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Georgian Independence

On May 26, 1918 Georgia reestablished a sovereign state and self-government which had been lost in the wake of the annexation of Georgia in 1801 by the Russian empire.  The Democratic Republic of Georgia was recognized in 1918-21 by the Governments of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark.  On May 7, 1920, the Republic of Georgia signed a Peace Treaty with the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in which Soviet Russia unquestionably recognized “the freedom and independence of the Government of Georgia” (Article I) and renounced all “interference in the internal affairs of Georgia” (Article II).  In February 1921, the Soviet Army invaded Georgia, occupying the capital city of Tbilisi on February 25th.  Almost immediately the resistance of the Georgian people to Soviet Russian rule manifested itself in numerous popular insurrections and demonstrations.  The constant theme of these events was a demand for self-determination, reestablishment of independence and an end to Soviet Russian occupation and russification of Georgia.  Since that time and until Georgia reclaimed her independence in April 1991, Georgians struggled incessantly against Soviet Russian rule. Among key events were the:

  • Insurrection of 1924 when Georgian nationalist groups succeeded for a short period in taking over a number of cities from Soviet elements before thousands of nationalists were massacred by the Red Army and the opposition movement took refuge in the Caucasus Mountains from where they continued to attack Soviet forces for many years. A number of the leaders also relocated to Turkey and eventually Europe.
  • Uprising of 1956 during Khrushchev’s rule which was crushed with dozens dead or wounded when troops fired indiscriminately on demonstrators especially those gathered at Tbilisi University.
  • Demonstration of April 14, 1978 when over 20,000 marched in Tbilisi protesting an attempt, under Brezhnev, to amend the Constitution of the Georgian Soviet Republic and eliminate Georgian as the official language of the republic. Demonstrators took to the streets under the threat of tanks and armored personnel carriers which had surrounded the center of the city. For the first time in Soviet history a popular demonstration was successful in overturning a decision from Moscow and the Georgian language was kept as the official language.
  • Numerous demonstrations including mass demonstrations in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and other cities on February 25, 1989 on the 68th anniversary of the occupation of the Republic of Georgia by the Red Army. Over 30,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Kashveti Church in Tbilisi before proceeding to march to Tbilisi University. Along the way, Russian troops attacked the peaceful crowds of demonstrators leaving about 20 people killed and 100 injured. Banned poisonous gas was used by the Russian troops. Leaders of various nationalist groups read a declaration addressed to the UN Secretary General calling for the creation of a UN Commission to recognize Georgia’s occupation by Soviet Russia and place Georgia as a territory under an international trusteeship. A number of leading nationalist leaders including Zviad Gamsakhourdia, Merab Kostava, Gia Tchantouria and Irina Sarichvili were arrested as a result of the many protests in 1988-89.
  • These events in 1989 were followed two years later, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, by the Supreme Council of Georgia declaring independence on April 11th after a referendum held on 31 March 1991.

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Guivy Zaldastani

G1Born November 1, 1919 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Guivy Zaldastani was a Boston businessman who often played the role of diplomat between his adopted country and his native country of Georgia. At 84 he returned to his homeland and lived in Tblilisi to the great age of 87 passing away on October 12, 2007.

When Mr. Zaldastani introduced himself at gatherings, it would often surface during the course of a conversation that he was from Georgia. “Not that Georgia, of course,” he would quickly add in his rich, Eastern European accent, referring to the Southern US state. “I am from the Georgian Republic in the Caucasus. “For Georgian émigrés in Boston, Mr. Zaldastani was the meet-and-greeter who kept his door open to any and all who hailed from his homeland.

Mr. Zaldastani’s family fled Georgia when he was 5, but he returned to the hilly city of Tbilisi on the banks of the Mtkvari River in 2004, living not far from the American Academy he helped found. When his family left Georgia to steer clear of the impact of the communist takeover, they took up residence in Paris, living with other Georgians who left for similar reasons. He fought with French marines in World War II and earned a law degree from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1945.Three years later he moved to the United States, earning a Master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School in 1951. He became a US citizen shortly thereafter.

Mr. Zaldastani worked his way up in the management chain at Filene’s before starting his own chain of stores. As president and chief executive officer of The Finishing Touch, a bed-and-bath retail chain found in malls around Boston, Mr. Zaldastani traveled the world to purchase items to sell. He later branched into real estate, heading up the international division of a Boston-based real estate firm, and did consulting work for his brother’s engineering firm, Zaldastani Associates Inc.

