Nikoloz Baratashvili’s Less Studied Official Letters

DOI: 10.55804/jtsuSPEKALI-17-5


Georgian literature of the 19th century prides itself with rich epistolary collection of Georgian writers. These letters are read with no less interest than fiction. Although Nikoloz Baratashvili’s personal letters are much less than the ones of other writers of the 19th century, they are still vital for the study of the poet’s life and the corresponding historical-political situation. Therefore, N. Baratashvili’s letters are key to understanding not only the inner world of the writer, but also his era.

Sadly, Nikoloz Baratashvili’s documents were not properly collected and recorded at that time. As a result, many of them were lost forever. It was not possible to retrieve the documents such as Baratashvili’s certificate of gymnasium completion, documents certifying Nikoloz Baratashvili’s illness in 1840 and 1845 and some of his reports written when working in Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), as well as the library card of the last year of his life and many other interesting documents. The traces of such documents can be encountered in other preserved documents.

There are 18 unofficial (personal) epistles of Nikoloz Baratashvili that have survived and have been studied in many perspectives. For some reason, contemporary scholars failed to properly study his official letters. It was Professor Sh. Chkhetia who analysed the official documents of the poet in his book of 1945 -  Nikoloz Baratashvili (Materials about Nikoloz Baratashvili); however, afterwards, scholars did not study the letters further.

This paper combines all the documents related to Nikoloz Baratashvili discovered as a result of the study of 16 repositories of the National Archives of Georgia. Out of these 16 repositories, only 11 of them keep the documents that were fully or partially drafted by the poet.

The documents analysed in Chkhetia’s book belong to the years of 1835-1845. The largest number of documents are stored in the repository of the Civil and Criminal Chamber of Georgia-Imereti, which is no surprise as it was this very institution where the poet served in the last years of his life.

Out of the discovered documents, about two hundred of them were fully compiled in longhand by N. Baratashvili; the rest of the documents are only partially drafted by him. These letters contain Baratashvili’s comments and postscripts as well.

1. Repository of the Cases of Particular Importance

49 pages of Nikoloz Baratashvili’s official documents are preserved in Case #9264 of the Repository of the Cases of Particular Importance. The case is titled as Poems of Baratashvili. However, this title does not fully correspond to the content of the documents, because in addition to the poems, the case includes the letters of N. Baratashvili, Meliton, Epemia, Ilia Orbeliani and one unknown person. 5 letters from the said collection are fully handwritten by Baratashvili. All five letters are of personal content and are addressed to Grigol Orbeliani.

The letters of the said repository are mostly of a personal nature and cannot be attributed to the official correspondence in terms of content. However, Sh. Chkhetia also listed these letters along with the official documents. Since this article follows the documents listed by Sh. Chkhetia in contextual perspective, it will consider these few personal epistles along with the official ones.

The earliest letter from the said collection was written on March 1, 1837. The letter is particularly interesting as it was handwritten by Nikoloz Baratashvili, but dictated by his father, Meliton. The letter begins with the words: “Dear brother Gregory! I have received your book ... it is about to end: I am so ill that I have asked Tato to write this letter. Your brother Meliton.” Meliton’s signature is also written by Nikoloz (Chkhetia, Sh; 1945; p. 65). This indicates that Meliton was in such a poor health that he could not write himself and could only dictate the text of the letter to his son.

The rest of the letters sent to his uncle are dated to the first decade of July 1842, October 18 of 1841, May 2 of 1842 and August 21 of 1843. They provide important information about the relationship between Nikoloz Baratashvili and his uncle. Both Meliton and adult Nikoloz Baratashvili address Grigol Orbeliani with great love and respect. It can be seen that all members of Nikoloz’s family were fond of Grigol Orbeliani, and for them, uncle was a great hope. According to these letters, Grigol Orbeliani happened to participate in the quelling led by Colonel Mose Arghutinsky of the uprising of the Gurian peasants. Nikoloz Baratashvili refers to this very fact in a letter sent to his uncle on October 18 of 1841, expressing admiration for his uncle’s diplomatic skills.

