Issue 0012
September 21, 2003
A Little About Georgian Poetry by Ucha Sakhltkhutsishvili

The Georgian Republic, with a capital city of Tbilisi, was one of the republics of the former USSR. The Georgian Republic is situated in Caucasus, between the Black and Caspian Seas. The country's population is about 5 million people. The Georgian people were in an incessant struggle for their independence for many centuries against foreign invaders from Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks and others. Because of this, Georgians have in them a sense of chivalry and patriotism, which converted to a societal expression in great ballads and poems.

Folklore is the source where modern Georgian poetry takes its origin from. Folklore has preserved many a proof of the antiquity of Georgian culture; the legend of Amirani during the latter half of second millennium B.C. is particularly eloquent in this respect.

Amirani (the son of the Sun) is a hero who frees his people of monsters and demons oppressing them. He teaches people to work metals, to kindle fire… so he is opposing even heaven itself. In punishment for this, God chained him to a rock in the Caucasus. This legend is the origin of Greek Prometheus.

Georgian poetry in Y-X centuries A.D. was basically ecclesiastical, mostly hagiographic. The most flourishing period of Georgian hymnography was eight-century (Ioane Sabanisdze, Micel Modrekili, and others).

From the X century began the Golden Age of classical old Georgian poetry. The X-XII centuries were the classical age of cultural renaissance. In this period Georgian poetry freed itself of the shackles of ecclesiastical dogmas and became laic in character. The peak of its development attained Georgian poetry to heights in works of Chakhrukhadze ("Tamariani", a collection of 20 odes dedicated to the great queen Tamar and her consort David Soslani). The poem is rhythmical and musical based on internal and end rhymes.

Another work was Ioane Shavteli's "Abdul Messiah" eulogy to David the Builder (1084-1125), who had consolidated the Georgian state.

The most outstanding representative of old Georgian poetry was Shota Rustaveli. His poem "The Knight in the Tigers Skin" is still an unsurpassed masterpiece. The poem develops over the vast territories of India, Arabia, China, and Venice. Despite the wide vast territories, it is deeply national. The characters are veritable symbols of love, friendship and heroism. Shota Rustaveli's heroes strive to make this world better and happier. The poem's main motif is patriotism based on the love and friendship Rustaveli's heroes: Avtandil, Tariel and Pridon reach in the victory. The poem is rich with brilliant aphorisms.

Shota Rustaveli was the peak of Georgian literature.

In the XII-XIV centuries, Georgia was occupied by Mongols, then Turks and Persians changed rule in the XV-XVIII centuries. The unity and might of the state was destroyed; Georgian people lived in awfully hard conditions and, of course, their cultures declined. Despite all of this, rare but significance poetical works were created.

Ioseph Tbileli wrote a poem "Did Mouraviani", in which he described the struggle of the Georgian people against foreign invaders. Didi Mouravi (Giorgi Saakadze) was a famous chief of the military, who struggled for state unity not only against foreign invaders but also against inner feudalism . That is why he emigrated to Persia and Turkey.

The king of Kakheti, in the eastern part of Georgia, Teymuraz I, wrote some lyrical poems.

Archil II, a king, was also an outstanding poet who wrote some realistic verses and poems.

The most brilliant poet of the XVIII century was David Guramishvili, whose works are lost, but only one volume "Davitiani" which he copied when he was 69 years old is still very interesting to understand the conditions in which Georgian people lived in this period. His principal work "The Woes of Kartly" describes the misfortunes of Georgian people in the hands of the Turks, the Persians and raiding parties from the hills.

At the beginning of the XIX century Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire, the result of which Georgian people begin to develop their economy and culture in peace. At that time, Georgian romanticism sprang up. Alexander Chavchavadze headed this period. Nikoloz Baratashvili, Grigol Orbeliani and others were representatives of romanticism.

The classical Georgian poetry begins with Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Vazha Pshavela and others in the second half of the XIX century.

Ilia Chavchavadze was a great writer and thinker who laid the foundation of the new Georgian literature and of the modern literary language. He wrote brilliant verses, poems, stories, plays, critical essays and sharp articles of the social sphere. He was killed in 1907 by order of Communists

At the beginning of the XX century, when Georgia became one of the republics of the USSR, the arts and certainly poetry changed its manner. Writings were limited The main motif of Soviet Union poetry was the praising of Lenin, Stalin and the Socialist system. So, a new type of Soviet Poetry was born. If anybody was suspected of writing poetry outside of the government preferred style, they were killed. Many gifted poets limited their craft and they spent their writing time commending the existing regime or they just did not expose their true talents.

The most significant Georgian poets of the XX century are Galaktion Tabidze, Tician Tabidze, Giorgi Leonidze, Simon Chikovani, Irakli Abashidze, Lado Asatiani, Ana Kalandadze and a few others.

At the end of XX century The USSR was ruined, but despite that, Georgia as well as other socialist republics became independent. There appeared so many living problems that the culture and, of course, the poetry, went to shade. Many talented writers emigrated to find jobs and to become the breadwinners of their families, who were left behind in Georgia.

Article written by : Ucha Sakhltkhutsishvili - a VoicesNet contributor living in the Georgian Republic (once part of the Soviet Union - USSR).

Copyright 2003

 


In This Issue:

  1. Intro Page

  2. VoicesNet Anthology 5 Contest Winning Poems

  3. A Little About Georgian Poetry

  4. Is Literature a Science?

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