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Vazha in a chokha
Vazha in a chokha
Native name
BornLuka Razikashvili
(1861-07-26)26 July 1861
Chargali, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire, now Georgia
Died10 July 1915(1915-07-10) (aged 53)
Tbilisi, Georgia
Resting placeMtatsminda Pantheon
OccupationPoet, short-story writer, philosopher
Genreepic, drama, poetry
Literary movementModernism
Notable works"Host and Guest"
"Snake eater"
"Aluda Ketelauri"
SpouseTamar Didebashvili
Vaja signature.svg

Vazha-Pshavela (Georgian: ვაჟა-ფშაველა), simply referred to as Vazha (Georgian: ვაჟა) (26 July 1861 – 10 July 1915), is the pen name of the Georgian poet and writer Luka Razikashvili (Georgian: ლუკა რაზიკაშვილი).

"Vazha-Pshavela" literally means "a son of Pshavians" in Georgian.


Vazha-Pshavela was born into a family of clergymen in the little village of Chargali, situated in the mountainous Pshavi province of Eastern Georgia. He graduated from the Pedagogical Seminary in Gori 1882, where he associated closely with Georgian populists (Russian term narodniki). He then entered the faculty of Law of St. Petersburg University (Russia) in 1883, as a non-credit student, but returned to Georgia in 1884 due to financial constraints. Here he found employment as a teacher of the Georgian language. He also attained prominence as a famous representative of the National-Liberation movement of Georgia.

Vazha-Pshavela embarked on his literary career in the mid-1880s. In his works, he portrayed the everyday life and psychology of his contemporary Pshavs. Vazha-Pshavela is the author of many world-class literary works – 36 epics, about 400 poems ("Aluda Ketelauri", "Bakhtrioni", "Gogotur and Apshina", "Host and Guest", "Snake eater", "Eteri", "Mindia", etc.), plays, and stories, as well as literary criticism, journalism and scholarly articles of ethnographic interest. Even in his fiction he evokes the life of the Georgian highlander with a near-ethnographic precision and depicts an entire world of mythological concepts. In his poetry, the poet addresses the heroic past of his people and extols the struggle against enemies both external and internal. (poems A Wounded Snow Leopard (1890), A Letter of a Pshav Soldier to His Mother (1915), etc.).

In the best of his epic compositions, Vazha-Pshavela deals powerfully with the problems raised by the interaction of the individual with society, of humankind with the natural world and of human love with love of country. The conflict between an individual and a temi (community) is depicted in the epics Aluda Ketelauri (1888, Russian translation, 1939) and Guest and Host (1893, Russian translation 1935). The principal characters in both works come to question and ultimately to disregard outdated laws upheld by their respective communities, in their personal journey toward a greater humanity that transcends the merely parochial.[1]

The poet's overarching theme is that of a strong-willed people, its dignity, and its zeal for freedom. The same themes are touched upon in the play The Rejected One (1894). Vazha-Pshavela idealizes the Pshavs' time-honoured rituals, their purity, and their 'non-degeneracy' comparing and contrasting these with the values of what he considers 'false civilization'. He argues that 'Every true patriot is cosmopolitan and every genuine cosmopolitan is a patriot'.[2]

The wise man Mindia in the epic Snake-Eater (1901, Russian translation 1934) dies because he cannot reconcile his ideals with the needs of his family and those of society. The catalytic plot device of Mindia's consumption of serpent's flesh in an attempt at suicide – which results instead in his obtaining of occult knowledge, constitutes a literary employment of the central, folk tale motif present in The White Snake (Brothers Grimm) which epitomizes tale type 673 in the Aarne-Thompson classification system.

The epic Bakhtrioni (1892, Russian translation 1943) tells of the part played by the tribes of the Georgian highlands in the uprising of Kakheti (East Georgia) against the Iranian oppressors in 1659.

