Iakob Gogebashvili and Abkhazian issue
15/10/2010 17:12
Gogi Maisuradze
Experts' Club

After Russian imperialist state established itself in the Transcaucasus it has done all in its power to shake foundations of centuries-old and good-neighbourly relations between Georgians and Abkhazians by means of purposeful incidious activities and policies based on them. Prominent figures of Abkhazian and Georgian intelligentsia such as Ilia Chachavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Niko Nikoladze, Sergo Meskhi, Giorgi Shervashidze, Iakob Gogebashvili, G.Emukhvari and others, having predicted far-reaching and unbeneficial results of politics pursued by Russian governing circles towards their compatriots, with pain in their hearts were following all this and were trying to sober them up with their words and deeds, to avert possible dangers.

Great Georgian educator and public figure Iakob Gogebashvili many times expressed his attitude towards Georgian-Abkhazian relations. For Georgian people to hear he always loudly maintained that Abkhazian people, their language, culture, and folklore are distinctive and duty of our nation was to promote and help them in formation of their self-consciousness. "It is true that Abkhazian has been a part of Georgian political body for many centuries – wrote Gogebashvili – church services were carried out in Georgian language and their script was Georgian as Abkhazians themselves wished, but it is a sure fact that Abkhazian language is not a dialect of Georgia but an independent language though one that is related to Georgian language. In the opinion of the great educator, Abkhazian, as an "independent" language indeed has a right to be used during church service, right to have its own script, its own national literature" (Iakob Gogebashvili, works, volume 4, 1955, p. 200).

In the eighties of the XIX century special response was gained by a series of articles by Gogebashvili in the newspaper Tbilisski Vestnik. They were dedicated to mass deportation of Abkhazians from Abkhazian land to Turkey. His very first article was answered by then governor of the Sukhumi district Vedenski who systematically read publications that were directed against him and ultimately reached the conclusion that he agreed with critical remarks and did not intend to bring certain changes in its activity. Together with other authors Iakob Gogebashvili, having presented arguments based on historical facts managed to convince him in justness of their critical remarks. In the end Vedendki even said that "... I am putting down my pen as the position of the newspaper is convincing" (By the way Iakob Gogebashvili wrote more than 12 letters to him about Abkhazia and Abkhazians).

As researchers of this issue note that conclusions and factual data mentioned by Gogebashvili had been widely used by General-Governor of Kutaisi Staroselsky when preparing his report to be sent to Petersburg. At this period it also became known to the society that problems that were mentioned by Gogebashvili in his articles should have been resolved in favour of Georgians and Abkhazians if not for fierce efforts of Moscow-based newspaper Moskovskie Vedomosti and its editor-in-chief. And the result of this was that population that was removed from central provinces of Russia were settled in Georgia, namely in Abkhazia...

Gogebashvili knew perfectly well that "loss of the territory is above all disasters; especially for a nation that lives on agriculture... loss of territory is tantamount to eradication of such nation... (I. Gogebashvili, selected works, vol. 1, Tbilisi, page 1). Iakob Gogebashvili believed that development and consolidation of people could not be achieved without development of national principles. "Even an individual gathers strength when it is raised as its distinctive constitution, both physical and psychological, demands it. More can be said about entire nations. A nation is distinctive collective entity, distinctive collective person. Therefore its revival is only possible through its distinctive, national way. One cannot find an example in the history when a nation betrays its nationality, its national culture and does not decay, does not become eradicated..." (Iakob Gogebashvili, selected works, preface by the author, page 11).

In November 1907 Iakob Gogebashvili once again returned to the Abkhazian issue. He wrote very interesting article "Politicking in Abkhazia" that was published in the daily newspaper of the Social Democrats "Tskaro". Gogebashvili notes: "Today there are two kinds of people that care about Abkhazia. Some want to completely detach it from Georgia, get it alone, and then drag over to their side; others wish to preserve historic unity of Abkhazians with Georgians.
Both sides resort to various ways to achieve their wish... The first write and do respective deeds. They create facts and through these facts hope to succeed. The others only grumble, complain, and write letters to newspapers, where they express their displeasure. But do not actually do anything. These kind people have forgotten a simple truth that unjust cause can only be defeated by a just cause, and not just by empty words. Facts can only be negated by facts and not just mere words. Advocates of the historical unity of Abkhazians and Georgians do not fully understand that old tools and old tactics are no longer suitable today, since new circumstances require new tactics.

What could this new tactic be? In response to this question, we remind advocates of unity about recent actions of our northern neighbours - Ossetians. They used the Georgian "Mother tongue" and in a very short time created Ossetian "Mother tongue" on its basis. As manufacture of pictures cost a lot, they neighbourly asked Georgians, who gave them those clichés free of charge. And not even a month has passed and they already have printed their "Mother tongue" and distributed it among people. It was followed by translation of a Georgian children story. The first story they translated, like Armenians, was "What did the lullaby do?" They asked clichés of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians and started to print. They are translating other stories from Georgian as well.

If Sukhumi proponents of unity will reflect on this example, they can easily understand what paths must be followed in order to ward off politicians and fulfil their aspirations... There are both Georgian and Abkhazian teachers in Sukhumi. With combined efforts they can easily compile and print Abkhazian mother tongue in several months. And print it not in that ugly script which was thrown together by so-called politicians, but based on a historical Abkhazian script which is Georgian as well and which was recognized by famous scientist Uslar as "the most perfect script among all scripts". This script describes all sounds of Abkhazian language and is perfect for it. Only it has been used in Abkhazia for centuries and merged with it. Therefore, acquiring literacy, getting education will save them from such harmful separation. After the Mother Tongue Abkhazian teachers should translate selected children and folk stories and print them. They should also gather Abkhazians folk verses, tales, riddles and print them. If they are not able to print those over there, they should send it to Tbilisi, to the Society of Spreading of literacy, and the latter will gladly publish it at its own expense.

As for the church service in Abkhazian language, all kinds of irony, ridicule and opposition is great tactlessness. Here, too, instead of grumbling, Mingrelians should put facts against facts - to organize a good church service and singing in Georgian language in Sukhumi and other places, which until now was prohibited but which is now fully allowed by a new law on religious freedom. Abkhazians have been hearing Georgian service for centuries, are accustomed to it, and among Abkhazians it has respect and a name of language of God... Therefore it is without a doubt that if Abkhazians are to have near them good Georgian church service and singing they will never substitute it with provincial church service established by archpriest Golubtsev, which apparently is very foreign for Abkhazians and there will be only walls that will hear these services. And if still Abkhazians receive this new provincial church service let it be so. This, on one hand, will be very beneficial for Mingrelians and other Georgians as it will fortify a principle of Georgian church service from Sukhumi to mountains of Dagestan.

If reasonable Abkhazians will get acquainted with the past of their homeland, they will become convinced to that Abkhazia enjoyed prosperity and had a good name only in those ages, when it was connected to Georgia politically, religiously and trough worship. And they will know more. That then Abkhazia was at the helm of the entire western Georgia which was then called Kingdom of Abkhazia. But when vicissitudes of history tore it away from Georgia and left alone, Abkhazians have gone backward, became uncivilized and were reduced in number. And today, instead of a great nation of old times, they are a small tribe, which faces extinction if politicians are to separate it and cut off from Georgia. Strong alliance with Mingrelians and other Georgians will help them to gain strength and fill them with hope for a good future.

We are prepared to provide any assistance which will be in our power to advocates of traditional friendship and unity, and especially in creation of new literature and its publication".

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