgian frescoes. Used by the Russian Empire as a political tool, the Church was frequently criticized by the Tergdaleulebi who believed their criticism and their voices reflected authentic Christianity better than the ideology-centered official Church. Precisely because of the emphasis on Christianity, Chavchavadze did not accept Europe unconditionally, but critically analyzed European developments and progress. He accepted what was beneficial and useful, but criticized negative trends in European civilization. For example, he denounced European colonization and greed. Christ’s teachings were the foundation of Chavchavadze’s criticism and the standpoint from which he judged European affairs. In Chavchavadze’s opinion, fathoming the essence of European development required one to rise to the heights of Christ’s commandments: “Elevated by the light of [His] commandments and with our minds on high shall [we] discern the ways of civil life.” However, I repeat, Christianity to him was about personal freedom and the inviolability of conscience rather than its specific doctrinal aspect. For example, Ilia reprimanded a certain clergyman’s intention to distribute Orthodox Christian brochures among the Georgian Muslims in Achara, a region recently incorporated by the Russian Empire, in order to convert them rapidly and en masse, so to speak. In Chavchavadze’s opinion, this was absolutely unacceptable. Moreover, if a person regardless of thier religious affiliation, abides by the law and tries to make a contribution to society, they do Christ’s work. “Religion is a matter of one’s conscience. It is none of our business who confesses what and adheres to what! Everyone should profess the faith of his liking. What matters is that one should be decent and hardworking and useful for both himself and his country, for our Divine and Supreme Teacher Jesus Christ expounds that it is not faith alone but deeds that save.” Chavchavadze’s liberal European project was not only limited to liberating conscience, but covered much wider aspects, including lifestyle (ie. going to the theater in the evening and clothing) and vitally, a new labor culture. Chavchavadze asserted that the time was gone when Georgians were in high cotton, like the lilies of the field. “Today they must be very frugal in planning their future.” To some extent, Ilia considered labor in the Protestant and Puritan vein, along the lines of Max Weber, who believed labor in social environment was a vocation that has a religious dimension. Chavchavadze’s literary characters, such as the widow from “Otar’s Widow“ and Giorgi, her son, are perfect examples in this regard. Giorgi, with prophetic implacability, exposes and even physically confronts hirelings who cheat their employers. It torments him to see that “work and workers” are split apart, undermining civil order. In Chavchavadze’s opinion, economic freedom was directly linked to personal and national freedom, which is why he harshly criticized the government’s interference with private economic affairs and frequently raising taxes. People were



afraid to develop businesses and make personal plans for the future, he claimed. In attempting to usher in this innovative approach, Chavchavadze imitated European bourgeoisie culture. Chavchavadze’s spirit can be found in the reasoning of his younger contemporary, a poet Vazha-Pshavela. The leitmotif of his works is human development and his birth through moral experience and the conflict between this experience and traditional, acceptable social norms. As early as his school years in Gori, Vazha-Pshavela studied Hegel’s philosophy scrupulously enough to be able to discern between conservative and radical followers of Hegel. Vazha-Pshavela preferred those radicals that pursued the revolutionary aim of applying the doctrine, “whatever is rational is real” to the existing social order and institutions. They wanted to make a revolutionary change in the status quo in the light of rationalism. In Vazha-Pshavela’s opinion, truth and rationalism, which are catalysts of history and progress, must be discovered in solitude, or as he himself put it, “by rotating around your own axis.” Vazha-Pshavela viewed Christianity exclusively in the context of solitude and the shaping of a free individual and expressed concern over encroachments on freedom in the name of Christianity. Once, Vazha-Pshavela drew a target on a newly-built church dedicated to the victory over the North Caucasus resistance leader, Imam Shamil, and practiced target shooting. The only justification this allegedly blasphemous act of recklessness may have had is that Vazha-Pshavela, a pious Christian, believed it to be an epitome of hypocrisy to celebrate the


violent repression of a fight for freedom in the name of Christianity, which Christ Himself would never assent to. Like Chavchavadze, Vazha-Pshavela does not blindly accept western ideas and doctrines. Although his poems and essays promote the inviolability of privacy, women’s emancipation and equality with men; these ideas must be considered in the light of his beliefs which stem from the traditional Christian faith. Vazha-Pshavela sees European social and political developments as historical embodiments of the potential of Christianity. Not all social or political developments fall into this category, however, as evidenced by his famous essay, “Cosmopolitism and Patriotism.” This piece wages war against unconditionally accepted left-wing cosmopolitanism, which rejects national values. After the February 1917 Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire, Georgia briefly regained independence and even adopted a quintessential European democratic constitution. Unfortunately, it all ended on February 25, 1921, when the Bolsheviks took over the country. The Soviet period in Georgia is very difficult to discuss and even impossible given the short format of this essay. European aspirations were quite visible in Georgia, if not politically, at least culturally. Georgian literature, which involved poets intentionally imitating everything European, deserves special mention. Paolo Iashvili wrote in the Tsisperqantzelebi Manifesto,2 “Next to Georgia, Paris is the most sacred place in the world. Praise, O people, this wrathful city where our drunk brothers, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Mallarme the knower of secrets of words and Arthur Rimbaud, drunk on pride, have clowned around in excitement.” This trend was so overwhelming that in his famous article, “A Few words on Georgian Arts,” the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, reproached the Tsisperqantzeli symbolists for aping Europe like slaves and deviating from traditional Georgian culture. Soviet Georgian literature contains quite interesting, maudlin, and controversial reflections on the national image of Georgia and its European and non-European character. Eli, the main character of Niko Lortkipanidze’s, “Under a Radio Spell,” is on the borderline. Her mother is German and father Georgian. She cannot stand living in her homeland, so she abandons her child and rushes headlong to Europe with her English (in reality, French) lover. Once in Europe, however, she becomes lonely and while sitting in a bar with a cocktail in front of her, dreams of Georgian Tkemali


Tsisperqantselebi (the Blue Horn Men) – a fraternity of Georgian symbolists.


and Kvatzarakhi wild plum sauces. She engages in a conversation with her lover who compares Americans, characterized as pragmatists depended on money and success, with Europeans, considered less mired in materialism and more infatuated with artistic, political, and philosophical ideas. Eli asks about the Georgians, and the Englishman replies that they dedicate all their efforts to survival and the preservation of their national identity, which is why the Georgians are characterized neither by European hunger for new philosophical, political, and creative ideas, nor by the selfless American obsession with prosperity. “European passion for science, politics, and arts and the American slogan ‘Wealth, Prosperity and Dollar’ are secondary needs to you.” Mikheil Javakhishvili (1880-1937) dedicates a whole chapter in his “Jaqo’s Refugees” to comparing Europeans with Georgians. Teimuraz, the main character of the novel, and Ivane, a former priest, discuss this issue at length. Teimuraz, who seems to be using Montesquieu’s taxonomy, believes that the Georgians are not by definition a democratic nation, but rather an aristocratic people: “How can the Georgians, who are most aristocratic in character, spirit, and blood, establish a model democratic republic? We intend to create another Switzerland in the middle of Asia! Ha-ha! It’s ridiculous! We have always been noblemen in character, and will always be. Everyone steers away from work and aims to be a minister or a commissioner, everyone in Georgia wants a job in [public] service.” While priding ourselves on building a democratic society, I believe it would be prudent to keep in mind Javakhishvili’s description of Georgian mentality. We may need greater effort than others to develop a truly democratic European-style society because of our aristocratic mentality, with all of its positive and negative features. The negative includes a lack of advanced labor culture and discipline, without which the creation and empowerment of the financially independent middle class. Nonetheless, Teimuraz himself is a quintessential European, who to the best of his ability, makes poor and amateurish attempts at teaching farmers European methods of agriculture, familiarizes Jaqo with accounting, and so on. Europe, in his case too, is the standard for Georgia. With the exception of the dissidents, civil society in Soviet Georgia, with its weak ability to critically perceive reality and without the dominion of ideology, only existed in the form of tight circles of close friends and family members - a so-called kitchen democracy. On the other hand, national, or rather, ethno-nationalist consciousness served the purpose of counterbalancing Soviet ideology. It was the historical and cultural self-awareness of the Georgians, existing independently from political affiliations, which the Soviet authorities actually tolerated and allowed, as long as it did not


clash with official ideology, or as long as the regime did not discern religious propaganda therein. People would risk their lives to defend this self-awareness, as was the case in 1956 and 1978. After the declaration of independence in 1990, however, the same self-awareness, this time enriched with traditional Christian ideas and rhetoric, transformed from counterbalancing ideology into ethnocentric ideology under the first president of Georgia – Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The new type of ideology was supported by a significant number of Georgians. At that time, philosopher Merab Mamardashvili encouraged a powerful inflow of European liberalism and cosmopolitan humanism. “Here I stand, and I can do no other,” he repeated Luther’s phrase when he openly opposed the chauvinistic trends advocated by the political and non-political circles of Georgia. Mamardashvili, an ardent adherent of the traditions of Plato, Descartes and Kant, gave priority to the universal value of truth over any value, however important it might have been. I believe that his philosophy belongs to the same European-Georgian traditions promoted by Ilia Chavchavadze and Vazha-Pshavela. To Mamardashvili, philosophic cosmopolitanism was not designed to obliterate national identity. He always emphasized his deep Georgian roots, as noted by his interview with a Russian reporter; “Georgian polyphony is the background throughout my philosophy,” Mamardashvili said. To him, national independence was not an end in itself, but rather an arena where free persons and (as he himself would put it) “bearers of European responsibility” were born and developed. He dreadfully anticipated an independent Georgia of underdeveloped and infantile people. Mamardashvili stated, “In terms of confessional affiliation, I am not a believer.” In other words, he actually confirmed his religiousness in non-confessional terms. To him, philosophy was a superhuman effort to overcome one’s own vices and fears and to face life and cope with actual historical reality. In my opinion, there was a strong bond of kinship between Mamardashvili and Ilia Chavchavadze in that they both combined philosophical cosmopolitanism/universality with nationalism and traditionalism with innovation (or, as Chavchavadze would say, “conservatism with liberalism”). In his own words, Mamardashvili observes “the traditions of immortality,” because the philosophical act unites a person with everyone who has engaged in such an act before him/her. However, this act is never outdated or antique, but constantly in search of innovations in the infinite openness that exists between the undiscovered universe and us. This philosophical position, which is in fact a stance pertaining to the European Enlightenment, involves an appeal to lead a modus vivendi, wherein a person keeps everything good, real, and valuable from the past and at the same time, is ready to discover and explore the unknown. Chavchavadze certainly shared the position that advocates healthy discontent, not one of “happiness tells me


to quit looking for it.” This is when a person quietly settles for everything old, explored, and achieved, without trembling in fear before the uncertainty of the future, and is one of the core aspects of European civilization and mentality. In my opinion, Merab Mamardashvili and Ilia Chavchavadze also share similarities when it comes to fathoming Christianity. In Mamardashvili’s world, the Incarnation holds a central place in Christianity, which in his opinion is the cornerstone and source of European civilization in its entirety. It is a principle of eternal efforts aimed at embodying the ideal in a particular form, lineaments, and action. He compared this principle with the Eastern, so-called Russian attitude, when the ideal and spiritual are invariably transcendent, never to be found in actual reality. The same principle is a recurring theme in Chavchavadze’s teaching: “The Grace of God” cannot remain in Heaven. It must come in contact with “the wretched world” so that “the glacier” may come out of its transcendent glory, melt, and flow into “the Tergi River.” That is historical reality. Have the Georgians understood and fathomed the Eurocentric Georgian legacy of Ilia Chavchavadze and Merab Mamardashvili? Outwardly, yes of course. At a deeper level, however, the picture is different. For the most part, the European-style thinkers listed in this essay criticized actual circumstances in Georgia instead of reflecting it. I do not think they have grown obsolete enough to turn them into statues and icons and thus silence them forever. The rebirth of a person, or the imperative of a given person’s development in harmony with his/her consciousness, remains an everlasting imperative. The existence of such people is the only foundation needed to build a democratic European society, and this is where Georgia walks a tightrope. Will a sufficient number of Georgians dare undergoing this rebirth? Quoting Merab Mamardashvili’s metaphor, “it is painful to stand up after sitting in an armchair for too long, because the curtailed blood circulation resumes with renewed energy and the temptation to sit back in the comfortable chair is immense.” In other words, a person is tempted to give up working toward personal development and adapt to ideological schemes offered by someone else. These schemes may include religious fundamentalism, as well as its opposite extreme, which is a flat and hallow façade of liberal fundamentalism, or snobbish, narcissistic, and content pseudo-elite gnostic liberalism. All these schemes remain strong and active in today’s Georgia, polarized intellectually and morally. Our shaping into a nation that draws on European mentality largely depends on how well we can take in our own Christian and liberal culture and the experience of Dodashvili, Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze, Vazha-Pshavela, Merab Mamardashvili, and others. I’ll go back to our initial task of finding the missing link to connect Zurab Zhvania’s premise with the conclusion “I am Georgian, therefore I am European.” Most likely, the answer is as follows:


My culture and history have seen a cultural experience which has been the foundation of European thinking since the Renaissance. When a person, without breaking off with traditions, establishes personal connection with reality, he/she formulates visions of universal values in solitude, as was the case with Petritzi and Rustaveli. Later, in the late eighteenth century, my culture embraced the ideas of the European Enlightenment and elevated them to the rank of both personal and national models. The new Georgian identity of the nineteenth century stemmed from the atmosphere of these ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, especially in poetry and literature, as some of the most distinguished works from that period intentionally imitate and draw on European culture and spiritual experience. Even under Communist totalitarianism, the drive of the nineteenth century Enlightenment was still strong, deeply embedded in national consciousness, simply because works of Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tzereteli, and Vazha-Pshavela were not prohibited. On the contrary, they were taught in school. Although they were viewed in the light of Soviet ideology, great literary pieces can go viral, and no ideology can silence them. There was an attempt in the 1980s and 1990s to replace Communist ideology with ethnocentric ideals, even triggering a wave of persecutions against non-Georgian ethnic minorities. Fortunately, however, this movement proved to be a brief aberration rather than a fundamental trend. Cosmopolitan and Eurocentric traditions advocated by Ilia Chavchavadze in the nineteenth century, were expressed and strongly underlined by philosopher Merab Mamardashvili in his lectures and political speeches in the 1980s. The official ideology of Georgia under Shevardnadze was no longer based on ethnocentrism, developing instead from the idea of citizenship. In addition, the Georgian nation would not adopt the trend promoted by the Rose Revolution, which involved the country’s modernization through the standardization of and total disregard for human dignity, justifying this disregard by the overly familiar “higher cause.” In this case, the great humanistic tradition of human dignity as the absolute value – which is, at the same time, a European tradition – once again made its presence felt among Georgians. In light of the foregoing, I can conclude that “therefore I am European”, wherein Europe stands for aspirations and the superiority of constant efforts, not an unchanging assumption allowing for relaxation and indulgence.







“A world without art would be blind to itself. It would be confined within the boundaries imposed by simplistic rules. This is why totalitarian regimes, when they rise to power, set out to censor, prohibit and burn. This is how they destroy ideas, dreams, memory, and the expression of differences, which are the fertile soil from which artists spring.” Dan Frank (6, p. XI) “The stupid minute will comeAnd everyone will be dragged to the graveyard, so let the peacock’s tail, the peacocks tail blaze up brighter than tinder!” Sergey Gorodetsky (1, p. 21)

Since the moment it emerged, Modernism has had both fanatic supporters and sworn enemies. In both cases the reason was probably its aspiration for renovation, which gave rise to the sentiments of admiration and yearning in some and those of fear and threat in others. It is here that the “difficulty” that is believed to be one of the features of Modernism originated from, being associated with something alien and different (5, p 4). Each era has its own demands and each era gives rise to new tools people use in their lives and activities. The 20th century brought particularly numerous novelties, which determined a variety of new forms in arts.


The term one will most frequently see in this article - Futurism - is associated first and foremost with Fascism. There were supporters of Fascism and Communism among the representatives of other trends. Finally, Modernism became a target of these regimes. However, no matter what ideology specific artists shared on specific stages, the artistic forms reflected the authors’ vivid reactions and free thinking. They were waves that reached far-away shores, and as many representatives of Modernism ultimately fell victim to this idea, it is nevertheless associated with freedom of thinking. Modernism was successful in Georgia like one big successful performance. Any artistic product or event linked to it was public, the cast of characters was well-known with its images (as was poet Titsian Tabidze with his red dianthus, for instance), and each of their moves had the overtones of playing on the stage. Men were authors and women were their muses. These “actors� often chose the names of theatrical characters for themselves. This major performance is preserved in the shape of artefacts and legends. The beginning was much more inoffensive than in any other country, but the end emerged from quite a different reality. It lost contact with the stories of Pierrot and Columbine and the participants in the fantastic performance of yesterday turned into the heroes of a mercilessly clear reality - a tragic end. In general, Modernism is not a convenient topic while discussing the identity of a nation. On the contrary, it is universal in nature and reflects an era, effectively disregarding national originality. However, it was born in Western Europe and is justly associated with Western culture. At the same time, no one has probably spoken as much about Georgian national identity as Georgian Modernists in the 1910s and 1920s.


THE BEGINNING At the beginning of the summer of 1912, brothers Ilia and Kiril Zdanevich, who had a Georgian mother and a Polish father and were residents of Tbilisi, together with Mikhail Le Dentu, a Russian artist of French origin, left St. Petersburg for Tbilisi to spend holidays there. At that time, Georgia was still isolated from the Avant-Garde artistic trends and ideas that engrossed the minds of the creative world in the West and these three St. Petersburg students. Ilia recalled later that their friend David Kakabadze was to accompany them, but he failed to do so, because he had exams at the university (3, p. 71). It was probably then that the history of Modernism started in Georgia, because the three friends, who were full of new ideas and followers of Neo-Primitivism and Cubism-Futurism, discovered Niko Pirosmani’s canvases in the Varyag Inn in Tbilisi a few days after their arrival. From the very beginning, interest in original art uncorrupted by academic knowledge mixed with the phenomenon of Modernism. The so-called naive art was welcome where Modernist trends emerged or by those who were carried away by them. They even learned from naive art. As Robert Herbert said, “it is these pre-industrial myths that fuelled the anti-illusionism which is the central dialectic of modernist art” (9, p. 19). Correspondingly, if we regard Georgia as one of the centres of Modernism, albeit a peripheral centre, this is first and foremost due to the fact that, fortunately, Niko Pirosmani created his immortal pictures here at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was the source of inspiration and the setter of the course for the representatives of all future generations of Modernists, be they writers or artists. And Pirosmani can be recognised as the last representative of old art and the first in the Modernist era, a viewer and depicter of the new urban life and its creator, too, who was based on the traditions of an obsolescent world. Less than a year after Pirosmani was discovered, David Kakabadze made his first Cubist self-portrait in St. Petersburg. Kiril Zdanevich went to Paris in the same year, as did the Georgian poet Paolo Iashvili. On his return from Paris to his homeland two years later, Iashvili enflamed Kutaisi with Modernist ideas and the flames soon reached Tbilisi. An apologist of Futurism, Ilia Zdanevich met the author of the Futurist Manifesto, Tommaso Marinetti, in St. Petersburg in 1914. This was the year when World War I started, soon followed by a revolution, and prominent representatives of the Russian Avant-garde found themselves in various areas of the world due to universal unrest and poverty. Many of them headed “from the Bolshevik north to the Menshevik south” (John Bowlt, 8, p. IX) and stayed in Georgia, if not for the rest of their lives, at



least for some time. This country - sunny, well-known for its hospitality, and, what is most important, independent - proved to be particularly attractive as a shelter. Vivacious artistic life was humming there, poets and artists inspired by Modernist ideas gladly opened doors to visitors. The cradle of Modernism was far from Georgia, in a different environment in the heart of Europe and much earlier, in 1860s, but its reflection in Georgia, albeit belated and at a comparatively smaller scale, was nevertheless quite strong. The new era - that of “machinism and cinematography� (David Kakabadze) - determined a new perception of space and gave rise to innovative artistic objectives. A new and dynamic artistic language appropriate for the industrial era was born, producing varied branches and trends. They were born in big metropolitan cities, spread quickly, and produced new seedlings, wherever they appeared.


DUALIST DIALECTICS Tbilisi that took shape as a Bohemian centre in the late 1910s had always been dualist in nature due to its geographical location. Travellers, poets and writers, and those who praised or criticised it always noted that being located at the confluence of Europe and Asia, it bore features of the two worlds and almost all authors considered these features as opposing positive and negative sides. The central district of the city at that time (Golovin Avenue, which is now Rustaveli Avenue) was among positive features, as it had a genuinely European appearance. Without it, Tbilisi would probably not have been compared with Switzerland (Osip Mandelstam) or described as a “second Paris”. Everything was in order there, streets were cleaned, and the architecture was European. There were buildings in Art Nouveau style and streets were paved. Electricity was available and theatres were opened. At the same time, the oriental bazaar and places of worship of various religions (starting with Orthodox Christian and ending with Zoroastrian), meandering streets and stairs (Knut Hamsun) caused admiration. Pirosmani and his paintings united these two sides. Most of his pictures depicted the life in the old city, but the forms of expression were very close to Modernism. He knew nothing about Modernism, but he was the only one in that period, who involuntarily opposed the “academic” circles with his paintings. Countering academism (isolating oneself from it) was a catalyst of Modernism in the West, but at that time, academism was in an embryonic state in Georgia. Moreover, “academicians” - those, who had received education in Russia and Europe - were referred to as Modernists in a certain sense (signs of Impressionism and so forth) and in certain contexts. This was due to the fact that Georgia had failed to emerge from the frames of Middle Ages because of endless invasions and wars, therefore, had not experienced European Renaissance and subsequent periods in arts (including Impressionism) and easel painting did not develop there. Correspondingly, “academicians” and “Modernists” were becoming active in Georgia at the same time. It was probably due to the same reason that the opening of the Academy of Arts (haven of academism) in 1922 was to a certain extent linked to the history of Modernism. In addition, Georgia has always tended to be conservative or, in other words, loyal to traditions. Therefore, Modernists were not always as radical and consistent as it could be expected from representatives of the trend. And no one felt “difficulty” of Modernism here.


As regards the so-called Oriental or Asian component was one of the sources of Avant-garde trends and is therefore regarded as an organic and positive part of Modernism. It was a dualist nature of Georgian culture that created a fertile soil for the development of the Modernist trend. It was due to the coexistence of old and new, urban and rural, Oriental (Asian) and Occidental (Europe), and Academic and Modernist, and narrow divisions between them that the ideas introduced from “outside” naturally merged with the local heritage. Independence of the country and the government busy with social and political challenges provided with an environment for free expression and overall creative upsurge in Georgia. As the Menshevik government of Georgia was oriented to the West, it was natural that Tbilisi was to become a “new Paris”.



