Prince Ilia G. Chavchavadze (Saint Ilia the Righteous) was the creator of new Georgian literature, a famous public benefactor, a jurist, and a leader of the Georgia‘s National-liberation movement in 1861-1907.
He was born on October 27,1837, in the village Kvareli (East Georgia), where now is nis house-museum. Graduated from Tbilisi Classical Gimnasium, then entered and graduated from faculty of law of the Peterburg University.
He was the author of many outstanding Georgian literary works (“The Hermit“, “The Ghost“, “Is a Human a Man?!”, “The Othar’s Widow“, “The Robber Kako“, etc.) and important journalistic papers. Since 1863 Ilia Chavchavadze was founder and editor-in-chief of Georgian public and political periodicals “Sakartvelos Moambe” (1863-1877) and “Iveria” (1877-1905). He was also founder and chairman of many public, cultural and educational organizations (“The Society on the Dissemination of Literacy Among Georgians”, “The Bank of the Nobility”, “The Dramatic Society”, “The Historical-Ethnographical Society of Georgia”, etc.). He was also a translator of British literature. His main literary works were translated and published in French, English, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Russian and other languages.
In 1906-1907 he was a member of the State Council (Gosudarstvennaya Duma) of the Russian empire.
Ilia Chavchavadze was a member of: the Caucasian Committee of the Geographical Society of Russia, the Society of Ethnography and Anthropology of the Moscow University, the Society of Orientalists of Russia, the Anglo-Russian Literary Society (London), etc.
On August 30, 1907 Ilia Chavchavadze was assassinated by Georgian social-democrats.
In 1987 Ilia Chavchavadze was Sainted by the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.
- Marjory and Oliver Wardrops – Ilia Chavchavadze works
- Ilia Chavchavadze – Autobiography
- Notes of a Journey from Vladikavkaz to Tiflis
- The Sportsman’s Story
- Is That a Man?!
- THE HERMIT
Prince Alexandre, Wife and Children
Prince Alexandre Chavchavadze (1786-1846)
Alexandre Chavchavadze—a poet, translator, soldier, and businessman, and the founder of Georgian Romanticism—played a huge part in introducing new values, promoting social and economic welfare, and changing the trajectory of Georgian culture. In short, he left an enormously important legacy to the nation, challenging Georgians to embrace change through his own exemplary life and achievements.
His father, Garsevan Chavchavadze (1757-1811), was an influential person and a successful politician. From 1784 to 1801, he lived in St. Petersburg as a Georgian envoy to Russia, with the title of Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary of the Kartli-Kakhetian Kingdom to the Court of the Russian Emperor. His diplomatic skills were highly valued by King Erekle II, and he was also held in high esteem by the Russian court. Indeed, his son Alexandre, born in St. Petersburg, was baptized by Russia’s Empress Ekaterine II as a gesture of the deep respect the Russian court had for Garsevan. King Erekle’s respect and admiration resulted in the gift of a large fiefdom in Kakheti, from the Mount of Tsivgombori to the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains.
The poet’s mother, Mariam Avalishvili (1758-1836) descended from the aristocratic family of the famous Georgian dramatist, Giorgi Avalishvili. Her contemporaries characterized her as a wise and educated woman; she provided her only son, Alexandre, with the finest primary education.
Childhood and Education
As a child, Alexandre moved in elite circles and absorbed progressive ideas. His aristocratic heredity, his father’s career as a diplomat, and his cosmopolitan upbringing all played a role in the development of his own enlightened values and beliefs.
Contemporaries characterized Alexandre Chavchavadze as exceptionally well-educated. For example, German traveler Karl Koch described him as “A most educated Georgian, who used his long stays in St. Petersburg and Western Europe to acquire knowledge hard to find in remote Transcaucasia.” Historical records note that he was educated in history, geography, statistics, physics, logic, mathematics, military science, and agriculture, and could speak several languages in addition to his native Georgian. Apart from Persian and Turkish—languages that were considered en vogue in Georgian aristocratic circles at the time—he spoke Russian, French, German, and English. His extensive knowledge of foreign languages encouraged Alexandre to translate the literary works of many writers, including Aesop, Corneille, Voltaire, La Fontaine, Hugo, Pushkin, and Odoevsky. Among his translations were several plays. He also was a pioneer of professional theatrical art in Georgia; the idea of establishing a permanent Georgian theater was first conceived within his family.
Military Career and Nationalism
Alexandre’s first formal career was as an officer in the Russian military. Milestones of his military service include the following:
- In 1809 he graduated from Petersburg Boys’ Military School, was transferred to a Hussar Regiment as cavalry and become a junior lieutenant of Life Guard service.
