The Georgian Association participated in a meeting on June 21 of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who is advising presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. The CEEC reiterated its mission of coordinating mutual concerns of the member countries regarding United States policy toward Central and East Europe. Among the topics discussed were the concern about the future of Russian aggression especially in the Ukraine, and continued occupation of territory in Georgia. Sanctions imposed on Russia have not impacted Putin’s behavior in the region, and how the United States deals with the aggression will send a strong signal throughout Europe. Also discussed were Brexit should it occur, refugee migration, visa waivers, and the need to strengthen NATO. Secretary Albright welcomed the CEEC’s concerns and suggested a follow-up meeting in late summer.
Just before the beginning of World War Il, Georgia solemnly celebrated the 750th anniversary of the appearance of the famous poem of the great Georgian poet, Shotha Rustaveli “The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin.” Today in 2016, this poem, known to all Georgians, celebrates well over 800 years of existence and remains as beloved as ever. Who was Shota Rustaveli and what about this medieval epic poem called a masterpiece of Georgian literature makes it so relevant today?
Looking back, as the poem was celebrating its 750th birthday, during a meeting of the Association of Georgian Writers held in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilissi, a Mr. Ingorokva, Professor of Literature at the State University of Tbilissi and one of the best qualified commentators on Rustaveli at the time, spoke about the poem and its author. In the prologue to his lecture he said: “Centuries separate us from the time of Rustaveli, but his immortal poem continues to stand as the magnificent work of an accomplished genius, and its influence remains as powerful as ever. The era during which Rustaveli lived and created was the era when Georgia reached the height of her political power and cultural development. It is impossible to understand Rustaveli’s great work without a deep knowledge of the magnificent, original culture of Georgia of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. And, in reality, where did the universal philosophy and the humanism with which the poem is impregnated come from? The answer, of course, is that the great cultural movement known as the Renaissance began in Georgia centuries before it came to Western Europe.”
Professor Ingorokva was quite right. Rustaveli wrote a poem, which, like a mirror reflected the culture of Georgia of his day. The poem is first of all the expression, unique in form and style, of the great ideas of humanism on which as based the political and intellectual life of medieval Georgia.
Who was Rustaveli? He was one of many great nobleman who surrounded the resplendent court of Queen Thamar the Great, who reigned in Georgia from 1184 to 1213. The Lord of Rustavi in Southwest Georgia, he took the name of Rustaveli which in Georgian means “one who comes from Rustavi.” There is not the slightest doubt that he was the man who wrote the “Knight in the Tiger Skin.” In the concluding lines of his poem the author says:
“..I sign my name,
A Meskhi from Rustavi.”
“Meskhi” in Georgian means a man from Meskheti, the province of Georgia where Rustavi is situated.
When did Rustaveli live and when was his poem written? To these questions as well, the poem itself gives the answer. In the prologue, the author dedicates his poem to Queen Thamar and speaks of her as his contemporary. Now, the only Queen Thamar known to Georgian history is precisely the famous Thamar the Great, who became queen in 1184 when her father, George Ill, abdicated in her favor. This and other historical facts prove that Rustaveli lived in the second half of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, the golden Age of the Kingdom of Georgia. His poem was likely written between the years 1184 and 1207. The exact date is not known and neither are the dates of his birth and death.
After receiving a good education in Georgia, Rustaveli went to Athens (the Paris of his time) and completed his education there. He spoke several languages, he traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, he knew thoroughly the cultures, the arts, and the literature of all the civilized countries of his age. His poem is full of quotations from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers, poets, and writers of classical Greece and Iran.
It can be seen that Rustaveli was well prepared to play a part in the service of his country. He received an appointment as Great Chamberlain (some sources say Chief Treasurer) to Queen Thamar the Great. The tragedy of his life begins from this moment. The queen was beautiful and Rustaveli fell desperately in love with her. All his genius is given to the task of singing her beauty, her charm, and her virtue.
“Let us sing to the great Queen Thamar, says the poet.
“1 dedicate to her my chosen odes, Odes written with tears and blood. I sing of the one of whom I have always sung.
She is all my life, even though she has no more mercy for me, than a rock.
I sing her glory in the lines which follow. ‘ ‘
Thus the poet ends the prologue to his poem.
What was his further fate? We have nothing authentic to go by, but legend says that the poet abandoned public life, became a monk, and spent the rest of his days in one of the Georgian monasteries in Jerusalem (formerly the Georgian Monastery of the Holy Cross, the church now belongs to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem). It was there that his tomb was discovered centuries later, along with a fresco and a simple inscription “Shotha Rustaveli”. His Wikipedia Biography notes that the fresco and accompanying inscription in Georgian were defaced in 2004. But the fresco was subsequently restored.
*the poem is also referred to as “The Knight in the Panthe’s or Leopard’s Skin”. This articledraws largely from an article written by Simon Kvitashvili and printed in the publication “The Voice of Free Georgia, vol 5, April, 1954.