CAFES AS GENERATORS OF IDEAS Despite the importance of the old part of Tbilisi, the “European” district currently Rustaveli Avenue - was the epicentre of the events. The events that created the history of Modernism in Georgia unfolded along the avenue. Visitors of Tbilisi also lived in this area or areas adjacent to it (for example, Sergey and Vera Sudeykins1 in Griboyedov Street) or used to assemble there. Artistic cafes were also opened there. In general, artistic cafes became an inseparable and essential part of the history of Modernism. Cafes naturally emerged in places (first and foremost in Paris), where Modernist ideas emerged and developed. The vivacious history of cafes gave birth to new stories in new places. People used to meet and argue there. New ideas, works, paintings and trends emerged there. It is impossible to imagine the history of Modernism without this institution of Modernist life. Tbilisi was no exception and could even be proud of some aspects in this regard. Foreign visitors and the legends they brought from far-away countries gave an impetus to the emergence of cafes. The epithet of “fantastic” can often be heard regarding Avant-garde in Tbilisi. It is linked to the name of the first cafe in Tbilisi - Fantastic Inn. It was opened in 1917 by the initiative of poet Yury Degen. Poets Aleksey Kruchenykh, Ilia Zdanevich, and Igor Terentiev founded a Futurist syndicate and Futurism University in Tbilisi. The local culture of feasts (supra) made cafes in Tbilisi specific. No artistic cafes of the world has probably heard as many toasts as the cafes of Tbilisi. This is what Acmeist poet Sergey Gorodetsky wrote: Join your feelings, Unanimously break out a prophetic toast! Flourish and shine, the shield of arts, Peacock’s Tail, Peacock’s Tail! These lines seem to be written about the cafe named Peacock’s Tail. Other names of cafes were as follows: Brotherly Consolation; A Cup of Tea; Argonauts’ Sail; Hope; International; and so forth. The basis for a new tradition of painting interiors was laid from the very beginning. Kiril Zdanevich, Lado Gudiashvili, Polish artist Zyga Waliszewski, sculptor Iakob Nikoladze, Armenian artist from Tbilisi Bazhbeuk-Melikov, poet Titsian Tabidze, and others did things enthusiastically. Kimerioni was the most famous among the cafes.


Sergey Sudeykin – a Modernist Russian artist; his wife Vera de Bosset later married Igor Stravinsky.


EVERYTHINGIST FUTURISTS The The so-called Futurists made a majority of those who visited Tbilisi. The word so-called is necessary here, as Cubo-Futurists is the term that is more appropriate to describe them. Futurism (Lat. futurum - future) is most often used to describe Russian and “Soviet” Avant-garde (unfortunately, Georgian Avant-garde is also associated with it due to historic circumstances). However, Futurism did not emerge in Russia. It was born in Italy in 1909. Soon after, Kazimir Malevich created a new trend and called it Cubo-Futurism. Among others, the peculiarities of the trend were due to the fact that Neo-Primitivism was quite widespread in Russia at that time. Luchism (Russian лучизм -Rayonism) that was believed to be the “pioneer” among abstract trends emerged at the same time. On that background, brothers Zdanevich and Mikhail Le Dentu, together with the author of Luchism, Mikhail Larionov, created Everythingism (Russian всёчество derived from the word всё - everything). They announced in their manifesto their support to all styles and trends, past or present. Kiril Zdanevich’s personal exhibition was held in Tbilisi in 1917. Ilia Zdanevich and Aleksey Kruchenykh described his paintings as orchestral art, which again implied a symphonic merger of numerous sources. Like many other Georgian Modernists - Lado Gudiashvili, Shalva Kikodze, David Kakabadze, and others - he found sources for the elaboration of his own (new - Modernist) artistic language in archeological expeditions (Georgian architecture, frescoes, and miniatures). Therefore, he and some of his friends mastered eastern (Byzantine, late Persian, and other) artistic elements in a natural manner.


TEMPERATURE - 41 DEGREES In November 1917, Ilia Zdanevich, Aleksey Kruchenykh, and Igor Terentiev created an association and named it 41 Degrees (allusion to the longitude of Tbilisi and the highest temperature of the human body and alcohol). Their joint works of art were created at this grade of excitement. The Zaum poetry (Russian заумь - “beyond mind”) emerged in St. Petersburg by 1913. It drew together Dadaist and Futurist roots. In 1914, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Ukrainian brothers David and Nikolay Burlyuk delivered lectures there. Aforementioned Aleksey Kruchenykh, Igor Terentiev, Yury Degen, Kolau Chernyavsky, and others lived in Tbilisi later. The Futurist-Dadaist lithographic books and other polygraphic materials (posters, programmes, and so forth) are the best testimony of the creative temperature of that time. The books have now become bibliographic rarities. Learn, Artniks (1917) written by Kruchenykh and decorated by Kiril Zdanevich that cost just 2 roubles at that time is particularly expensive now. It was Kruchenykh, who staged the Futurist opera Victory over the Sun in St. Petersburg in 1913 together with Mikhail Matyushin and Kazimir Malevich. Therefore, it is no surprise that a geometrical form similar to a black square can be seen on the cover of the book. Another Futurist opera staged in St. Petersburg in 1913 was Tragedy by Mayakovsky. It was decorated by Iosif Shkolnik and Pavel Filonov. David Kakabadze and several other artists of no special celebrity led by Filonov founded the Clubby Workshop of Painters and Graphics, which is yet another page linked to Georgian Avant-garde. A book of poems and paintings devoted to actress Sofia Melnikova and published by Ilia Zdanevich in 1919 is perceived as a kind of anthology of Tbilisi Avant-garde. Works by almost all Modernists working in Tbilisi at that time were represented in the book. Abstract thinking was introduced both in paintings and poetry at that time. Words did not express precise notions, sounds being the leading component. Concrete pictures were not depicted with lines either. A series of lines and their playing created rhythms corresponding to sounds. The hooting of steamers or trains - the voices of the new era - gave rise to these voices and rhythms. On his return from Germany to his homeland in 1916, Dimitri Shevardnadze founded an association of Georgian painters. He also founded the National Gallery soon after. The building of the former Cathedral of Glory in Rustaveli Avenue hosted the gallery. A historic exhibition of Georgian art was held there in 1919 to identify youths to be sent to France. The young people then laid the foundation of new Georgian painting. Their names are on a separate Georgian page in the history of Modernism. They are Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani, Shalva Kikodze, David Kakabadze, and Ketevan Magalashvili.


THE HABITAT OF CHIMAERAS Kakabadze and Gudiashvili were painting the walls of the Kimerioni cafe, when Titsian Tabidze came in and told them that they were winners of the stipend and would soon go to Paris. Kiril Zdanevich also participated in painting the walls. Russian artist Sergey Sudeykin was the leading person decorating the interior. Previously, he had painted cafes in St. Petersburg and, at the same time, he was a stage designer too (scenery design did not exist as an independent branch of art in Georgia at that time). Pictures that reflected real life in the cafe appeared on the walls: Chimaeras, characters of Comedia del Arte, artists and muses, artistically transformed portraits of the “cast of characters” of the cafe, and so forth. The images were covered with paint later, as they were unacceptable for the Soviet ideology. They have now been restored, although many of them are damaged. Poets often painted and artists wrote texts there. Sudeykin himself was a representative of the Silver (Decadent) Age of Russian Poetry. Symbolist elements prevailed in his creations. His frescoes in Kimerioni aroused the same sentiments. Compositions by Kakabadze (The Artist and Muse) and Gudiashvili (Stepko’s Inn) were comparatively neutral. In general, the decadent sentiments were probably appropriate for the situation in Georgia at that time, because due to obvious reasons, freedom was accompanied by the feeling of evanescence. In addition, members of the Blue Horns group, who founded Kimerioni, were Symbolists (with the addition of some Dadaist elements).



GURDJIEFF IS HERE, TOO In 1919, the influential spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff and his wife also arrived in Tbilisi. His disciples and followers assembled around him. They were composer Thomas de Hartmann (a friend of Wassily Kandinsky) and his wife Olga Schumacher, stage designer Alexander von Salzmann and his Swiss wife Jeanne. Before that, Jeanne taught Georgian girls how to dance based on the method of Emile Dalcroze. However, Gurdjieff charmed her and she ceded her studio to him. The latter opened the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in the studio and Jeanne became his assistant. Salzmann painted decorations, Hartmann played the piano, and Olga made costumes. Kiril Zdanevich and Igor Terentiev also used to attend Gurdjieff’s lessons. In 1919, Terentiev wrote in the only newspaper published by the 41 Degrees association: “The Gurdjieff method is twice as rich as that of Dalcroze (11). Georgia’s independence did not last long. On 25 February 1921, David Kakabadze appealed to the Georgian representation in Paris, informing them that Shalva Kikodze was suffering from a serious illness in Freiburg and needed help. Kakabadze did not know that the red flag was hoisted in Tbilisi on that day. The Georgian government fled to Paris and Georgian students abroad no longer received financial assistance. However, the history of Modernism in Georgia did not come to an end at that moment.



THEATRE AS A SANCTUARY FOR THE AVANT-GARDE The year 1922 was the beginning of yet another stage in the history of The year 1922 was the beginning of yet another stage in the history of Georgian Avant-garde. Theatre producer Kote Marjanishvili returned to the country that had already been sovietised. Following his successful activities in Russia and Ukraine, he started making a new professional synthetic theatre in Georgia. Such a theatre definitely needed painters who would create an environment on the stage necessary for every performance. Marjanishvili searched for such people everywhere and found precisely those he needed among both well-known painters and people of no special prominence. He invited to his theatre Valerian Sidamon-Eristavi, Kiril Zdanevich, Lado Gudiashvili, Elene Akhvlediani, and David Kakabadze. He discovered Irakli Gamrekeli and Petre Otskheli. The last two painters devoted their creation completely to the theatre. All of them together initiated the development of theatrical decorative art or scenography (the term emerged about 50 years later) as an independent professional artistic field. However, this was happening in the Soviet country and the producers and painters were the “last of the Mohicans”, who remained loyal to their Avant-garde ideas, developing them, as Lenin said that “bourgeois bricks” should be used to build a proletarian state, because they did not have any other bricks. However, with the course of time and particularly after Socialist Realism was declared the only acceptable creative method in 1932, their freedom became increasingly limited. They tried to adjust the methods they were accustomed to the Soviet ideology, but its grip was becoming increasingly tight. Finally, many of them fell victim to loyalty of their creative credos of disobedience. All of the aforementioned stage designers gave various responses to the tasks set by Marjanishvili. However, this stage was also characterised by a certain unity. At that time, spacious geometrical constructions were introduced on the theatrical stage instead of panel paintings in the background. Lighting also obtained a particular function. Painters created conventional environments with laconic allusions on the stage, not those of descriptive nature. Such scenic approach needs abstract thinking. Artists working in Art Nouveau, Expressionism, and Cubo-Futurism had already tested similar methods in their works beyond theatre and they were now trying to adjust their inventions on the theatrical stage. Georgian scenic painting reached its peak in the performances staged by Kote Marjanishvili and Sandro Akhmeteli in Kutaisi and Tbilisi in the 1920s: Masses Man (artist K. Zdanevich), Hoppla, We’re Alive! (D. Kakabadze),



Uriel Acosta (P. Otskheli), How? (E. Akhvlediani), Anzor and The Robbers (I. Gamrekeli), and many others. These achievements determined the particular success of this field during the whole Soviet period. It is possible to say that theatres were almost the only sanctuary for Avant-garde ideas for many decades. Conditional and abstract artistic methods are perceived on the stage as part of the play, not declared formalist methods. Therefore, it was mostly in theatres that artists managed to implement their Avant-garde ideas. A small book comprising three plays by Georgian writer Grigol Robakidze was published in Tbilisi in 1926. The cover of the book was decorated with German Expressionist artist Franz Marc’s well-known work - Tiger. Robakidze’s plays Londa, Maelstrom, and Lamara - were part of the repertoires of Georgian theatres at that time (scenic painting by K. Zdanevich and I. Gamrekeli). German expressionism was yet another source of influence for Georgian artists and writers, symbolically reflected in this small book. Europe or Asia, West or East? This dispute and question do not have a single logical answer, but it has been topical up to now. Modernist thinking was characteristic of European-minded nations at the beginning of the 20th century, which is indicative of Western orientation. However, it should be noted again that so-called oriental elements played an import-


ant role in the successful development of Modernism everywhere. Modernism could have been alien for the east for a long time, but Asia was one of the sources for Modernism in search for forms of expression. Arthur Danto wrote about Japanese Shiko Munakata that “, he once said to be the van Gogh of Japan - just as, though I am uncertain Munakata knew this, van Gogh moved to Arles intending to be the Hokusai of France” (7, p 107). Oriental influence was of particular importance for the development of the Georgian Avant-garde art. The influence of Chinese and Japanese art can clearly be seen in David Kakabadze’s Breton series and later, in his organic abstractions. His theoretical articles also confirm his deep interest in oriental art. The special plastic nature of lines in Lado Gudiashvili’s works elicits associations with Persian art. Some art critics have also noticed Arabic sensitivity in his works. Together with European orientation, the organic coexistence with these oriental elements created fertile grounds for the development of Modernism in Georgia. The creation of the Modernist era proper - cinematography - developed amazingly well on Georgian soil. Georgian Modernist artists were the force, together with producers, that determined quality in this field. Irakli Gamrekeli, David Kakabadze, Lado Gudiashvili, and Petre Otskheli were the designers of the films that astonish people even now as masterpieces of the Modernist era and cinematography as a whole. The role of artists became evident not only in the sequence of shots and methods of montage, but also I terms of using lighting as a powerful artistic method for building spaces. It is due to the artists that the films and their expressiveness leave an indelible mark on viewers. The films use the language of cinematography not only as a means of telling a story, but as a synthetic artistic form of language. Even a short list can confirm the aforesaid: Jim Shvante (Salt for Svaneti) by M. Kalatozishvili and D. Kakabadze; Saba by M. Chiaureli and D. Kakabadze, Khabarda by M. Chiaureli and L. Gudiashvili; My Grandmother by K. Mikaberidze and I. Gamrekeli; Buba by N. Gogoberidze and D. Kakabadze; and others.


CROSSROADS OF MODERNISM In Paris, Georgian artists displayed their works in independent salons and galleries. They delivered lectures; wrote and published books; followed various trends, such as Symbolism and Expressionism (Sh. Kikodze and L. Gudiashvili), Cubism and Dadaist-Surrealist Abstractionism (D. Kakabadze); and at the same time, attracted attention due to their originality, often discussed by French and other art critics. Georgians lived in Montparnasse and frequented cafes of Paris. In 1926, Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray presented Abstract works Georgian Avant-garde artist David Kakabadze made in Paris at the International Exhibition of Modern Art at Brooklyn Museum in New York. The artists dispatched from independent Georgia to Paris in 1919, returned to Sovietised Georgia at the end of the 1920s. They found it difficult to understand the postulates of Socialist Realism, so they used to work in theatres. Filmmaking and decorating parades developed their creative Avant-garde ideas in the sphere of design.



SULPHUR FORMULA - MODERNIST CODE The magazine issued in 1924 in Tbilisi was comprising works by Beno Gordeziani, Niogol Chachava, Irakli Gamrekeli, Pavle Nozadze, Zhango Gogoberidze, Akaki Beliashvili, Simon Chikovani, Nikoloz Shengelaia, and Shalva Alkhazishvili. It was one of the best examples of a Futurist-Dadaist artistic edition, where every letter and graphic element created experimental and dynamic pages. The whole structure of the magazine represented the Avant-garde sentiments characteristic of the era. “The main fact is that Futurism is the first stage of a revolution that carries Dada like poetry and a part of a body,” a passage in the magazine said. Authors claimed that cities with developed technologies produced sounds that did not yet have a sign to express them and it was H2SO4 that solved the problem. The pages of the magazine present experimental alchemy of letters. As a result, the text spoke visually (designers I. Gamrekeli and B. Gordeziani) and words and images were indivisible. Georgian Avant-garde found eternal life on these pages. One copy of the H2SO4 is kept in I. Grishashvili’s library-museum. It has interesting notes next to the names of the authors. The notes show how tense the situation was in Georgia at that time because of political views and that splits penetrated even in arts. The following can be read next to the names of authors: “Artist - Dadaist, a pure Futurist”; “Artist - Futurist, a pure Dadaist”; “An obvious Dadaist”; “Communist-Futurist (obvious)”; “Futurist”. Georgian Avant-garde is seen in general as one single phenomenon, but disputes within it had no end, particularly as the terminology used with regard to the phenomenon constantly remained unspecified. One can recall an incident in the shop of Lagidze Water opposite the Kimerioni cafe, where a Symbolist-Dadaist threw a glass at a Futurist, but accidently injured a Symbolist. After that, Futurist becomes a general term in the Soviet Union, denoting a dissident, rebel, and different thinker, not someone oriented on the future (futurum). In addition, propaganda against the trend could lead to the emergence of an additional overtone in Georgia due to the association with the Georgian word puturo - “hollow”. Utopian projects were typical for the Modernist era. After the revolution, when overall excitement often gave rise to implementation of daring, innovative, and grandiose projects despite a lack of funds.



In 1924, Kote Marjanishvili and Irakli Gamrekeli decided to stage Mystery-Bouffe by Vladimir Mayakovsky. Gamrekeli prepared numerous designs and 25 physical models. He even held consultations with Mayakovsky, who arrived in Tbilisi. It was planned to stage the play on Mount Mamadaviti, where huge Constructivist decorations were to be erected with a hemisphere, staircases, and a pyramid (2, pp 139-141). With its scale and architectonics, the idea was among innovative architectural and scenographic constructions.


THE END Modernist aspirations gradually died out as repressions started in 19361937. Various trends no longer existed and its history ended. Later, everything became distorted and names were forgotten, at least on the official level, particularly as many personalities fell victim to repressions and it was forbidden to mention them. Just some of them managed to flee the Soviet Union. Those who remained at home, could feel the tightening of the state’s clasp. Paradoxically, people deprived of their wings, were forced to paint flying characters of Socialism and they used to give them “wings” with high professionalism, as did Petre Otskheli in Esakia’s 1936 film the Flying House Painter. However, in such cases, the flying reflected thinking typical for Socialist Realism. Petre Otskheli was arrested and executed in 1936. Paolo Iashvili committed suicide in 1937. Dimitri Shevardnadze and Sandro Akhmeteli were also executed. David Kakabadze was left without job that destroyed him morally and physically. Grigol Robakidze fled to Germany. Kiril Zdanevich spent 15 years in a prison camp. The two brothers, who parted in Constantinople in 1921, met again in Paris only in 1967. The peacock’s tail was cut. The short life of Modernism ended in Georgia, moving to the spheres of artefacts and legends. In Paris, Ilia Zdanevich (Iliazd) decorated books and wrote Post-Modernist literary works that have not been duly assessed up to now. He was on friendly terms with artists who could not be mentioned in Stalin’s state without being punished, including Picasso, who painted a portrait of Pirosmani, whom he did not know, at the request of Iliazd. An exhibition of Pirosmani was organised in Louvre in 1966, which was due to the momentum of the Khrushchev Thaw. It was no longer forbidden to mention Modernism, but the “boundaries” of freedom were insufficient to restore the torn thread. Compared with world metropolises, Tbilisi was a city of a small scale, but it nevertheless used the whole of its cultural arsenal to assimilate Modernist aspirations. In the 1910s and 1920s, Georgia gave important figures to the world Avant-garde art. Their names and creative heritage are organic parts of epoch at artistic events of that time.


References: 1. Irina Dzutsova, “Tiflis! Your poets have gathered!” Russian language poetry of Tiflis 1910-1920. Tbilisi, 2014. 2. John E. Bowlt, Nina anf Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky, Russian stage Design 18801930, vol. 1, Antique Collectors’ Club, Suffolk, 2012. 3. Irina Arsenishvili, Nana Shervashidze, Regis Gayraud, Kiril Zdanevich, Ilia Zdanevich. Exhibition catalogue. Georgian National Museum, 2009. (In Georgian) 4. Leonard Diepeveen, The Difficulties of Modernism, Routledge, New York and London, 2003. 5. Chris Rodrigues and Chris Garatt, Introducing Modernism, Icon Books UK – Totem Books USA, 2001. 6. Dan Franck, Bohemian Paris, Grove Press, New York, 2001. 7. Arthur C. Danto, The Madonna of the Future, Farrar, Straus and Girous, New York, 2000. 8. John E. Bowlt, The Salon Album of Vera Sudeikin-Stravinsky, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1995. 9. Robert L. Herbert, Peasants and ‘Primitivism:’ French Prints from Millet to Gauguin, Mount Holyoke College Art museum, South Hadley, MA, 1995. 10. Beridze Vakhtang. Culture and Arts in Independent Georgia (1918-1921). Tbilisi, Metsniereba, 1992. (In Georgian) 11. Francoise Le Gris-Bergmann, Boris Kerdimun, Susan Dague, Kirill Zdamevich and Cubo-Futurism, Tiflis 1918-1920, Rachel Adler Gallery, New York, 1987.




AT THE CROSSROADS THE JOURNEY OF GEORGIAN CINEMA The history of Georgian cinema is nearly as old as the world’s first cinematograph and the birth of cinema. Many events have taken place since “the living pictures of the Lumieres” caught Europe by storm along a road that has not been smooth and easy. Georgian cinema has always been an unambiguous reflection of Georgian history, and it continues to be such. It evolved, took shape and was exploited in line with this country’s political, social, economic, and cultural events and has continued to move forward and develop. These historical events were reflected in film and had a direct impact on cinematography (and art in general). Like in other cinematographic countries of the world, the first Georgian cinematographers were camera operators and documentarians. They discovered a realm lit with a magic lantern and unconditionally accepted the laws of the realm and adjusted their own thoughts, opinions, mindsets, styles, forms, and methods to them. They created their own era and managed to reflect time in their own words. They added new streams to centuries-old traditional fields of art in Georgia (architecture, mural and book paintings, goldsmithing, secular and religious music, literature, and theatre), from their first stories to full-fledged documentaries and feature films, and also from the cinematograph to cinema art. The culture of every nation - its originality and features - are determined, first and foremost, by the characteristics that make it different from other cultures. Throughout the entire history of Georgia, its culture has been a phenomenon that emerged at a historic crossroads. Georgia has had ties with the civilised world for millennia and over the course of time, produced varied images that were marked with individual artistic expressivity. Of course, historical circumstances and their manifestations had an impact on the formation of Georgia’s national culture. The countries Georgia has had relations with (i.e. Europe, Asia, Middles East, Far East…) voluntarily (in the political, cultural, religious, or commercial spheres) or involuntarily (in the same spheres albeit as a result of “successful” or “unsuccessful” wars of conquest) have also had a significant impact on the lifestyle of Georgian society and the formation of Georgian culture.


