Kazbegi was the great grandson of Kazibek Chopikashvili, a local feudal magnate who was in charge of collecting tolls on the Georgian Military Highway. Alexander Kazbegi studied in Tblisi, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but on returning home, decided to become a shepherd to experience the lives of the local people. He later worked as a journalist, and then became a novelist and playwright. In his later life, he suffered from insanity. After his death in Tbilisi, his coffin was carried across the Jvari Pass to his hometown of Kazbegi (now renamed Stepantsminda), which also preserves his childhood home as a museum in his honor.
His most famous work, the novelThe Patricide is about a heroic Caucasian bandit named Koba, who, much like Robin Hood, is a defender of the poor. Koba has nothing but contempt for authority, a proclivity towards violence, and a firm belief in vengeance. Kazbegi's work was a major inspiration to Iosif Jughashvili, later known as Joseph Stalin, who used Koba as a revolutionary pseudonym.