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The Caucasus (Georgia)

For this week, we will focus on turn-of-the-century female writers from Georgia. Historically, the entire region of the Caucasus had to negotiate with the surrounding three colonial powers: The Ottoman Empire, The Persian Empire, and the Russian Empire. The latter came to solidify its stronghold on the region in the nineteenth century. The Russian conquest of the Caucasus began in 1763 with the building of the first military outpost, Mozdok, Kabarda. The fighting that would expand throughout the Northern Caucasus—east and west—over the next hundred years culminated in mass expulsions and the eradication of various North Caucasian tribes. Some historians refer to this as the Circassian Genocide. Meanwhile, Russia annexed the regions of modern-day eastern Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the early 1800s. Due to the annexation, many Georgians had to fight as part of the Russian army against their northern neighbours.

The majority of Georgian anti-colonial struggle in the last two hundred years has been in response to Russian expansionism. There are two notable moments of Georgian resistance during this period. The first was the failed attempt in 1832 by Georgian aristocracy and nobility to assassinate the Russian imperial administration in Tbilisi to restore Georgian statehood and the Georgian Bagrationi monarchy. The second was the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia from May 1918 to February 1921. The DRG was formed after the October Revolution. Yet the newly formed Bolshevik government was quick to reassert old colonial borders. Other regions in the Caucasus suffered the same fate. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic lasted twenty-three months. The ADR collapsed in April 1920 after the Soviet invasion of Azerbaijan. The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus (MRNC) existed from 1917 until 1922. The MRNC broke away from the Russian Empire during the February Revolution. By 1922, the independent state was captured and conquered by Soviet forces. The anti-colonial history of the Caucasus is rich and varied. Each region and principality (be it Adygea, Chechnya, Dagestan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Migrelia, Svaneti, or Abkhazia) had and continue to have their own struggles for independence while negotiating the geographic realities of bordering empires.

For this week, we are focusing on Georgian female writers who lived during the transition period between the Tsarist Monarchy and the Soviet Union. It is a period rich with imagined possibilities and futures. The list of early twentieth-century Georgian female writers is by no means exhaustive. This field of study is ongoing, and there are many writers that remain to be rediscovered. Currently, there are no English language translations of any of the works listed here.

Natalia Aziani (Dondarova) 1878-1943

Natalia Aziani was a Georgian playwright. She was also involved in revolutionary activities since the 1900’s. Her first play, Engineer or Doctor, was written in 1897. Her other plays include Money and Quality, Dashed Hopes, Sometimes One Way and Sometimes Another, Woe from the Pen, A Political Fool, Pillars of Homeland, Sin, and Fugitive. She also wrote short stories and satirical works.

A partial bibliography can be found here:

Dominika Eristavi (Gandegili) 1864-1929

Dominika Eristavi, who also wrote under the pen name Gandegili, was a Georgian writer, poet, and translator. Her first poem, “On the Reinterment of Baratashvili,” published in the newspaper Iveria in 1893, drew the attention of the great Georgian poet Ilia Chavchavadze. She was also one of the founders of Georgia’s first women’s organization, The Society of Georgian Women. The publication of her patriotic short story “Marine” in 1897 put her on the map as a writer.  She published a collection of short stories in 1910 and a collection of poems in 1918.

A partial bibliography can be found here:

Mariam Tateishvili (Garikuli) 1883-1960

Mariam Tateishvili was a theatre actress and writer. She worked as an actor in the Kutaisi Theatre, Gori Theatre, and early film studios in Tbilisi. Upon retirement from theatre, she adopted the pen name Garikuli. In 1905, her first short story, “Casualty of Life,” was published in the newspaper Tsnobis Purtseli (Notice Page). The magazine Mnatobi (Light) published several of her stories dedicated to the Great Patriotic War in the period from 1941 to 1944, including: “The Incident,” “Mother,” and “The Carpenter Mikhail”. She is also the author of the following works: “Sacrifice of Life,” “The Usual Story,” “The Officials,” “That Day,” “Secret,” "The Road Traveled" (1946, Memoirs), "Such a Spring" (1951, short story).

A partial bibliography can be found here:

Babilina Khositashvili (1884–1973)

Babilina Khositashvili was a Georgian educator, poet, feminist, and labour rights activist. Recurring themes in her work are the lives of the working class and the emancipation of women. In 1905, her first poem was published in the newspaper Mits’a (Land); her second poem was published in the weekly magazine Glekhi (Peasant).

A partial bibliography can be found here:

English-language secondary reading:

Aneta Gigibedashvili - Kapanadze (1880-1945)

Aneta Gigibedashvili-Kapanadze was a Georgian poet. In 1902, she published her first book of poetry. She participated in the First Russian Revolution of 1905. Several times, she was arrested by the Georgian Menshevik government. The Democratic Republic of Georgia was governed by a moderate, multi-party political system led by the Georgian Social Democratic Party (who were Mensheviks). Gigibedashvili – Kapanadze was heavily involved in women’s emancipation. She was also an active member of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy Among Georgians. In 1921, she was elected as a delegate of the first forum of non-party women.

A partial bibliography can be found here:

Ekaterine Tarkhnishvi - Gabashvili (1851-1938)

Ekaterine Gabashvili was a Georgian writer and educator. Many of her stories are dedicated to women's issues: women’s emancipation, women’s role in the family and society, and women’s upbringing and education. Her female protagonists are often oppressed or excluded from society. Ekaterine Gabashvili is a prominent representative of Georgian realism and was one of the earliest innovators of the Georgian short story.

Ekaterine gave birth to a total of eleven children, six of whom died in early childhood. She wrote about this traumatic period years later, stating, "From the day I got married, all my dreams and noble intentions were buried. Twenty years of constant childbirth, child-rearing, and premature death altogether destroyed me." However, since the 1880s, Ekaterine reemerged as a writer with works such as “A Novel in Didkheva” (1881), “Kona” (1882), and “Two Languages and the Street” (1883), among many others.

A partial bibliography can be found here:

Week 10 - The Caucasus (Georgia)