Georgia became part of the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century (at the same time, Georgia was believed to be the center of the Caucasus and the Russian viceroy resided in Tbilisi, where the Caucasus was governed from). As Russia itself was nourished with European culture, Europe entered Georgia by way of Russia, in both the direct and indirect sense. Tbilisi and other Georgian towns and villages adopted a European lifestyle. In conjunction with its national habits, traditions, highly-developed fields of art and national clothing, Georgian society freely accepted French “modistes” and fashion, German, Polish, Greek and English restaurants and hotels, European enterprises and shops, contemporary and classical European literature, paintings, operas, ballet, architecture - and the arrival of cinema (advertisements, posters, and broadsheets found in archives attest to this assertion). This all became part of everyday life of Georgian society. Fashion and clothing are the best reflections of any era’s image and as the first Georgian documentary, Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip to Racha and Lechkhumi, made in 1912, demonstrates. As a synthetic art, cinema was created on the basis of the unification and transformation of the fields of art that existed at that time, and the creation of a new artistic language. Movie cameras and projectors - the equipment; stories and their reproduction - the creative work; and film distribution for viewers - the commercial profit, are the three main elements of cinema. The first cinema projections were held in Georgia a year after projections in Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. In 1896, the Tbilisi newspaper Tsnobis



Purtseli published that “in the Nobility Theatre today, 16 November, they will show a cinematograph - Lumiere’s living photo pictures, which are famous in all of Europe.” Georgia’s first cinema theatre, Illusion, opened in 1904 on Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, Golovin Avenue (now Rustaveli Avenue) in the building of the former Bear restaurant (owners Sofia Ivanitskaya and Rosetti). Before that, films were shown either in the Nobility Theatre or in the Nikitin Brother’s circus as they had sufficient space and were appropriate for the initial essence and purpose of cinema, which was then viewed as a kind of entertainment performance analogous to circus and slapstick comedy until it obtained the status of art. In 1905, Sofia Ivanitskaya, who was one of the first cinema distributors in Georgia, opened the Wooden House - a summer Illusion - which had a small electric power plant. It was situated in the city’s central garden, which was established in 1828 and called “Mushtaidi,” after the founder Mir-Fatah-Agha Seyed Tabrizi, a religious leader (Mujtahid) of Iran’s Azerbaijani Shi’i Muslims, who came to Georgia from Iran (the name of the garden was derived from his religious rank). By 1907, there were several cinema theatres in the city: the Muse, Coliseum Lira, Moulin Elecrtique, Empire, Cinema-Disk, Scyth, Uran, Saturn, Modern, and the Apollo, which was the first electric cinema theatre in Tbilisi built in the Art Nouveau style. The Appolo’s first owner was a rich German colonist and the second were Italian brothers. The Reisch company and Carl Wilsis provided its technical equipment and Czech specialists A. Novak and Karel Soucek decorated it. The Arfasto theatre belonged to Armenian philanthropist and entrepreneur, Mikael Aramyants and was located in the Palace Hotel, which he also owned. A film distribution network was established in 1907 and the new attraction that had charmed the whole world became an inseparable part of the lives of Georgian society, the country just like theatre, opera, and the circus. Cinema theatres were built all over. In Kutaisi there was Tamar (the building has been altered many times and now hosts a trade facility) and Radium, which was designed by the architect Edmund Frick, who used the facade of the Express cinema in Moscow at the request of Vasil Amashukeli, one of the first Georgian filmmakers. The cinema could host 400 people at a time while an orchestra played during the shows instead of film scorers. There also was Mon Plaisir, owned by Gabriel Charekov and was designed in the Art Nouveau style, of which only the facade remains now. In Batumi there was the Palace, Piccadilly, Illusion and the Apollo, owned by Brovell;, the Lira, owned by the Swedish Jacobson brothers; the Triumph,



owned by the German, Maria Jung; and the Religion for 400 viewers with two halls - one indoor and the other outdoor for summer. The film distribution system worked effectively without any shortcomings. In addition to Sofia Ivanitskaya, who cooperated with the Frenchman Gaumont, the foreign firms, Chinese, Ambrosio, and Pathe, were also involved in distribution. In 1918, the first film studio was opened in Georgia with the assistance of the Belgian cinema firm, Filme. A poster of the Apollo cinema (which still works today) appeared in a 1911 issue of the newspaper Batumis Gazeti, which noted, “The best theatre building in Batumi. The air is constantly fresh, which is very important for health.” Next to this was an advertisement of the Religion cinema that stated “Religion is the best theatre building in Batumi. It is protected from fire.” Another poster noted that Apollo offered the feature film, Enticing Light, a tragedy in five parts. “Enticing Light presents signs reflecting pure nuances of the whole psychological analysis of genuine human feelings and moods. The well-known tragedy actor Rudolph Schildkraut’s performance is incredibly impressive.” After seeing their first films, Georgian enthusiasts enchanted by Laterna Magica, started making their first Lumiere films based on stories taken from life and reality in Georgia. The first directors and camera operators Alexander Digmelov, Simon Esadze, and Vasil Amashukeli traveled in the Caucasus to film.


The history of Georgian cinema started in Kutaisi when the Georgian artist, Vasil Amashukeli (1886-1977) completed courses at the French cinema company, Gaumont, in 1908. He bought cinema equipment from them and started working as a camera operator and then began making short documentaries; or rather, short stories. Types of Bakuvian Bazaars, Work at Oil Derricks (found in a private archive in Baku only in 2011), Oil Extraction, Georgian Stage Figures, Transportation of Coal, Daisies, Views of Kutaisi, Excursion at the Ruins of Bagrati Cathedral, Parade of Gunib Detachment with Participation of Captain Simon Esadze, and so forth. These short films have been lost, along with Berikaoba-Keenoba, the first full length documentary based on a play written by Shalva Dadiani, directed by Mitropane Kldiashvili, and with consultations from theatre director Alexander Tsutsunava. Information about these films exists only in notes and documents. These first filmmakers were joined by camera operators. Colonel and military historian, Simon Esadze, made a Russian-produced documentary in 1913 titled, Conquest of the Caucasus, which was shown in Georgia, Russia and abroad. When World War I started in 1914, Esadze was ordered to make news films in Austria and Germany, as well as the historical films The Fall of Erzurum and Seizure of Trabzon. Alexander Digmelov (his father, photographer David Digmeli, was the first to bring Laterna Magica to Georgia, and together with his son was the first to organize film showings in Georgia), whose films, Tbilisi Botanical gardens, Borjomi Mineral Waters, Mtskhetoba, Lado Meskhishvili’s Anniversary, Georgian Wrestling, Keburia’s¸Utochkina’s and Vasilyev’s Flights, The Anointment of the Catholicos, among others, are also lost. However, it is known that they were shown in foreign countries on many occasions (from the French magazine Pathe). Georgian films were first shown in the Radium cinema in Kutaisi. The first document indicating the demonstration of films in Kutaisi and confirming their existence is dated 15 May 1908. Between July 21 and August 1, 1912, 25 year-old Vasil Amashukeli made the first full length documentary to “speak” in the language of cinema (40 minutes) titled, Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip to Racha and Lechkhumi in 1912, which now has the status of a cultural monument. It was first shown in the Radium cinema in Kutaisi in September, the same year. Akaki Tsereteli, one of the most outstanding Georgian poets, himself, attended the show. It is symbolic that the first full length Georgian documentary was devoted to Akaki Tsereteli and his trip and meetings with people in the mountainous regions of Georgia. Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip by Vasil Amashukeli is known in the history of world cinematography as the first full-length documentary. Nothing of the kind


made at that time can be found even in France, the birth-place of cinema. French cinema historian Georges Sadoul wrote, “Probably, I do not know much, but as far as I know, no full length documentary (1,200 metres) has been devoted to any well-known figure in any country.” The Radium cinema, where Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip premiered, was the most up-to-date cinema theatre in Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century. Radium was located in the house of the Otskheli brothers in 1908, and moved to another building in 1911 after a fire destroyed the house. In 1916, Alexander Tsutsunava began the first full-length Georgian feature film Kristine (camera operators Alexander Shugerman and Alexander Digmelov), which was based on a story by a Georgian writer, Egnate Ninoshvili. Tsutsunava founded the tradition of Georgian feature film production and the trend of shooting films based on works of Georgian literature. This trend was characteristic of cinema throughout the world at the beginning of the 20th century because there were simply no screenwriters that could write stories specifically for films. However, there were classic writers and literature had genres like soap operas, science fiction, adventure stories and comedies, which were quite popular among readers (like today) and well-suited to cinematography. People enjoyed seeing familiar stories and adventures in cinemas. And for those capable of providing viewers with what they wanted to see, there were profits to be made. Georgia understood this from the beginning. Kristine was a social drama with the use of psychological elements. It was a tragic story of a country maid who was isolated by society. It was a film based on social problems and specific national characters, similar to the artistic solutions found in European and American cinematography and was made in accordance with the common principles and methods that had already been elaborated by other film directors. In 1918, Georgia was liberated from 135 years of vassalage to Russia. Independence was signed on May 26 with the help of Germany. The process of building an independent state and unification with the West began. The new films made in 1918-1921 were devoted to the three-years of the Georgian Democratic Republic and the Menshevik government and reflected important events that took place at that time: 26 May 1918, The Anniversary of Georgia’s Independence, A Delegation of Second International in Georgia, Parade on 26 May 1919, The Government of the Georgian Democratic Republic, Belgian and English Visitors in Georgia in 1920, English Troops in Georgia, Day of People’s Guard, Liberation of Batumi from Turkey, Visits of Foreign Delegation to Batumi in the Times of Mensheviks, Burial of Pilot Makashvili in the Didube Pantheon, Appearance of Shevardeni, Earthquake in Gori, and others.



However, history took another dramatic turn when Bolshevik Russia annexed Georgia in 1921 and established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the elimination of the aristocracy, intelligentsia, dissidents and others who did not accept the regime and its Communist ideology, censorship, propaganda, and the restriction of personal and creative freedoms. These tragic events - tyranny and life in the gravest possible moral and economic conditions - were further aggravated by the fact that Georgia, like other Soviet republics, was separated from the rest of the world with an iron curtain for 70 years. The door that briefly opened to Europe in 1918 was closed. The foreign artists who came to live in Georgia at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and Georgian artists educated abroad, joined forces to add new elements and enrich Georgian culture that already had a long, rich history. During the early years of the Soviet regime, Georgians could still go abroad, although the process was quite limited. Rigid control was established over arriving foreign travelers and artists until the ties gradually became fragmentary and were finally severed. This did not only effect life in Georgia and other Soviet republics, but also had an impact on processes under way in the rest of the world. Of course, the establishment of the Soviet rule brought about changes in all spheres of life, including art and cinematography in particular. Ideology was the main foundation for the creation of the totalitarian state, resulting in the physical, mental and moral destruction of whatever was old in favor of the new system.


Vladimir Lenin understood cinema was the most useful artistic tool for the Bolsheviks, given its popularity among the masses. Along with radio, the press and physical terror, cinema became one of the most important and convenient means to manipulate society and the masses. Cinema sections were established under people’s commissariats for education in the Soviet republics. They directed and controlled the production of films. In Georgia, the Sak-kinmretsveli (State Cinema Industry) organization was established and in 1938, a cinema studio was opened in Tbilisi. Private cinema companies, studios, ateliers, and distributors were a thing of the past. Not long before the establishment of the Soviet rule and the emergence of “red” Georgia, non-Georgian cinema directors had been working in the country. Ivan Perestiani, Vladimir Barsky, and Amo Bek-Nazarov were attracted by the country’s exotica, mysterious lives of the “savage Caucasians” and stories and adventures that did not seem commonplace to Europeans. These people, who managed to adapt to the new reality and concentrate on problems common to humankind, shared the experience of European and American cinematographers (genres, forms, methods of solution, and specific ways of making films) proved to be the creators of Georgian cinema and determined the direction of its development in many regards. Arsena Jorjiashvili by Ivan Perestiani (the first Soviet feature film and the first film subsidized by the Georgian state in 1921) was about the terrorist attacks carried out by worker Arsena Jorjiashvili and his revolutionary companions during the 1905 Revolution. Despite the content and pathos of the film, it was a typical European product in genre and form and was something between a social drama and an adventure film. Ivan Perestiani’s 1923 children’s film - Little Red Devils - depicted episodes of the Civil War where Anarchists and the Red Army opposed each other. More specifically, young people, including one young black man (as a symbol of the international community united to establish the Soviet Union and a representative of the oppressed layers of society), were involved in the confrontation. It was one of the most popular Soviet films at that time. On the one hand, it was a typical example of the Soviet propaganda film showing confrontation between the old and new systems and good against evil; and on the other, it fully reproduced the chase and cowboy films widespread in Europe and America (with stunts, crafty tricks, and shooting). For example, products of French Pathe and Gaumont were based on stories of gendarmes and detectives chasing criminals, whereas Soviet films had Chekists pursuing enemies of the State: spies, kulaks, and White counter-revolutionists. Together with Ivan Perestiani (Three Lives, The Surami Fortress, The Case of Tariel Mklavadze’s Murder), Amo Bek-Nazarov (Natela, Patricide) and Vlad-


imir Barsky, who came to Georgia in 1918 as an agent of the Belgian Filma company (and made films Arsena the Robber and Confessor) fell victim to new trends in cinematography. Their films still bore the characteristic signs of world cinematography - love stories, dramas, alienation, the struggle between good and evil - as well as elements of plastique, montage, and peculiarities of the plots. At the same time, they were marked by excessive social overtones, which made the artistic side of the films schematic and inflexible. In 1924-1929, Kote Marjanishvili, the world-class director and reformer of Georgian theatre who laid the foundation of the Georgian art of acting, took an interest in cinema (like many progressively-minded people of that time). In addition to making six films, he often used projection in his theatre, arranging performances to the principles of pictures, lighting and camera angles characteristic of cinema. He was a prominent and courageous reformer and the first to make films based on the works of foreign authors in Georgian cinema (which he often did in his theatre). Among these authors were Stefan Zweig with Amok, Ethel Lilian Voynich with The Gadfly and Ilya Erenburg with The Communard’s Pipe. It is noteworthy that in the first two films, Marjanishvili was not interested in the social, political, or revolutionary contexts (The Gadfly), but in love stories and human sentiments arising from love failures. In The Communard’s Pipe, which was about episodes during the Paris Commune, he used Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty as a plastic figure and conveyed the idea artistically, which enabled him to further expand the potential of cinema. In the same period, Alexander Tsutsunava resumed his activities with the film Who is the Guilty?, the first Georgian comedy Khanuma, and Rebellion in Guria. He shared trends in world cinema, resorting to popular genres (soap operas with psychological elements and the observance of the rules of genres) and adapting pieces of literature. At the same time, these films were purely Soviet-type products, concentrating on the confrontation between the old and new systems, criticising bourgeois morality, rules, and traditions, and depicting the revolutionary spirit and social inequality, which was presented as in Tsarist times. The contributions of these directors were particularly significant to Georgian cinema. Their films, themes, genres, varied attempts to introduce the language of cinema, mistakes, failures, and achievements prepared the grounds for four great Georgian film directors and brilliant representatives of Georgian cinematography: Kote Mikaberidze, Mikheil Kalatozishvili, Nikoloz Shengelaia, and Mikheil Chiaureli. It is no exaggeration to say that this quartet created an original Georgian cinema with specific methods of expression. They also established Georgia’s place in world cinema. The films made in that period clearly showed that Georgian cinema had set new tasks and had taken a new shape which enabled it to not just be



on an equal footing with world cinema, but to even compete with it. The mentioned film directors were the leaders in this context: Kote Mikaberidze and his film My Grandmother, which earned him a lifetime ban from filmmaking from Soviet censors; Nikoloz Shengelaia, a former Futurist who shared the idea that cinema was one of the most expressive arts, revealed in his Eliso how far artistic expression, montage, and plastique were ahead of the times; Mikheil Kalatozishvili, who was awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 for his film The Cranes Are Flying and was noted for Salt for Svaneti; and Mikheil Chiaureli, a sculptor who made a trilogy about Stalin - The Vow, The Fall of Berlin, The Great Dawn - as well as Saba and Khabarda. They partially built on the achievements of D.W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, German Expressionists (Robert Wiene, Paul Leni, Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, Georg Pabst), Jean Renoir, Marcel Carne, John Ford, Charles Chaplin, Luis Bunuel, and Robert Flaherty, but also made breakthrough of their own. This is true in general and particularly with genres and systematic artistic methods that attach an importance to details and emphasise them. For example, some say Expressionism influenced My Grandmother while others say that it tends to be more Constructivist. In reality, this seems to be cinema Avant-garde like Saba and Khabarda. Salt for Svaneti (1929) unites all achievements of cinema with its themes, problems raised, and harmonious unity of artistic methods with the original reflection of the realtionship between man and nature; it is similar to the aesthetics of Robert Flaherty’s masterpiece, Nanook of the North (1922) and Luis Bunuel’s Las Hurdes (1932).


It is also important that these directors found certain ways to protect themselves from the influence of ideology (although they packed closing credits and unusual endings and episodes in “ideologically correct” covers to avoid accusations of Formalism) by adapting new thinking and modern forms of artistic vision to national self-consciousness and traditions of national culture, shaping new specific features of cinema and creating new artistic forms, genres and the face and features of national cinematography. In the 1920s, Soviet censorship was not as rigid and strict as it would soon become, so it was not difficult for people whose education, experience, and intellectual potential could be applied in any sphere of culture that would depict their internal world with “their own worlds.” However, this path of cinema development could not continue and had to give way to new trends. In 1930 the Soviet government started shaping a new and all-encompassing ideology and declared that Socialist Realism was the overall obligatory “rule.” Socialist Realism blocked all paths to the development and perfection of the arts and it significantly changed the development of Georgian culture, including cinematography, and facilitated the shaping of surrogate pseudo-art in the Soviet Union. From the 1920s, when censorship was rather lax, to the mid 1950s, Soviet society was in full subordination to the general course of the state ideology - Socialist Realism. The “Social order,” didactics, and forthright propaganda became decisive in the arts, which resulted in narrowing down issues, describing artificial and one-dimensional conflicts and images, creating falsehoods and lies. All the doors were locked and all the curtains were drawn. World War II introduced changes in public life and the arts. The propaganda of “building a new state” was supplemented with “war propaganda.” Just a few films were made in Georgia at that time, including Mikheil Chiaureli’s historic, heroic, pathetic, and epic drama Giorgi Saakadze. Film’s only aim was to cheer people up and arouse their patriotic sentiments. When the war ended, those who returned home brought back “trophy films” (the first appeared in the Soviet Union in 1939 after the Red Army’s campaign in Poland). The Soviet government decided that after enduring physical and spiritual hardships in the five years of war, people needed to be entertained and cheered up. So the theater screens in Georgia (like in other republics of the Soviet Union and throughout the world) were filled with Soviet and foreign musical films, comedies, and feature films with happy endings. It was under the influence of western musical films and comedies, and in observance of all elements and genre structure, that in 1948, Vakhtang Tabliashvili and Shalva Gedevanishvili made the musical comedy, Keto and



Kote, in accordance to Joseph Stalin’s desire and his personal instructions. The film was based on the most popular Georgian opera, Khanuma, by Victor Dolidze, which was based on a another piece of the same name by Georgian playwright, Avksenti Tsagareli. Keto and Kote was later shown on Broadway and is believed to be the most commercially successful and well-known Georgian film after Tengiz Abuladze’s Repentance. Despite continuing isolation, small cracks were nevertheless found in the iron curtain where beams of freedom were able to reach the country and freely-thinking and freedom-loving people enlarged these cracks for the benefit of their creations. The first major creative breakthrough began at the end of the 1950s, Khrushchev condemned the cult of Stalin and the “thaw” began. While the freedom that beamed through was not genuine and the Soviet empire continued to be a strong power for quite some more time, a slight alteration in the political climate led to certain changes and new movements to emerge within the system. There was a confrontation with the Communist dictatorship and a strong desire to express one’s civic position and elaborate new methods of artistic thinking. Meanwhile, there was a youth protest movement in Europe aimed at demolishing the old system. The new assessment of the world and new hopes penetrated, albeit indirectly and secretly, to the ranks of Georgian artists, including cinematographers.


Italian Neo-Realism, Italian cinema of the post-Neo-Realism period, French New Wave, individual visions, and works by independent European and American directors made a deep impression on the creative thinking of the new generation of Soviet directors (and the public in general), particularly as foreign films began to reach the Soviet Union, although in limited numbers and under control of the censors. At that time, the government also organized a cinema distribution network and opened cinema clubs, where closed shows were organized for the party and cinematography elites, who could watch world classics in addition to new European and American films. It was due to the influence of Neo-Realism that foundations for new Georgian cinema were laid on the verge of the 1950s and 1960s with young film directors involved. Magdana’s Donkey by Tengiz Abuladze and Rezo Chkheidze was based on a story of the same name by Ekaterine Gabashvili and heralded the birth of “new” Georgian cinema. In 1956, the film was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, together with The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse. The main principles of Neo-Realist cinema are evident in Magdana’s Donkey. At the same time, attitudes to Georgian reality, daily life and traditions were expressed in the structure of the film. Tengiz Abuladze continued along this path in his first independent film, Other People’s Children. In this film, he used the principles of Neo-Realist cinema (anti-show, anti-pictorialism, reporter shots, city landscapes, environments created by shot compositions, and types of people) in a deeper




and more deliberate manner. These principles were the basis for Georgian cinema even when it took a different path of acquiring the shapes of fabulous, poetic, and metaphoric cinema. Alaverdoba, by Giorgi Shengelaia (1962), became a kind of creative manifesto, the expression of civic position, declaration, impetus for creation, and discovery for directors in the 1960s. The film outlined what Giorgi Shengelaia’s generation of cinema directors had to say. The same process was under way in France with the directors of New Wave, who incorporated their theoretical statements in their films. Like in Alaverdoba, artistic objectives and styles were shaped on the basis of life experience, the spiritual state of contemporary people and their relations with society. Films by Otar Ioseliani (There Once Was a Singing Blackbird, Falling Leaves, Pastorale) were based on interpretations of this trend and sentiments. Like European and American films of that time, he introduced anti-heroes; undistinguished personalities engulfed in the routine of everyday life and its tranquil flow. Such people can be encountered in any country of the world and can speak in any language. In order to “cheat” the censors and say what they had to say directors of the 1960s and 1970s (Eldar and Giorgi Shengelaia, Alexander Rekhviashvili, Lana Gogoberidze, Mikheil Kobakhidze, Merab Kokochashvili, Rezo Esadze, Nodar Managadze, Irakli Kvirikadze, Kartlos and Buba Khotivari, Soso Chkhaidze, and others) started to use fables, legends, myths, comedies, and tragicomedies in their cinema. This relieved them of responsibility, as it gave them distance to the reality they depicted in an allegorical form.


