Ganatleba Publishers
Tbilisi 1987

The book features some works of Ilia Chavchavadze translated into English by brother and sister Oliver and Marjory Wardrop. The translations have not lost their literary value to the present day. The publication is intended as a gift to the Georgian reader in connection with the 150th anniversary celebrations of the birth of the outstanding Georgian writer and public figure. Text prepared for publication, with a preface and notes by Ia Popkhadze. Edited by Dr. Guram Sharadze.


The special interest shown by, Marjory and Oliver Wardrop for Georgian spiritual culture is well known. By translating a number of literary works they gave the versatile English reader an idea of Georgian literature with its centuries — old tradition.

The  spiritual  affinity  of  the  Wardrops  with  Ilia  Chavchavadze,  a  great  son  of  Georgia,  was  not  accidental.  Their  genuine  sympathy  was  confirmed  by  the  translation  of  the  eminent  Georgian writer's literary works, which they did with affection and reverence.

Hitherto the reading public was aware only of Marjory Wardrop's English translation of Ilia's  "The  Hermit"  (London  1895).  In  recent  years  (1981,  1984)  Prof.  Guram  Sharadze  has  discovered some other translations in the Wardrop collection of the Bodleian Library, at Oxford pointing  to  a  broader  scale  of  the  translational  activity  of  the  Wardrops.  Apart  from  "The  Hermit", the following renderings of Ilia's prose are presented for the first time here: "Notes of a Journey  from  Vladikavkaz  to  Tiflis",  "Is  that  a  Man?!"  (fragments),  "The  Sportsman's  story"  (several chapters)," Autobiography".

Chavchavadze's  poetic  heritage  is  represented  by  these  titles:  "Spring",  "The  Sleeping  Maid",  "Elegy",  "Ah!...  She  —  to  whom  My  Dear  Desires..."  an  extract  from  the  poem  "The  Vision" ("O our Aragva"), "Bazalethi's Lake" (abridged).

The texts of these translations were prepared for publication according to the autographs preserved at Oxford, the xeroxed copies of which were brought from England by Prof. Sharadze and kindly transferred to the present writer for publication. The text of "The Hermit" is published according to the London edition of 1895, the latter now being a rare book.

Today the greatest merit of these translations would seem to lie in the inner warmth and affection with which they were done, which will always be remembered by the grateful Georgian people.

Ia Popkhadze

Of the same school is Prince Ilia Chavchav adze (born 1837), who is in many respects the
most remarkable man that Georgia possesses. All his poems, and indeed all his works, whether
as a poet, a novelist, a jo urnalist, an orator , or a financier, breathe a spirit of the loftiest
patriotism. The return of spring and the awakening of bird and flower to fuller life are to him a
reminder of the long-delayed awakening of his beloved land; his elegies on the Kura, the Aragva,
the Alazana are all full of the same feeling. It is, however, in "Lines to the Georgian mother" that
he most clearly expresses his ideas; after re minding the matrons of Georgia how they have
served their country in times past, cheerfully send ing their sons forth to the fight and sustaining
their courage in the hour of misfortune, he says: —
"...But why should we shed idle tears
For glory that will ne'er return?
The ever-flowing stream of years
Leaves us no time to idly mourn.
"'Tis ours to tread an untried path
'Tis ours the future to prepare.
If forward thou dost urge thy sons,
Then answer'd is my earnest prayer.
"This is the task that waits for thee,
Thou virtuous mother of our land
Strengthen thy sons, that they may be
Their country's stay with heart and hand.
"Inspire them with fraternal love,
Freedom, equality and right,
Teach them to struggle 'gainst all ill,
And give them courage for the fight."
Chavchavadze's tales and poems have done mo re than anything else to awaken the
Georgian people to a sense of the duties they have to perform in the altered conditions under
which they now live. His poem, "Memoirs of a Robber", which portrayed the lazy country
squires who lived on the toil of their serfs, ma de a powerful impression. On the class it was
meant for; and the tale, "Is that a Man?" whic h describes the life of a young noble who spends
his whole time in eating, drinking, sleeping and folly, brought a blush to the faces of hundreds of
his countrymen, and prompted them to seek a wort hier mode of existence. At first, the more
conservative part of the nobility were bitterly op posed to the radical ideas of Chavchavadze, but
he has now succeeded in bringing round the majority of them to his way of thinking. He is editor
of a daily paper, Iveria, which is read by all classes of societ y, and most of his time is spent
between his journalistic duties and the mana gement of the nobles' Land Bank, an institution
founded for the relief of the farmers.
Besides those I have mentioned, Chavchavad ze has written many other works; with the
following extract from "The Phantom" I conclude this brief notice of him: —
"O Georgia, thou pearl and ornament of the wo rld. What sorrow and misfortune hast thou
not undergone for the Christian faith! Tell me, what other land has had so thorny a path to tread?
Where is the land that has maintained such a fight twenty centuries long without disappearing
from the earth? Thou alone, Georgia, couldst do it. No other people can compare with thee for
endurance. How often have thy sons freely shed their blood for thee ! Every foot of thy soil is
made fruitful by it. And even when they bowed under oppression they always bravely rose again.
Faith and freedom were their ideals".*

