Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia


Only society, equipped with civic consciousness will retain identity and take a stand in  the
modern global world. The research aims at revealing distinctive characters of Georgian way of
thinking based on the examples from scientific works and fiction.
Interesting explanation  regarding  the  essence  of  citizenship is  given  by  a  great  Georgian
scientist Saint Grigol Peradze in his series of letters “Content of real citizenship” (interpretation
of The Lord's Prayer - Our Father). He postulates:” Aim of citizen’s life and of citizenship itself
should  be  God".  Civic  Consciousness  in  the  history  of  Georgian  literature  originates  from
hagiography and immediately comprises double service. Hagiography hero serves for conversion
of physical and spiritual “desert” into “city”.
The  poetry  of  great  Georgian poet Vazha-Pshavela  possesses  all  characteristics  of  highly
developed civic  consciousness.  Vazha-Pshavela  is  considered to  be  “a poet  of  future”  (critic
Tamaz Chkhenkeli), also “a poet of soul” (Grigol Kiknadze), because his creative work is directed
towards spiritual forces of a human and serve for spiritual prosperity.


Civic consciousness, citizenship, Grigol Peradze, literature, Vazha---Pshavela


In order to define an essence of civic consciousness, it’s necessary to describe a term
citizen (citizenship) in the light of literary tradition. In the majority of world languages
(Georgian, Russian, English, German) base for this word is a large urban area – city,
ქალაქი,  город.  The  Brockhaus  and Efron  Russian Encyclopedic  Dictionary  gives
historical meaning of term “citizen”: “In Greece and Rome a “citizen” (πολίτης, cives)
was called not a  resident of  a city in  general, but  only a  member of a  civil unity“
(Brockhaus, Efron,1890-1907).
In  the  above  Encyclopedic Dictionary  it is  stated that  in old  Greece, the word
πολιτεία (citizen) implied a whole body of citizen’s rights, from which the followings
were the most important ones: marriage, purchasing of realty, claiming, participation in
general  meetings,  holding  posts.  In  Rome,  two  kinds  of  citizen’s  right  were
distinguished:  1.  Public (jura  publica)  and private  (j.privata). First  mainly  implies
political rights, while the second one - marriage and ownership of realty. Due to the
above, Roman citizens were divided into full and underprivileged members of the city.
After French revolution a word “citizen” was used not only in the field of political
legislation, but in conversational speech as well; it replaced forms of address "monsieur"
and "madame".

Meanings  of  terms  "Citizen"  and  "Citizenship"  in  Georgian  ecclesiastical literature

Great  Georgian  lexicographer  Sulkhan-Saba  Orbeliani  (1658-1725)  defines
“citizen”  as  one,  being  in  the  city  (Orbeliani,  1991,  p.  509).  Georgian  Apostolic
Symphony – dictionary defines “citizen” and “citizenship” based on all lexical units of
old Georgian versions: “citizen” – the one, living in the city, гражданин; „I am a Jewish
man, from Tarsus, Cilicia, not a citizen of a strange city, case 21,39“ (Dictionary, 2009,
p. 252). In the same dictionary we see word combinations - “mentally good citizen” and
“citizen of a heaven”. In old Georgian texts, being a “mentally good citizen” is a way
to save a soul and find a heaven; “because our real citizenship is in heaven“(dict).
“Citizen  of  a  heaven”  – this  form of address is  used by Georgian  figure of 19th
century Mikhail Sabinin, who is an author of “The Paradise of Georgia”, a voluminous
lithographed edition of biographies of important Georgian Orthodox Christian saints. In
the preface he thanks for assistance mother superior Nina from Samtavro monastery and
called her a “Citizen of a heaven”: „some materials were given to me by The bride of
Christ  and  a  citizen  of  heaven,  mother  superior  Nina  from  Samtavro
monastery“(Sabinin, 2015, p. 7).
Following formulation is given in Georgian Easter chant: “Christ is risen and life is
citizening“; thus, a citizenship is more than life,  it’s associated with spiritual victory,
it’s superiority to everything terrestrial.  
In  Georgian  Hagiographic  texts,  citizenship  comprises  lives  of  Saints.  Great
Georgian hagiographer of 10th century Giorgi Merchule in his  work  “Life of Grigol
Khandzteli” used the following epithet, when talking about saint Grigol –“the one who
converts desert into a city” (უდაბნოთა ქალაქმყოფელი). Saint Grigol of Khandzta
constructed monasteries in the South of Georgia (modern Turkey), on the land ravaged
by  Arabian  conquerors  in  the  8-th  century.  His  epithet  do not  describe  physical
construction  only  but  initially  implies  filling  of  spiritual  emptiness  with  bliss,
conversion of spiritual “desert” into a “city”.  
According  to  the  above,  in  Christian  tradition  and  old-Georgian  literature,
citizenship  has  a  meaning  of  active,  dynamic  process  –striving  towards  spiritual
developmentv and prosperity.