The main determining feature of individual, metaphoric, and poetic films was the independent thinking of their creators, which led to new stylistic discoveries and new artistic forms. The influence of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Jean Vigo was particularly powerful, leading to the formation of a new kind of Georgian cinema. In films made in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s - Pirosmani, The Way, Way Back, The 19th Century Georgian Chronicle, Ascension, The Invocation, The Big Green Valley, An Unusual Exhibition, Crackpots, There Once Was a Singing Blackbird, Under One Sky, The Journey of a Young Composer, The Nylon Christmas Tree, Wedding, Umbrella, Musicians, Matsi Khvitia, Tushetian Shepherd, Lazare’s Adventure, Swimmer and many others - individual consciousness was freed from the collective mythological subconscious and opposed the ideological-political and ideological-social cinema. The Big Green Valley by Merab Kokochashvili (1968), which was considered the best Georgian film of all time, is about the universal problems of relations between man and nature, civilisation and earth, and isolation from nature that cause internal crises. The problems were characteristic of the styles of Lucchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, John Ford, and Ingmar Bergman. Georgian musical films - Melodies of the Vera Quarter (Giorgi Shengelaia), Turmoil (Lana Gogoberidze), Arsena’s Song (Nana Khatiskatsi) - and



westerns - Matsi Khvitia, Khareba and Gogia (Giorgi Shengelaia), Purpose (Geno Khojava) - repeat the structure of the genres and depict Georgian reality by interpreting the genres, themes, and forms. From the 1980s, new trends became visible, new themes appeared, and a search for new styles started among a new generation of Georgian directors (Temur Babluani, Goderdzi Chokheli, Dito Tsintsadze, Dato Janelidze, Otar Litanishvili, Nana Jorjadze, Nana Janelidze, Tato Kotetishvili, Gogita Chkonia, Aleko Tsabadze, Levan Glonti, Levan Tutberidze, Levan Zakareishvili, Zaza Khalvashi, Marina Khonelidze). The directors of the 1980s were interested in new types of heroes, young people, and their fates and relations with the public and their problems. Powerful streams of the obsolete and current trends in the European and American cinematographs entered the films of the Georgian directors of this generation (The Flight of Sparrows, The Mother, The Journey to Sopot, The Room, Brother, The Sun of the Sleepless, The Stain, Night Dance, Quasimodo, Tenants, Anaemia, etc.). At the end of the 1970s, Georgians began to see increasing numbers of foreign films. The situation had a major effect on artists. People started speaking freely about the works of foreign directors and Georgian directors aspired to become as famous as their prominent colleagues abroad. Although Kote Marjanishvili had adapted foreign author’s works (there were just a few such adaptations in Soviet reality), they were never adapted directly. In most cases, the texts were Georgianised, and the action was moved to Georgia and adapted to Georgian reality and nature. The following films can be mentioned in this context: Lazare’s Adventure by Kartlos




and Buba Khotivari (adapted from The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and His Fortunes and Adversities by an anonymous Spanish author), Qvevri by Irakli Kvirikadze (story by Luigi Pirandello), Record by Guram Pataraia (story by Karel Capek), Don’t Grieve by Russia-based Georgian director Giorgi Danelia (My Uncle Benjamin by Claude Tillier), Scapin’s Deceits by Giorgi and Mikheil Kalatozishvilis Jr. (Jean-Baptiste Moliere’s play of the same name), Take Up the Gauntlet, Seigniors by Kote Surmava (The Mistress of the Inn by Carlo Goldoni), The Castle (Franz Kafka), The Beloved by Mikheil Kalatozishvili (Mateo Falcone by Prosper Merimee). The most interesting thing is that most of these films are among the best works of Georgian cinema and viewers often remain unaware of their initial sources, as they are very skillfully “disguised.” The political life in Georgia again underwent a sharp change in 1991 when a “new order” was established in the country. Old fortresses were demolished and old heroes were replaced by new ones. New ideals were introduced and the time came to invent new myths. The collapse of the Soviet Union opened the door to any country in the world. Georgia restored its independence after 200 years of subjugation (with the exception of the brief 1918-1921 period) and attempted to build the completely forgotten system of Capitalism. Like in every other domain, changes took place in filmmaking. At the beginning, Georgian filmmakers of various generations found it difficult to accept a reality that had been quite natural for the rest of the world. They found it very difficult to switch from the tried and tested methods of Soviet filmmaking to something they had never known and that was particularly difficult to do in a country whose economy was in chaos.


New cinema professions emerged. Although directors, managers, cinema agents, distributors and independent cinema studios were created, the main levers of funding, production and facilitating the export of films internationally still remain in the hands of the government (like the Swedish and French models of funding). Unlike Soviet censors, the system does not issue any directives for filmmakers, but given the fact that the budget the government allocates for culture and cinematography in particular is low, economic “censorship” is in force. As a result, international projects and co-productions, which had been very rare, has become quite frequent in recent years. The cooperation of Georgian directors with foreign film companies has also proved to be fruitful on the international festival circuit and distribution. It is important to mention the following films in this context: The Other Bank and Corn Island by Giorgi Ovashvili, Tangerines by Zaza Urushadze, In Bloom by Nana Ekvtimishvili, The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear by Tinatin Gurchiani, Keep Smiling by Rusudan Chkonia, Thirteen by French-based Gela Babluani (and his remake of 13 in the United States). The distribution of Georgian films is also mostly in the hands of international agents, who are as interested in new Georgian films as they were in new Romanian, Chinese, Korean and Iranian films a decade ago, discovering new cinema realms and introducing the international community to them. Georgian directors can freely move in Europe and choose those countries that they find more beneficial to live and work in. Otar Ioseliani, whose films once shook the sleeping Soviet public, has lived and made films in France for many years now. Dito Tsintsadze lives and works in Germany and wins prizes for Georgia at international festivals. Nana Ekvtimishvili, director of Long, Bright Days, one of the most successful recent films, also lives in Germany and received her education there too. Some Georgian film directors and camera operators have been educated in various European and American cinematography schools (Lodz, Munich, Berlin, and New York), getting exposure to new standards in filmmaking, from scriptwriting to distribution, while master classes and workshops are held by foreign specialists arriving in Georgia. The main principle of cinema in the post-Modernist (or rather post-post-Modernist) era is to exist “here” and “now.” It acts now and should be perceived at the time a film was created because it has a better influence on viewers. Regarding professional perception and the process of analysis, it is imperative to eliminate stereotypes that prevent the per-



ception of a specific work on the basis of the personal experience of members of society and individual approaches. This process seems to have started now. There are no common templates, trends, and harmonious systems in 21st-century cinema; not just in Georgia, but in world cinema as well. It is the time of individual creative endeavours and open and transparent actions. All the doors are open and there are no problems to interact in other realms. It is not at all difficult to become familiar with new films and other cultural innovations. The influence of foreign art on Georgian art is rapidly increasing. The influence is often direct, forms are approached superficially and other people’s discoveries are borrowed mechanically. However, it often implies sharing experiences and artistic methods and it leads to a harmonious involvement in creative trends, which facilitates rapprochement of societies and individuals. Cinema in Georgia (as in any other cinematographic country) continues to search for new realms, new opportunities, a new cinema language, and new expressive forms. Its history started with Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip while the history of world cinema began with The Arrival of a Train. The history and adventure that started 100 year ago was complicated and interesting, at times tragic, happy and full of encounters and impressions. There are many more encounters, adventures, and unexpected things ahead. The magic ritual of transplanting roses in the bright of magic lanterns is continuing.





“Loosened from the east, we have always aspired towards the west. Every turn in our history is marked with this aspiration, Every swing of our creation was branded in yellow with this aspiration” From Grigol Robakidze’s1 address to the European Socialist International delegation in the name of Georgian writers. Barrikadi, No 1, 1920. Georgia’s aspiration towards Europe is based not only on historic stories, but also on numerous documents and proven facts and events. It is interesting to explore the impact this material has had on our life and culture, and to understand the basic features of our story that have motivated us to always move in one direction, and why this direction has always seemed desirable for us. If we take a broader view of history, not only will the long story of the European choice become obvious, but we will also become convinced that, as Robakidze said, “every swing of our creation was branded” with our aspirations towards the West. Indeed, Western elements can be seen in all spheres creative. But when this becomes obvious in architecture – that most complex sphere, which combines lifestyle and art, and which is the clearest manifestation of talent, skill, taste, and, most importantly, the choice of the nation – no questions about orientation remain, as architecture is not the same as, for example, clothes, which very few can order in Paris or make on the spot, imitating foreigners. The implementation of architectural projects is a result of the collective contribution of society at a specific time and era and is directly dependent on a nation’s political, social, religious, and cultural situation as well as its historically shaped traditions and lifestyle. 1

Grigol Robakidze (1880-1962) – a Symbolist Georgian author.


Architecture is the clearest reflection of a nation’s character, soul, and heart. Building and architectural experience often reflects the knowledge and aspirations hidden deep within layers of consciousness which have accumulated over centuries. Despite the fact that we have repeatedly failed to achieve full-fledged integration with Europe due to various circumstances, a look at Georgian architectural heritage will make it absolutely clear that “we have always aspired towards the west”. . However, this aspiration has taken its own, unique path. Of course, had we had the appropriate desire, we have always possessed the necessary amount of information regarding building and architecture in Europe to be able to follow the European path of architectural development., However, in order for the appropriate will and readiness to have expressed themselves, an equal environment would have been needed. The notion of an aspiration towards the West carries the implication of having only the best values in common, and does not include the loss of freedom or national identity. It was due to these types of threats that we responded to the violence coming from Orthodox Christian Europe – the Byzantine Empire – with the rejection of the accompanying culture and decided to create a wholly original ecclesiastic architecture. This aim was achieved and we took such a “praiseworthy path” that Georgian heritage is invariably mentioned when listing the achievements of Orthodox Christian architecture. Unlike the Byzantine Empire with its relative security, Georgia faced constant Muslim expansion and frequent continued enslavement which gave rise to other threats and a specific reaction to these threats. In most cases, Georgia’s direct confrontation with outside imperial ambitions endangered the survival of the nation and the instinct for self-preservation forced us to conform to outside influences, but even in these most complicated times, we managed to create and disseminate our own culture. Alien forms and elements, even those coming from mortal enemies, were so skilfully “stewed” in Georgia’s cultural “fermentation” that the final product nevertheless retained a “taste” of our own. A constant openness towards alien elements, which is a central feature of our soul and character, enabled us to introduce these elements broadly in the arts and everyday life, even though they were mostly imposed on us by force. Such new elements were introduced in amounts and with such tact as to become merely organic decorations, becoming part of the final image of what we already had and ultimately expressing only the authenticity and diversified nature of our own artefacts. Suffice it to mention that some architectural and construction forms characteristic of the Islamic world found their place not only in secular architecture, but also in Georgian churches. Thousands of buildings extant on current, or historic, Georgian territory confirm the aforementioned. Correspondingly, this is an issue for much


broader research. Given this, we will try to describe the historic picture in general terms and then consider the recent past in more detail. There is no doubt that for centuries, the main reason for the preservation of “our own” culture was the character of the nation, and its main feature that has taken shape historically: being surrounded by mostly hostile countries, cultures, and civilisations and often facing the threat of disappearance, we viewed the preservation of our unique face as the only method for survival. However, what is meant by “face”? What is it? Is it loyalty to the culture, religion, lifestyle and taste? Is it a selfless obstinacy, or the fear of being assimilated by others? In our opinion, it is all this together supplemented by the central aspect that determines every nation’s subscription to one concrete worldview of civilisation: cultural orientation, which is the path to the desirable world that we regard as most appropriate for us. And, for Georgia, this path has long borne a name: Europe. It is our precise architectural heritage that reflects the nation’s spiritual and cultural face that provides the main evidence for our historic orientation. As regards the question of whether Georgian architecture is European or Asian, the answer is unambiguous: our culture in general and architecture in particular is obviously European. That is strongly individualistic, open, marked by Christian values and, if we refer to modern definitions, definitely democratic. Architecture which is “closed” to the environment by blind facades turned towards the streets with the deliberately blocked and sealed characteristic of Asia has always been alien to us. Being historically situated at the crossroads of multiple ethnicities and cultures, ethnic groups with equal rights existed harmoniously in Georgia, creating their own culture and art without losing ties with their own individual roots. In short, the main principle of today’s Europe – the harmonious unification of various nations within one European family – has been natural and wellknown to Georgia for a long time. Unlike other periods, the architecture which flourished during the era of Georgia’s absorption by the Russian Empire is definitely European not only in Tbilisi, but also in small towns or other big cities. Reflections of western architecture can be seen everywhere: in town planning, residential structures, or buildings serving some other functions. Therefore, the only thing one needs to do to admit that the architecture of our recent past was European is simply express the desire to see it for what it is. However, if we keep turning a blind eye to the urban heritage of 19th and 20th century Georgia and take a look at the appearance of European cities in general, we will indeed fail to see anything familiar with our cities. However, in its essence, architecture is not confined to its visible side. As an inseparable part of life, it is also alive, so it is born and can die. Like in


any living organism, spirituality and the features that ultimately determine the national character and cultural choice expressed in historic memory are decisive in defining architecture. It is clear that in this regard, even externally most “non-European� pieces of architecture in our country are precisely European in their essence, as they bear fundamental European values and a European cultural spirit. Georgian architecture is Christian, free, and open; harmoniously combined with the landscape and climate. It shares the cultures of many ethnicities and civilisations and, at the same time, it is emphatically individualistic. Isolated from Europe after the fall of Constantinople (1453), Georgia established contacts with the Western world and particularly from the 19th century, as part of the Russian Empire. The geographical position of our country, particularly its coastline on the Black Sea, enabled us to establish and maintain contact with Europe more quickly than we did with the central part of Russia. Therefore, the opinion that everything European reached us only via Russia is not valid. The role of the empire was not decisive in bringing about the Europeanisation of our country. That said, it is true that our absorption by the Russian Empire did open for us a path to Europe that had been blocked for centuries. However, we had been aware of the existence of this path since ancient times. Moreover, we were already related to Europe due to our common spiritual roots in classical culture and the Bible. The public that enjoyed this open road to Europe brought new fashions, aesthetics, and various novelties back to the country and disseminated


them. However, this could not have happened had the necessary climate not already existed in the country. It is clear that the “grounds for such Europeanisation were being prepared earlier, back in the 18th century, never mind the fact that it was Europe that Georgia had naturally been culturally oriented towards for centuries. The ‘East’ with its specific habits and traditions was imposed on it by force during the last centuries of the existence of Georgian kingdoms.” (Beridze, V. Architecture in Tbilisi. Vol. 1, p17) Although Georgia was the political and administrative centre of the Russian Empire in the Transcaucasus, the gap between Georgia and Europe was particularly evident here in the early 19th century. One fact can help us to clarify the situation in general: at a large industrial exhibition in London in 1851, architect Joseph Paxton presented a huge Crystal Palace made of metal and glass, built over a period of five months with the use of the most up-to-date materials and technologies. The building’s total floor area amounted to more than 71,000 square metres. At that time, Georgians lived in conditions of serfdom, which was abolished only 13 years later, in 1864. This comparison illustrates how far removed we were from the achievements of Paxton and Europe in general, but we had already achieved some success in architecture. By the 1840s, this weak country, which continued to live according to the rules of feudalism, elaborated and developed an example of free creation appropriate for the new era and conditions: the residential houses typical of Tbilisi, which were a combination of local, classicist, and traditional architecture, and are believed to constitute the first serious step made by Georgian architecture under the conditions of obsolescent feudalism. This victory was not easily won: being part of the Russian Empire and hence of a new socio-political environment, that this entailed made it necessary to construct buildings with new functions previously unknown in feudal Georgia. In addition, the official construction policy of that time envisioned the implementation of obligatory projects elaborated in advance only by relevant services of the empire in the “Russian Classicist” style. This rule was equally valid for state and public buildings, as well as residential architecture. Given the fact that, at that time, we did not have any professional architects, engineers, or builders appropriate for that time, the scope of the obstacles our compatriots had to overcome is clear. Living conditions also changed during this era, leading to the elimination of traditional dwellings such as houses with “bani” (flat earth cover roofs) and “darbazi” (hall) type houses. These disappeared from towns together with the Feudal system. However, due to certain universal features that are regarded as exemplary even in modern architecture such traditional styles continue to be topical. These features were best described by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio in the 1st century BC: firmitas, utilitas, venustas


(firmness, convenience, beauty). Even in the world of the 21st century, the Bani buildings often decorated with vegetative covering, continue to be widespread and popular. Although modern circumstances demanded change, traditional architectural forms well-adjusted to local environmental conditions and lifestyle for centuries were not easily replaced. However, a solution was found: the need to have a direct connection with the environment and a corresponding love of open spaces led to the replacement of the “bani” houses by residential houses with large broad balconies or “shushabandi” glassed galleries. One important factor is particularly noteworthy: balconies have never been an unknown architectural form for us. They have been part of our architectural vocabulary for centuries. The simple explanation is that balconies became widespread in residential houses due to functional, not artistic values. The American architect Louis Henry Sullivan (1856-1924) said in 1896 that “ form always follows function”. Even earlier than this, Vitruvius also identified function as one of the obligatory principles of architecture. Correspondingly, this wise architectural decision transformed balconies into such a viable form that they continue to be irreplaceable in all Georgian districts and regions. By taking into account our own lifestyle and natural conditions and creating residential houses typical for Tbilisi, we were successful in preparing for the obligatory building requirements stipulated by imperial policy and in introducing new forms appropriate for this new lifestyle. Although the population was unable to put up resistance to architectural projects and state building plans imposed by the government, it did enjoy more freedom in building residential houses, where massive and total control was impossible. Therefore, owners and craftsmen often resorted to improvisations on the obligatory classicist details in facades and boldly added features such as balconies on both sides, open and closed staircases and passages, arches over entrances, and passages within buildings. Balconies on main facades seemed to play the role of a theatrical stage for residents embodying the free nature and character typical of southern countries. Artistry and a love of the arts were quite widespread in all Georgian regions and these balconies were best adjusted to this type of soul and sentiment. Compared to the central facades, the areas on the other side of residential houses were more domestic, but also open and broad. It was these residential houses and neighbourhoods that were created and built with the active involvement of local residents, not the official buildings ordered by the imperial state representatives, that precisely reflected the true sentiments of the public of that time; their tastes, orientation and


creative skills. Similar buildings were quickly constructed based on both the influence of Tbilisi as well as local interpretations in the towns of Georgia, big and small – places like Telavi, Signagi, Kutaisi, and so forth. This had an interesting effect in the context of the development of a truly Georgian architecture and a full awakening of the Georgian population of the time. This process highlighted the reality that the population, which had been stupefied by numerous problems after they found themselves taken in to the Russian Empire, had “awoken” and was ready for economic and cultural change. These events provide an excellent confirmation of Georgian writer and public figure Geronti Kikodze’s assertion that: “A spiritually free nation can create many beautiful and great things even in political slavery.” (Kikodze, G. Nationality, Language, and Aesthetic Culture) As a popular phenomenon, residential houses in Tbilisi can be seen as the best historic facts reflecting the spiritual, mental, and physical state of the public at that time. However, architecture not only describes history, it is often prophetic. Created on the basis of ancient knowledge, cultural traditions, and life experience, it comprehensively reflects a nation’s capabilities and vital power in every concrete situation. At the time of yet another historic trouble, the emergence of a new architecture in the country that had joined the Russian Empire under the name of the Tbilisi and Kutaisi governorates predicted back in the times of serfdom the emergence of a spiritual force that was to save the Georgian nation. This prediction soon came true in the emergence of Ilia Chavchavadze and other public figures of his generation. This phenomenon is indicative of the start of Georgia’s genuine Europe-


anisation and our final awakening in the 19th century, which eventually facilitated the achievement of political freedom. It is noteworthy that the houses typical of Tbilisi – so-called Tbilisi House -- became desirable and attractive not only for the various long-term resident ethnicities of Georgia, but also for the Germans, who started arriving from Baden Wurttemberg beginning in 1817. These Germans established settlements not only in Didube and the area adjacent to the current David Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi, but also in Abkhazia, Outer Kakheti, Shida and Kvemo Kartli, and the districts of Dmanisi and Tsalka. Their unique architectural heritage is well-preserved and can still be seen in the villages they used to populate. These houses have specific lattices, German Fachwerk, and traditional Georgian wooden balconies. This was probably the first time in Georgian history that our local architecture had an obvious impact on the popular architecture of a prominent Western European country well-known for its building culture. Germans settled not only in Georgia, but also in other areas of the Russian Empire, including our neighbour Azerbaijan. This issue is also interesting because the planning of these German villages follows the rules of a popular architecture which is purely German. The contribution of Georgian relatives is ruled out, as there were almost no mixed families in these villages. No professional engineers or architects were involved and, given the isolationist lifestyle of most Germans, it is unlikely that local Georgian craftsman were included. It follows that the European population – in this case the Germans – built with their own hands the houses that bore signs of Georgian influence. Their lives in these houses were calm and happy until the outbreak of World War II, when they were all evicted by Stalin. Together with the local population, local craftsmen played a major role in successfully creating Tbilisi houses. Depending on their professions, the craftsmen were united in hierarchical and well-organised groups called amkari (guilds) that adhered to their own obligatory traditions and written and unwritten laws. They created a genuine example of a democratic and civil society. These people bore the invaluable traditions and life or professional experience our ancestors had laboriously perfected and developed over centuries. In conditions characterized by a lack of appropriate technologies and industry, the development of the construction business raised the viability of guilds and individual craftsmen, who survived almost until the Soviet era. The craftsmen of the guilds immediately sensed the novelties brought in by the time, making their activities even more varied and multi-profiled. The professionalism of these craftsmen created a strong basis for a new and more complicated stage in our architecture, in which eclectic architecture, as in European and other cities throughout the world, started to become wide-


spread in Georgia. Buildings of this type implied varied facades created on the basis of a mixture of European styles from different periods. Just like the “darbazi” and “bani” houses were earlier displaced by houses with balconies in Tbilisi, this time it was eclecticism that ushered in a new wave of change. The facades of Eclectic buildings were decorated with ornaments that had been elaborated in Europe and were well-known there. However, novelties and improvements could also be seen in these designs and functions. With the exception of courtyards, entrances were also constructed in the shape of halls with staircases in them. Their artistic side and decorations were often richer and subtler than those found on facades. Walls were mostly painted with various designs and landscapes. Marble was used for staircases and mosaic and terrazzo for floors. Decorative lattices made of metal and other details of fences, balconies, windows, gates, entrances, roofing, doors, and staircases also deserve special mention. Metal work or elements made of cast iron or iron became so popular and, correspondingly, reached such a high level of design that some of them can undoubtedly be regarded as true works of art. All the storeys of houses built in the Eclectic style had small balconies with decorative metal banisters. These roofless and small open spaces were insufficient for people. Therefore, Georgians failed to part with the large wooden balconies that were quite organic and built broad wooden balconies with balustrade decorations on the back side of every storey of these European Eclectic houses. This novelty is most important in the history of Georgian architecture. It is absolutely original and inimitable. We added traditional local features to the European Eclectic style, which was cosmopolitan in general. Local craftsmen, who were quite skilled in building techniques, interpreted this new task in a free, creative, and interesting manner and transformed what had been a purely European phenomenon in Georgia not into Eclecticism, but rather into an organic and successful fusion of alien and local elements. The development of the country sped up after the abolition of serfdom. The construction of new plants and factories and the completion of the Baku-Poti railway line facilitated economic development as well as the improvement of living conditions. Due to the slow pace of industrialisation, the need for skilled craftsmen remained an important issue in the building industry, but their ranks were gradually bolstered by local engineers and architects, who were professionals with academic educations. Most of these were foreigners, many had been born and raised in Georgia and were well acquainted with local conditions. Correspondingly, their projects tended to be reflections of local conditions and building traditions rather than just simple rep-


etitions of European forms. They often employed a European Eclecticism Georgianised through balconies on the back sides of buildings, creating matchless and excellent examples together with local craftsmen. Appropriate town planning regulations had already been widely put into place. Various buildings designed for political, government, military, educational, scientific, cultural, public and other purposes were intensively constructed, as well as modern bridges and other infrastructure. Like in Europe, buildings that could bring profit through rent were also built. Big hotels satisfying European standards and demands were also built more frequently. Muddy streets were paved and horse trams were replaced by electric ones. At the end of the 19th century, Georgia had become fascinated by the idea of building a cable car, a trend which was very popular in the world at this time. In 1900, the government of Tbilisi signed an agreement to build one on Mtatsminda. The construction according to the design of the French engineer A. Blanch started in 1903. The architectural work was done by the Tbilisi architect Alexander Shimkevich. The work involving reinforced concrete was done with the help of Niko Nikoladze, the Georgian developer and public intellectual. The Mtatsminda Funicular, which turned out to be one of the longest and most difficult routes for a cable railway at that time, was opened in a solemn ceremony in 1905. It is noteworthy that not only the cable railway, but many other buildings constructed during that time – banks, schools, residential houses, hospitals, theatres, operas, museums, and so forth – presently continue to retain their originally intended functions, an impressive indication of the sound architectural and engineering values of the era.


