Georgian “King of Poets” Galaktion Tabidze: Life full of love, pain and poetry
17 November, 2016
Georgian “King of Poets” Galaktion Tabidze: Life full of love, pain and poetry
Georgia celebrates 126th birthday of one of the most outstanding Georgian poets, Galaktion Tabidze.

Tabidze was born on November 17, 1891, in Vani Municipality’s village of Chkvishi, in western Georgia. He was often called ‘genius’ and ‘the King of Poets’ by his contemporaries. With his incredibly romantic poems, Galaktion cre
ated his own, unique world of poetry, delivering the beauty of Georgian language and the elasticity of words.

His father, Vasil Tabidze, was a famous public figure, who died unexpectedly, at a young age, 8 months before Galaktion was born. When the future poet was 8 years old, his mother took him to the city of Kutaisi and enrolled him to the school run by one of the priests, namely Nestor Kubaneishvili. After that, Galaktion entered the Kutaisi Religious School.

In 1910, Galaktion moved to Tbilisi Theological Academy and published his first magazine called “Shuki” (The Light). He soon left the academy and began to work as a teacher at one of the rural schools.
In 1912, Galaktion met his future wife in Kutaisi – Olga (Olia) Okujava. At the same time, it is well known that there was another woman in his life, whose name was Mary Shervashidze and who was one of his principal inspirations for the poet. After seeing Mary, Galaktion’s poetry became totally different from what it was before.

However, Galaktion did not know Mary personally and they had no relationship whatsoever.
Mary Shervashidze

Galaktion loved her but this love was overcome when he met his future wife, Olga. When it was decided that he and Olga would marry, in 1915 Galaktion wrote a last, farewell poem to Shervashidze and named it “Mary”.
Olga Okujava and Galaktion Tabidze

Galaktion’s first book was published in 1914 and the second – in 1919. These collections of poems brought him a great success. In 1916, his poems were printed in one of the most popular magazines called “The Blue Horns” (“Tsisperi Kantsebi”). However, because of some disagreement between him and two other poets, Valerian Gaprindashvili and Paolo Iashvili, Tabidze left “The Blue Horns.”

Despite him being quite famous and popular, Tabidze had heavy financial problems. He did not have his own apartment, had never worn good shoes or coats.

“I am sick again and will most probably meet another New Year with empty pockets. I have no shoes and my only achievement is this new coat. The alarm will ring exactly at twelve and I will know that the New Year has come. Is it even worth remembering anything from the outgoing year?” - he wrote in his diary, “I sold my last pair of pants during the crisis. Recently, I was sick for almost two weeks. I was lying in my bed hungry and freezing and nobody was around to help me. For the last five years nobody visited me, not even a friend. Is it not a misfortune? If I die now, people will know about it only after 15 days, when the horrible smell decomposing body reaches the streets’.
Rare photo of Galaktion Tabidze kept in Georgia's National Library

In 1918, Galaktion travelled to Moscow and attended the 6-month courses of theater lovers. After that he returned to Tbilisi and lived there until his death.

From 1921, he was the editor-in-chief of a magazine called Lomisi and at the same time he had set up his own literary outlet, naming it “The Magazine of Galaktion Tabidze.”

During the 1921-1924 tragic event in Georgia, when the country was invaded by Russian army, Tabidze wrote the long poem called “The Memories of the Days When Lightning Struck.” All the copies of the Mnatobi magazine, where this poem was published, were later destroyed by the Bolsheviks (only a few of them survived) and Galaktion was put in jail.

In 1933, however, Galaktion was given the official title of “People’s Writer” and 25 years of his literary activities were celebrated at the Tbilisi Opera House.
In 1936, he was awarded the Order of Lenin.
In spite of such successful period, Galaktion often felt he was forgotten by his colleagues as well as authorities. Sometimes, even several offensive articles were published against him. In addition to all of this, during Stalinist repressions of 1937, his wife Olga Okujava was arrested and exiled to Siberia. She returned to Tbilisi several years later but was again arrested, given life-imprisonment and later executed. The letters which Galaktion and Olga wrote to eacher while being apart are full of love, pain and emotions.

After several years, Galaktion had a close relationship with another woman, Olga Darius. They had never been officially married, but Galaktion always referred to her as his wife. He then married Nino Kvirikadze, the widow of General Ebanoidze, whith whom she had two children. Galaktion was very fond of his stepchildren and they loved him back.

On March 17, 1959, Galaktion committed suicide by jumping from the hospital window in Tbilisi. The funeral procession was attended by hundreds of thousands of people from all over Georgia.

Galaktion Tabidze was interred at the Mtatsminda Pantheon.

A bridge over Mtkvari River in Tbilisi bears his name.

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