Saint Grigol Peradze's viws about citizenship

Interesting explanation is given by a great Georgian scientist of 20th century, doctor
of theology Saint Grigol Peradze in his series of  letters “Content of real citizenship”
(interpretation of The Lord’s prayer - Our Father) – these are sermons, pronounced in
Saint Nino’s Church in Paris. In 1988-1989 these letters were published in journal of
Georgian  Patriarchy  “Jvari  Vazisa”.  Grigol  Peradze  thoroughly  reasons  about
spirituality of citizenship, the essence of word, features of the real citizen. Following
thesis seems to be the main postulate of Grigol Peradze: “Aim  of citizen’s life and of
citizenship itself should be God” (Peradze, 1988, p. 41).
The  author  states,  that main  feature  of  a  citizen  is  “consciousness”, “conscious
membership” of homeland: “a citizen means each conscious member of homeland; it’s
not a one, owning property, but the one who feels great property: life, its essence and
liability"(Peradze,  1989,  p.  80).  Thus,  civic  consciousness  is  not  determined  by
unconscious liabilities, implemented without reasoning, but the mental and spiritual
perception of personal liabilities and significance of life.
Grigol Peradze emphasizes meaning of  word “citizen” in the context of someone,
fighting against evil: „this is a word massive and rich in content...citizenship implies
spiritual life of saint: his struggle against himself, his circle and darkness, i.e. struggle
for implementation of aimed ideas and principles” (Peradze, 1989, p. 80).
Saint  Grigol  Peradze  enumerates  in  detail  features  of  citizen  and  makes  very
interesting conclusion; he states that civic activity is not required only from saints, but
from  the  whole  society  in  general:  „citizenship  demands  from  each  citizen
consciousness, honesty, ability of thinking, wisdom, courage; citizenship requires to see
things in cheerful light, prudence, steadiness, modesty, which is not characterized for
slave but for educated person; citizenship is ability to see a human in people and to
appreciate it" (Peradze, 1989, pp.  80-81). Grigol Peradze considers Pater Noster to be
a source of “citizenship” and emphesizes following part of the prayer - „and forgive us
our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors“ – just these words reveal an essence of
real  citizenship.  Forgiving  of  neighbour  is  very  difficult  for  person  –  it  needs
suppression of revenge and passions, sacrificing.  

Artistic  representation  of  civic  consciousness  in  Vazha-Pshavela's  poems
“What has made me a man?” and "My Entreaty"

