Grigol Orbeliani

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Grigol Orbeliani
Prince Grigol Orbeliani.png
Tbilisi, Russian Empire
Tbilisi, Russian Empire
AllegianceFlag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russian Empire
Rank 1904ic-p18gar.png Adjutant general in the rank of General of the infantry
Commands heldRussian forces around the Caspian theatre
Chairman of the Caucasus Viceroyalty
Governor-general of Tiflis
Battles/wars Caucasian War
Russo-Persian War (1826–1828)
Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829)
Other workMember of the State Council
Patriotic poetry

Prince Grigol Orbeliani or Jambakur-Orbeliani (Georgian :გრიგოლ ორბელიანი; ჯამბაკურ-ორბელიანი) (October 2, 1804 March 21, 1883) was a Georgian Romanticist poet and general in Imperial Russian service. One of the most colorful figures in the 19th-century Georgian culture, Orbeliani is noted for his patriotic poetry, lamenting Georgia's lost past and independent monarchy. At the same time, he spent decades in the Russian military service, rising through ranks to highest positions in the imperial administration in the Caucasus.

Georgian language Official language of Georgia

Georgian is a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians. It is the official language of Georgia. Georgian is written in its own writing system, the Georgian script. Georgian is the literary language for all regional subgroups of Georgians, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans, Mingrelians and the Laz.

Georgia (country) Country in the Caucasus region

Georgia, known until 1995 as the Republic of Georgia, is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its 2017 population is about 3.718 million. Georgia is a unitary parliamentary republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.

General of the Infantry was an Imperial Russian Army senior military rank. It served as the rank below General-feldmarschal, and was the highest rank one could achieve in the infantry from 1796 to 1917.



Grigol Orbeliani was born into a prominent aristocratic family in the Georgian capital of Tiflis (Tbilisi), three years after the Russian government deposed the Bagrationi dynasty of Georgia and annexed their kingdom. His father Dimitri (Zurab), a prince of the House of Orbeliani, served at the court of the last Georgian kings, while mother Khoreshan née Andronikashvili was a granddaughter, on her mother, Princess Elene’s, side, of Erekle II, the penultimate and popular king of Georgia, whose cult would later be introduced into Georgian literature by Grigol Orbeliani himself.

Bagrationi dynasty dynasty

The Bagrationi dynasty is a royal dynasty which reigned in Georgia from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century, being among the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasties in the world. In modern usage, the name of the dynasty is sometimes Hellenized and referred to as the Georgian Bagratids, also known in English as the Bagrations.

The Orbeliani was a Georgian noble family (tavadi), which branched off the Baratashvili family in the 17th century and later produced several lines variously called Orbeliani, Orbelishvili (ორბელიშვილი), Qaplanishvili (ყაფლანიშვილი), and Jambakur(ian)-Orbeliani (ჯამბაკურ[იან]-ორბელიანი). They were prominent in Georgia’s politics, culture, and science; remained so under the Russian rule in the 19th century – when most of the Orbeliani lines were received among the princely nobility (knyaz) of the Russian Empire – and into the 20th century.


The Andronikashvili, sometimes known as Endronikashvili (ენდრონიკაშვილები), was a princely family in Georgia who claimed descent from emperor Andronicos I of the Eastern Roman Empire and played a prominent role in political, military and religious life of Georgia. After the Russian annexation of Georgia (1801), the Andronikashvili were confirmed in the dignity of knyaz Andronikov in 1826.

Orbeliani had close family and friendly ties with the contemporary Georgian aristocratic and literary élite: Nikoloz Baratashvili, the most important poet of Georgian Romanticism, was his sisterly nephew; Orbeliani was in love with Griboyedov’s widow and Alexander Chavchavadze’s daughter, Nino, who inspired the poet with desperate, but courtly passion for nearly thirty years, although he had been betrothed in the cradle to Princess Sopio Orbeliani. [1] He was a cousin of the two poets and generals - Alexander and Vakhtang Orbeliani. To distinguish himself from his namesake cousins, Grigol Orbeliani also used an ancestral name "Qaplanishvili". [2]

Nikoloz Baratashvili Georgian poet

Prince Nikoloz "Tato" Baratashvili was a Georgian poet. He was one of the first Georgians to marry modern nationalism with European Romanticism and to introduce "Europeanism" into Georgian literature. Due to his early death, Baratashvili left a relatively small literary heritage of fewer than forty short lyrics, one extended poem, and a few private letters, but he is nevertheless considered to be the high point of Georgian Romanticism. He was referred to as the "Georgian Byron".