In 1843, Grigol Orbeliani was appointed as the governor of the Avaria (Dagestan), or as he called himself “the Khan of Avaria”. On June 2 of that year, Orbeliani arrived in Khundzakh, the residence of the former Khans of Avaria. In the letter sent on August 21, 1843, Nikoloz Baratashvili kindly joked about that event and referred to his uncle as Attila sitting on the throne. All this testifies to the very close, friendly relationship between the uncle and the niece.

2. Repository of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Government of Georgia

Nikoloz Baratashvili’s handwritten files are preserved in 15 cases of the Repository of the Judicial  Department of the Supreme Government of Georgia. There are 26 handwritten documents in total.

Among the purchase deeds preserved in the repository, the deed dated November 3, 1837 draws particular attention, because it provides information about Baratashvili’s family life rather than his work life. Nikoloz wrote this document instead of his father asking Karaman Arghutinsky-Dolgorukov to approve the deed of purchase for the acquired peasants.

The oath statement dated May 19, 1838 communicates about Nikoloz Baratashvili’s readiness to faithfully fulfil his duties in his new position. The oath is a formal text (Case # 5324). The said documents provide information about Baratashvili’s work-related activities. They give an idea of what Nikoloz Baratashvili was assigned to do at work and why these activities were uninteresting to him.

At work, Nikoloz had to perform bureaucratic, non-creative work. He wrote reports, orders, appeals to officials, decrees and other documents of similar content. For him, as for a creative person, this work was terribly uninteresting and mind-numbing.

3. Repository of the Chancellery of the Chief Governor of Georgia

Nikoloz Baratashvili’s handwritten files are kept in three cases of the repository; there are 10 documents in total.

All of them are work-related - petitions for giving monetary awards, lists of officials of the same chamber, registers and reports on the changes occurred in the chamber. The collection also includes reports on issued receipts, deeds, certificates, protocols and finances.

4. Repository of the Chancellery of the Chief Governor of the A-Caucasus

There are three cases containing Nikoloz Baratashvili’s files at the Repository of the Chancellery of the Chief Governor of the A-Caucasus; these are Cases #2658, 2934 and 2979. Each of them preserves one handwritten document - a total of three documents suggesting the financial difficulties that Nikoloz Baratashvili’s family had to endure.

Meliton Baratashvili’s request to the chief of civil administration of A-Caucasus is dated April 28, 1844. With this letter, Meliton filed a suit against the county court for foreclosing on his property. The entire document was handwritten by N. by Baratashvili himself (Case #2658).

Meliton Baratashvili’s request to A-Caucasus Chief Governor Neidhardt is dated October 16, 1844. With this document, Meliton asked the governor to employ him. The entire document was again handwritten by Nikoloz Baratashvili. Meliton’s signature should also belong to Nikoloz (Case #2934).

The third document - L. Melikishvili’s memorandum is dated November 28, 1844 on appointing N. Baratashvili on the position of an assistant to the Governor of the Mazra (“Mazra” – administrative subdivision). The entire document was handwritten by Nikoloz himself (Case #2979).

5. Chancellery Repository of the Head of Civil Governance of the A-Caucasus

There are six handwritten documents of Nikoloz Baratashvili preserved in Case # 4211 at the given repository. All six of them are reports dated 1845 and they are fully work-related.

With these documents, N. Baratashvili appealed to authorities to take appropriate measures on the criminal cases such as the wounding of  someone named Usuf Alaverdi-Ogli by an unknown person, as well as the robbery of two local Tatars in the village, the murder of Mamediolchiv, a resident of Village Amirvar, and other similar facts.

At that time N. Baratashvili was serving as an assistant to the governor of the Nakhichevan Mazra, and it was his duty to compile such documents.