The Georgian Service celebrated its 65thanniversary on May 26, 2016 at VOA headquarters in Washington DC. Several dignitaries were in attendance including Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, Archil Gegeshidze, the Honorable Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and the Honorable Kurt Volker, Executive Director, the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. The current U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly delivered a message by video. Anna Kalandadze, Chief of the Georgian Service moderated the event. The Georgian Association has been an active supporter of the Georgian Service–indeed several Board members’ fathers worked for the service for many years. And, the first director of the Service, Irakli Orbeliani, was a founding member of the Georgian Association. Congratulations to the Georgian Service on its over six decades of fulfilling its mission of providing objective and timely news to the people of Georgia.
The Georgian Association welcomes the release on May 25 of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot imprisoned by Russia for nearly two years. She was falsely accused of responsibility for the death of two Russian journalists in the war between Russia and the Ukraine. The GA stood with the people of Ukraine and the European Union in denouncing Moscow’s disregard for human rights and the harsh and unwarranted prison sentence imposed on Savchenko. The GA will continue to be a voice for former Soviet bloc countries in their quest for freedom and rights under international law.
Georgian Association Officials Lead Discussions on Georgia’s Security at Washington, D.C. Conference, co-hosted by Levan Mikeladze Foundation for the Caucasus Studies
On May 12, 2016, the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies (SAIS) co-hosted a conference “Strategic Pillars of Security for Georgia:Trans-Atlantic Integration, Economy and Democracy”. Former President of the Georgian Association Mamuka Tsereteli and President of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation of the Caucasus Studies Tina Mikeladze opened the conference on behalf of the organizers. The conference brought together in two panels noted scholars, policy analysts, program implementors and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. The Georgian government was represented by the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Mr. David Bakradze, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Dondua. The Georgian Embassy was represented by both Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze and Deputy Chief of Mission George Khelashvili. The Georgian representatives expressed concern about the “creeping annexation” of their country and their disappointment at the lack of movement towards a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO. For their part, a number of American panelists, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink reiterated continued US support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
There was much discussion, particularly during a second panel moderated by the GA President Elisso Kvitashvili, on Georgia’s ongoing need to implement internal reforms that some panelists believed would enhance Georgia’s overall security through greater legitimacy of the government. Several panelists decried the lack of job creation, poor social service delivery, and lack of innovation in the business sector as stumbling blocks to Georgia’s economic development. There was agreement that the West needed to devote more attention on Georgia especially in her role as a hub in the developing Silk Road Transport Corridor.
The conference was followed by a reception celebrating Georgia’s upcoming Independence Day. This year, 2016, Georgia celebrates its 25th anniversary of regaining of independence. This year’s special guest of the reception was the co-chair of the Georgia Caucus in the House of Representatives of the US Congress Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) who, together with Congressman Ted Poe (R, Texas) is a co-sponsor of a draft congressional resolution supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity. Congressman Connolly received a special award from the President of the Association Elisso Kvitashvili.
The Georgian Association in the United States will launch a series of short biographical sketches showcasing some of the more illustrious members of the Georgian diaspora. Our first profile is Irakli Orbeliani, the first director of the Georgian Service in the Voice of America and one of the co-founders of the Georgian Association in the USA in 1932.
Irakli Orbeliani, who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, on November 14, 1901, came from one of the most illustrious families in Georgia. Beginning from the 6th century AD, the princely house of Orbeliani gave to Georgia a remarkably large number of distinguished men: statesmen, soldiers, ambassadors, scientists, writers and poets. Irakli’s mother, the Princess Elisabeth of the Royal House of Georgia, Bagrationi, was the direct descendent of Georgian kings and throughout her life was a bitter, active and open enemy of the Russian rule of Georgia. Irakli’s father, Prince Mamuka Orbeliani, was an officer in the Russian Imperial Guards, who gave up his commission and refused to serve the Russian tsar upon the exile of his wife for her opposition to Russia’s rule over Georgia.
Irakli was a great musical talent who performed many concerts in Europe and the United States before ill health forced him to give up his musical career. By then he had emigrated and become a citizen of the United States. In 1950 he accepted a request by the USG and became head of the Georgian Service of the Voice of America. Later he was appointed Chief of the South USSR Branch which comprised Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaidjani,,Turko-Tartar and Turkestani services. When the later three services were abolished in 1953, Irakli reverted to the Head of the Georgian Service where he remained until he died in March, 1954. The Georgian community in the U.S. at the time greatly mourned his loss lauding his brilliance and great personal charm. *
*taken from The Voice of Free Georgia, Vol. 5, April, 1954
The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the recent remarks by the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs who met with Tinatin Khidasheli, the Defence Minister of Georgia on April 16 in Bratislava. The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed full support for visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area as well as Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO. He noted that no third country has a right to veto NATO’s open door policy. Both ministers pledged to continue active cooperation in the defense sector.