Despite the aforementioned progress achieved in the residential sphere, the Eclecticism that was widespread in architecture mostly produced buildings with various facades that were not so interesting in terms of creativity. However, the overall lack of style and the Eclectic “ratatouille” which dominated Russia and some other countries at the end of the 19th century did allow one interesting phenomenon to emerge. Architects, who became uninspired by European Eclecticism reverted to old roots and national motives and, compiling samples taken from their own past, tried to create something new and at the same time, “traditional”. A number of such buildings were constructed in Georgia. However, in spite of the noble desire to build “in Georgian”, local architects soon became convinced that this was self-deception rather than genuine creation. However, taking into account the political situation at that time, this fact is indeed noteworthy. The use of a well-known Medieval Georgian decoration in these modern buildings was a daring step in a country that had been under Russian captivity for most than one century and that constantly faced the issue of the continuing threat to the existence of the mother tongue. In addition to being “one loud word confirming the nation’s existence and national thirst” (Beridze V. Architecture in Tbilisi, Vol. 2, p 45), such an inventiveness raised hopes that the country was ready to embark upon a genuine creative journey in architecture. This was proven through the creation and spread of a new European style – Modernism – throughout Georgia. This new style first appeared in the decorative and applied arts in the 1880s in Europe and started to be used in architecture at the very end of the century. This was the end of the creation of modernism as a fullfledged artistic and architectural style based on 50 years of active creative searches undertaken by theoreticians and practicing specialists in various European countries. The scientific achievements and inventions of the 19th century, and the corresponding technical opportunities previously non-existent in human history, as personified by Paxton’s Crystal Palace, heralded the quick onset of an industrial era of amazing scale. Opponents of the trend emerged in England proper and a movement called “Arts and Crafts” was launched in 1861 under the leadership of William Morris (1834-1896), a poet and architect inspired by socialist ideas and by the works of art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). Morris and his friends opposed capitalist industrialisation and uniform mass production, trying instead to elevate traditional craftsmanship to the level of art. Morris himself implemented his ideas by building his residential house (Red House, 1859), effectively preparing the grounds for the term “design”. It is true that he was bitterly defeated in the struggle against modern industry and standardisation, but it was due to his efforts


that people in various European countries started searching for new styles and original forms to embody them. Illustrated magazines, periodicals, placards, and international and regional exhibitions that were quite frequent in European countries also helped facilitate the final shaping of modernism. Finally, the new style became established in architecture as well and the first structure created in the modernist style was Belgian architect Victor Horta’s (1861-1947) Hotel Tassel built in 1894. Each country adopted this new style in its own specific manner and it evolved under a variety of names: Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Style Liberty, Modernisme, Modern, and Secession. In Russia and Georgia it was known as Modern. The movement’s trademark was to approach a structure as a single, unified work of art, as it aimed to unite every minor detail of a house and its interior in a uniformity of style. The creation of these buildings absorbed almost all fields of art, tempering a wide array of media to adhere to a single aesthetic: painting, sculpture, mosaic, stained-glass, wallpaper made of decorative fabric or paper, moulded or plastered decoration, artistic woodwork, the subtlest of metal lattices on balconies and staircases, chandeliers, door and window handles, coloured and glazed ceramics, terrazzo, majolica, and decorative structures made of metal and glass – all these were made in one style. The artistic charm of the style also made use of a number of progressive features: It actively introduced and broadly used up-to-date technological and building achievements. Correspondingly, innovations such as electricity, central heating, lifts, sewerage systems, and others made Modernist houses not only beautiful, but also comfortable. In addition to architecture and design, Modernism penetrated almost all spheres of life and the arts and, unsurprisingly, spread rapidly throughout the world. In Europe coming off of a long period without any true stylistic innovation, everyone welcomed with admiration the emergence of a new style. Few could remain indifferent to Modernism’s unusual and absolutely original approach to decoration, its symbolic and poetic motives, its colourful and fabulous issues, its carnival-like and jubilant appearance, and its closeness to the world of fantasy. Modernist masters realised that this was going to be the last style of the old and brilliant era, so acute emotions and impressive artistic decisions prevailed in their creation. They could feel well that people had started working much harder than they used to in order to achieve higher living standards. New challenges emerged due to a growing political demand in the countries. This new and completely different era of fierce world wars


and rapid urbanisation was developing at a high speed, ensuring scientific and technological progress, but endangering the Earth at the same time. Correspondingly, it was not accidental that William Morris and his comrades, who were at the origins of Modernism, were the first to shape the notion of environmental threats and underscore their significance. Modernism made abundant use of natural forms: not styled and petrified flowers, but twisted leaves and quivering and coiling weeds; not eclectic petrified mascarons, but vivid images resembling Faiyum portraits. Architecture became as loud, polyphonic, and musical as ever, reviving a magic world. Modernism transformed the line, which had started back in the times of Barocco, into a real undulating whip, creating asymmetric and dynamic compositions never seen before. Open spaces became fluctuating and decorated with frames of plastic forms and the decoration of interiors and facades was new and original. In general, Modernism’s uniqueness can be attributed to its relatively short life span. The period itself is generally considered to have lasted just 20 years, but in spite of its brevity, this limited time proved to be sufficient for it to expand throughout the world. It is noteworthy that, due to the complicated nature of implementation and the specific features of certain themes, it failed to develop in some European countries. Modernism required lavish creative imagination and a poetic nature in addition to a delicate, mostly manual and almost lapidary working technique along with


high professionalism in performance. Very soon, it became the patrimony of the elect, but presented humankind with numerous unique works of art. Despite its seemingly “non-serious” appearance, it was the novelty and progressive nature of Modernism that laid the foundations for 20th century architecture. In this regard, its contribution to the overall history of architecture is unmatched. If we go back to Georgia after this lengthy definition of Modernism, we will be surprised to see how rich our architectural heritage is in this style not only in Tbilisi, but also in Sokhumi, Batumi, Poti, Kutaisi, Gagra, Akhali Atoni, Borjomi, Kobuleti, and Dusheti. The first three towns are ports; the fourth was an industrial town; and the remaining four – health resorts. It is, however, the example of Dusheti, a small administrative settlement in a mountain region, which had a Modernist building, which proves that the new style was indeed very popular in Georgia. It is clear that there were no ideological, philosophical, or other intellectual grounds prepared here, but this proved to be no obstacle in introducing and spreading this completely new style that was very interesting in terms of creation. This was an organic continuation of the trend in the development of Georgian architecture that started with the creation of Tbilisi residential houses in the early 19th century. The successful path of the development of builders’ skills moved from relatively boring Eclecticism to Modernism without hindrance and set a new path for the natural development of both professionals and local craftsmen, who proved to be both open and technically prepared to creatively share in this new style.


By the time Modernism was introduced in Georgia, William Morris had already died. He would probably have been happy to see that in Georgia at that time excellent grounds were in place to uphold his arts and crafts philosophy and that manual work, not machines, was the leading force in building and architecture. Therefore, the style that was meant only for well-off people in Europe became available for people with medium and low incomes in Georgia. Correspondingly, buildings with various functions built in the Modernist style can be seen everywhere in Georgia, in different neighbourhoods of cities populated by varying social strata, health resorts, and provincial settlements. In 1901, seven years after the first Modernist building – Victor Horta’s Hotel Tassel – was built in Europe, the first building in this style appeared in Georgia: the pavilion of the brothers Nobel, decorated with sculptures by the Georgian artist Iakob Nikoladze, was unveiled at the Caucasus exhibition. The building can now be seen only in photos, but most of the other structures remain. They show full well the praiseworthy professionalism of local craftsmen and the preferred choice and taste of our population. New building materials and implements were delivered directly from Europe via the Black Sea. Foreign craftsmen and their workshops also participated, together with local craftsmen, in the construction and decoration of buildings. Decorative, marble, and mosaic workshops of Novak, Wilsey, and Andreoletti were held in Tbilisi. Many foreign artists also participated in painting and decorating halls and rooms. It is important that we encounter the realistic landscapes of various Georgian regions together with the themes widespread at that time in the buildings of Eclectic and Modernist style. Professional Georgian engineers and architects with academic educations started their activities at the end of the 19th century. Houses in the Modernist style designed in 1902 and 1904 by architects Simon Kldiashvili (1865-1920) and Grigol Kurdiani (1873-1957) are still standing in Tbilisi at 4, Rome Street and 28, Ninoshvili Street, making the environment very attractive thanks to their beauty and originality. Prominent Georgian figures – Ilia Chavchavadze and philanthropist David Sarajishvili in Tbilisi, Niko Nikoladze in the village of Didi Jikhaishi, Abkhaz Prince Giorgi Sharvashidze in Sokhumi, and philanthropist Akaki Khoshtaria in the village of Sujuna – chose the Modernist style for their residential houses. However, as noted above, unlike Europe, this style was available not only for the well-off in Georgia. Representatives of almost all social strata actively shared in it. Despite the overall interest in Modernism, the creative approach of local craftsmen and the public nevertheless had an impact on the architecture of residential houses. As in the case of Eclecticism, the back sides of hous-


es were again covered with traditional balconies, but the decorations of these balconies were done in the Modernist style and wooden banisters were replaced with decorative nets. In Georgia, Modernism also acquired many features rarely found elsewhere. There were numerous houses built that had little in common with the Modernist style, but their details were nevertheless in the Modernist style. It is quite common to resort to this style when repairing or reconstructing houses. The reconstruction of the Artsruni Caravanserai is of particular note. Originally built in the 17th century near the Sioni Cathedral in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Tbilisi and destroyed and reconstructed many times since then, in 1912, its facade was reconstructed in the Modernist style. The population’s universal interest in Modernist motives in Georgia at the beginning of the 20th century, the era of industrial capitalism, revived the anonymity of artists typical of the Middle Ages. Despite the existence of established rules for building and architecture introduced by the state, not everyone could afford to adhere to them and many agreed upon plans directly with craftsmen to make concrete changes in their houses, provided the changes were insignificant. Correspondingly, unknown craftsmen were active in renovating houses of various styles and eras. They made Modernist gates for courtyards and halls, window lattices, staircase and balcony banisters, plastered and moulded elements, paintings in halls and rooms, door handles, and frames for mailboxes. The artistic value of the works was so high that the dream of William Morris to raise craftsmanship to the level of art was indeed coming true in Georgia of that time. Along with being international in nature, Modernism became the most democratic style in Georgia. It enabled any interested person, irrespective of his or her social or public status, to have his/her own say and become involved in the European process. It is also pleasing to note that this process was a genuinely creative one, not one of mere mechanical repetition. Among the examples that have been found and studied up to now, there are only several houses with identical balconies and staircases in Tbilisi, while all other houses, more than 300 in number, are single and unmatched in our architectural heritage. One more internationalist and democratic feature of Modernism in Georgia was that the Latin greeting SALVE that could frequently be seen on the floors of halls in buildings of the Eclectic style was replaced by new words of the same meaning in Georgian, Armenian, and Russian. The functional variety of Modernist buildings is very specific in Georgia. In addition to residential houses and banks built in this style in Georgia, there was also a hospital, a maternity house, the conservatoire, a library, a carriage depot, a pawnshop, a greenhouse, schools and other educational institutions,


shops and manufacturing plants, and theatres and theatre cinemas. We can still see a tobacco plant, the country’s first thermoelectric power plant, and a magnetic observatory in the village of Karsani near Mtskheta. There are also excellent memorial monuments at historic cemeteries in addition to buildings. The cinema theatres built in the Modernist style are particularly noteworthy. It is known that the emergence of these two novelties in the world occurred at almost the same time and it is most important that the same can be said about their successful introduction in Georgia. At that time, Modernist style cinema theatres had been built in almost all big cities. It is known that the Brothers Lumiere presented the first public film screening in history on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris in 1895. The first film was shown in a theatre in Tbilisi a year later, on 16 November 1896. The Modernist cinema theatres constructed in Georgia – in Kutaisi, Batumi, and in other cities – have unfortunately all been demolished, and the only remaining example can be found in Tbilisi: the Apollo, which was built in 1909. So what were the features of the Modernist style that enabled it to charm all the craftsmen of our country? The first thing to mention is probably the fact that the approach was indeed new and full of creative joy, not something like the endless repetition of pre-existing elements, as in Eclecticism. In addition, the introduction and emergence of Modernism implied, to a certain extent, a moving along the European path and, by extension, professionally competing with Europe. The introduction and development of Modernism was directly linked to our constant aspiration to become a free country equal with Europe in our own capabilities, culture, and art, as we had been unable to make independent decisions for a long time.


However, the Modernist style could not have become so firmly established in Georgia if it had only been embraced by craftsmen and builders. As usual, ordering customers – the people – also made a major contribution to the evolution of architecture. The Modernist style allowed people, who yearned to be free, to make a choice and to move in the direction of those countries that they had long aspired to live with on an equal footing. Although we continued to exist as a conquered country, this particular status had no impact on our creative freedom. We moved step by step with Europe and the rest of the world, trying to make our contribution to all spheres of culture and art, including architecture. Previously, when speaking about the development of architecture, we used to refer to residential houses alone, but a new approach proved to be necessary in the Modernist era. Along with local people representing various social strata, the bourgeoisie also became interested in this movement. They started building various public, medical, and industrial buildings in the Modernist style. Local entrepreneurs became increasingly rich and powerful as capitalism developed. Some of them proved to be great philanthropists and sponsors. In this connection, it is worth mentioning the People’s House that the brothers Levan, Stepane, Petre, and Iakob Zubalashvili had commissioned in Tbilisi to immortalise the name of their father, Konstantine. The idea of building people’s houses came from European countries and was meant to serve the segment of society that was unable to receive sufficient education or satisfy their cultural needs because of the inequalities caused by capitalism. The first people’s house in the Modernist style was built by a pioneer of the style, Victor Horta, in Brussels in 1899. In 1965, the house was demolished to build a skyscraper and the Belgian public has gone through a painful reckoning regarding this serious mistake. Fortunately, the People’s House built by the Zubalashvilis is still standing, although it is now called the Kote Marjanishvili Theatre, not Konstantine Zubalashvili’s People’s House. The brothers Zubalashvili held an international contest in 1902 to build the house. Thirty-two architects from across the Russian Empire participated. The Zubalashvilis selected the project in the Modernist style submitted by S. Krichinsky. A. Rogoysky, an architect from Tbilisi, was tasked with the construction of the building. The story of the Zubalashvili family and this building is the best proof that Georgia and its citizens of that time were indeed European. Therefore, we are going to dwell briefly on this contribution to the development of their country. The deeds carried out by the Zubalashvilis not only in their homeland, but also in other countries – places where they lived or worked – were inestimable. They presented the Louvre in Paris with 581 works. The antiq-


uities they bought to Russia are now kept in the State Museum, the Kremlin, the Kuskovo and Pushkin museums, and the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed. In Georgia, they built 15 Catholic churches and contributed greatly to the construction of the university and the conservatoire. They sent talented young people to the best European universities. The Zubalashvilis opened the first free cafeteria (called the Samadlo restaurant in Soviet times, and which no longer exists) and a shelter for the poor (the former children’s hospital in Zubalashvili Street that now hosts a district administration) in Tbilisi. The People’s House in Tbilisi was exemplary in the Russian Empire due both to its professional attitudes and its interethnic nature. Concerts and performances were held here in a multitude of languages including Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Polish, Jewish, Ossetian, Assyrian, Lithuanian, German, and Greek. There was a special monthly schedule of soirees for troupes working in 12 languages. There were various cultural circles, a free library, and a cafeteria. There was a special musical group that staged operas. The People’s House was an excellent manifestation of the multicultural nature of our capital and a cultural centre of international importance. For the People’s House, the Zubalashvilis chose the European Modernist style as the most up-to-date and progressive of the time. The main facade of the building was decorated with a bas-relief. In this case, it is the content of the work that is important, not its artistic image, as it seems to finally sum up and close the chapter on our historic choice and to chart the vector of our future development. On one side of the bas-relief, there are three figures in classical clothes symbolising the three European arts – literature, music, and painting. On the other side, there are three Georgian women of varying social status, a fact which is reflected in their different clothing. Next to them, there are stones with well-known Medieval Georgian ornaments, showing the old age and worth of our culture. The figure symbolising literature gives a book to a Georgian woman. This is the plot of the bas-relief that serves the ancient idea of the place of Georgia and its culture being ultimately viewed only in close integration with Europe. It is important that this ancient idea of aspiration towards Europe was voiced again in the 20th century. It was reflected in an artistic manner on a building constructed in a European style. The introduction and spread of the Modernist style enabled us to enter into a dialogue with European countries using our own “loud” timely and equal architectural word. The Modernist style was attractive in Georgia mostly due to the fact that it was not introduced in a violent manner, something which directly and unambiguously identified it with freedom of choice and, most importantly, it had nothing to do with the conquering power of Russia. It implied our voluntary involvement in Europe. Georgia was getting ready to start


“walking” independently at that time and political independence was also obtained in 1918-1921. Unfortunately, the independence achieved as a result of the collapse of the Russian Empire did not last long. Georgia again found itself facing a long period of captivity and, ironically, again Russia was the conquering force, although this time it was Communist Russia that proved, in the end, to be much crueler. Thus, the country and its architecture were subordinated to a totalitarian system for decades. This is how the Europeanisation of our country and architecture has developed at the beginning of the 20th century. Almost one hundred years have passed since then and free and independent Georgia is aspiring to become a full-fledged member of the European family. Let us see how our environment and architecture will change with regard to this new political situation. We managed to “Europeanise” pretty well, when we were a conquered country. Now that Georgia has become independent, its capital – “the old city doomed to be courageous” (Tbilisi, Titsian Tabidze) –which wrote all pains and successes with its buildings in our long history, will hopefully move ahead to stand side-by-side with the rest of contemporary Europe. Political freedom will definitely produce positive results and, like our ancestors did, we will occupy a worthy place in Europe, as will our architecture.




