||Famous Armenian Figures in Georgia
Armenians reside in Georgia from times immemorial. By the end III century, Armenians, persecuted by Sassanids on one side and Roman Empire from another, started to abandon their homeland, turning their eyes towards Georgia, were they found refuge and settled afterwards.
During Muslim rule in Armenia the situation was worsening day by day. Armenians were facing the horrible threat of physical annihilation and traceless extinction or forcible proscription. In the environment of carnage, brutal wars and enemy invasions, Armenians were seeking safe places to live with their coreligionist neighbors, because Georgia was away from military-transit roads and was protected by Caucasus mountain ridge. Moreover, Georgian Kings, very often invited Armenian troops along with their families.
It needs to be noted that this process was mutually beneficial. Georgia was providing Armenians with favorable conditions for survival, full-fledged life and realization of creative potential. Armenians, on the other hand, were contributing to the economy and culture, to strengthening of Christian religion; - they were developing trade and crafts; participated in construction of cities and villages.
At the initial period of Bagration Dynasty reign in Georgia, namely XI – XIII centuries, resettlement of Armenians to sparsely populated cities and villages of Kakheti and Kartli, such as Telavi, Sighnaghi and Gori, reached its peak. Since the times of David the Builder Armenians play important role in Georgia’s life. Their importance in social, economic and political life of the country grew even more during the reign of King Tamar, the great granddaughter of David the IV.
As it is known, her Amirspasalar – supreme commander-in-chief was Armenian Zakhare Mkhargrdzeli, under whose command Georgia gained several brilliant victories. His brother Ivane Mkhargrdzeli held a post of Atabeg, whose function was civil governance of the country.
During the reign of King Vakhtang VI, one of the most eminent military commanders was David-Bek, who, subsequently, after his resettlement to historical homeland became the hero of Armenian national-liberation movement.
Armenians held high positions, also, at the court of King Irakli II.
The fact that Armenians were engaged in crafts, trading and military service predetermined their residence in the cities. In Tbilisi, up to mid XIX century, Armenians made up for majority of city’s population and in accordance with laws of that time they had the status of “mokalake” – the citizens. As for the representatives of reach and noble families, - they had the rank of “meliks” and “melik-mamasaxlisi”.
In XIX century Tbilisi Mayor’s post was generally occupied by Armenians. I would like to make special mention of the particular role played by A. Matinov, the Mayor of Tbilisi in 1879 – 1891. Many important constructions, such as bridges, water supply system, city hall and first horse-drawn tram took place under his governance. Under the governance of Mayor A. Khatisov (1909 – 1917) sewer system was built; gas lighting of the streets was performed and electric lighting appeared in some parts of the city. Also, Belgian Tram Company started construction of the funicular.
In the second half of XIX century incipient bourgeoisie started construction of the new, “European” part of the city. Residential houses, hotels, theatres, educational institutions and trading centers of that period amaze the imagination and are the pride of Tbilisi citizens. Many Armenian patrons, such as Mantashev, Aramianz, Pitoev, Tamamshev and others, constructed and handed over to the city hospitals, schools, theatres, residential houses, bridges, libraries and even a prison. With their donations talented students had an opportunity to continue studies in various universities of Russia and other countries. City Hall had a special charity council, which helped the needy with health care, education and creative work.
A lot can be said about contribution of Armenians towards the construction of the city, establishment of economy and charity activities in Georgia. It is better to concentrate on the issue of Georgia – Armenia cultural and literary interactions.
Mesrop Mashtoz, the scientist, monastic educator and creator of Armenian alphabet lived and worked in Georgia in the beginning of V century. In the same period Georgian writer – chronicler Jacob Tsurtaveli wrote his famous “Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik”, which narrated the story of Saint Shushanik, an Armenian noblewoman, daughter of famous Armenian commander Vardan Mamikonian and wife of High Prince Varsken. This first extant piece of Georgian literature tells us of fortitude and inflexibility in upholding the Christian faith.
In the VI century a literary man Kirakos lived and worked in Tbilisi. He translated from Armenian into Georgian and vice versa the works of famous historians and religious authors.
In the South Georgia in VIII-IX centuries Tao-Klarjeti literary-scientific school became famous. In XI-XIII centuries there was scientific-philosophical school Pkhadzaank. In the times of King Tamar famous scientist-thinker Mkhitar Gosh lived and worked in Georgia.
Georgia is the homeland of many distinguished figures of Armenian literature, music and art. As of XIX century Georgia and Tiflis in particular, due to its geopolitical location, becomes the factual center of Armenian culture and education.