When the Soviet Union started to collapse in the late 1980s, culminating in its dissolution in 1991, “He was over there on the next jet,” said his son, Nicholas of San Francisco. In visits to his homeland, Mr. Zaldastani was eager to have a hand in helping the nation develop and believed education was key. First, he helped several young Georgians to continue their education with scholarships at Harvard Business School.  Later, he worked with others to form the American Academy in Tbilisi, a school aimed at helping Georgian students get a solid academic foundation, and then attend US colleges so they could bring back ideas of democratization. Mr. Zaldastani was behind the successful efforts of the Georgian Association in the USA to obtain a grant from the US government to cover costs associated with training for the teachers at the Academy at Harvard and Boston University. The school opened in 2001, and school officials say it has become one of the toughest schools to get into in Georgia.  Today the Guivy Zaldastani American Academy in Tbilisi is the top private high school in Georgia, and graduates of the Academy are earning thousands of dollars in scholarships at top US schools every year.

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Protest the occupation of Georgian territories at the Russian Embassy in Washington DC

Dear Friends,

The Georgian Association is organizing a peaceful rally in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC to protest the occupation and creeping annexation of Georgian territories by the Russian Federation. We will also protest Russia’s annexation of Crimea, aggression in Eastern Ukraine and against other neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe.

Please join us from 12:30PM to 2:00PM on September 6, 2017.  The Russian Embassy is located at 2650 Wisconsin Avenue NW. We will gather in the lot which is across the street from the embassy entrance gate.

Thank you. We look forward to seeing you there to help us protest Russia’s continued aggression towards its peaceful neighbors.

Regards,

Georgian Association

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Othar Zaldastani

Othar Zaldastani was born in Tbilisi on August 10, 1922, the son of Colonel Soliko Zaldastanishvili and Mariam Hirsely; and grandson of Nicholas Zaldastanishvili and Anna Tzitzishvili, and of Esthate Hirsely and Varvara Vatchnadze.  He left Georgia in 1925, with his mother and brother Guivy, to rejoin his father in Paris.  After the failure of the Georgian insurrection of 1924 against the Soviet occupying forces, Colonel Zaldastanishvili   (who had been one of the leaders of the insurrection) had taken refuge in Paris to join the exiled Georgian Government and its military staff under the command of General Kvintadze.

Othar Zaldastani grew up in France and was educated in some of its most prestigious academic institutions: the Sorbonne and the “Grandes Ecoles”.  He passed the Baccalaureat in 1939 with Honors, completed the program of Mathematiques Speciales at the Lycee E9 St. Louis in Paris, obtained a Degree of Sciences from the Sorbonne and the Diplome from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses (the oldest school of engineering in the world) where he graduated second in his class in  1945. He left France in 1946 to pursue scientific studies and research at Harvard University and was awarded a Master of Science Degree in 1947 and a Doctor of Science Degree in 1950.  His fields of interest covered several branches of Applied Science and Engineering and Applied Mathematics.

Dr. Zaldastani settled in Boston where his mother and brother had come to join him in 1948.  He became an American citizen in 1956.  He started his professional career as a Consulting Engineer while also continuing to be involved in academic and research programs.  He was appointed Gordon MacKay Visiting Lecturer in Structural Mechanics at Harvard in 1961 and commissioned by the U. S. Navy, Institute of Naval Studies to analyze the dynamics of submarine flexible hulls.

As Dr. Zaldastani’s practice evolved, his major activities became more concentrated in the design of structures participating  in more than 1000 projects in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East including college and university buildings, long span structures, housing, hospitals, small structures such as the World War  II United States Armed Services Memorial in Caen, France, and major transportation and commercial centers, cultural and religious buildings   like the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., the second largest church in the United States.  Dr. Zaldastani was President of Zaldastani Associates, Inc. from 1964 to 1989 and Chairman until 1997. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

Dr. Zaldastani was a recognized authority in his engineering fields.  He was the recipient of many of the National Awards given yearly to the best engineered projects in the United States by professional institutes.  For example, he received the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Awards in 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1986, and 1987.  He is Co-Inventor of a Prestressed Concrete Beam and Deck System – U. S. Patent #3, #465, #484.