GEORGIAN THEATRE IN SEARCH OF LOST EUROPEANISM Georgian theatre emerged precisely at that geopolitical space and time where European civilisation and European culture, particularly theatre, were born and took shape. The closest neighbourhood, the Classical world, had transport links and colonies in Georgia, while Christianity, which emerged in Asia Minor and was confined to Mediterranean countries (including Georgia on the Black Sea) for several centuries, spread north. These were effectively the two factors that determined the emergence and constant aspiration of the Georgian performance culture towards European theatre culture. Georgian performance culture travelled a discontinuous and complicated road in this direction, maintaining appropriate spirituality and forms that were reflected in the coincidence of classical stages in the course of Georgian and European theatre development. We inherited the following from the Classical world: A stage with an orchestra and several rows for viewers in Uplistsikhe, a town carved in a mountain (3rd century BC); a platform (stage) where ceremonial scenes could be performed, discovered in the Colchian town of Kutaia (modern Kutaisi), and a Classical amphitheatre in the ancient capital of Georgia, Mtskheta (2nd century BC), which continues to be used today. The writing of Greek and Byzantine travellers and philosophers confirm that ceremonial and entertainment performances were staged and there were appropriate buildings in Georgia. According to a more recent note by Byzantine historian, Procopius of Caesarea (5th century AD), the town of Apsaros near modern Batumi was “adorned with a theatre and hippodrome.” Various items found in archaeological excavations depict scenes of ceremonies and visual arts, such as a silver chalice engraved with masked people engaged in a circular dance and Colchian coins with dancing figures wearing ox masks. Researchers compare the circular dances depicted on these artefacts with Svan circular melia-tulepia and adrekilai dances that are believed to be linked to the Hittite fertility god Telepinu cult. Marches to glorify Amirani (Georgian mythology’s Prometheus) and Prometheus -


lamproba and lampadiforia - are still held in Svaneti and the Greek island of Naxos respectively. Artefacts confirming the existence of Dionysian rituals are also quite numerous among archaeological finds. A unique mask of Dionysus, believed to be a decoration from a performance venue, was found in archaeological excavations in Vani. Sculptures of Dionysus, together with Selene and Satires, were discovered in Bichvinta, mosaic pictures of Dionysus and Ariadne in the village of Dzalisa, and the very rare terracotta figures in the ruins of the town of Sarkine. The latter reflects the mythic marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne, a niece of Colchian King Aeëtes. The Samaya, a beautiful Georgian dance inspired by the dancing of the three women accompanying Dionysus, confirms the existence of Dionysian Mysteries. However, I think that the Greek and Byzantine sources that mention Georgia, a country famous for wine and dancing, as an early residence of Dionysus, must be particularly attractive for Georgians. The Georgian language had a word used from ancient times to denote theatre - sakhilveli - a place for viewing. The Latin word Theatron appeared presumably in the Middle Ages. In Georgian historiographic sources, we encounter this word in various contexts: they were involved in theatre activities, he, who built a theatre in the city, theatron lovers and others. Sources also confirm the Georgian equivalent of catharsis and Deus ex machine . There were Georgian words for orchestra – Gansatskhromeli (a place for enjoyment) and scene – Samgerali (a place to sing). The word Mkhiobeli (that who plays, i.e. who says dithyrambs) is of the same root. In Modern Georgian it was transformed into Msakhiobi (actor, comedian). When the process of typological division of culture in general and the professional transformation of theatre started in the Middle Ages, the Georgian theatre became involved in the process very easily and naturally. Mystery drama (Adam and Eve, Abramiani, Christ’s Poem, and others) took shape in that period, while it would in Europe later. Due to various calamities, fragments of the works can be found only in the art of pipers (the same as French trouveurs or German minnesingers). A professional theatre of roaming masked actors - Berikaoba - also took shape. It used, like commedia dell’arte, short story-scenes transmitted from generation to generation. Employing a large amount of improvisation, they depicted worthless sons-in-law, cunning matchmakers, brides without dowries, jesters, singing musicians, and bad poets. At the same time, Qeenoba emerged, which was a popular form of carnivalesque performance art. It was given the name much later (in the 13th and 14th centuries), when Georgia became a khanate. Participants in Qeenoba did not wear masks, and created the images of their characters with paint make-up. The visual and plastic sides of the performance changed, as well as the vocabulary


and syntax of improvised dialogues, along with the changing language. However, the simple story lines - people indignant at unjust collection of taxes catch and punish the khan - remained unchanged. The pathos of Qeenoba also remained unchanged. Georgians had fought against all kinds of conquerors. When Russia came to Georgia seemingly as a friend, but effectively as a conqueror, the khan in these performances ended up having Russian ethnicity. Mushaitoba was also among shows for public entertainment. Initially, these were roaming actors like jongleurs in France and spielleute in Germany. Later, they were invited to the royal court to entertain guests and visitors. The most important aspect in the process of the emerging theatre was that the embers of secular theatre - sakhioba - also glowed at the royal court. Visual arts in Georgia at that time, like in Europe, returned to “places meant for performances.” Musical and plastic performances based on dialogues depicting myths, love stories, and praiseworthy deeds by kings and heroes were staged in “royal houses for performances.” Like in Europe during the Renaissance, Georgian kings also had “actors, jesters, and tightrope walkers (mushaits). In Europe, the process of forming genres and typologies of the Medieval theatre resulted in the creation of a new European theatre. New types of buildings, stages, decorative and actor’s art for theatres were also created in this period and most importantly, professional actors emerged. Georgia was also obviously ready to create a new theatre on the basis of the newly-discovered Classical culture, the spirit of the Renaissance, and its own experience. Georgian historian Ivane Javakhishvili (1876-1940) d] said in the 1930s that “the Renaissance movement started in Georgia in the 12th century, but the Mongol invasion prevented it from accomplishing;” and he is essentially right, because Renaissance in Georgia became visible in philosophy, poetry, and architecture and even that was partial. The Georgian theatre of that period did not produce commedia erudite, Renaissance drama or a new type of buildings for theatres. Moreover, we have



very scant information about theatre performances from the late Feudal era (12th-13th centuries) to the end of the 17th century. This is not surprising, as the country was devastated from invasions by Tamerlane (14th century), the Turks and Persians (15th and 16th centuries), and the Ottomans (17th century). There was no time for describing and documenting performances. Invaders especially targeted secular buildings and palaces of noblemen for destruction. Ephemeral theatres could not be maintained in temples that were built as fortresses, where laymen and clerics found shelter and kept all their precious belongings. What remained after the tragedies, can be found scattered in dramatic poetry and “performances” with songs and dances created by poet-kings like The Rose and the Nightingale (“Vardbulbuliani”) by King Teimuraz I, along with examples of polemic dramas, Dialogue between Teimuraz and Rustveli and Dialogue between Man and the World. Conventionally speaking, this “theatre of high poetry” was divided into dramatic story lines, transformed into masks and plots, embodied in berikaoba, improvised scenes of performances in squares, carnivalesque and ritual marches and Qeenoba. Federico Garcia Lorca’s definition, “Theatre is a poetry that leaves a book and goes onto the street” reflects the process and essence of the development of the Georgian theatre art during the Renaissance and some time after it, in a direct and quite European sense. How was the European nature of the performances of that period discernible? Evidence can be found in records by the missionaries of the Dominican Order invited by Queen Rusudan in 1240 and Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s



first European mission, in early 18th century, “to Catholic kings.” This nobleman, feudal lord, writer, scientist, and political figure returned disappointed from Europe, although he was charmed by Louis XIV’s theatre and included Old Georgian theatre terminology and necessary definitions in his Georgian Dictionary. Evidence can also be found in writings by foreign travellers (Jean Chardin, Arcangelo Lamberti and others): “People in this country have a big desire to receive information on everything linked to performances.” King Vakhtang VI (18th c.) helped open a Catholic school in Tbilisi, which can be considered a European kind of project. Theatre art was taught at the school and all teachers unanimously noted the “Georgian’s skill of acting.” Georgian theatre specialists often ask when professional Georgian theatre was created - during the period of King Erekle II or later, in 1850, thanks to the leadership and efforts of playwright and public figure Giorgi Eristavi? I believe there are several reasons that support the claim that the European-style theatre in Georgia started in King Erekle II’s times. At that time, contacts with Europe were restored and dramaturgy had been developing under the influence of the European model that had signs of European Classicism. Additionally, professional theatres started to have specific addresses. During King Erekle’s times, performances were held in homes belonging to three Georgian noble families (Meskhishvili, Orbeliani and Melikishvili). The available sources make it absolutely clear that like in Europe, there were several types of theatres - one that belonged to the church, a second to the royal court, and a third situated in town. And most impor-


tantly, the names of the people who did all they could to preserve the originality of the Georgian theatre and revive its European roots, would no longer be forgotten. We know that a diplomat, a traveller, a writer, a translator, Prince Giorgi Avalishvili (1769-1850), “a good connoisseur of theatre affairs” and a certain Major Gabriel, who was close to King Erekle, were the founders of theatres in the Kartli-Kakheti Kingdom. Gabriel was said to have opened a theatre near the king’s palace, staging comedies and selling tickets with the inscription, “Two coins from Major Gabriel.” His contemporaries noted that this artillery major spoke several European languages. He was a good translator, wrote plays and his activities in theatre were quite profitable. Another person well-known in the theatre at Erekle’s court was David Machabeli, nicknamed Machabela, and was “distinguished among the king’s players and actors, a musician and comedian who was the head of the actors.” He was considered the first “director” in the Georgian theatre. The contribution of Giorgi Avalishvili to the development of theatre was particularly important. He translated works by Erasmus of Rotterdam, Voltaire, John Milton, Félicité de Genlis, and others. He also wrote original Georgian plays, observing the rules of the Classicist theatre. In Teimuraz II, he concentrated on the didactic role of theatre like figures during the Enlightenment era would do. Giorgi Avalishvili founded the theatre at the royal court in 1791. In the same year, Jean Racine’s Iphigenia, translated by Prince Cholokashvili, was staged. Chroniclers of the Georgian theatre wrote that the entrepreneurs of the theatre troupe in Vienna, Graf Kohar and Jakob Reingers, were in Tbilisi at that time and helped the Georgians a lot. Theatre life was becoming increasingly intensive, however, the fate of the first professional theatre proved to be tragic when the entire troupe of the royal theatre perished in the battle against Aga Muhammad Khan in Krtsanisi in 1795. According to Prince Teimuraz, Major Gabriel also died heroically in Krtsanisi, as did Machabela, who encouraged fighters by playing a lute and the festive song, Shadiani. Aga Muhammad Khan’s invasion devastated the country and destroyed the theatre buildings in Telavi and Tbilisi and also the archives of the royal palace. When Russia annexed Georgia in 1801, no professional theatre existed for almost 50 years. Cultural life and theatre moved back to the squares and noblemen’s saloons. A new period of theatre revival started in 1850 thanks to a group of participants of the 1832 anti-Russian plot, who returned to their homeland from exile and prisons. On January 14, 1850, they staged The Family Settlement, by Giorgi Eristavi, in the hall of a Georgian grammar school in Tbilisi. From that day on, January 14 is celebrated annually as Georgian Theatre Day.



Poet, actor, director, and public figure, Giorgi Eristavi’s contribution to ushering European culture into Georgia cannot be overestimated. He laid the foundation for Georgian comedy, founded the Tsiskari literary magazine, wrote a diary depicting his journey to Europe and translated the poetry of Petrarch, Hugo, Beranger, and Schiller. When in exile in Vilno, he learned Polish, became acquainted with the famed Polish dramatist and poet Adam Mickiewicz in Warsaw and translated his poems. Later, he even began translating Rustaveli’s The Knight in the Panther’s Skin into Polish. It was in his theatre that The Doctor Despite Himself by Moliere was staged for the first time (in 1852). The play was translated by Giorgi’s brother especially for the occasion. Due to the success of Italian opera and the “homelessness of Russian drama,” architect Giovanni Scudieri was especially invited from Italy to construct a “theatre building” in the middle of the city in 1847. Candelabras were delivered from Venice, walls were gilded and painted, a curtain was made and medallions of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Calderon, Goldoni, Goethe, and others were imprinted on the plafond ceiling. On 12 April 1850, the Caravanserai Theatre was opened in grand style with Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. Giorgi Eristavi’s constantly operative theatre played performances in this beautiful building once a week. It has since been proven that the Caravanserai Theatre was torched in 1874 due by disgruntled merchants. Philanthropists of that time did not restore the


building, although the shops on the first floor were restored. In 1935, by order of Lavrenti Beria, head of the Political Department of Georgia, the unique building was razed to the ground and the area was transformed into Lenin Square, now Freedom Square. Giorgi Eristavi’s professional theatre exited only six years. The Russian administration feared the increasing popularity of a Georgian-language theatre, so the viceroy ordered it closed, which left the Georgian public with only an Italian opera and the Russian drama theatre, established in 1845 to “Russianize” the local public. However, nothing could halt the development of national theatre. The “circle of stage lovers” continued the cause. An unusual performance was shown in 1859 on the initiative of poet and public figure, Ilia Chavchavadze, who had just arrived from St. Petersburg, and translator Ivane Machabeli. This was King Lear, which had been translated by the pair and presented as tableau vivant. Because speaking in Georgian was forbidden in public places at that time, Chavchavadze sat behind the curtain and read the Shakespearian text and the actors performed on the stage without uttering a word in the a hall filled to capacity. Performances were not just held in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. For example, Moliere’s The Impostures of Scapin, translated by the great Georgian poet, Akaki Tsereteli, was performed in some villages in the eastern region of Kakheti and for the first time in Georgia, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was staged in the Dadiani palace in the village of Bandza on April 16, 1873. Theatre criticism and the first critical reviews also appeared at




that time. European dramaturgy that “invaded” the stage helped contributed to the development of the Georgian language. Our playwrights declared that they were Moliere’s direct descendants and with exemplary skill, they wrote satirical works, vaudevilles, and comedies depicting everyday life and typical images of Georgia. “Theatre? You may ask. Yes, since the day it emerged, the Georgian theatre has been a defender of humour and sharp tongues and peculiar actresses and actors have always revived comedies on the Georgian stage,” Arthur Leist wrote in his book, The Heart of Georgia, published in 1923. The circle of stage lovers became a permanent troupe in 1875. Another drama society established a permanent theatre troupe in 1878, on the initiative of Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli. The press wrote that “actors are ready to work free for two years to help build the theatre.” On September 5, 1879, the renovated professional theatre opened with the comedy, What I Was Looking for and What I Found?, directed by Giorgi Tumanishvili and written by Princess Barbare Jorjadze, who was Georgia’s first female playwright, first feminist and author of the first cook book. Ivane Machabeli continued to translate Shakespeare for the troupe. His translations were so good that they still sound quite contemporary today. As the permanent troupe’s repertoire expanded, European plays became more numerous, as evident on their posters. Several reasons can be attributed to the abundance of European dramaturgy on the Georgian stage. First, of course, is that there were a meager num-


ber of Georgian plays to begin with. Meanwhile, plays by foreign playwrights (Shakespeare, Moliere, Racine, Schiller, etc.), along with light vaudevilles and comedies depicting everyday life, were universal themes and probably a kind of cover that could enable the theatre to depict the issues found in a Georgia living under the Tsarist regime. This was when heroic-romantic and everyday comedies developed in the theatre and dramaturgy. During the same period, Georgians started adapting plays by European authors. The tasteful, moderate and harmonious adaptations of European plays to Georgian reality was called “Georgianisation.” The performance of Homeland (directed by M. Bebutashvili and translated by David Eristavi in 1882) was a good example of the Georgianisation of a play of the same name by Victorien Sardou. The main idea of the Georgian performance was patriotism. National flags were waved during the performance and Lado Aleksi-Meskhishvili, who played the main hero, Levan Khimshiashvili, became a national hero. The 20th century began with a very important event for the Georgian theatre. In 1889, the Drama Society started constructing a building for the Actors’ Society on Golovin Avenue (now Rustaveli Avenue). Philanthropist Isay Pitoev, who loved theatre very much, funded the construction. Later, the Pitoev family fled from the Bolshevik revolution for France, where Georges Pitoëff, Isay’s nephew, won recognition as a member of the famous Cartel of Four. The House of the Actors’ Society (now Rustaveli Theatre) opened ceremoniously on March 5 1901. The beautiful building, which is a masterpiece of architecture in Georgia, was handed over to the troupe in 1905. The government of the First Republic awarded the troupe status of national theatre in 1920 and named it after Shota Rustaveli in 1921. At the turn of the century, the first professional directors appeared in the Georgian theatre: Akaki Pagava, founded a theatre studio and became head of Theatre Institute; Kote Andronikashvili was a future chairman of the Independence Committee and participant in the 1924 rebellion; and Milan-born Mikheil Koreli worked in the Georgia’s provinces and Rustaveli theatre. It was at this time that the Georgian theatre embraced Modernism and new ways of thinking. Additionally, due to 150 years of Tsarist rule, the first generation of Georgian theatre directors (and the Georgian theatre) revealed signs of Russian Realism. This is not surprising, as European theatres were also interested in works by Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, and Meyerhold. After the October Revolution, Georgia regained independence for a short time (1918-1921). Theatre life revived. Directors returned to their homeland from Europe and Russia and staged plays and opened studios. On



his return from Paris in 1918, Giorgi Jabadari set up a Georgian drama studio-theatre. His disciples made up the core of the Georgian Drama (future Rustaveli Theatre) in 1920. At the beginning of 1921, Giorgi Jabadari, an assistant to the finance minister of independent Georgia, K. Kandelaki, went to Paris with a delegation and remained there after the Bolsheviks occupied Georgia in February. He moved to Berlin and became a member of the union of German actors. Throughout his career, he worked at the Odeon theatre in Paris and the Art Theatre in Berlin. He translated Treason by Sumbatashvili-Yuzhin first into French and then, together with his wife, into German and staged it at the Art Theatre in Berlin in 1935. This was the first time a Georgian play was staged in Europe. During the years of independence, new theatres opened and old theatres revived in provinces. French Symbolism and German Expressionism were largely represented in their repertoires. Plays by D’Annunzio, Maeterlinck, and Hauptmann were staged. After Russia’s second occupation in 1921, Georgian culture experienced hard times. The Georgian theatre found itself on the path of self-escape again. In the early Soviet years, the communist government was mostly occupied with strengthening its dictatorial rule and didn’t “tame” culture until the 1930s. This was the time of the creative work of two reformers of the Georgian theatre, Kote Marjanishvili (1872-1933) and Sandro Akhmeteli (1886-1937).



Marjanishvili was raised in the Russian theatre school and was already a well-known director when he arrived in Georgia in 1922. He had worked with Stanislavsky and Gordon Craig, who arrived in Moscow to stage Hamlet, and he himself had staged Fuenteovejuna by Lope de Vega in Kiev. Kote Marjanishvili was creating a psychological synthetic theatre, where everything - the idea of the performance, painting, music, costumes, lighting, and actors - was transformed into one monolith. In 1922, the Soviet Georgian government appointed him head of the Rustaveli Theatre. Here, he met Sandro Akhmeteli, who was a lawyer by education, but a “director by his genius.� He had already staged two plays and both were fiery, explosive, and emotionally Georgian in nature. The modern Georgian theatre was created with the imaginations and energies of the two men. They wanted to change everything in the theatre. Marjanishvili wanted to develop a trend of psychological realism on the basis of the aesthetics of the Russian theatre of that time and Akhmeteli wanted to make Georgian theatre universal by means of qualitative development of the national culture. On 25 November 1922, Marjanishvili staged Fuente Ovejuna in the Rustaveli Theatre. This was the first genuinely modern European performance that laid foundations for synthetic performances in the Georgian theatre. However, I still believe that the first genuinely European performance was Homeland by Giorgi Eristavi, as it introduced a new heroic-romantic trend and the dominance of the protagonist in the Georgian theatre. Fuente Ovejuna was followed by Masses Man written by German Expressionist Ernst Toller (together with director M. Koreli, 1923), Hamlet (1925),


the first non-pantomime performance, and Mzetamze (1926). In these performances, Marjanishvili tried to shape a new style of actors based on the traditions of the Russian theatre and continued searching for new forms. He created a Modernist theatre adjusted to traditions in those dark years, reviving humanism, optimism, and the feeling of festivity among his viewers. It can be said that what Marjanishvili did for the Georgian theatre is comparable to what André Antoine and Jacques Copeau did to the development of the French theatre. Meanwhile, Sandro Akhmeteli was trying to remove the alien elements from the Georgian theatre it had acquired in the process of self-escape, particularly the influence of the Moscow Art Theatre. He wanted to liberate the genetic code that was inherent in the Georgian theatre. He said that he needed actors that would be “trouble-makers, rumbling, arrogant, and insolent like Georgians proper.” And he did it. He awakened Dionysian mysteries in Georgian actors, the depth of the mysterious drama, and the freedom and improvisation of the Georgian commedia dell’arte - berikaoba. “The qualitative development of national culture leads us to international culture,” Akhmeteli wrote. By “international,” he meant universal culture, shaped on the basis of the harmonious amalgamation of qualitative elements of various cultures, not a surrogate received from the oppression of various cultures by the totalitarian regime. In his works, Akhmeteli introduced anti-Naturalist traditions from the European theatre (Gordon Craig, Adolphe Appia), giving symbolic archetypal features to the rhythm, plastic structure, and artistic metaphors of performances. Akhmeteli created a conceptual theatre, combining European pragmatic ideas, national temperament, and expressive forms. His performances Mirror Man by Franz Werfel, Salome by Oscar Wilde, Zagmuk by Anatoly Glebov, and The Businessman by Walter Hasenclever, were made within the frames of this trend. Akhmeteli even transformed the Revolution into a symbol of confrontation and relations between a person and masses, causes and events - and he was punished for doing so. It is quite natural that these two giants could not coexist in one space. A manifesto was read out during the performance of The Bonds of Interest by Jacinto Benavente in Rustaveli Theatre on January 29, 1924. The manifesto stated that new theatre principles were to be isolated from old ones, which were a thing of the past. Disagreements deepened and Kote Marjanishvili left Rustaveli Theatre with several actors. He first went to Kutaisi to revive theatre life there and then founded “the second Georgian drama theatre” in Batumi. Later, he returned to Tbilisi with his troupe and repertoire and founded a new theatre that is now the Marjanishvili National Theatre. Sandro Akhmeteli continued to be the artistic director of the Rustaveli Theatre. He staged more than 20 performances during


nine seasons, including The Brigands by Friedrich Schiller (1933) under the title of In Tirannos, which was his last performance, and as Professor Vaso Kiknadze noted, “his last fight against tyranny.” The performance was included in the list of best performances in the world in the 20th century, together with Kote Marjanishvili’s Fuenteovejuna and Robert Sturua’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. In 1930, the Rustaveli Theatre visited Moscow to participate in the AllUnion Olympiad of Art. “Moscow was amazed by completely new artistic elements,” wrote Lunacharsky, an ideologist of the young Soviet state who was still objective. Foreign guests were also delighted. “People abroad should see this theatre. We should study the specific creation of the Georgian theatre,” American writer Anna Louise Strong wrote. “I could not imagine that it was possible to combine folk rhythms, music, and physical movements in the manner Akhmeteli did,” said Oslo Theatre director Nielsen. “Thank you for a lively beautiful performance. I have never seen anything like it,” Norwegian playwright Herald Grieg wrote. Akhmeteli was invited abroad, but plots were already being woven around him. Lavrenti Beria, who was the secretary of the Bolshevik Party in Georgia at that time, reported to the Kremlin that an “anti-Soviet situation has taken shape in the Rustaveli Theatre” and that Sandro Akhmeteli’s creation did not fit into the frames established on the basis of the Communist ideology. The director was arrested and executed on June 29 1937. Several other actors and employees of Rustaveli Theatre were either executed or exiled. Performances staged by Akhmeteli remained in the repertoire of the theatre for a long time, but his name could no longer be seen on posters. The 1930s and 1940s proved to be most difficult for the Georgian theatre. The process known as the “purge of ranks” inflicted major damage on culture and specifically theatre that “could exist and function only by directly communicating and appealing to the people.” It was during this period that director Vaso Kushitashvili, who was known as Vaso Kushita in Europe and America, returned to Georgia. His biography was amazing. He studied sciences at Moscow University and also attended Vera Komissarzhevskaya’s studio. He was likely obliged to attend the military school in Odessa before World War I. Having spent six months in Odessa, he was dispatched to the war with the rank of warrant officer, but the October Revolution broke out two days after he arrived in St Petersburg. He set aside his military duties and returned to Tbilisi for a short time. Georgia had declared independence. Then, with the blessings and assistance of his rich grandmother, he left for Paris, as he was “thirsty to master European civilisation.” In Paris, he became acquainted with such luminaries of the French theatre as Jacques Copeau, Firmin Gemier, Charles


Dullin, and Georges Pitoëff. Together with Firmin Gemier, he founded a studio in the Antoine Theatre. Later, he founded Theatre de l’Atelier in Montmartre, this time with Charles Dullin. The theatre continues to exist to this day. Kushitashvili staged The Fan by Carlo Goldoni, which was a first for the French theatre in 1924. The great maestro of the French theatre, Andre Antoine, wrote in Information newspaper that “The Fan is a performance staged with exclusive taste. ... The performance is amusing and the variety of decorations and costumes makes the stage shine.” It is noteworthy that Kushitashvili always decorated his performances himself. The press also praised him: “Goldoni’s best interpretation was staged in Theatre de l’Atelier” (Paris Soir); “a performance of highest literary quality staged in an excellent manner” (Le populaire de Paris). Kushitashvili gradually won fame. He staged plays by French playwrights and was invited to the Odeon, Porte St Martin, Champs Elysees, and Georges Pitoëff. It became known soon that “Georgian director Vasil Kushita was invited to Opera Comique in New York to stage The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein by Jacques Offenbach. After the premiere in 1929, Light newspaper wrote: “In the performance of director Basil Kushita, who has a great future, we could see theatre and listen to music. The director of our omnipotent Metropolitan Opera, Gatti-Casazza should see this performance. By doing so, he will do a good service to his own theatre.” A typically American stir was raised around the director, who “arrived from Europe or some more remote place.” They loved the “Russian-French-Georgian director,” published his photos, biography and theoretical articles. The press and high society circles were all around him.