Oliver Wardrop

* The Kingdom of Georgia by Oliver Wardrop, London, 1888,p 150—152.


While most English readers are, to some exte nt acquainted with the literature of Persia,
there are but few who are aware of the existence of Georgian literature. Yet Georgia is well
worthy of attention. The Man in the Panther's Sk in, by Rust'haveli, the great epic poet of the
XIIth century, loses nothing by comparison with Firdausi's Shah Nameh; but what modern
Persian can be placed beside Barat'hashvili or Chavchavadze ?
Endowed by nature with exceptional gifts, assi milating alike the cultu re of the East and
West, the Christian kingdom of the Caucasus achieved a high degree of refinement and
enlightenment at a very early date; and, despite the fierce blasts of war that have swept
ceaselessly over the land, the light of literature has been kept alive.
Prince Ilia Chavchavadze was born in 1837. His family has produced many remarkable
men, including the poet Alexander Chavchav adze (1786—1846), who was much influenced by
the writings of Byron. Prince Ilia received his education in the Tiflis grammar-school and the
University of St. Petersburg.
In 1863 he published a journal, Sakart'hvelo s Moambe, which had a great influence on
his countrymen. In the same year he wrote his novel, "Is that a Man?" in which he drew a picture
of the aimless life of the average country squire . This tale raised a st orm of ill-will, but it
achieved the object of its author: the landed gentry saw their faul ts mercilessly mirrored forth;
first of all they were angry, then ashamed, finally awakened to self-improvement.
Chavchavadze's literary activity extends over a period of well-nigh forty years, and falls
into three divisions. In the first, he is critical and satirical, endeavouring to rouse men from the
lethargy in which they lay. In the second, he enc ourages them to lead a nobler life, by reminding
them of the glorious past of their country, and by depicting the heroic deeds of patriots. Finally,
he has passed into a phase which may be described as almost purely aesthetic.
To this last division belongs The Hermit, written in 1883. Based upon a legend, the poem
has, in my opinion, a symbolic meaning added. Is not the hermit meant, perhaps, to represent
mediaevalism, and the shepherd girl, so bewitchi ng and bright, the Renaissance, which has come
so much later in Georgia than in the West? Befo re her beauty and gladness the old life cannot be
lived, and must either share in her joy or die. From ancient Buddhist legend to modern French
romance, many stories have been written on the temptation of holy recluses. The Hermit differs
from all these in its wonderful simplicity. Here , we have no theatrical machinery, no dazzling
wealth, no dreams of power to tempt the monk from his solitude, poverty and suffering; no
vision of Cleopatra or Semiramis to wile him fr om the path of duty., but only a simple maiden,
innocent and lovely, who tells him of the pure loves of mankind and of the joyousness of life.
Yet, we feel that the temptation is all the more subtle and strong for its very simplicity. In the
original the style is dignified and harmonious, a nd the descriptions are full of poetry, and tender
sympathy with nature in all her moods.
It is not as a poet and novelist alone that Prince Ilia is distinguished. He is the Editor of a
daily paper, Iveria, published in Tiflis, managing director of the Land Bank of the Nobility (an
institution which devotes all its profits to educational and other philanthropic work), an eloquent
orator, and in all the social life of the nation the most prominent figure.
I regret that my translation is so far from doing justice to the original. The difficulty of
learning a tongue hitherto unknown in the West, and of rendering an idiom unallied to any
known family of languages may be pleaded as some excuse for my shortcomings.

