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 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive joins forces with The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film to present the largest-ever retrospective of Georgian cinema in the United States. This passion project, undertaken by successive curatorial staffs at the two organizations over more than 20 years, brings together 45 programs in prints sourced from multiple archives throughout Europe, the U.S., and the republics of Georgia and Russia encompassing the history of Georgian film production from 1907 to 2014. The exhibition traces the development of Georgian cinema from classics of the silent era to great achievements of the early sound and Soviet era, through the flourishing 1980s and the post-Soviet period to today.
Throughout the turbulent history of the last century, Georgian cinema has been an important wellspring for national identity, a celebration of the spirit, resilience, and humor of the Georgian people. These filmmakers, working across a broad range of styles and thematic concerns, have created everything from anti-bureaucratic satires of the Soviet system, to philosophical studies rooted in a humanist tradition, to lyrical, poetic depictions of the region’s spectacular landscape.
Part I of the retrospective focuses on one of the particularities of the Georgian cinema: the remarkable lines of familial relationships that weave through and connect its cinematic production from the 1920s to the present, where we find several third-generation filmmakers active. Part II, Blue Mountains and Beyond, runs November 22 though December 21, 2014.
Film notes are adapted from research and writing by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Film titles are listed with English translations first, followed by Georgian and, where applicable, Russian.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America expresses concern over recent developments in Georgia and a potential escalation of the internal political situation. We call on the Government of Georgia, on the leaders of the opposition and all Georgian citizens to refrain from further confrontation and find ways for political reconciliation.
Georgia is facing grave security challenges and a substantial economic crisis that requires mobilization of moral, political and economic resources of the entire nation. Georgia needs national political consensus to deal with these important issues. The Government and the opposition must make concessions and agree on terms of this consensus. Priorities are clear and shared by the majority of Georgias political forces. They include normal political processes that allow broad representation in the government, and a peaceful transition of power; promotion of an independent judiciary and the rule of law; free media; favorable business environment and guarantees of property rights.
We call on the United States Government to take a pro-active position and to urgently send a high level US Government official to Georgia to mediate between the Government and the opposition. The Georgian Association is willing to facilitate such mediation with all its available resources.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Washington, DC-On Wednesday, February 27, 2008, the Georgian Association in the USA along with its colleagues from the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 22 million Americans, discussed a range of policy issues with presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton’s advisor, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Also present at the meeting was Lee Feinstein, Senator Clinton’s Campaign National Security Director. The Georgian Association was represented by Mamuka Tsereteli (President), Maka Gabelia (Executive Director), Zacharia Kiknadze (Member) and Nino Japaridze (Board Member). One hour long discussion was moderated by Nino Japaridze.
The meeting focused on key areas of concern for the Georgian Association, including Russia’s actions against Georgia and Ukraine and other Central and East European countries, energy security and diversification, and NATO enlargement. Secretary Albright fondly remembered her collaboration with General John Shalikashvili as she recalled her work on NATO enlargement. “NATO enlargement, the removal of the divide between East and West Europe, opened up a new chapter in the history of Europe. John and I stood side-by-side during this momentous time,” Albright noted.
Secretary Albright speaking on behalf of Senator Clinton reaffirmed Senator’s support for NATO’s “open door” policy. She welcomed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s aspirations for full NATO membership. Secretary Albright made it clear that the Membership Action Plan (MAP) criteria constitute a roadmap for full NATO membership, and MAP will be the measure determining the timeline of the actual membership in NATO for Ukraine and Georgia.
Albright expressed confidence that Senator Clinton would continue to advance issues of concern to the Georgian Association and the CEEC and she urged the group to remain engaged on the issues in Washington DC.
For more information contact:
Contact: Nino Japaridze
Tel: (301) 263-0808