First Armenian secondary school was opened in Tiflis in 1824. Later it was renamed into Nersesian Seminary. In 1826 similar secondary school was opened in Akhaltsikhe. In 1869-1877 first secondary schools for women were opened in Tiflis. Several years later first charity-funded public kindergarten and first children’s library were opened.
In 1823 first Armenian printing house was established in Tbilisi. For the first time “Wounds of Armenia” - the novel by Khachatur Abovian, the graduate of Nersesian Seminary and the forefather of new Armenian literature was published there.
Until 1920 several Armenian printing houses were working in Tbilisi and publishing multitude of books. From 1846 first Armenian newspapers and magazines are issued. Until 1920 number of Armenian periodicals reached 180 titles.
Development of new Armenian classical literature is related to Georgia. Capital of Georgia was the homeland of such prominent writers as Raffi, Tumanyan, Sundukyan, Agayan, Nar-Dos, Muratsan, Abovyan, Akopyan, Proshyan, Tserents, Tsaturyan, Shirvanzade, Teryan and others.
Peerless and inspirational singer and poet-ashug Sayat-Nova lived and created his timeless pieces of Estern poetry in three languages in Tbilisi. Such ashugs as Shamchi-Melko, Avasi, Djivani and Azira were, also, enjoying well-earned love of the people.
Establishment of Armenian Drama Theatre in1858 by Gevork Chimishkyan came as a distinctive crown of cultural life of Armenians in Georgia. This theatre is active even today. The stage of Armenian Drama Theatre saw such prominent actors as Petros Adamyan, Siranush, Vagram Papazyan, Olga Maisuryan, Isaak Alikhanyan, Dori Amirbekyan and many others.
The Theatre of Young Viewer was acting in Tbilisi from 1937 till 1944. From 1928 till 1949 Armenian Drama theatre existed in Sukhumi.
Creative work of such painters as Ovnatanyan family, Sharbabchyan, Vano Khodjabekov, Elibekyan, Bayakhchev, Bashindjagyan, Nersisyan, Tatevosyan, Karalyan, Jotto-Grigoryan, Bajbeuk-Melikov, - is inseparable from the capital of Georgia. In 1916, the Union of Armenian Artists was established. Traditions of the old generation are preserved by Dilbaryan, Khachaturov, Kondakhsazov, Davtyan, Osipov and talented lady-artists: Zuleika Bajbeuk-Melikova and Gayane Khachaturyan.
As of the second half of XIX century Tbilisi became the center of Eastern-Armenian musical culture. Classics of Armenian music: Ekmalyan, Kara-Murza, Melik-Pashaev, A. Tigranyan, - author of the popular opera “Anush”, and many others created their work here. Native of Georgia are most famous contemporary composers, such as Mikael Tariverdiev, Aram Khachaturyan and Eduard Mirzoyan.
Considerable contribution to Georgian cinematography was made by Amo Bek-Nazarov, who established “Gruziya-Film” Studio and renowned genius of contemporary cinema – Sergei Paradjanov.
Armenian architects (Ogadjanov, Sarkisyan, Ter-Melikov, and Satunts) designed many monumental buildings in the center of Tbilisi.
Of those scientists who made enormous contribution to development of science, we mention those who lived in Georgia: Zavriev, Mamasakhlisov, Simonyan, Baisagolov, Sharmazanov, Gigolov, Maksoev, brothers Alikhanovs. Native of Georgia were famous brothers Orbeli. Everybody knows the names of such famous physicians as Gasparyants, Umikov, and Phrangulyan. In 1913 first maternity hospital of Doctor M. Mkrtchyants started functioning in Tbilisi. First private, but gratuitous hospital in the city was opened in 1880 and belonged to B. Navasardyan. In 1905 Doctor Khalatov organized Medical Emergency Service. Nowadays very famous are such doctors as A. Onanov, A. Malayev, R. Davidov and others.
This is a very short historical excursus, but contemporary reality of Armenian Diaspora is nothing less of interesting.
Population census conducted in Georgia in 1989 showed that Armenians make up for 8% of Georgian population, which means that Armenians are the biggest Diaspora in Georgia.
Nowadays there are Armenian schools and Armenian churches in Georgia, although the legal status of the latest is not yet decided. Petros Adamyan Tbilisi State Armenian Drama Theatre and the Pantheon of Armenian writers and public figures – Khodjevank, deserve a special mention.