Alexander Chavchavadze Georgian writer and military figure

Prince Alexander Chavchavadze was a notable Georgian poet, public benefactor and military figure. Regarded as the "father of Georgian romanticism", he was a pre-eminent Georgian aristocrat and a talented general in the Imperial Russian service.

Nino Chavchavadze Georgian noble

Princess Nino Chavchavadze was a daughter of the famous Georgian knyaz (prince) and poet Alexander Chavchavadze and wife of Russian diplomat and playwright Alexander Griboyedov.

Service career

Orbeliani received his early education at local nobility gymnasium and artillery school. In the 1820s, he entered the Russian military service, and took part in a series of expeditions against the Dagestani tribes, and the wars with the Ottoman and Persian empires. In March 1833, he was arrested by the Russian police in Nizhny Novgorod for his involvement with the 1832 conspiracy of Georgian nobles who plotted to murder Russian officials and reestablish Georgia's independence from the empire. Orbeliani was placed in the Avlabar prison in Tiflis, but was soon released as, due to his absence from Georgia, his contribution to a planned coup was limited to an intellectual support such as translations from the Decembrist ideologues and a bellicose poem, The Weapon (იარაღი). [2]

Dagestan First-level administrative division of Russia

Dagestan, officially the Republic of Dagestan, is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and largest city is Makhachkala, centrally located on the Caspian Sea coast.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye, literally "The Exalted Ottoman State"; Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti; French: Empire ottoman), known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state and caliphate that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Persian Empire ancient empire, comprising many dynasties

The Persian Empire refers to a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century BC Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.

By virtue both of his aristocratic status and his abilities, Orbeliani was able to resume his military career and would rise to high positions in the Caucasus Viceroyalty. He, like many other Georgian nobles who years earlier had plotted to overthrow the Russian hegemony, would make peace with the imperial autocracy, a change aided by liberal policies of the Russian viceroy Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov. A typical romanticist and patriot in his poetry, Orbeliani, like his older contemporary, fellow poet and general Alexander Chavchavadze, remained a loyal officer in the imperial service throughout his career. [3] [4]

Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov 19th-century Russian prince and field-marshal

Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov was a Russian prince and field-marshal, renowned for his success in the Napoleonic wars and most famous for his participation in the Caucasian War from 1844 to 1853.

Orbeliani spent most of his military career in the Caucasus War against the rebellious mountaineers, with a brief spell in the Neva Infantry Regiment in Wilno (Vilnius, Lithuania) as a punishment for his participation in the 1832 conspiracy. On returning to the Caucasus in 1838, he mostly fought in Dagestan and was made colonel in 1846. Being in command of the Apsheron Infantry Regiment, Orbeliani played a decisive role in storming the Dagestani stronghold Gergebil in 1847/8 and was promoted to major general in 1848. In the following years, he governed the restive districts of Avaristan, and Tchar-Belakan, and oversaw the Lezgin line. He fought off an attack by Shamil, a leader of anti-Russian insurgency in the North Caucasus, and scored a series of victories over the rebels in Tchar-Belakan in 1853, winning the rank of lieutenant general. In 1855, he was made commander of the pre-Caspian troops and promoted to adjutant general in 1857. He was appointed chairman of the viceroy's council in 1857 and three years later became governor-general of Tiflis, acting as a de facto viceroy in 1862. Orbeliani was further promoted to Infantry General in 1864 and received a seat in the State Council in 1866. He was an advocate and organiser of a new social order in the Caucasus. In 1871, the Imperial administration organized, in Tiflis, a 50-years anniversary of Orbeliani's service, attended by the visiting Tsar Alexander II who awarded the general an Order of St. Andrew, the highest in the empire. In old age, he switched his fervor to the promotion of literacy and education for Georgians and publication of Georgian heritage as well as sponsoring literacy programs for the Abkhaz and Ossetians. He was a member of the Imperial Geographical Society and an Honorary President of the Georgian Nobility Bank. In the 1880s he played a leading role in establishing a standard text for Shota Rustaveli's medieval epic The Knight in the Panther's Skin . [2]