Othar served on the Board of several academic, business   and civic organizations such as a Trustee of Brooks School (Massachusetts) and Acting Chairman of its Building Department Committee 1987-1996; Trustee and Corporation Member of Wheelock College, Boston, Massachusetts, 1975-1995.  He was elected President of the Georgian Association in the United States in 1958 and served until 1965, and a Director of the American Friends of Georgia.

On June 22, 1963 Othar Zaldastani married Elizabeth Reily Bailey of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Zaldastani is a descendant of distinguished families from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Together they have three children: Elizabeth, who also served as President of the Georgian Association, Anne and Alexander.

From his early days in France, Othar Zaldastani was exposed to and involved in Georgian Affairs.  The Georgian colony in Paris, determined to free Georgia from the Soviet occupation and communist oppression, was politically very active, but it was also very conscious of the need to nurture the younger generation with Georgian values.  Othar Zaldastani grew up in this political and cultural environment sustained by his father and godfather, Kakoutza Tcholokhashvili and his family’s dedication held the Georgian legacy alive in the Zaldastani Family.  Othar Zaldastani, Guivy Zaldastani and Elizabeth Zaldastani Napier and all their family have taken many initiatives to develop the educational, cultural and economic conditions of Georgia and maintain its heritage and identity.  In 1997, Othar Zaldastani and Guivy Zaldastani were granted Honorary Citizenship from the Georgian Government.

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The Georgian Association Supports the Recent Russia Sanctions Bill

On June 14th, the U.S. Senate passed a crucial amendment to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (S.722) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2. S.Amend232 adds new sanctions targeting various sectors in Russia’s economy, as well as sanctions against individuals affiliated with Russia’s defense sector. Critically, all existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea and its military invasion of Ukraine would become codified into law under this legislation. The bill would help ensure that sanctions against the Russian Federation will remain in place until the withdrawal of all covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine. For clarification, Russian sanctions have been added to the Iran bill to avoid introduction of a new bill.

Georgia continues to be subjected to Russian aggression on its territorial integrity.  In the most recent example of this aggression, Russian troops advanced further into the Georgian controlled territory in the Tskhinvali Region.  Therefore the Georgian Association supports The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act.  This act has now been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. Tentative discussions have not resulted in a consensus on the scope and depth of a Russia sanctions-regime bill.

The GA encourages Georgian Americans and friends of Georgia to contact their Congressional Representative to petition support of a Russia sanction bill similar to that passed in the U.S. Senate. A sample letter shown below can be submitted online at: www.house.gov. Simply log onto the website, find your Representative and complete the online form to submit your correspondence.

Sample Letter

The Honorable (name)

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (name):

As an American of Georgian descent and supportive of Eastern European countries that have suffered under Russian aggression, I am deeply concerned about Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine. Beginning with the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, the Russian Federation has violated numerous tenets of international law and order. Such actions must be rebuked by Ukraine’s strategic allies and the global community of democratic nations.

Recent legislation by the U.S. Senate – S722 & S.Amend232 – would seek to impose stricter sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and interference in our electoral process. I highly encourage and request that you support a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Punitive actions against Russia must be taken immediately to thwart future acts of aggression and interference against all free nations. I look forward to your active support of this issue.

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Annual reception of the Georgian Association in the US

On June 12, 2017, the Georgian Association in the US hosted its traditional annual reception to celebrate Georgian independence and recognize friends of Georgia who contribute to the US-Georgian partnership and who help and support Georgia. This year the Georgian Association honored Mr. Kenneth Angell, Managing Director, Project Finance, Small and Medium Enterprise Department, Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Angell was awarded for his tireless effort for almost two decades to facilitate US investments, economic development and job creation in Georgia. He is a true friend of Georgia. Mr. Tsotne Dadiani, member of the Board of Directors of the Association, read a message from the President of the Georgian Association, Ms. Elisso Kvitashvili, announcing the recipient of the GA’s annual award. Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli, also a Board Member, introduced Mr. Angell to the audience and presented the award to him.

The Georgian Association also announced its continued support for the Academy of the Georgian Heritage, an important organization dedicated to the education of Georgian American children in the Georgian language and cultural heritage. The Georgian Association awarded the Academy with a grant of $4,000 to support the development of new educational programs at the Academy.

Traditionally, Guests enjoyed Georgian wines and food.

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