6.  Repository of the Deputies Assembly of Noblemen of Georgia

This repository keeps Nikoloz Baratashvili’s single handwritten document in Case #2029. This document is a request dated February 4, 1841 of Meliton Baratashvili to the Deputies Assembly of Noblemen of Georgia-Imereti Governorate to issue a document confirming his feudal title of “Tavadi”. The entire document is handwritten by N. Baratashvili (Case #2029).

7.   The Repository of the Head of the Noblemen of Georgian Governorate

The repository has Nikoloz Baratashvili’s handwritten documents in Cases #261 and 262. The said collection – 6 reports inform the reader of Meliton Baratashvili’s illness, and these seemingly ordinary, official letters, in fact communicate about rather serious health condition of Nikoloz Baratashvili’s father. The documents say that his father eventually had to quit his job because of his poor health and the family had to face serious financial hardship.

According to the given documents, on April 9, 1837, Meliton asked for a sick leave; on June 18 of the same year, his health deteriorated so much that he officially handed over his duties and responsibilities to Melikishvili. On August 12, Nikoloz complied a document on his father’s behalf about his returning to work to assume his duties , but on November 25, the family lost all hope of his recovery and Meliton Baratashvili requested to resign from his job with a note that Nikoloz wrote. Nearly a year later, on May 12, 1838, Meliton felt better again and requested to have him get back to his duties. However, as known, after the lingering illnesses, his career and financial situation had already been irreparably damaged, which in the end dramatically affected Nikoloz Baratashvili’s future life. Financial difficulties became one of major reasons he was unable to fulfil his dream of pursuing a military career.

8.  Repository (Repository #138) of Georgia-Imereti Synodal Office (“Kantora”)

There is only one document preserved in Case #4953 of the repository. It is a request from Meliton Baratashvili to the Georgia-Imereti Synodal Office to issue the birth certificate of Nikoloz Baratashvili. The entire document was handwritten by Nikoloz Baratashvili himself. The document is the earliest one among Baratashvili’s handwritten documents (Case #4953).

It is not known what Meliton Baratashvili needed Nikoloz’s birth certificate for; presumably, Nikoloz needed this document to get a job at the beginning of his career.

9.  Repository (Repository #152) of the Chancellery of the Head of Tbilisi Civil Governance

The repository keeps Nikoloz Baratashvili’s handwritten documents in four cases: #6264, 7243, 8411 and 8636; there are 18 documents in total.

Out the of the said collection, Nikoloz Baratashvili’s letter to Civil Governor Sotnikov, dated May 10, 1845, draws particular attention. With this document, Nikoloz complained to the governorate division that they had not fulfilled the decree issued by Neidhardt, the governor of A-Caucasus on appointing him as an assistant to the head of Nakhichevan Mazra and asked the governor to act accordingly (Case #8636).

Nikoloz Baratashvili’s letter to the civil governor is dated  June 15, 1845 confirming his consent to be transferred from the position of an assistant to the head of Telavi Mazra to the position of an assistant to the head of Elisavetopol Mazra. The entire document was compiled by Nikoloz Baratashvili (Case #8636). With these two official letters, the reader can see Baratashvili’s struggles for his future and unwillingness to put up with the indifference towards him. He fought for and eventually obtained the position of an assistant to the head of Mazra; however, as it was revealed afterwards, it was not Baratashvili’s dream job at all, and his free, creative personality could hardly adapt to and endure such bureaucratic responsibilities.

10.   Georgia-Imereti Governorate Repository

Several files out of 48  documents protected in the said repository reflect on Nikoloz’s struggles to establish his career. These 48 documents are preserved in the following cases: # 97, 119, 223, 251, 253, 254, 258, 269, 303, 318, 325, 504, 505, 5098, 6164, 7294 and 7297.

With these documents, Nikoloz Baratashvili mainly requested from various officials to be granted certain awards, to be accepted in a Judicial Division (“Expedition”) or to be given some suitable employment. These are all official documents.

On November 9, 1840, Baratashvili applied to the Governorate Division of the Chamber of Civil and Criminal Law to be assisted with obtaining a degree. The same repository keeps another similar application written by Nikoloz Baratashvili, in which he requested to have his father, Meliton Baratashvili be awarded a degree with honors.