Marjory Wardrop

Kertch, Crimea,* October 1895.

* The Hermit a legend by Prince Ilia Chavchavadze translated from the Georgian by Marjory Wardrop, London,
1895. p7—10.

I gaze on thee so calm at rest,
And look upon thy crystal breast;
Thy heart beats like the placid waves,
When summer shores the water laves.
On thy soft cheek's a gentle flush;
Thy smiling lips like rubies blush;
Like glimpse of heaven's thy pure sleep,
While o'er thee angels vigil keep.
Thy breath's as sweet as thy pure heart,
Oh! blest is he whose love thou art!
* * *
Ah!... She to whom my dear desires
Life's longings — even self — were given —
This dark land now she ne'er inspires
She dwells beyond the highest heaven
The star of my fair fortune's gone
An orphan am I here — alone —
The only joy for me that's left
Is tears — of all else I'm bereft.

O our Aragva* how I love thee!
Thou art the witness of our ancient life
On thy banks my, fatherland
Was at one time a glory.
The ancient greatness of my native land
Flourished before thy holy eye.
I love thee for this, that I a Georgian
There on thy banks was born.
In thy waves in the midst of my land
A long history lies buried
And pure Georgian blood
Has been poured forth on thy banks.
There where thy powerful stream
Mingles with the troubled slow Kura
There once was spilt Georgian life
There thundered the voice of Georgia for
for fatherland's sake.
Centuries have passed over thy waves
And centuries over — those Georgians
With overflowing heart on thy holy waters
How many times have I gazed with grief —
What sought I ? my country's past,
In thy sight my ancient fatherland has
sunk in the stream.
And only the tears of blood from my wearied
Give frequently broken-hearted answer.

* The river Aragvi

Irakli Kakabadze is one of the leading contemporary Georgian writers. He is an author of five books and scores of short stories and poems. In 1990 Kakabadze was awarded an award by “Tsiskari” magazine for his novel “Allegro”. He was one of the first writers in Georgia to focus on painful issues of drugs and violence. Since 1990 he has published more than 50 short stories in Georgian, Russian and English publications. His play “Candidate Jokola”, which was published in 2005, became one of the controversial stories of love between Georgian man and Abkhaz woman. In his country, he is well known as a writer and political activist, who has engaged in social life since the late 1980s. In 2000-2004 he was an editor in chief of “Peace Times” literary magazine, which was one of the most readable literary publications in Georgia. He is also one of the founders of “Shmazi” poetry club together with Daniel McFarland. He has done Shmazi performances since 1997. IN Georgia, together with his colleague Zurab Rtveliashvili he has created anew style of multi-cultural performance, Polyphonic Blues. He has collaborated with different musicians, including late Irakli Charkviani, Ketato, Salome Korkota, and most of all, Gogi Dzodzuashvili. He is the author of the lyrics to “Postindustrial Boys”, his collaboration with Gogi Dzodzuashvili, that was published by Max Ernst in 2004.

Born in Georgia, in 1969, Irakli Kakabadze is a founding member and Chairman of the Egalitarian Institute, well known human rights advocacy organization in Georgia.

Kakabadze was one of the founders of the Civic Disobedience Committee and Theater for Change in 2003, which significantly contributed to the Rose Revolution. Kakabadze has been active in the civil rights movement in Georgia and has written numerous articles on the need for democratic reform. In 2007 Irakli Kakabadze was awarded Hellman/Hammett prize by Human Rights watch.

Graduate of the Philosophy Department of Tbilisi State University, Kakabadze also holds Master of Science Degree in Conflict Resolution from the George Mason University. In addition to his public activities, he was an Adjunct Professor of Conflict Resolution at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. He is now a visiting fellow at Peace Studies Program of Cornell University.

Kakabadze grew up in Soviet Georgia and was part of the family that has fought the Soviet Empire from its very inception. Many of his family died during Stalinist purges in 1930s. He started to write at the age of 12. At his teenage years he was involved in gang life and participated in the street fights very often. In 1984 he was almost killed by stabbing. From 1984 to 1986 he had multiple concussions that have seriously damaged his health. That is when he first started to have first hand experiences with the violence.