Lithuania Republic in Northeastern Europe

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. The country is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

1832 Georgian plot was a conspiracy involving Georgian royalty and nobility to restore Georgian statehood and its Bagrationi dynasty monarchy.

North Caucasus Geographic region

The North Caucasus or Ciscaucasia is the northern part of the Caucasus region between the Sea of Azov and Black Sea on the west and the Caspian Sea on the east, in Russia. Geographically, the Northern Caucasus includes the Russian republics and krais of the North Caucasus. As part of the Russian Federation, the Northern Caucasus region is included in the North Caucasian and Southern Federal Districts and consists of Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and the constituent republics, approximately from west to east: the Republic of Adygea, Karachay–Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia–Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and the Republic of Dagestan.

Cultural legacy

Although Orbeliani's earliest writings are in prose dating to 1824, his prose pieces have fallen into oblivion. Most of his poetry is noted for patriotic motifs and extravagant praise of wine and women. Like his contemporary Georgian romanticists, Orbeliani's lyrics are pervaded with laments over the lost past and the fall of the Georgian monarchy. What distinguishes him, however, is his love for the street poetry and the ashug minstrelsy to which he himself added with such lyrics as Mukhambazi (მუხამბაზი). [5] [6]

Orbaliani's poetry prior to the collapse of the 1832 conspiracy is remarkably bellicose and optimistic, while post-1832 lyrics are more elegiac, infused with sentimental patriotic feelings about the irretrievable glory of the past. His best and longest works is an ode A Toast, or A Night Feast after War near Yerevan (სადღეგრძელო, ანუ ომის შემდგომ ღამე ლხინი, ერევნის სიახლოვეს) whose original version was composed on the occasion of the battle of Yerevan during the Russo-Persian War in 1827, not without influence of the Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky. It was further reworked and expanded until it acquired its final shape as late as 1879. A nostalgic memory of military glory, the poem begins by honoring all those who have fallen in defense of their homeland, then the poet travels through history, celebrating all Georgia's tribes, kings, heroes, and martyrs. Finally, an elegiac mood replaces the exaltation, as the poet returns from his fantasy and memoirs to see just himself and one other link to that past still living. [4] [7]

Orbeliani's mutual relations with the new generation of Georgian intellectuals were ambiguous. This new movement, dubbed as "the sons", spearheaded by Ilia Chavchavadze and Akaki Tsereteli, was critical of "fathers", old Georgian nobility who had pledged their allegiance to the Tsar. Orbeliani was praised by Chavchavadze as presiding over "the strength and wealth of our verse," but his 1871 jubilee was met by the younger generation in cold silence. In the 1860s, Orbeliani tried to stand aside from the quarrels between "the sons and the fathers", but he could not refrain from attacking the new generation in a caustic rhymed response published in 1874. This did not prevent him, however, from being alone in acclaiming the melodramatic prose of one of the "sons", Alexander Kazbegi, in 1881. [8]

Grigol Orbeliani died in Tiflis at the age of 79. He is buried at the Kashveti Church of St. George.


  1. Rayfield, pp. 139, 143-4.
  2. 1 2 3 Rayfield, p. 143.
  3. Suny, pp. 75, 124.
  4. 1 2 Kveselava, p. 16.
  5. Rayfield, p. 144.
  6. Mukhambazi on YouTube, Russian translation by Nikolay Zabolotsky, music and song by Elena Frolova (first song in record)
  7. Rayfield, pp. 144-5.
  8. Rayfield, pp. 143-4.

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