- In 1810 he was promoted to lieutenant. In the same year, he was granted the status of lieutenant-general for exceptional success and appointed Aide-de-Camp to Marquise Pauluch.
- In 1813- 1814 he served as an Aide-de-Camp to the Russian Community, Barclay de Tolly and was wounded in the Battle of Paris, in 1814.
- In 1828 he became a Major General, after liberating the Armenian City of Yerevan from the Persians.
- In 1841 he become a Lieutenant-General.
- In 1843 he fought his last battle against the Lezghins in the northern Caucasus.
During his military career, Alexander participated in many significant battles, both within the Russian Empire and outside its borders. These included a campaign against Napoleon’s army with allied forces in Saxony and France in 1813-1815, at which time he was Aide-de-Camp to Commander-in-Chief Barclay de Tolly. For his service in this campaign, he was granted several prestigious military awards, including the French Order de la Légion d’Honneur.
Bringing the Enlightenment to Georgia
Among Georgian public figures of the early part of the 19th century, Alexandre Chavchavadze is widely acknowledged to have played a decisive role in the evolution of Georgia into a modern, European-oriented society. He brought new romanticist aspirations into Georgian poetry, but more importantly, he played a central role in introducing the fruits of the European Enlightenment—critical thinking, rationalism, and excellence in arts and science, as well as the liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and equity—to Georgia.
Alexandre, his wife Salome Orbeliani, and his four children were also legendary for their hospitality, and they opened the doors of their homes at Tsinandali and in Tbilisi to an impressive list of visiting figures. While Alexandre’s father, Garsevan, was visited mainly by fellow aristocrats and diplomats, Alexandre’s family received a greater variety of guests, including artists, writers, businessmen, and many others. Tsinandali played host to so many writers and literary artists—including the French novelist Alexandre Dumas, the French historian Marie-Félicité Brosset and the Russian writers Alexandre Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, and Alexander Griboedov, among many others—that it was referred to as “a literary hearth of writers and poets.” According to poet Alexandre Fadeev, “Alexandre Chavchavadze’s notable family was the only one in Tbilisi where guests from the North and West truly encountered Georgian hospitality.”
Alexandre Chavchavadze died on November 6, 1846 in a tragic accident, falling under a carriage in Tbilisi near his home. He died from serious head injuries. He is buried at the Shuamta monastery, in Kakheti, Georgia, not far from his beloved Tsinandali estate.
Ekaterine Chavchavadze (1816-1882)
Ekaterine Chavchavadze was frequently described as proud, self-assured, strict, and demanding. Governor N. Muraviov provided the following description of her:
Aspiration to nobility was evident in Ekaterine since her childhood. She was regarded as a very beautiful girl, but haughtiness always prevailed. She was always smart and restrained; she seldom laughed. Because of her haughtiness, I called [her] “princess,” and predicted that she would be enthroned. It came true.
Ekaterine had many admirers both before and after she married David Dadiani in 1839. One was her childhood friend, Nikoloz (Tato) Baratashvili. Ekaterine continued to harbor tender feelings toward him throughout her entire life, and she played a vital role in popularizing his poetic works. Baratashvili, who died at age 27 in 1844, gave Ekaterine a notebook with his works, and she always carried it with her—even while living with her children in St. Petersburg and subsequently in Europe in the 1850s and 1860s. When the young poet Ilia Chavchavadze, visited Ekaterine in St. Petersburg, she showed him this notebook; Ilia immediately appreciated Baratashvili’s talent, and used his influence to get the works of this deceased poet published posthumously. Another of Ekaterine’s famous suitors was the Spanish Ambassador, Duke d’Osuna, who first met her at the coronation of Alexandre II in St. Petersburg in 1857.
On several occasions, the strength of Ekaterine’s character was evident in her devotion to her family. She always maintained the honor of the Dadiani family and of Samegrelo, first as wife of the Prince David Dadiani and later as a princess, a role in which she contributed to the inculcation of Western values in the province, the furthering of its people’s education, and defense of the territory of Samegrelo. She also played a vital role in maintaining and preserving the Dadiani’s impressive ancestral library.
In August 1853, at the age 42, David contracted malaria and died after a month-long illness; at the time, Ekaterine was 37 years old. Because David’s heir Niko was too young to assume his administrative powers, Ekaterine became de facto ruler of Samegrelo in her capacity as princess. She appointed Platon Ioseliani, David’s friend, as her chief advisor; he actively participated in state decisions and undertook guardianship of her children. Ekaterine continued to pursue David’s domestic and foreign policy goals, which included suppressing obstinate landlords and arrogant clergymen, and controlling the income of church.
