Short Title

The Sovietization of Rustaveli

Document Type



Shota Rustaveli, presumed author of the medieval Georgian epic poem vepkhistqaosani (The Knight in the Panther's Skin), was one of the most celebrated cultural and historical figures in Soviet Georgia. However, not much is known about Rustaveli apart from his work. In this essay, I argue that a series of policies under the Soviet government transformed Rustaveli into a national symbol of Georgia, but the celebration of Rustaveli and his poem scarcely deviated from the ideological guidelines of the Soviet state. In discussing the impact and legacy of the Soviet promotion of Rustaveli, I purport to highlight the "national in form, Socialist in content" guiding principle of the Soviet cultural policy in the Soviet non-Russian borderlands.

Cover Page Footnote

Acknowledgment: The research for this essay was conducted from Apr to Nov 2017. I would like to thank Prof. Olga Peters Hasty and Prof. Stephen Kotkin for their insight and guidance. Author’s note: All transliterations of from Georgian in this essay are based on a commonly used unofficial system that omits non-alphanumeric characters such as the apostrophe as is often used in cartography and in the issuance of IDs. All Romanized Georgian terms, with the exception of geographical and biographical names and names of publishers, are rendered with lowercase initials due to the absence of distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters in the Georgian alphabet. Unless otherwise specified, all Russian-language quotes from vepkhistqaosani are from the complete translation by Nikolay Zabolotsky published in 1954 in Moscow; likewise, all English-language quotes of the epic are from the first edition of Marjory Scott Wardrop’s translation published in London by The Royal Asiatic Society in 1912. All other quotes that appear in this article are translated by the author, unless otherwise specified. The title of vepkhistqaosani differs in different translations as well as in the original Georgian (most pre-Soviet editions are titled vepkhis tqaosani in two separate words). Throughout the article, I adhere to its modern Georgian title vepkhistqaosani for the sake of consistency. All photographs used in the article are taken and provided by author.



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