Vazha-Pshavela and Gori
In the consciousness of Georgian society, Vazha-Pshavela’s name is largely associated with a mountain, which of course had a great influence on the life of this legendary Georgian figure. However, before Luka Razikashvili became known as Vazha-Pshavela, many places and societies contributed to building his personality. At the age of 18, Vazha-Pshavela enrolled in the educational seminary of Gori. During this period, the seminary was considered a rare institution, under relatively little strain from the imperial ideology. Initially, Vazha was often seen in academic circles, and he became especially close to one of the main initiators of civic movements, Misho Kifiani, of whom many stories have been told about his fierce character,, tireless volunteering, and even hand-to-hand combat to help the villages surrounding Gori. However, Vazha's political interest soon faded and his attention became almost completely absorbed by literature. In his free time, he would constantly read under a walnut tree at the seminary, immersing himself in the works of Plato, Heraclitus, Bacon, Kant, Borel, Spencer, Goethe, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Byron, among others. Vazha's interests soon spanned extremely wide, from ancient Georgian literature to astronomy. Thus, it can be said that Gori represented a pivotal place in the creation of his intellectual nucleus, allowing him to leave behind masterpieces of humanistic literature to Georgian and world culture. In addition, Vazha had another important connection with Gori: family. Vazha's brother, Tedo Razikashvili, lived in the village of Kheltubani and was not only engaged in writing, but was also a collector of folklore. Tedo collected and preserved more than 3,000 poems and about 200 fairy tales, as well as compiling a dictionary of folk phrases. Indeed, Vazha sent his son Levan to stay with Tedo. However, eight years after Vazha-Pshavela’s death, in 1923, the Soviet government sentenced Levan to death on the charge of helping a squad of anti-Soviet guerillas under Kakutsa Cholokashvili. Prominent figures such as Alexander Abasheli, Shalva Dadiani, and Pavle Ingorokva begged First Secretary of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, Sergo Orjonikidze, to pardon Levan, the son of Vazha-Pshavela. Reportedly, Orjonikidze replied: "Not only Vazha's son, but if Vazha himself were alive, I would have shot him too.”
Vazha has remained a precious figure for Georgian society, despite Soviet attempts to effectively vanish him from history. He couldn't just disappear. Levan however did disappear; the location of his grave is not known, and he was removed from all photos taken with his father. In a free and independent Georgia, belonging to the Razikashvili family would have been a source of great pride for any of Vazha's descendants. However, the Soviet system instilled a sense of shame about any such connection and Levan's children and family lived in fear. Nevertheless, today about 20 descendants of Vazha-Pshavela are known to live in Gori, meaning that the family survives, and thus representing the proud fact that Soviet repression was unable to destroy Georgia.
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