In 1861, Ekaterine traveled to Dresden and Paris, where she became reacquainted with the renowned French historical novelist Alexandre Dumas, an old friend of the Chavchavadzes. Through her relationship with Dumas, Ekaterine acquired many influential French friends, and decided to reside for a time in France.
After her return to Georgia, Ekaterine took particular care of the family’s ancestral library and manuscripts. She also contributed to the translation of Shota Rustaveli’s Classic epic poem, A Knight in Tiger’s Skin, into French. But despite her many interests, Ekaterine missed the status she enjoyed as Princess of Samegrelo, and as she grew older she began to have health problems. Her letters in these later years contain many poignant reflections on herself, her hopes and the passing of time. For example, she noted, “Happiness never lasts for a long time. A human is a sliver of wood from the tree called the tree of life.”
Ekaterine Chavchavadze died on August 13, 1882. She was buried in Martvili convent, Samegrelo, next to her husband, and is remembered both as a heroic patriot and as a personality in which beauty, intelligence, and powerful will achieved a unique balance.
Nino Chavchavadze (1812-1857)
Nino was born in Tbilisi on November 4, 1812. Her birth was celebrated with a feast in the Chavchavadze family. In commemoration of her birth, her father Alexandre stored wine in a special amphora to be opened at Nino’s wedding party.
Nino received her initial education at home. Later, she attended a famous private boarding school in the St. Petersburg home of Praskovya Nikolaevna Arsenyeva Akhverdova. Praskovya Akhverdova’s school attracted children of many noble families, and played an important role in Nino’s life as well as the lives of her siblings. Here, they received a general education, studied foreign languages, learned to draw, and received a variety of special lessons.
Nino met her husband, the Russian poet Alexandre Griboedov (1795-1829), at Praskovya Akhverdova’s school.
Nino Chavchavadze and Alexandre Griboedov married in Sioni Cathedral on August 22, 1828.
Unfortunately, the happy times Nino and Alexandre spent together as a married couple lasted just a few months. In 1828—four months after their marriage, and with Nino expecting a child—Griboedov traveled to Persia once again. In February, 1829, he was assassinated in Tehran. On July 13, 1829, Alexandre Griboedov’s body was buried in the Mtatsminda churchyard of St. David’s Monastery in Tbilisi. Nino had the following words engraved on the gravestone: “Your thoughts and deeds remain eternally in the memory of Russians, but why did my love for thee outlive thee?”
Although only 16 at the time of Alexandre’s death and still surrounded by a great many admirers, Nino never remarried. Instead, she turned her attention to family, friends, and people in need.
In 1857, Nino Chavchavadze died of malaria in Tbilisi. According to her wish, she was buried beside her husband on Mtatsminda Hill. Flowers are often placed near her grave, as a testament to the love and respect that she continues to command among Georgians.
David Chavchavadze (1818-1884)
David Chavchavadze, the only son of Alexandre Chavchavadze, embodied the wisdom, style, and sophistication of his father. His life was defined by one of the greatest dramas and triumphs in Georgian history.
David was younger than his sisters Nino and Ekaterine, but older than his sister Sophio. After his father’s death, he inherited Alexandre’s entire estate of Tsinandali. Like Alexandre, David initially selected a military career with the Russian Army. He obtained his military education at the St. Petersburg School of Guard Ensigns. Milestones in his military career included the following:
- In 1834 he became a non-commissioned officer of the Ulan Regiment.
- In 1839 at the age of 21, he was commissioned as an officer.
- In 1839 as an ensign, he was sent with an expedition of the fearless Caucasian Corps to participate in a campaign against Lezghins, Muslim tribes of the Northern Caucasus. For his success in this campaign, he was later awarded a III Order of St. Stanislav.
- In 1840 he was transferred to the Nizhegorod Dragoon Regiment. Simultaneously, he served in the Pskov Cuirassier Regiment. In 1840, he was transferred to Caucasia where he joined the detachment of Major General N. Raevsky.
- In 1843 he participated in an expedition against Imam Shamil of Daghestan the guerrilla warfare leader of the Lezghins.
- In 1844 he was assigned as a Staff Captain. On October 3, 1847, he was given the position of Aide-de-Camp to M. S. Vorontsov, Commander-and-Chief and Viceroy of the Caucasus.
- In 1849 he was awarded the III Order of St. Ann.
- In 1851 he was transferred to the Grenadiers’ Regiment of Life Guards.
- In 1854 he became a Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry.
- In 1854, during the Crimean War (1853-1856), he led the military campaign against the attacks of Shamil’s detachments in the rocky Caucasian mountain range. He distinguished himself while defending Shamil’s invading forces, and was granted the title of Colonel and Aide-de-Camp and awarded the II Order of St. Anna.
