Perhaps, he is one of the brightest characters in the history of Georgia. And how could I forget about this person? He is the real fount of historical controversy, the verge of nature and … well, he is also a poet, an essayist, a Georgian patriot and fighter for the sovereignty of Georgia, the Saint (he was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1987 as Saint Ilia the Righteous), prince and a lawyer by birth (however, without completed higher education). So, let us begin the story.


From the beginning. Ilia Chavchavadze was born (Oct. 27, 1837 -Old style) in Nov. 8, 1837 in eastern Georgia in the village of Kvareli. His father was a cavalry regiment and served in Nizhny Novgorod, then he became a retired lieutenant. His mother was a princess. She liked literature, art and she was very clever woman for that time period. It was she who taught Ilia to read and write. However, he was destined to continue his education with the peasant children.

Then in 1848 he attended private school in Tbilisi, and later he studied at the Tiflis Gymnasium. After the graduation from Gymnasium, he moved to St. Petersburg. He studied for 4 courses at the Law Faculty of Petersburg State University, but Chavchavadze had to leave it because of «a student of history,» which was a strike of students in 1861- 1862.



Mainly due to the fact that Chavchavadze was a good student and had not been expelled from the University, he continued juridical self-education and practice. The absence of the completed higher education did not prevent him from becoming a judge, but immediately after leaving university, he was sent to Kutaisi Province as an official for special assignments for the Governor-General. Let me explain: in 1864 in the Caucasus there was a liberation local agrarian reform. As the result they needed people, who were aware of jurisprudence in order to determine current relations between peasants and landlords. And Chavchavadze was right person.



In general, if you seek historical analogies of personality of Chavchavadze on Slavic territory, the closest person would be Taras Shevchenko. Shevchenko was the same comprehensively gifted and educated person. He was also a patriot of his country, a populist and at the same time a polyglot.



(Olga Chavchavadze, wife)


Chavchavadze tried to make the most significant changes in the poetry and culture of Georgia and make it public and not only the place for «kings and wars» (his own words). In general, (can I digress?) changing eras is manifested in the culture in this way: for example, after the Middle Ages there was the era of Renaissance, which brought anthropocentrism into art. Instead of a dozen religious idols, servants, fools or floral ornaments on the canvas it was popular to show a living person (or two, even naked). Is my logic clear? The same situation with the Georgian literature of mid — late 19th century, in which Chavchavadze made significant changes by removing the focus from the Kings. Kings (especially Russian Tsarist secret police) didn’t forgive him. There is the hypothesis that it was Russian Tsarist secret police that killed Chavchavadze. However, there are different opinions, but I will not go into details.



Chavchavadze made a lot of good things before he died: worked as a conciliator and then as a judge in the Dusheti Tiflis province; taught reading and writing being the chairman of the society popularizing literacy; was a member of the State Council of the noble community. Keeping within the limits of his literary career, he wrote poems and plays both in Georgian and Russian, translated Russian classics into Georgian, translated from German, French and English many European authors, such as Goethe and Shakespeare. He also wrote many nonfiction articles, in which he stood up to the autonomy of Georgia. That is why he caused an open hostility of the Russian government (so it is considered that he was killed by them) and Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, which was criticized by him. As the result, the positions of this party in Georgia had been weakening.



The murder of Chavchavadze is really a strange case. This crime had not been solved and the debut version was as follows: August 30, 1907 while Chavchavadze was walking in the town of Tsitsamuri (near Mtskheta), he was killed by Georgian bandits. For justice’ sake the bandits really were there. Maybe they were hired. It is believed that they hunted not anyone, but just Chavchavadze. There is a legend that Chavchavadze when he saw the bandits stood up and said: «Do not shoot, I am Ilia Chavchavadze!» The bandits answered: «That’s why we have to shoot”. After the shot they disappeared. However, the autopsy proved that the firing was in the back, but according to the legend, the bandits approached from the front. In any case the real murderer was not found and the gang of Guiglo Berbichashvili was accused in crime.



(Place where Ilia died)


Historians of different eras say that the Social Democrats should be considered guilty. However, this version became significant only after the start of perestroika.



(Museum in Tbilisi)


From the literary heritage of Chavchavadze such works are very famous: «The Hermit», «Mother and Son”, and the magazine “Iberia», which was a very well-respected literary publication, founded and headed by Chavchavadze.



Currently, there are at least 3 memorial places named after Chavchavadze: Kvareli village (birthplace), Tbilisi, and Saguramo, where his estate was located. Also Tbilisi University of Western European languages and culture was named after Chavchavadze. Probably there are also memorial plaques in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. So, if you go to Borjomi, do not be lazy to make a small detour:)

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