On the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution, Vaso Kushitashvili returned to Georgia under a very strange slogan - “Only in the Soviet Union is there a genuine theatre.” No one could understand why he returned; perhaps the answer can be found in some archives somewhere. One way or another, the same director who had worked on the stages of Paris and America worked in the Tbilisi Theatre of Opera and Ballet for about three months. Later, he was appointed chief director of the Kutaisi Theatre. Vaso’s arrival seemed to have enlightened the theatre, as actors said. He was the first to stage Volpone, by Ben Johnson, in Georgia. After Kutaisi, the director wandered from one Georgian theatre to another, He staged We, the People by Elmer Rice (1934) at the Marjanishvili Theatre; Men in White, by Sidney Kingsley, in the booth theatre of the Sanitary Department of Ruy Blas, by Victor Hugo, several plays by Moliere, and The Marriage of Figaro, by Pierre Beaumarchais, (1937) at the Marjanishvili Theatre again. Everyone said that his performances were dynamic and the mise en scenes subtle and simple. They noted his fantasy as a director and his special skills in working with actors. After staging Beaumarchais, his European performances started acquiring Soviet overtones. Kushitashvili moved from theatre to theatre again. In 1949-1952, he headed the Gori Theatre and then he worked in Kutaisi, Batumi, and Poti. No one is able to understand how he managed to stage The Dog in the Manger, by Lope de Vega, in the small town of Zugdidi. Vaso Kushitashvili died in 1962. The heroic and romantic “Soviet Classicism” and the official artistic trend of Soviet art - Socialist Realism - was established in the Georgian theatre during World War II. Exiles and executions became rare after Stalin’s death, but censorship remained and free thinking continued to be persecuted.


Dimitri Alexidze was probably the most interesting director of that time. He was the first to stage The Mistress of the Inn (La locandiera) (1936), Fiancee with the Poster (Il matrimonio per concorso) (1942), The Servant of Two Masters (Il servitore di due padroni) (1946), by Goldoni, and The Glass of Water (Le verre d’eaui), by Eugene Scribe, in Georgia. With his performances, Alexidze tried to return humour and lyrics to the Georgian theatre and revive nostalgic meditations regarding the European classics among spectators. Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, was also interesting as the first Classic performance in the Rustaveli Theatre (1956). Dimitri Alexidze was the first to discover Brecht. The aesthetics of Brecht’s epic theatre, particularly The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) (1963) seemed to have totally broken from the heroic, romantic, and realist traditions of the Georgian theatre. Alexidze wrote of this connection that “An actor, for instance, will have to ‘disconnect’ himself from the role and evaluate the hero from a distance together with the audience. We have all changed ‘for the sake of Brecht’.” The Georgian theatre carefully started searching for new theatre forms in the 1950s. The smell of a social and ideological thaw was obviously in the air, and it did start. However, the government failed to both foresee its results and cope with the breeze of freedom in the following years. The short period of the thaw was followed by increased pressure from the censors and by witch hunts. Intellectuals, culture -- theatre especially -- found themselves under this hellish machine. Those who dared put up resistance lost their freedom and those who surrendered lost the skills necessary for creation. At the same time, some managed to stand firm and survived, while those who surrendered lost face. It was at this time that a new and very important stage of Georgian theatre renovation began, thanks to the great maestro and director, Mikheil Tumanishvili (1921-1997). He came to the Tbilisi Theatre Institute after having fought on the front and found himself in the studio of well-known director and teacher, Georgy Tovstonogov (1915-1989). His first performance People, Be Vigilant (1951), staged on the basis of Notes from the Gallows by Julius Fucik, made it clear that the director severed all ties with an obsolete theatre tradition and turned false heroic style into an earthy style. For the first time on the Georgian stage, heroes were corporeal people. Tumanishvili returned the open theatre form and improvisation to the Georgian stage by producing The Spanish Curate (1954), a merry and free play by Shakespeare’s contemporary, J. Fletcher. The play, Such a Love, by Czech author Pavel Kohout, was staged in 1959. The performance was full of human sympathy towards life and love and began with a man in a gown - a judge or commentator - ascending the barren stage from the hall say, “People do not come to theatre just for amusement... What brings them here is the desire to look into other people’s souls and ... to guess their


secrets.” This passage was heard at a time when the only issues officially allowed in art were the building of the Soviet state, the high morality of the Soviet people and Socialist competition. The visual side of the performance was also innovative. For the first time in the Soviet and perhaps on European stage, the director projected images of characters and the panorama of Prague on a screen with amazing expressiveness, using the laternamagica effect. The intimacy of the performance and the unusual perception and presentation of tabooed issues amazed the audience. All those who saw the premiere remember the long silence in the hall at the end of the performance. Everyone realised that they had witnessed a new theatre reality. In 1968, Tumanishvili intended to open the season at the Rustaveli Theatre’s Minor Stage with Young Sinners (Les tricheurs) by Marcel Carne, but censors banned the performance. Undaunted, Tumanishvili opened the season with Gaga Nakhutsrishvili’s fairy tale, Chinchraka, on the excellent Minor Stage. Spectators enjoyed the carnivalesque motifs and poetry. Tumanishvili said that they appeared to be telling a fairy tale for children, but in reality they spoke about the existing reality at that time. This performance was followed by Antigone by Jean Anouilh (1968), which became a symbol of firmness and personal freedom. Antigone was staged precisely at the time when Soviet tanks entered Czechoslovakia and the dictatorship of the Black Colonels was raging in Greece. The Artistic Council held heated debates and some even demanded that the play be banned. Tumanishvili listened to all of them calmly and said, “I am defending all Antigones from all Creons.” In 1987-1991, the director of Marjanishvili Theatre and teacher, Professor Gizo Zhordania, together with students of the Theatre Institute, performed on the Minor Stage, which was “baptised” by Tumanishvili. Those young students are now leading actors of the Rustaveli Theatre and the Minor Stage is still busy. In 1971, Mikheil Tumanishvili left the Rustaveli Theatre and continued his work as professor at the Theatre Institute and on January 14, 1978, together with actors and directors of his own studio, he founded a theatre-studio that was the first of its kind in the Soviet Union. It was later called the Film Actor’s Theatre and is now named after Tumanishvili. “Our stage does not have a curtain, side-scenes, and footlights. We perform and fight on a bare wooden stage that resembles a scaffold in order to get burned like a torch in the burning fire of reality,” he said. Tumanishvili organized fireworks in a small house for 200 spectators, bringing its notoriety to the Georgian theatre world and abroad. Perhaps the most noteworthy production is Bakula’s Pigs, by Georgian writer David Kldiashvili (1978), a play that continues to open every season of the Film Actor’s Theatre, as it has become the archetype of the immortality of a good play. Tumanishvili staged Our Town


by Thornton Wilder, a refined performance full of nostalgia, pain, and meditation on the stream of time. Due to the tempo-rhythm, director’s moves and an amazing group of actors, time seems to be physically existent and visible, taking us deep into the understanding of the burden of memory, which is a precondition of non-oblivion, compassion, and mercy. Don Juan, by Moliere, was put on stage in 1981, a period of unanswered questions, endless and groundless disputes and scepticism. Don Juan perished because he was not like others and refused to observe existing rules, which motivated society to pay him back. The great British director, Peter Brook, had seen the performance in Tbilisi and on his arrival in Paris said, “Should we go to Tbilisi to discover Moliere? Why not? This is a theatre! Tumanishvili’s Don Juan is the best of those I have ever seen. It is lively, insolent, modern, and brilliant and is performed in an equally brilliant manner by actors, whose reason and energy freely circulates in their flesh and blood.” Brook invited the performance to his Bouffes du Nord theatre in Paris. After that, the performance was shown on three continents. Tumanishvili staged his two last plays at the time Georgia was losing Abkhazia in war, there was no public transport in Tbilisi, no heating in theatres, and electricity was often cut. He staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare, a beautiful performance full of imagination, poetry, and youthful spirit. The performance was also shown at prestigious festivals. Amphitryon 38, by “the most French” Jean Giraudoux, was Tumanishvili’s last. The performance was full of love, humour, and mythological wisdom. The last words continuously repeated by the echo at the end of this play - “I love you” - has remained in Georgian theatre as Mikheil Tumanishvili’s creative and worldly credo. In his 1991 book Director Leaves the Theatre, Tumanishvili wrote, “I left the Theatre when I felt I had finally lost the string connecting me with my friends - they nourished new interests… I left the Theatre when I felt that new leaders, partially through my help and support, had emerged on the horizons of my Theatre.” These new leaders were his disciples and maestros of the Georgian theatre, Temur Chkheidze and Robert Sturua. The Marjanishvili-Akhmeteli tandem seemed to have revived when two strong directors, and Mikheil Tumanishvili’s disciples, took the leadership of Georgian theatre. Temur Chkheidze’s style was subtle and based on European simplicity of psychological theatre introduced in Georgia by Kote Marjanishvili and partially by Dodo Alexidze. Robert Sturua was attracted by the open theatre form introduced by Akhmeteli and established by Tumanishvili and the unified Post-Modernist theatre paradigm with historic and temporal distortions, metaphoric marginalisation, parodies, and the seeming reflection of reality in distorting mirrors, which were effectively nonexistent in the European theatre of that time.


Temur Chkheidze started his work as a director in the Zugdidi Theatre, Tbilisi Youth Theatre, and Television Theatre. After coming to the Rustaveli Theatre, he staged with Sturua, Georgian writer David Kldiashvili’s Samanishvili’s Stepmother, on the newly-opened Minor Stage (1969). The House of Bernarda Alba, by Garcia Lorca, a performance full of fire and tragic elements, also appeared on the Minor Stage. For the Main Stage, Chkheidze created one of his best performances, The Old-Timers, by Shalva Dadiani (1972). In the performance, action unfolds around a table laid for a feast, which has become a symbol of impoverished and weakened Georgians. The Sturua-Chkheidze tandem ended in the Rustaveli Theatre with a “peaceful divorce.” Sturua remained in the Rustaveli Theatre, while Chkheidze joined the Marjanishvili Theatre and together with its magnificent troupe, staged Ghost by Henrik Ibsen, Antigone by Jean Anouilh, which was a performance with tragic overtones arising due to a clash between two truths, The Father, by August Strindberg, Love Letters by Alan Garney, which was a performance full of intimate sadness, and Art by Yasmina Reza, which was full of French intellectual irony. Chkheidze says that he is creating a “psychological theatre,” as he believes that “everything should be psychologically justified and arranged in accor-




dance with life in a theatre.” Correspondingly, he creates performances, where as the French director of the early 20th century, Louis Jouvet said, “its majesty word and actor reign, and a director guarantees only their coincidence and transformation into a performance adjusted to modern times.” Temur Chkheidze worked abroad for more than 10 years. He won recognition due to his performances staged in the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in St Petersburg, Moscow Art Theatre, La Scala, Metropolitan Opera, and Paris and Bordeaux operas. He returned to the Marjanishvili theatre and staged the thriller, The Gronholm Method, by Jordi Galceran. In addition, on the basis of the Royal District Theatre, he opened a studio for the professional training of directors and playwrights that the Georgian theatre needed so much. Robert Sturua came to the Rustaveli Theatre immediately after he graduated from the Theatre Institute. He staged his first performance that very season - The Third Wish, by Vratislav Blazek (1963). Two years later, he drew the fire screen as a metaphor of the existing regime and staged The Trial of Salem, by Arthur Miller (the original title The Crucibles), and received public reprimands and then international success. The author of the play also attended the premiere. His arrival and assessment prevented the play from being banned. “It is an important and interesting performance,” Miller said. “I liked all the actors, but I would not like to point out any of them... Sturua’s performance is powerful, integral, and monolithic. Episodes are well-thought over and they promote the dynamic development of the performance.”



It is noteworthy that the 1970s and 1980s were particularly impressive for Georgian art. Of course, censorship continued to rage, ban and pass verdicts, while freethinking “witches” continued to be persecuted and “artistic councils” in theatres continued to supervise the repertoires to make them ideologically “correct.” However, compared to the metropolitan cities of Moscow and Leningrad, art was still able to breathe if not more freely, at least more boldly in the “outskirts” of the Soviet empire. It was in this situation that a new concept - Sturua’s theatre - was introduced in the theatre space and his peculiar style took shape. This theatre form was open and full of metaphors. His main idea - man against power - was quite dangerous at that time, but he nevertheless created great performances. His beloved productions, Kvarkvare by P. Kakabadze (1974), The Caucasian Chalk Circle by B. Brecht (1975) was included in the list of best performances in the 20th century, Richard III by Shakespeare (1979) and King Lear (1987), which was full of prophecies. The magnificent actor, Ramaz Chkhikvadze, played the main roles in all these plays, which were shown all around the world. Although the press reactions to these plays can make several thick books, I would like to quote some of them: “Happy is the nation that has such a theatre” (Retanis, Demetra Festival); “Georgian miracle at the Avignon Festival ... Two amazing performances - The Caucasian Chalk Circle and King Lear. No one can recall such applause at the Popes’ Palace. ... Ramaz Chkhikvadze, ... a magnificent actor and no less magnificent troupe standing by him. Do not miss the performance!” (Meridional newspaper); “Sturua transformed


characters without batting an eyelid; he changed the text and accents. So what! He did not lose the essence and spirit of Shakespeare. He is there in this tragically magnificent circus” (Nicole Zande, Le Monde); “Interestingly, this performance staged in a foreign language is completely Shakespearian and it is indeed a great pleasure to watch it” (Peter Brook). In the 1990s, Robert Sturua seemed to have “softened” and concentrated more on the human tragicomic fate and loneliness. These were plays like Life Is a Dream, by Pedro Calderon (1993), The Good Person of Szechwan, by Berthold Brecht (1993), Lamara (1997), by Georgian writer G. Robakidze, who fled the Communist regime and found shelter in Germany, The Serpent Woman by Carlo Gozzi (1998), a vertiginous performance built on conditionality, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare (2000), a mixture of carelessness, carnivalesque comedy, and mysterious drama of Christ’s birth, and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (2002), which is full of sympathy with an ordinary human. Robert Sturua was one of the first who took an interest in post-dramatic and non-verbal theatre and reduced the role of words to the minimum in his performances, making metaphors more poetic, plastic, and visual. The performances to be mentioned in this context are as follows: Our Lady (1989) devoted to the tragedy of 9 April 1989, Gospel According to Jacob, a philosophic and poetic interpretation of Mother Language by 19th-century writer and public figure, Iakob Gogebashvili, and Styx (2003), a plastic performance-fantasy in the form of vers libre on the music by Gia Kancheli. The British themselves have recognised Robert Sturua as the best interpreter of Shakespeare. He has already staged 17 of the 37 plays by Shakespeare in different theatres of the world, including five in the Rustaveli Theatre. Sturua started his dialogue with the Prince of Denmark in the 1980s with his master class in Bristol. He staged his first Hamlet at the Riverside Studios in 1992 with Alan Rickman in the lead. Prominent journalist Michael Billington dubbed his British Hamlet as “a prince with romantic nuances locked in a spiritual prison” and the International Shakespeare Association put it on the list of the 10 best Hamlets staged in 50 years. The cruel and dangerous prince fell to the lot of the Satirikon Theatre in Moscow and won the top Russian theatre prize - the Golden Mask. The Georgian Hamlet of 2005 was a lonely philosopher depicting the period in our lives when even words had lost their value. This performance was also shown on stages and festivals in many countries. Robert Sturua always works with his creative team and friends. They are some of the most well-known composers in Europe: Gia Kancheli; refined painter and decorator, Gogi Aleksi-Meskhishvili, who was awarded the Felix, the European Oscar (for Parajanov’s film Ashik Kerib); Mirian Shvelidze, who has an excellent feeling of the plastic, dynamic, and colourful nature of


performances; and Temur Ninua, whose theatre paintings are extremely expressive and accurately reflect the disorder, nervousness, and often immorality of the modern times. This coalition of people is absolutely exceptional. This generation of theatre figures has finally proved to Europeans that the Georgian theatre is European in nature. This includes Rezo Gabriadze, who is a journalist and screenwriter by education and a painter and puppet theatre director by vocation. In 1981, he founded a puppet theatre in Tbilisi and has been its artistic director since. Gabriadze created an author’s theatre, where he writes the texts, makes the puppets, selects the music, makes the decorations, and creates the acting areas. His subtle texts are full of humour and organically adjust to the acting areas that change, based on the principle of cinema stills sequences. The music he selects is always tasteful and the plastic movements and appearance of his puppets are singular. “Where cannons speak, art is silent,” Rezo Gabriadze said in an interview before going abroad. In 1994-1995, he headed the Moscow Obraztsov State Puppet Theatre as artistic director. While abroad, he created What a Sad End Alley, Kutaisi, and his most well-known, The Chants of Volga (called The Battle of Stalingrad in Georgian). Several years ago, Rezo Gabriadze returned to his theatre located on a small street in Old Tbilisi. On the front of the building is the following inscription: Extra cepam nihil cogito nos lacrimare! (Let our tears come only from cutting onions). In this theatre, he staged Ramona and renovated The Autumn of My Spring and The Battle of Stalingrad. He travels a lot now, but in his hand-made theatre and artistic cafe, Sans Sousi, we can feel that the puppet theatre creates art that is subtle, poetic, and expressive. After the declaration of independence in 1991, nearly everything disappeared in one instant in Georgia. The economy was nonexistent, money was devaluated and books were no longer printed. Gas supplies were disconnected and there was only enough electricity to light the grim environment for only two or three hours a day. The old regime left theatres destroyed and in ruin. Nevertheless, Georgian theatre has always had the ability survive in good conditions, as well as troubled. None of the theatres closed. Performances were held at four or six o-clock in the afternoon, because there was no public transport. Still, the theatres were always full. Numerous small, private theatres emerged that functioned as enterprises. The Basement Theatre on Rustaveli was among the first. Young directors, many of them from the Rustaveli Theatre, staged their independent performances there. The Dance of Death, by August Strindberg, (A. Varsimashvili), Otar by Lasha Bugadze (D. Sakvarelidze), Faust by Goethe and directed by Levan Tsuladze, who used both puppets and actors in the performance, Mario and the Magician by Thomas Mann and



Cafe Rossini by Patrick Suskind also directed by Tsuladze, were staged in the Basement Theatre for the first time in Georgia. The Basement Theatre did a firsts in those years. It introduced modern light comedies in its repertoire, held recitals of the new generation of Georgian playwrights, along with musical-literary performances and discussions, and most importantly, it engaged the young generation to visit theatres and read modern drama during a very complicated social and political period in history. In these years, the condition of being attached to government-funded theatres was eliminated due to a sort of European professionalism that seemed to have emerged from nowhere. Young directors and actors started cooperating freely with various theatres, which facilitated the liberalisation of the Georgian theatre and convinced everyone of the need to introduce European-styled management. In Georgia, like in Europe, there are many private, independent, and non-repertory theatres that are wellknown internationally and differ from each other in their trends, genres, repertoires, and aesthetics. In the meantime, the directors from the Basement Theatre grew up and moved to bigger theatres. David Sakvarelidze, who has professional knowledge of classical and opera music, headed the Tbilisi National Opera and Ballet Theatre for some time. He is now the artistic director of Gamsakhurdia Sukhumi State Theatre that fled Abkhazia during the war in 1993. Avto Varsimashvili heads the old Russian-language Griboyedov Theatre, combining activities there with his successful work as leader of the Free Theatre. Levan Tsuladze, who is the most well-known representative of the



Basement Theatre, has headed the Marjanishvili National Theatre since 2006. It was at the Marjanishvili Theatre that he staged his most successful performances: Raspberry (original title University of Laughs) by the Japanese Koki Mitani, and several novellas, mostly religious in content, like Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. Levan Tsuladze’s acting area seems to be built with just one light movement of his hand. It was in this style that he staged two of his recent plays. As You Like It, by Shakespeare, was staged specifically for the Shakespeare Festival in the Globe, where 37 plays by Shakespeare were to be performed by 37 theatres from 37 countries, chosen in a lottery. A day after the premiere in London, The Guardian wrote, “If all the theatre in Georgia comes anywhere close to the standard of the Marjanishvili company, then the job of theatre critic there must be the most covetable in the land. At the end of its irresistible As You Like It, they got a standing ovation (at least from those not on their feet already)”. Mikheil Tumanishvili’s other disciple, art director and head of the Music and Drama Theatre, David Doiashvili, has always been distinguished with his interest in the repertoires of European theatres. He attracted the attention of theatre goers back in 1993, when he adapted Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, as his graduation work for stage. In 1994, he staged Fool’s Life by Ryunosuke Akutagawa at the Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre, making his future style of director clear - to present the idea of a performance by means of plastic and picturesque methods with his inexhaustible imagination. In 1995-1998, David Doiashvili was the director of