Vazha-Pshavela is also unrivalled in the field of Georgian poetry in his idiosyncratic and evocative depictions of Nature – for which he felt a deep love. His landscapes are full of motion and internal conflicts. His poetic diction is saturated with all the riches of his native tongue, and yet this is an impeccably exact literary language. Thanks to excellent translations into Russian (by Nikolay Zabolotsky, V. Derzhavin, Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak, S. Spassky, Marina Tsvetaeva, and others), into English (by Donald Rayfield, Venera Urushadze, Lela Jgerenaia, Nino Ramishvili, and others), into French (by Gaston Bouatchidzé), and into German (by Yolanda Marchev, Steffi Chotiwari-Jünger), the poet's work has found the wider audience that it undoubtedly deserves. Furthermore, Vazha-Pshavela's compositions have also become available to representatives of other nationalities of the ex-USSR. To date, his poems and narrative compositions have been published in more than 20 languages

Vazha-Pshavela died in Tiflis on 10 July 1915 and was buried there, in the ancient capital city of his native land, being accorded the signal honour of a tomb in the prestigious Pantheon of the Mtatsminda Mountain, in recognition both of his literary achievements and his role as a representative of the National Liberation movement of Georgia.

The mountaineer poet Vazha-Pshavela is indeed, as Donald Rayfield writes, "qualitatively of a greater magnitude than any other Georgian writer".[3]

The five epic poems of Vazha-Pshavela ('Aluda Ketelauri' (1888), 'Bakhtrioni' (1892), 'Host and Guest' (1893), 'The Avenger of the Blood' (1897) and 'Snake Eater' (1901)) are composed on the principle of the Golden ratio, and thus invite comparison with the works of Ancient and Renaissance authors similarly inspired.[4]

In 1961, a museum and memorial was built in Chargali to honor Vazha-Pshavela, its most famous son.[5]


Vazha by Guram Gagoshidze.
Vazha Pshavela on the 1961 Soviet Union stamp

Epic poems[edit]

Other poetry[edit]

  • A Feast, 1886
  • The Ogre's Wedding, 1886
  • The Eagle, 1887
  • I Was in the Mountains, 1890
  • The Rock and the River, 1899
  • I Gaze at the Mountains, 1899
  • Orphaned Fledglings, 1899
  • A Goldfinger's Will, 1891
  • A Night in the Highland, 1890
  • To the Mountains, 1910

Short stories[edit]

Plays (theatre)[edit]

  • The Scene in the Mountain, 1889
  • Hunted of the Homeland (drama), 1894
  • The Forest Comedy, 1911


  • sophia[6] (The encounter), romantic drama, adapted from the Vazha-Pshavela poems "Aluda Ketelauri" and "Host and Guest", (this movie was awarded the Grand Prix at the 17th San Remo international Festival of Author Films, 1974), the film director Tengiz Abuladze – 1967
  • Mokvetili,[7] romantic drama, adapted from the Vazha-Pshavela play Hunted of the homeland, the film director Giorgi (Gia) Mataradze – 1992
  • "Host and Guest" Dramatic adaptation of Vazha-Pshavela's epic poem of the same name, devised by Synetic Theater (Arlington, Virginia) – USA – directed by Paata Tsikurishvili – 2002 –


  1. ^ Tuite, K. (2008). "The Banner of Xaxmat'is-Jvari: Vazha-Pshavela's Xevsureti". In Gamkrelidze, Ekaterina (ed.). Der Dichter Važa-Pšavela. Fünf Essays (PDF). Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. pp. 11–38.
  2. ^ Vazha Pshavela, translated Rebecca Ruth Gould. "'Cosmopolitanism and Patriotism' (2016)". Asymptote.
  3. ^ Donald Rayfield (1994). The Literature of Georgia: A History. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 207.
  4. ^ Mixo Mosulišvili. "Vazha-Pshavela". Open Library. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  5. ^ Vazha-Pshavela House Museum.
  6. ^ Vedreba (1967). IMdb
  7. ^ Aliko Askilashvili. "Mokvetili, Georgian National Filmography". Retrieved 26 November 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]