In 1988 Irakli Kakabadze became involved in student political movement for liberation of Georgia from the Soviet rule. He was a chairman of one of the biggest youth organizations that officially opposed communist party. He was also a youngest member of the National Forum of Georgia – leading body of the National Liberation Movement of Georgia in 1989-90. In April, 1989 he was severely beaten by the Soviet army and he had another second degree concussion. He continued his social activism and was close to the first democratically elected Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia. He participated in the first nationally televised debates between the members of opposition and young communist party leaders in 1990. But after this, and several persecution by KGB he was forced to leave the country and request a political asylum in the United States of America. During his first stay in America he has worked for Voice of America, National Peace Foundation and the Institute for Multi Track Diplomacy.

In the year 2000 he returned to Georgia and started to teach conflict resolution at the Georgian Institute for Public Affairs. At the same time he became an editor in chief of “Peace Times” magazine. He also was leading literary meetings in the cafe “Sardapi” in 2001-2002. That is when he started to practice the polyphonic blues and non-violent arts movement in Georgia.

Kakabadze was one of the initial members of “Civil Disobedience Committee” during the “Rose Revolution” in 2003. After the revolution, he has pursued the work for non-violent state and human rights with his organization “Egalitarian Institute of Georgia”. He has also written highly controversial play “Candidate Jokola” that earned him government animosity. In September 2005, unidentified people have beaten him severely and the government was not able to determine who was the perpetrator of this crime. In 2006, Kakabadze was arrested and jailed by Georgian authorities 4 times for expressing his views about war and human rights.

Since January 2007, Kakabadze lives in exile in the United States again and is now a guest writer for Ithaca City of Asylum and works at the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University.

For most of the twentieth century, Georgia was as a Soviet Republic, one of the fifteen members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Officially, the USSR was a union of independent states, but their independence could be recognized only within the Soviet system. The identity of nations, national cultures, and national belongings of individuals could be assumed and ideologically supported only within the Soviet state. For the rest of the world, the Soviet republics did not exist de facto; they were not even perceived as nation states, so their existence was only conventional fact.

For the people in the USSR, “Soviet” was more an ideological than a national phenomenon, but in other countries “Soviet” was unofficially equated with “Russian”; most of the people in the world could recognize the Soviet Union only as a “Russian” country, with a “Russian” culture and a “Russian” language. The independence of the Soviet republics was one of the myths of Soviet ideology. Even more mythical was the existence of Soviet National Republics, nations and cultures to the rest of the world. This independence and existence was propagated more within the USSR, for the Soviet nations, than to the non-Soviet bloc nations of the world. This propaganda had to maintain the myth, using the art of Soviet Socialist realism among other methods, to level the self-consciousness of Soviet people. National or individual identity was something that had to be dissolved in the common space of socialist ideas of Soviet country, and in Soviet mass consciousness. As it is mentioned in recent Soviet studies, “Socialist realism also promulgated the idea of the socialist fraternity, the coming together of all people under the Soviet banner of internationalism. Individual nationhood was therefore subordinated to the idea of the greater Soviet ‘family’” (D. Gillespie, N. Zhuravkina, 134).

The existence of Georgian national culture was at the same time real and illusionary: it was real for the people in Georgia and also for the Soviet people, but it was non-existent for most of the people outside Soviet borders, who had a dim or even no idea of the of various nations, national languages and cultures within this country. In this situation Georgian culture found as its most important function the preservation of the Georgian national idea and the prospect of future independence, in fact the saving of Georgian nation. It was a special function, since in most countries the state works to develop culture, but in Soviet Georgia, culture and language worked to develop national identity and the future state. “National identity treated as a collective cultural phenomenon” (A. D. Smith, 1991, VII) could thus save the collective national self of the Georgian people.

National identity is mostly defined as a “cultural norm that reflects emotional or affective orientations of individuals toward their nation and national political system” (A. Tsigankov, 15), but in Soviet times individuals often were not oriented toward the political system of their country. The political system in Soviet Georgia was the subject of official and also unofficial discourse, as “Soviet society can in many ways be seen as a dichotomized society, consisting of two layers, the official normative level, and underlying layer” (H. H. Brockdorff, 148).

In official discourses, the system was presented as the most progressive and historically successful way of governing; unofficial discourses were presenting the Soviet socialist political system as regressive and historically unsuccessful. In Soviet Georgia, there was a break between the political system and the nation or people, and also between Soviet government and the Georgian patriots.