Marjanishvili Theatre. In the same period, he staged plays abroad: The Crucibles, by Arthur Miller in London’s West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Lucia di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. However, he could not bear the repertoires of national theatres and moved to the independent Free Theatre, because he always preferred to find and stage plays on what he deemed important at the given moment. For example, he chose Jeans Generation by the young Georgian playwright David Turashvili and Henry IV by Luigi Pirandello. The first performance he staged at Music and Drama Theatre was The State of Siege, by Albert Camus, which was followed by a series of European dramas and musical hits. His ironic and grotesque Macbeth proved to be very Shakespearian with its leitmotif, the expressive and parodic manner of narration, the musical background, and the dancing, yet tough plastique of the actors. The play was lucky and successful. It was shown at festivals in Columbia, Edinburgh, Poland and Hungary and was nominated as the best performance at all of them. The next play, Shakespear’s A (Mid) Summer Night’s Dream, was based on strangely different aesthetics. Two acts were staged in various tonalities, using various keys. A free and light beginning turned into a Freudian sensual search in the second act. The play was about inner secret passions that become obvious only in dreams, because only then can you realise who you are and what your motives are. There is no doubt that David Doiashvili is a director with a very interesting, rich, and unusual style. Since the great Ilia Chavchavadze read King Lear behind the curtain to illustrate living pictures, plays by the great British playwright have not descended from the Georgian scene. With a particular humour inherent to Georgians, they have called Shakespeare their national playwright. This is probably why one Englishman said jokingly that to understand the nature of the Georgian theatre, the British should see their Shakespeare performed by Georgians. The theatre season in 2014 was no exception in this regard. Macbeth became one of the most absorbing and impressive surprises. Andro Enukidze, the artistic director of the Ilia Chavchavadze National Theatre in the beautiful town of Batumi, captivated viewers with the necessary rhythm and a skillful arrangement of the stage. Ioane Khutsishvili, produced in the Lado Meskhishvili National Theatre in Kutaisi, is a dark-light world where there are no contrasts and values are mixed and intertwined as if they were coloured by a morose brush of a painter. This is probably why this performance has the following refrain that seems to explain everything: “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” It is impossible to create even a panoramic picture of the European nature of the Georgian theatre without taking into account the new theatre reality, introduced so lavishly in the 21st century global theatre, which is oriented on political, social, and cultural globalisation. We should touch on


the new realities that have determined the variety of genres in the modern theatre. Incidentally, in this regard, we should be grateful to Post-Modern theatre, because it was this trend that strengthened the visual side of performances and prepared grounds for such genres as dance theatre, physical and modern theatre, multimedia and multi-genre performances, as well as verbatim or documentary theatre (doctheatre). All this was introduced in the Georgian theatre more or less successfully and intensively. Director Beso Kupreishvili developed an unusual production style that was probably an alien genre for European theatre, too. In 1990, Kupreishvili tried for the first time to tell a story with the movements of his fingers. He made several compositions in this field and in 1991 staged the first performance, Extravaganza, introducing the notion of finger theatre in Georgia and later in the world. In 2006, he staged The Wall, named after the Pink Floyd musical production. He also staged My Hamlet, in which he combined puppets and actors for the first time in his works and presented their relations with much subtlety. This was followed by Wandering Soul, inspired by music of the Israeli-based composer, Joseph Bardanashvili. The performance combined elements of finger theatre, puppet theatre, ballet, and drama theatre. Then he staged The Barber of Seville, by Rossini, a puppet opera performance full of humour. Kupreishvili expressed his creative credo in one short sentence Let us love each other. And he really seemed to be searching for a beam of love, when he staged a puppet performance for children, titled Sunbeam, by Henri Popescu. The Finger Theatre is often invited to Europe and other parts of the world and the sunbeam emanating from this talented man equally warms viewers in all countries of the world. Young choreographer Mariam Alexidze stages her performances in the genre of dance theatre. At the same time, she is the founder and organizer of an international festival of modern dance and alternative art. Her choreography combines different types of ballet movements in a very original manner. Subtle taste, light and refined humour, and amazingly rich and refined spirituality are characteristic of her creation. This is true of her first three performances while in the fourth performance, Harira, she introduced singing and speaking, enabling us to observe a harmonious combination of the dancer’s plastic movements and scenes revived with the modern language of ballet while listening to quotes from The Liberated Man, by Par Lagerkvist, and songs by conductor and composer, Jansug Kakhidze. A group of young artists is actively working in the Royal District Theatre, creating a modern theatre that is different from others due to its minimalist aesthetics. The very first performance, Somebody Else’s Children, by David Gabunia (directed by Data Tavadze), sounded like the declarations of a programme. The main topic - the birth of a child - discussed through



grim humour and allusions, was understood as an open metaphor in our exhausted world with humans transformed into robots. It unambiguously told the Georgian theatre beau monde that these young people have chosen their own path and style without following the beaten path of their teachers. Incidentally, the goddess of fertility in their performance bore the name of the hero of The Caucasian Chalk Circle - Simon Chachava - and she spoke in the voice of the young director’s great grandmother Medea Chakhava, who was one of the prominent actresses of the Georgian theatre and cinema. Trojan Women, a documentary verbatim with moderate tragic elements created on stories of Russian-Georgian wars is one of the last performances of the same tandem, as well as Pains of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner, which was devoted to the centenary of World War II and staged on the basis of the Nordic stylistics of the modern Swedish theatre. The creation of several Georgian artists working abroad can be regarded as offshoots of Amiran Shalikashvili, a Georgian mime, Marcel Marceau’s disciple, and the founder of the Georgian pantomime theatre. The Movement Theatre of Kakha Bakuradze, who returned from Germany in 2000, creates multi-genre performances where he unites everything that belongs to visual arts: drama and mimodrama, movement, plastique, ballet, and the theatre elements of circus and martial arts. Such admixtures are neither eclectic nor chaotic because “all this is born, merges with and adjusts to the idea, essence, and psycho-emotional nature of performance.” Two theatres that emigrated at the beginning of the 1990s also follow the path of non-verbal and multi-genre aesthetics. Sosani Art & Physical Dance Theatre, which operates in Germany, offers performances based on the


melange of visual arts. The Cynetic Theatre of Washington, founded by Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, create products that are typical for American show business, but are highly professional. Mediterranean temperament, sensuality, and energy can obviously be felt in their mixture of choreography, images, cinema, music, videos, sound effects, sparkles of drama theatre, and modern technologies. Mime artist and director Lasha Oniani, who has lived in Saarbrucken since 1991, should also be mentioned. He has his own Mimodrama Theatre and studio and is also known as a successful director of mega shows. He staged the shows for the UEFA Champions League finals in 2003, 2006, and 2009 and the opening ceremonies for games in Berlin and Munich, and organised “Days of Georgian Culture” in Dusseldorf, Paris, and Luxembourg. Georgian theatre has always been rich with excellent actors. The tradition of dancing and polyphonic singing, southern temperament, natural freedom of movement and plasticity, the inherent sense of humour, and the talent of improvisation has made it easy for them to adjust to any culture and repertoire. As Sandro Akhmeteli said, “Georgian people are strong in their theatre potential. The torments and mourning, laughter, feasts, fights, wine-drinking, name-day festivities, and prayers of Georgians are an incarnation of their vivid theatrical nature. A Georgian always plays, because he always sings. Those, who do not sing, cannot play either.” Finally, at one of the first symposiums of the European Society of Culture, held in 1991 to discuss Europe’s common roots, multiple variations of development, and new forms of cooperation, prominent French philosopher Edgar Morin said, “The Medieval European culture is a fusion of the Judeaeo-Graeco-Latin-Christian cultures. The modern European culture is the dismantlement of this fusion and the detachment of Graeco-Roman and Christian origins. ... I believe that European humanism was nourished by both sources. Fundamental aspects in modern culture took shape precisely in the confrontation and dialogica of these two sources.” It is Europe that promotes dialogue between countries today. Theatre, as an emotional, verbal, and visual image of the contemporary times, is the only means of “dialogica,” or live communication in arts. Due to the fact that the Georgian theatre preserved its originality and European nature in times of trouble, it certainly deserves axiom of an intercultural “dialogica.”




RETURNING FROM EUROPE Following his ambassadorship to Europe, Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani1 embarked on a journey from Istanbul to Tbilisi. His journey took place in 1716, the year Leibnitz died. His voyage lasted three years, and included trips over land and sea to visit ambassadorial interests in France and Italy. Saba concluded his journey in Istanbul, restlessly waiting to hear from France on a matter that became increasing less likely to come together. During his time in France and Italy, Saba met with Louis XIV, the Sun King, Pope Clement, and other important political figures. He spent his time with them advocating for King Vakhtang VI of Kartli, now Eastern Georgia. He made such a strong impression on the pope, that the pope sent an appeal to Louis XIV, requesting him to take Saba under his wing and support Georgia. When Saba departed for Europe, Kartli was an autonomous region of Persia. It was governed by a formal, or possibly sincere, Islamized representative of the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty. Before dispatching Sulkhan-Saba on his ambassadorial mission, Vakhtang VI was summoned to the court of the Shah to take the place of his deceased brother as king, a step up from his role as Viceroy. Although both his uncle and brother were recognized as Kings in Persia, they were not able to return to their homeland to rule. This was because that any candidate for King was forced to accept Islam to be crowned, and since Vakhtang refused, this matter dragged on for seven years. Vakhtang’s brother Jesse, who was very fond of Saba, was placed in charge of Kartli in his brother’s place. Saba’s mission was officially confidential, but wasn’t the most well-kept secret. His departure was preceded by letters from Louis XIV to Vakhtang. He accompanied the King on his way to Isfahan, and it was during this trip that Saba decided he wanted to become an ambassador to Europe. He accomplished his goal by seeing off French Monk Richard from Gori to the Black Sea coast, and then Richard take him to Louis XIV. In his letters, King Vakhtang VI plead to the Pope to be placed under French protection, offering trade routes via Georgia, and the conversion of Georgia 1

Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani (1658-1725) Georgian writer, lexicographer and politician.


to Catholicism as return. The Pope was informed that with the conversion of Georgia, twenty-four nearby provinces could be easily converted as well. At that time, Catholic missions were welcome in Georgian kingdoms and principalities and served as the main means of maintaining contact with Europe. Members of different monastic orders often had close relations with royal and noble families, generally succeeding in converting them to Catholicism. What it meant for Georgian nobility to be Roman Catholic is a different story for experts to discuss. Saba however, had already joined the Order of Saint Basil by the time he departed for Europe. Some claim that he secretly observed Catholicism even earlier for political purposes, but did not truly accept Catholic dogmas. Answers to his authentic or politically motivated Catholicism are sought and, it seems, found in his writings. The biggest incentive Vakhtang VI could offer Rome was a mass conversion to Catholicism, which is well illustrated by the abundance of Rome’s missionary activities in Kartli. In their reports to the Vatican, monks often bragged about their successes in converting several members of royal family. Vakhtang VI was an open-minded man. He knew that his country had to seek assistance from abroad if it ever wanted to earn sovereignty. He must have believed, that bringing Europe to Georgia would be his best shot. At least, that was what he tried to do before being summoned to Iran. The Vakhtang’s and Saba’s luck had run out when France signed a trade agreement with Persia during one of Saba’s visits to Paris. In addition, the aged Sun King passed away when the Georgian Ambassador was in Italy, even further ruining Kartli’s hope of falling under Europe’ protection. And the benevolence of the Pope of Rome became gradually detached from politics. Saba was in Istanbul, with a letter from the Pope, which stated, “Maybe God allowed this tribulation to beset you. After all, gold is not gold unless it is tried in the fire.” On May 13, 1716, Saba left Istanbul for Tbilisi, in the company of Capuchin friars. The cost of this journey was covered in full by the French Ambassador. In Western Georgia, he found a Chani2 captain from the town of Pazar and paid him four hundred silver coins to transport Saba and the friars to Kobuleti, asking for a signed letter from Prince Gurieli3 to confirm they were transported safely and left in good hands.He also instructed the captain to not let anyone else onboard, save his twenty seafarers, insisting that he was renting the boat exclusively for his people. Contrary to his promise, the captain docked and anchored his ship as soon as he passed Bosporus, 2 3

Chani – Western Georgian ethnic group. Gurieli – the noble family ruling western Georgian province of Guria.


and allowed some Janissaries and their leader, all of whom were Ottomans, to board. Consequently, there was no room for Saba on the upper deck of a ship rented exclusively for him in the first place, so he was forced to travel in the ship’s isolated hold. Thanks to a fair wind, the ship sailed comfortably for ten days. The conniving captain reached Pazar, anchored the ship and requested Saba and the Capuchin friars to rest with him for two days before setting off to Kobuleti, so that he could visit his family. Without any other feasible options, Saba and his companions agreed. The captain however, had other intentions. The captain informed the Pasha of Trabzon and Sanjak Bey about his prominent passenger and his foreign companions, pleading with the officials not to let Saba pass through their territories. Of the four Capuchin friars, three were traveling to Tbilisi and one was to be seen off to Isfahan, where he was expected to deliver a large coffer from the French Ambassador. Ayvaz Chalab, a merchant from Bursa, known among the Georgians as Khoja Ayvaz, was also aboard the ship. He was headed to Ganja with his son to purchase silk. The Chani captain made the passengers spend four days in Pazar, before announcing that he was unable to transport them to Kobuleti due to an Abkhazian revolt. He recommended that they procure their own boats and travel along the shore. The passengers got hold of two sailboats, with Saba leading one, and Khoja Ayvaz leading the other and sailed along the shore, but not for very long. The weather changed and worsened, and a storm separated the two sailboats. The sailboats of Khoja Ayvaz and Saba ended up in and below Hoffa, respectively. Had it not been for Ottoman slave traders herding captives from Imereti4 to Istanbul, who stopped to help, Saba’s sailboat would have never made it to the shore. Saba and his crew spent four days ashore, waiting for the sea to calm, but before it did, Chanis arrived and captured them. The captors confiscated twenty silver coins in cash and tormented the travelers, masquerading as customs officers and demanding duties. The friars were miserable and helpless. They did not speak the local language and were not familiar with local customs. They were then told that as westerners, they were prohibited by the Sultan from crossing the Black Sea. Four days later, the robbed and abused travelers boarded the same sailboats that had delivered them to Hoffa. Once under sail, they were seized by officials from Gonio Sanjak5 and locked up in a building. Khoja Ayvaz was 4 5

Imereti – mid-western province of Georgia. Gonio Sanjak – District of Gonio, the fortress near Batumi, that time under Ottoman rule.


there too. The storm had washed his sailboat up on the Hoffa shore. Saba was prevented from seeing him. At that time, Alibeg, a nephew of the Akhaltsikhe Pasha and an acquaintance of Saba, learned of his confinement and dispatched his men to have Saba and the Capuchins released. He also confiscated the personal effects and returned them to the captives. In the evening, Khoja approached Saba and told them that although Alibeg was a great benefactor, he would soon set off and leave them in the same condition as before. And if the Chanis or locals were to find Saba without his protector, they would be sure to rob him again and capture the monks as well. Thus, Khoja proposed that they bribe the locals. And so they did, sending forty silver coins to Gonio Sanjak Bey. In the morning, Alibeg hired horses for Saba and the friars and saw them off to Artanuji.6 Khoja Ayvaz however, decided to stay in Hoffa. After having learned of Alibeg’s departure, Gonio Sanjak Bey and his men spent all night on horseback in hopes of catching up with Saba, and were able to head him off the following morning near the village of Chkhala. Bey accused Saba of smuggling Westerners against the Sultan’s orders. But stated that if Saba were to hand them over, he would let him continue on his way. Saba adamantly refused, and once again, they were all driven back to Gonio and had their belongings confiscated and distributed among the Janissaries. On the way back to Gonio, Saba fell ill. Nonetheless, he was dragged up a mountain, and only after reaching the summit, was he allowed to sit down and rest. Saba would later recall that during that time he felt like giving up the ghost, and that he had no idea how he survived the ascent. Upon learning of Saba’s recapture, Khoja Ayvaz scorned Sanjak Bey of Gonio, warning him of the trouble that he would face if Saba were to die in captivity. Ayvaz promised Bey four hundred silver coins to free Saba before sunset and to which he agreed. But as the sun disappeared below the horizon, Bey grew anxious, fearing trickery on Ayvaz’s part, and he had a bedridden and miserable Sulkhan Saba bound hand and foot and led out in the rain to a different place to spend the night. The sun had already risen when they untied the Sulkhan’s hands and feet and put him on horseback. Saba was taken to Ayvaz, who had been waiting for his delivery since the night before. While Ayvaz was paying Saba’s


Artanuji – a city in the south-west Georgia.


ransom, two of the Capuchin friars were taken captive by other bandits, and Ayvaz was forced to pay sixty more silver coins to have them released. Again reunited, they set off down the Nigali Gorge. They would be stopped and robbed blind along the way by anyone who felt like it. The money all came from Ayvaz’s pocket; the others had nothing left to give. Once in Artanuji, they were greeted and hosted by the wife of Pasha Jakeli. She treated them kindly and ordered one of her servants to accompany them as they departed. Then they continued on to Artaani where Aslan Pasha was the ruler, a cousin and blood enemy of Isik Pasha. They endlessly fought for control over Akhaltsikhe. Aslan Pasha took advantage of Saba’s lack of protection as well, charging the travelers six silver coins and taking away anything of value he could find, including their hounds. Finally, they crossed the border into Kartli through Abotsi, which was under the control of King Jesse, Vakhtang’s brother. Saba claimed in his journal that Jesse was not very fond of him, and was resentful that Jesse married his niece. On the outskirts of Kartli, Saba’s brothers sent a man to meet him and deliver a message advising him against entering further into the kingdom. After having spent so much effort to reach his destination, Saba considered heading toward Imereti instead. However, he was blocked from entering, due to debts he owed to Bursa merchants, whom he had to borrow from to pay off robbers and extorters along the way. Thus, he had no choice but to enter Kartli. King Jesse welcomed him warmly, though he had been slaughtering scores of people and even plotted to sack Tbilisi and deport its residents. The latest events in this regard had unfolded that July. No one knows whether Saba was questioned about his ambassadorship, or what he did or saw. His journey was well recorded as he wrote a lot. The main outcome of his undertaking was not the intended French or Roman support for Georgia, but rather a descriptive dictionary of the Georgian language composed by Saba himself in the eighteen months he spent waiting in Istanbul. The Sulkhan gave this work to one of the monks to copy, but the monk ended up taking credit for his work. Saba later recalled that the only change to the dictionary was that wherever he wrote his name, the monk replaced it with his own.



As for Vakhtang, he returned to Kartli after his seven years in Persia and appealed to different great European leaders, the new Pope and the Austrian Emperor. In his correspondence, he claimed to be a secret Roman Catholic unable to proclaim his faith publicly due to the situation in the country. He pleaded with his addressees to be attentive to him and his coreligionists who, according to Vakhtang, were many. By that time, Vakhtang had formally accepted Islam, though he opted against boring his great European correspondents with this and other insignificant details, such as Kartli, Sanjak, facilitation of a trade route, who would have cared… The hardship of the Georgians during that time was well reflected in Montesquieu’s the Persian Letters, which reads as follows, “There has appeared here a person who burlesques the part of Persian ambassador, and insolently makes sport of the two greatest kings in the world. He bears to the French monarch presents which ours would not offer to a king of Imereti or of Georgia”. This is how Saba traveled across Europe and back. Most likely, traveling to Europe proved much easier than covering the ravines and passageways back to the Kartli border. It is uncertain whether this border is visible or invisible. One thing is clear, though: these “borders” between Europe and Georgia (both visible and invisible) are tough and still there.


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 1. A portrait of Vakhtang VI of Georgia. A page from the Gospels printed in Tbilisi in 1709 under the auspices of Vakhtang VI of Georgia 2. George XII’s mercy book for Alexander Makashvili, 1798 3. Vakhtang VI Law, XVIII century 4. The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Mamuka Tavakalashvili 5. The Delegation of Socialist International in Georgia, Tbilisi, 1920 6. Georgia celebrates the first anniversary of its independence. Noe Zhordania, S. Mdivani, N. Tsereteli, P. Kakhiani, G. Lordkipanidze, E. Takaishvili, and foreign guests are seen on the tribune 7. Noe Zhordania with the Socialist International Delegation, Tbilisi, 1920 8. The group of the participants of the national army congress, Tbilisi, 1920 9. By Mariam Akulashvili, the participant of the competition “My European Choice” 10. By Nini Pailodze, the participant of the competition “My European Choice” 11. By Nini Pailodze, the participant of the competition “My European Choice” 12. From left to right: Georgian poets Nikoloz Baratashvili and Galaktion Tabidze, Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili 13. St. George Statue by Zurab Tsereteli, Freedom Square, Tbilisi, Georgia 14. The group of Georgian modernist authors 15. The Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures, Tbilisi, Georgia 16. The Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi, Georgia 17. The Museum of the Soviet Occupation, Tbilisi, Georgia 18. From left to right: Georgian poet David Guramishvili, Prometheus by Gustave Moreau, 1806 19. The Medea monument by Davit Khmaladze, Batumi, Georgia 20. Georgian highlanders (Georgian Khevsurs arriving to fight against Soviet Army,1921) 21. Georgian writer and poet Ilia Chavchavadze 22. From left to right: Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli, Georgian philosopher Solomon Dodashvili 23. From left to right: Georgian writer and poet Vazha-Pshavela, Monument of Georgian phisolopher Ioane Petritsi, Tbilisi, Georgia 24. Irakli Gamrekeli, Stage Design for “Mystery-Bouffe” by Vl. Maiakovsky, act I, director K. Marjanishvili, unrealized, 1924, watercolor, gouache, and black ink, 35,5X26,5 cm, collection of Nina and Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky, donation of the Charitable fund “Konstantine” (2013), St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music 25. Kirill Zdanevich Costume design for “Maelstrom” by Grigol Robakidze, director Kote Marjanishvili, Rustaveli Theatre Gouache on paper, 28X23cm, 1924 Theatre, Film, Music and Choreography Museum -Art Palace 26. The Speared Fish by David Kakabadze


27. The Kimerioni cafe, Tbilisi, Georgia 28. Lado Gudiashvili, “Christine” 29. Elene Akhvlediani Stage design for “How?” by Karlo Kaladze, director Kote Marjanishvili, Marjanishvili Theatre 1929 paper, gouache, Indian ink, 15,5X26,5 cm 30. Petre Otskheli Design for film “Winged Painters,” director Leo Esakia, Moscow, 1936 paper, pencil, watercolor, 36X48 cm Theatre, Film, Music and Choreography Museum - Art Palace 31. Irakli Gamrekeli “H2SO4” Journal Cover, 1924 32. “Akaki Tsereteli’s Trip to Racha and Lechkhumi” by Vasil Amashukeli 33. “Keto and Kote” by Vakhtang Tabliashvili and Shalva Gedevanishvili 34. “Jim Shvante” by Mikheil Kalatozishvili 35. “Other people’s Children” by Tengiz Abuladze 36. “There Once Was a Singing Blackbird” by Otar Ioseliani 37. “My grandmother” by Kote Mikaberidze 38. “Invocation” by Tengiz Abuladze 39. “Pirosmani” by Giorgi Shengelaia 40. “Repentance” by Tengiz Abuladze 41. “In Bloom” by Nana Ekvtimishvili 42. “Tangerines” by Zaza Urushadze 43. Permanent theatre troupe, 1892-1893 44. Permanent theatre troupe, 1901-1902 45. First curtain of permanent theatre troupe by Aleksandre Beridze 46. Permanent troupe of the Rustaveli Theatre, 1925-1926 (with Sandro Akhmeteli erased in 1937) 47. Rustaveli Theatre, Tbilisi, Georgia 48. From left to right: Georgian theatre directors Sandro Akhmeteli and Kote Marjanishvili 49. Moliere’s “Don Juan” by Mikheil Tumanishvili 50. Shakespeare’s “Richard III” by Robert Sturua 51. From left to right: Georgian theater directors Mikheil Tumanishvili, Robert Sturua and Temur Chkheidze 52. Ramaz Chkhikvadze as Azdak in Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle” 53. Moliere’s “Tartuffe” by Levan Tsuladze 54. Evripides’ “Women of Troy”by Data Tavadze 55. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by David Doiashvili 56. A Table Play” by Beso Kupreishvili, Finger Theater 57. Shakespeare’s “As you like it” by Levan Tsuladze 58. Georgian writer Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani 59. From left to right: The King of Georgia Vakhtang VI and Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani



What’s European about Georgia – its identity, history, culture? What makes Georgians dream of Europe as their home, their family? Can Georgi...