- In 1855 he retired from the military and was granted a pension for 12 years and numerous honors for his service.
Following his retirement from the military, David managed his family’s businesses and continued their traditions. With his wife Anna Bagrationi (1822-1905), the granddaughter of Erekle II, he had nine children—six daughters (Salome, Mariam, Tamar, Helen, Anastasia, and Nino) and three sons (Alexandre, Ilia, and Archil). Anna was a devoted wife and mother, and also an effective leader in her own right; in 1867, she founded the first women’s school in Telavi. Two years later a similar school was established at Tsinandali.
During the rest of his life, in spite of all of his efforts, David was unable to raise sufficient funds to repay the money advanced for Shamil’s ransom and hence was unable to reacquire the Tsinandali property.
David Chavchavadze died in 1884. He is buried at Shuamta convent, Kakheti, Georgia.
Sophio Chavchavadze (1833 – 1862)
When Sophio’s parents died, her sister, Nino, and her brother, David, became her guardians. In 1850, Sophio married a Finnish baron, Alexandre Nikolai, who worked as the Director of the Army Office of the Governor of Caucasia in Tbilisi. In 1861, Baron Nikolai was transferred to Kiev; Sophio accompanied him. Little is known about their private lives; however, they had one daughter, Mariam (Maka) Nikolai.
In 1862, when Sophio died, at the age of 29, Mariam Nikolai was a young child. She was reared in Georgia and married Georgi Shervashidze. Sophio Chavchavadze was buried in Vyborg, Russia, 38 Kilometers from Finland’s border with Russia.
David Chavchavadze (1924- )
David Chavchavadze’s family genealogical tree is filled with nobles. On his mother’s side, he belongs to the Russian Romanov family. His mother, Princess Nina, was a descendant of Tsar Nikolas I and Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia, as well as of Christian IX of Denmark and George I of Greece. His father, Paul Chavchavadze, was descended from the Chavchavadze family of the Kakheti province in Georgia, and also, in a direct line, from the last King of Georgia, George XII.
David Chavchavadze was born on 1924 in London. When he was a year old, he got a new nanny, Vera Alexandrovna Nagovsky. Under her tutelage, David learned to speak fluent Russian and to take pride in his Russian heritage. Through her tales of her own life and family, he also became acquainted with a rural Russia far removed from the aristocratic circles in which his parents had moved.
In 1927, David’s family moved to the United States, where they settled in New York. In 1942, with World War II in full force, David enrolled at Yale University, and also signed up for the enlisted reserve of the U.S. Army. He was called up for active duty in 1943, shortly after completing his freshman year at Yale. However, he was not destined to serve on the front lines of the advancing U.S. forces in Europe or the Pacific; an IBM computing machine at the newly-built Pentagon had happened to notice that David spoke Russian, and he was told to report to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, for induction into a military intelligence unit.
In October, 1943, David was sent to Alaska for work that required Russian language skills.
Thus it was that on July 24, 1944, David was promoted to a second lieutenant in the United States Army at the age of 20. Less than a year later, he was promoted to first lieutenant.
During World War II, David worked as an interpreter and met many prominent Russians, including Andrei Gromyko, who was later to become Soviet Foreign Minister. After the war, David continued to serve as an interpreter at meetings where the future of Germany and the architecture of the post-war international system were debated among representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France. While serving in this capacity, David lived for a time in Europe, mostly in Germany, where he continued to meet powerful Soviet politicians and diplomats. In 1950, a new stage in his life began:
In his 1990 memoir Crowns and Trenchcoats: A Russian Prince in the CIA, David discusses his work in the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the organization created under President Harry S. Truman in 1947 to meet the intelligence challenges of a post-war world marked by growing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1974, at the age of 50, David decided to retire from the CIA. He found many other ways to keep himself active after he left full-time work at the CIA. In addition to dabbling in professional singing, he wrote several books on history and politics (including The Grand Dukes, The Vlasov Movement: Soviet Citizens Who Served on the German Side—1941-1945, and the aforementioned Crowns and Trenchcoats); taught courses on the Soviet system at George Washington University in Washington DC and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia; conducted country surveys of terrorism potential for a private company; and translated several Russian works into English.
In 1977, on his second trip to the Soviet Union, David finally got the opportunity to visit his father’s ancestral estate at Tsinandali, along with his daughter Maria.
Continuing a family tradition, David’s eldest child, Marusya, is the executive director of the American Friends of Georgia (AFG), an organization that provides humanitarian assistance to the children and families of the nation of Georgia.