The Georgian Association in the United States welcomes the draft House Resolution H.Res.660 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia, sponsored by the co-chairs of the Georgia Caucus Representatives Poe (R, Texas), and Connolly (D, Virginia). The resolution condemns the military intervention and occupation of Georgia by the Russian Federation and its continuous illegal activities along the occupation line in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and calls upon the Russian Federation to withdraw its recognition of Georgia’s territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as independent countries, to refrain from acts and policies that undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and to take steps to fulfill all the terms and conditions of the August 12, 2008, Ceasefire Agreement between Georgia and the Russian Federation;
To pass the resolution, representatives Poe and Connolly need the strong support of their colleagues from House of Representatives. Therefore, the Georgian Association is announcing the week of April 18 as a week of advocacy for Georgian territorial integrity, sovereignty and security.
If you wish to show support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and security of Georgia, and to support resolution H.Res.660, please contact your representatives and encourage them to back the resolution. Visiting the local offices of your representatives is highly recommended. The website of the House of Representatives http://www.house.gov/representatives/ can be helpful in finding your representative and their contact information. You can also call offices of members of Congress in Washington. Below are simple calling instructions for your reference:
- Dial the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. The directory for the members of the House of Representatives is the second option.
- A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the member’s office you request.
- When the person answers, simply say “Hello, my name is________, I live in_________(name your city), and I would like member of Congress ________ to support and co-sponsor the Poe-Connelly Resolution number H.Res.660 supporting territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.”
- Often, the congressional office will ask for your name and address so the member may acknowledge your call by writing you a letter. Do not worry that you will be asked to justify or explain the policy behind your phone call.
The Georgian Association of America is pleased to announce the election of its new president, Miss Elisabeth “Elisso” Kvitashvili, effective immediately.
Ms. Kvitashvili follows long time president Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli who continues as an active member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer. Ms. Kvitashvili recently retired from United States Government service where she was a member of the Senior Foreign Service and served overseas including in Georgia. She is a first-generation Georgian American whose father, Merab Kvitashvili, is a revered Georgian patriot. She is married with two children.
Here is a more detailed biography:
Elisabeth Kvitashvili recently served as the Mission Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives before retiring with 36 years of service in Ocrober, 2016. Prior to Sri Lanka she served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Middle East with oversight of the Iraq, Jordan and Yemen portfolios. Before joining the Middle East Bureau, she was in Rome, where she served as Humanitarian Affairs Counselor to the U.S. Ambassador, USUN-Rome. Prior to her arrival in Rome, she served as USAID Acting Mission Director in Russia. From 2007-2009 she served as Deputy Assistant Administrator, in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, United States Agency for International Development. She is a career Senior Foreign Service officer with tours in Afghanistan, Russia, Honduras and Italy (Rome) and shortened tours in Pakistan and Bosnia.
She served in Afghanistan, 2002-2003, where she was head of the USAID reconstruction program and Acting Mission Director. In the mid-1980’s she was based in Peshawar, Pakistan where she designed the USAID Cross Border Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghanistan. During 1997-1998, she traveled for USAID throughout Afghanistan undertaking humanitarian assessments with the UN. She has also spent significant field time in the North and South Caucasus, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia and Eritrea working primarily on humanitarian and conflict-related programs. She previously served 3 years as the director of the Disaster Response and Mitigation Division in the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance where she led a number of DARTs and one year in the Office of Transition Initiatives as a senior program officer.
In 2003, she launched USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) serving as director until 2007. While Director of CMM, she led the development of a conflict assessment framework now in use throughout the USG as well as the Fragile States Strategy. She worked with General Petraeus’ staff in the drafting of the US military’s Counterinsurgency Manual and frequently addressed audiences about the nexus of COIN and development. She has authored several pieces on the subject.
She holds a master’s degree in Near East Studies from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies and a diploma in international relations from Paris University School of Political Science. She is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. She serves as adjunct professor at the Georgetown University where she teaches a graduate-level course on conflict and food security. She is married and has two children.
Invitation to Join the Georgian Association and the Central and East European Coalition of Diaspora Groups.
The Georgian Association in the USA and our partners from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) of diaspora groups have planned Advocacy Days for April 19-20, 2016. During the afternoon of April 19 and a full day of activities on April 20, the participants will meet members of the US Administration, members of Congress, and senior staffers of key congressional committees.
The meetings will address the critical policy issues related to US interests in Central and Eastern Europe and the political and economic security of the countries of the region. The participants will have an opportunity to raise issues such as the territorial integrity and national security of Georgia, and the acceleration of Georgia’s integration into Transatlantic security and economic institutions. The Georgian Association will supply participants with briefing materials.
We encourage your active participation in this important event. The voice of Georgian Americans is important for keeping US foreign policy focused on Georgia and Georgia-related issues. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Georgian Association in the USA