 “If  I  am  asked  what  will  I  wish  for  my  country,  I  would  say:  certainly
consciousness...  good  and  the  evil  of  the  life  is  mainly  connected  with  this
consciousness-ignorance. Everything written by the mankind for its benefit was written
when recovering consciousness, but unfortunately not every nation was conscious in
this period: one nation excels the other in consciousness“(Vazha-Pshavela,1979, p. 196)
– these words belongs to great Georgian poet of 19th century Vazha-Pshavela (1861-
1915). Thus, “consciousness” or “recover consciousness” of each  person is the main
base of nation’s development.
Vazha-Pshavela is  a  pseudonym of Luka  Razikashvili and literary means  a  “man
from Pshavi”. Professor of London University, translator of Vazha’s works in English
– Donald Rayfield notes: „As the Georgian futurists admitted, when repudiating all the
past, ‘Vazha stands outside time and space’. He is qualitatively of a greater magnitude
that any other Georgian writer” (Rayfield, 2013, p. 187). Among various themes found
in Vazha-Pshavela’s creative work, a civic-social one is certainly the most important. It
is artistic realization of writer’s inner, spiritual requirements. Poems “What has made
me a Man?” and “My entreaty” give vivid reflection of this passion.  
Motif of sacrifice has a basic place in Vazha’s works. Poem “What has made me a
Man?” reveals two poetic phenomena – humanity and being a rain. A lyrical character
wishes to be a rain:
“What has made me a man
 Why haven’t come I as a rain?” (Vazha-Pshavela, 1986, p. 87).
 The  rain  is  a  “child  of  heaven”,  “beads  of  clouds”,  “worshipper  of  the  sun”,
“disappointer of death”. The sweat of rain makes dying surroundings to revive and this
in its part make a poet happy. Overwhelming love strives for blending with nature; it
desires  to make  nature  alive and  is ready for  sacrificing.  This  motif  in  Georgian
literature is presented from of 12th century poem, masterpiece named “Vepkhistkaosani”
(“The Knight in the Panther's Skin”). Avtandil’s (character of the above poem) singing
merges with nature; his inner, spiritual energy revives inanimate objects, makes animals
listen carefully, even stones listen to his song. The same motif can be found in works of
romantic poet Nikoloz Baratashvili, who wishes to be the sun at sunrise to revive dried
meadow, to make birds and flowers happy. In newest Georgian literature, this theme is
most impressionably revealed in works of Galaktion Tabidze and Terenti Graneli. In
Galaktion’s works, there is no border between the world and poet’s heart  (“I and  the
Terenti  Graneli  is  courageous  to  state:  “I  wish  I  was  everywhere  like  God”
(miniature “Blood drops from heart”) – it is not a blasphemy, but overwhelming desire
to spread in world and merge with space.
Thus, “being a rain” in Vazha’s poem is not neglect of humanity but its acceptance
and recognition, preservation of similarity with God, what can be achieved only through
sacrificing and care of nears. In this poem, poet develops an idea of Christian love, of
correct sacrifice. During defining an essence of citizenship, Saint Grigol Peradze was
writing:  “citizenship  means  sacrificing,  self-burning  for  giving  a  light  to  other”
(Peradze,  1989,  p.  80).  Vazha-Pshavela’s  lyrical  character  is  a  bearer  of  civic
Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of modern Georgia, gives highly appreciates to Vazha-
Pshavela’s poem “My Entreaty”: “It’s a result of highest Christian thinking, a praise of
modesty, love, heroism, loyalty; its author is a real friend of God and not only a gifted
person”( Ilia II, 2006, p. 1).
In this poem, Vazha desires to be in the place of grass and not a scythe, he even
agrees to be a lamb, but never a wolf; anxiety makes him happy. Leading theme of this
poem is Christian perception of the happiness. Being a “grass” or a “lamb” is considered
to be a happiness by the author, i.e. citizenship, implemented with modesty. Taking care
of other and  protection of oppressed  makes him happy. It’s a  visible side of internal
suffering, which is difficult to stand, but at the same time is desirable for the author:
„Only suffering makes me happy”. Doing a good is a huge internal desire of the poet
(even it is not appreciated by others). Indifference and lack of cordiality is like a death
for him.  
Being a  “grass” and a “lamb” is  not  considered as helplessness by the author; he
never lets himself be eaten by a wolf and never lays his head in front of a scythe. Wolf
and scythe are symbols of indifference, cruelty, lack of cordiality and tenderness. Vazha
damns such life and is not going to arrange a truce with it. Uncompromising struggle
with evil is Vazha’s choice and the main goal of his characters.


According to the present-day interpretation given in dictionaries, citizenship means
legal belonging to certain State: „Status of citizenship gives certain rights and liabilities
(defined under the  current law) to person, living in State“(Dictionary, 2011,  p. 129).
Thus, citizenship implies rights and liabilities, defined under legislation.  
Hence, a term “citizenship”, from the standpoint of historical and literal traditions,
also present social-political conditions, comprises, on the one hand, spiritual features (a
way of spiritual perfection) and ,on the other hand, rights and liabilities defined under
the law. These  two sides fill  each other.  A citizen is responsible to God,  State and
society. That’s why in Georgian hagiography saint Grigol from Khandzta is called “A
man  of  heaven and  an  angel  of  the  earth”, i.e.  mediator  between  earth and  heaven,
executor of both liabilities. In new Georgian writings (Akaki Tsereteli’s poem “Tornike
Eristavi”, Alexander Kazbegi’s story “Khevisberi Gocha” etc) this harmony is given in
following formulation -“God’s word –nation’s word”.  


The research publishes the partial results of the doctoral dissertation “The issues of
formation and development of civic consciousness in Vazha-Pshavela’s creative works
– methods and activities of teaching”. It is a winner project (DO 335/2-110/14) in call
for Ph.D programme grants (2014) announced by  “Shota  Rustaveli National Science
Foundation” (Georgia) and is supported by the foundation. Research directions: Literary
studies, Education studies-methodology. It is held at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State
University, faculty of Psychology and Education sciences.

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Peradze, G. (1988). "Content of Real Citizenship." Jvari Vazisa: 80- 84.
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Marine Tsiklauri
Tbilisi, Digomi massif, Q. IV, building 13, ap.25.