Patriotic ideas, especially the idea of state independence, could not be discussed openly, but it was still possible to express all variety of national feelings through culture, literature, theater, film, music and art. National identity as a cultural norm was not oriented toward the political system, but toward the nation; and as Georgia did not exist as a state, it could confirm its existence through culture. This kind of confirmation was important, first of all from the point of contemporary and future generations of Georgian people, but also from the point of reception of other nations and from the point of continuous existence in history. Political existence was substituted by cultural existence. In Soviet times, Georgians were continuing culturally creative and reproductive processes, which was a kind of compensation for the nonexistence of a State system. Thus, in the Soviet period, Georgia had to intensify its cultural process and to corroborate historical existence in the twentieth century through cultural existence.

Georgian national identity was strongly manifested in culture and in the preservation of the Georgian language. As poetry is connected both with culture and language and it can express ideas and feelings in an influential way, most of the twentieth-century Georgian poets considered it their duty to protect the national identity. The main mission of Georgian poetry in Soviet times was to defend and to develop the idea of continuous national existence, spiritual strength and future independence of the Georgian people. While these ideas could not become the subject of direct language forms, they could be expressed by poetic, metaphoric, symbolic and allegoric forms. This kind of poetry could not be officially interpreted as nationalistic in the literary criticism of that time, but it had a strong influence on the people. This potential of poetry a cultural preserver was discovered by Georgian poets quickly after their country was Sovietized in 1921. From this period patriotically minded Georgian adopted a civic position, and national feelings were strongly expressed in their poetry.

In the 1920’s, the development of Georgian poetry actually changed direction, and after the strong influence of the Symbolist movement we can recognize realistic and civic moods in works of famous Georgian poets, and in Georgian culture as a whole. This change in Georgian poetry is also multi-faceted, as the turn to Socialist realism for the most important Georgian writers was, in reality, a turn to realism.

The official requirement of Soviet ideology was to retract individualistic moods and to serve Socialist ideas, to use the method of Socialist realism, and to go over to “Socialist rails.” Accordingly, Soviet poets had to extol the Soviet system and create entrancing hymns to the Communist Party and its leaders. Among most approved themes were the heroism of Soviet workers, the unity of Soviet nations and the bright future of Communism. Almost every famous Georgian poet had to write compromising poems in order to survive and create the illusion of devotion to the Soviet system.

The censors would also accept poems written about one’s native country. Preferably this would be optimistic poems about the heroic present and bright future within the Soviet Union, but poems on the historical past were also accepted, since this past was crowned with Socialist success (of course, it was not possible to mention non-Soviet perspectives or the independence of Georgia). The Georgian Symbolist poets Galaktion Tabidze, Titsian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili, George Lionidze and Valerian Gaprindashvili actually changed the nature of their poetry. Beginning from the end of the 1920’s, fewer and fewer Symbolist poems are found in their works and they began to express strong feelings of love for their native country. Official literary critics interpreted this as some kind of turn towards Socialist realism. Patriotic moods were not openly discussed within the Georgian national context, and words like ‘mother country,’ ‘native land’ and ‘homeland’ were not strictly defined as Georgian. For example, Galaktion Tabidze’s famous slogan “We give our hearts to our country!,” which could mean not the Soviet Union, but his native land.

This cultural turn in Georgian poetry can be understood as a turn from symbolism to realism, from devaluation to real values, like mother country, mother tongue, and nation. The slogan of the Georgian Symbolist group “Blue Horns” in the beginning of the 1930’s, “returning to the land”, was officially interpreted as acceptance of Socialist realism, while it can be understood as a return to realism. Georgian poets rejected their Symbolist individualistic spiritual and aesthetical searches. Instead they started to manifest national feelings, often dramatic and full of readiness to sacrifice themselves for their country (Titsian Tabidze and Paolo Iashivili, among thousands of Georgians, were in reality sacrificed in 1937).

It stands to reason that Georgian poetry of World War II and the post-war period was filled with Soviet patriotism. The Georgian national idea was merged with the ideas of just war, strength of the Soviet country, and the heroism of the Soviet people. But poets of the younger generation Lado Asatiani and Mirza Gelovani continued to express their national feelings in poems, which still remain among the most patriotic Georgian works.

In the 1950’s, a new wave of patriotic poetry appeared with a new generation of Georgian poets: Mukhran Machavariani, Murman Lebanidze, Anna Kalandadze and Shota Nishnianidze. Aesthetic changes in their poetry did not signify a change in approach; the Georgian national identity is openly declared in their poetry. They did however renew the attempts of Georgian writers to establish Georgian national and cultural selfdetermination and preserve national identity. The poetry of this generation appeals to each individual to determine him or herself as part of national history and culture. “Nations cannot survive without cultural history. One of the most deeply rooted collective emotions is a people’s defense of self-determination. Creativity, artistic and literary movements, as well as people’s sensibility to achieve (and preserve) independence, reflect a capacity to discover, reconstruct, depict or invent a distinctive collective self” (N. Gutierrez, 7).

This generation of Georgian poets was indeed inventing a new model of collective self, no longer connected with the Stalinist model of Soviet people. They emphasized in their poetry the national belonging of the Georgian people, which should be seen separate from the Soviet collective self. Their poems intensified the feeling of personal identity and thus allowed the reader to feel his/her own personality within the national sphere, not to be impersonalized in the Soviet non-national conglomeration. Personal and national identification was opposed to impersonalization and acculturation. National self-determination was comprehended as a possibility of personal self-determination. The poetry could indeed provide “a powerful means of defining and locating individual selves in the world” (A. D. Smith, 1991, 17).

Journal of Eurasian Research Vol. 2, No. 1 Winter 2003 Since Soviet ideology strictly prohibited religious discourses, national ideas were presented as the most important values. Georgian poetry at this time equated the idea of serving the nation with that of serving the absolute truth. This was the continuation of a tradition, strengthened by the generation of Georgian poets “Samotsianelebi” in 1860’s, and by the most celebrated representatives of this generation, Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli. These poets, among others, were presented in Georgian poetry as spiritual leaders of the nation.

On the whole, Georgian poets were trying to portray in their poems the most respected individuals of Georgian history: suffering heroes ( Dimitri Tavdadebuli, Ketevan Tsamebuli, Tevdore), and kings (Vakhtang Gorgasali, David Agmashenebeli, Tamar Mephe, Mephe Erekle); also included were ‘archetypal’ places (Mtskheta, Uflistsikhe, Vardzia), landscapes (Kavkasioni) and monumental architecture (Svetitskhoveli, Djvari, Gelati). The experience of Georgian poets agrees with the common model of using the “components of the national imagery” (N. Gutierrez, 11).

From the 1950-1970’s, more and more new poems were appearing, using the national codes and archetypal symbols of the Georgian nation. People expected from the poetry the expression of national feelings and the manifestation of national spirit. It is significant that the manifestation of this type of poetry was associated not only with the historical past, but also with the vivid contemporary cultural and emotional process, which was strengthening the feeling that the nation still had enough inner potential to protect the national self. The Georgian nation was still continuing to produce and reproduce the signs of living patriotic feelings, a testimony to the strength of national identity, which is indeed understood “as the maintenance and continuous reproduction of the pattern of values, symbols, memories, myths and traditions that compose the distinctive heritage of nations, and the identifications of individuals with their particular heritage and these values, symbols, memories, myths and traditions (A. D. Smith, 2001, 30).

Georgian poetry was in fact carrying out this mission; the public mood was led by poetry. The poet was able to express the ideas and feelings that could not be openly discussed. Of course, the most important and prohibited idea was that of Georgian state independence. Before this period, Georgian patriotic poetry was more concentrated on inspiring the Georgian people to love and serve their country, but beginning in the 1960’s the idea of independence began to be presented through symbols, metaphors and allegories in M. Machavariani’s and M. Lebanidze’s poems (e.g. the symbol of oak, which will come into leaf again, in Machavariani’s poem “Saba”).

This kind of work required courage and artistic mastery from the poet. The public had to trust the author and the author had to be sure that his words would be well received by the public, that they would have the effect of self-identification of the nation. The poems had to be ambiguous: the idea had to be hidden from the censor and but clear to the reader, who could have the feeling of contact with some secret hope of national independence.

At this time, literary criticism could discuss the patriotic themes in Georgian literature, but it was still impossible to touch on the idea of independence. However, by the end of the 80’s, with “perestroika” and some freedom of public process, this idea became widely discussed in Georgia and other Soviet republics. From 1988-90 it was not only the topic of national culture, but also of “national movement.” Different informal parties and political groups started to organize meetings and demonstrations, at which Georgian patriotic poetry was also recited to a mass audience. In the speeches of orators and in newly created newspapers people could recognize the familiar ideas and codes of Georgian poetry. It was a time of explosion of patriotic moods and also of patriotic poetry; collective emotions were expressed in poems, as it was common in traditional Georgian poetry. Many professional and amateur poets wrote new poems and published new books full of national feelings, manifesting love of homeland, hope of freedom and independence, and articulations of national identity (as in the beginning of the 90’s publishing policy was changed, the authors could publish their books on their own).

While the quantity of patriotic poems increased, it did not affect the direction of the poetics. The young poets, as well as amateurs, followed the poetical traditions of the elder generation. It became clear that this generation shaped not only the national identity of the Georgian people, but also the poetic constructions and models of Georgian poetry. If a poet wanted to express his/her own patriotic feelings, it was quite easy to find shaped images, metaphors, codes and meters. This created a monotony in the patriotic poetry of the post-Soviet period. It is also significant, that this kind of poem often sounded like slogans. Poets were able to express their feelings and ideas openly, without any need to avoid the censor by creating ambiguous works full of double entendres. These positive changes in the literary sphere did not affect changes in patriotic poetry, and new masterpieces were created quite rarely.

However, changes in post-Soviet Georgian poetry still occurred, but they were associated with the self-identification of young poets (Dato Barbakadze, Davit Chikhladze, Zviad Ratiani) not only in the space of traditional Georgian poetry, but in the cultural space of twentieth- century Western poetry. They were trying to avoid established poetic patterns, which had already become cliché, and to begin the process of poetical experimentation. The new orientation in post-Soviet Georgian poetry did not conflict with the construction of national identity, but this generation did not see as its goal the defense of national ideas. Georgian culture of Soviet period had already fulfilled this mission. New goals were associated with personal and poetical identification, which could also be understood as the important part of cultural and national identification.

The main idea of Georgian patriotic poetry has been realized in the post-Soviet era. Georgia has attained state independence, but political and economic difficulties have made it difficult for the independent state to protect its society and culture. Feelings of frustration and exhaustion appear in Georgian poetry of the 1990’s. In post- Soviet times, the concept of national identity needs to be reinforced not by individuals, and not by culture, but also now by the state.

Bela Tsipuria
Associate Professor
Department of Modern Georgian Literature
Tbilisi State University
Tbilisi, Georgia


Brockdorff, Hans Henrik. (1998). The Individual and the Collective: A Cultural Approach to the Question of Dualism in Soviet Society. In Soviet Civilization between Past and Present. Ed. Mette Bryld and Erik Kulavig.Odense: Odense University Press.

Gillespie, David and Zhuravkina, Natal’ia. (1998). National Identity and the Past in Recent Russian Cinema. In Soviet Civilization between Past and Present. Ed. Mette Bryld and Erik Kulavig. Odense: Odense University Press.

Gutierrez, Natividad. (2001). The Study of National Identity. In Modern Roots: Studies of National Identity. Ed. Alain Dieckhoff and Natividad Gutierrez. Burlington: Ashgate.

Smith, Anthony David. (1991). National Identity. Reno: University of Nevada Press.

Smith, Anthony David. (2001). Interpretations of National Identity. In Modern Roots: Studies of National Identity. Ed. Alain Dieckhoff and Natividad Gutierrez. Burlington: Ashgate.

Tsygankov, Andrei P. (2001). Pathways After Empire: National Identity and Foreign Economic Policy in the Post-Soviet World. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Dust am I, to dust I cling;
A rustic born, my life is one
Eternal strife and endless toil,
And endless woe... till life is gone.
I plough, I sow, I labour on,
With muscles strained, in sun and rain.
I scarce can live on what I earn,
And tired and hungry I remain.
The owner of the land torments me;
Even the tiny ant's my foe.
For townsfolk, priests and native country
In blood-like sweat I plough and sow...
How long, O God, this endless grind,
This life of sorrow and of toil?
Alas! I fear that death alone
Will bring me rest within this soil!