The letters suggest that Meliton Baratashvili as well strived to move forward in his career. In a letter written by Nikoloz Baratashvili on October 6, 1839, Meliton asked the civil governor to appoint him to as the head of the administrative district (“okrug”). On January 21 of the same year, he sent an application to Governor Akhlestishev to provide him with proper employment.

11.   Georgia-Imereti Civil and Criminal Chamber Repository

The repository keeps a large collection of Nikoloz Baratashvili’s documents. There are 85 cases comprising 388 documents. Mostly all the documents are work-related informing the reader of the nature of Nikoloz’s work and the duties he had to perform. Apart from the family relationships, the documents show N. Baratashvili’s career path: the appeal of July 4, 1836 of the Judicial Division (“Expedition”) of the Supreme Government of Georgia reports to the Executive Division (“Expedition) on the admission of Nikoloz Baratashvili to the Judicial Division (Case #7294). On the same day, before being appointed, Nikoloz’s  handwritten note denies belonging to any of the “secret societies” (Case #7294). And his oath statement of May 19, 1838 informs of his readiness to fulfil his duties faithfully (Case # 5324). On November 9, 1840, an appeal was written to the Civil and Criminal Chamber of the Governorate Division appealing to “award” three officials of the Chamber, including the board registrar (“Kolejski registrator”), Nikoloz Baratashvili with a degree (Case # 97).

The next document that stood out in the collection is the resolution of the Chamber of Civil and Criminal Law, dated November 27, 1840, communicating that N. Baratashvili was appointed as the head of  Subdivision 4 of the department instead of Grigoriev (Case # 20317). There is also N. Baratashvili’s and Grigoriev’s joint statement dated March 18, 1841 communicating that the former head of the subdivision handed over the corresponding cases to Nikoloz (Case #20317). Another official statement of L. Melikishvili dated November 28, 1844 informs on Nikoloz’s promotion (Case #2979). In consonance with the filed documents, Nikoloz Baratashvili was unhappy with his job – he aspired to greater success and strived for better future. Hence, he was not ready to put up with the current job: in an application to Civil Governor Sotnikov, dated May 10, 1845, Nikoloz complained to the Governorate Division that it had not complied with the decree of A-Caucasus Chief Governor Neidhardt, which indicated that N. Baratashvili should have been appointed as an assistant to the Governor of Nakhichevan Mazra. His perseverance prevailed over negligence  and he became an assistant to the Governor of the Elizavetopol Mazra the same very year.

Thus, these documents are reliable material to contribute to the biographical information of Nikoloz Baratashvili. They clearly show the path of the poet’s career development, his struggles for a better future and the life of his family in general that turned out to be in difficult social situation.

Nikoloz Baratashvili’s epistles that he compiled while undertaking his official duties  are no less interesting. The addressees of these official documents were the Judicial Department of the Supreme Government of Georgia, Georgia-Imereti Civil and Criminal Chamber, Nakhichevan Mazra Division, etc. Among these handwritten documents, there are both lengthy and brief documents. The collection mostly includes statement notes, reports, findings, lists of officials, employment records of officials, delivery and acceptance certificates, etc. As the documents show, formality ruled in the state administration system at that time. The proceedings of these institutions were based on formal and patterned rules.

The style and register of the complied documents demonstrate Nikoloz Baratashvili’s excellent command of Russian language, his high competency in relevant proceedings and the legislation. Although he hardly had any liking for his job, owing to his conscientiousness, he was always diligent while undertaking number of bureaucratic tasks assigned to him.

The said documents provide detailed description of Georgia’s political situation of that period and the consequences that the Russian ruling brought to the country. The epistles clearly show the results of the new ruling: the functional decline of the Georgian language and the strengthening of the Russian language both in personal correspondence and in official documentation. Only Russian language was used in official documents and as mentioned above, it was starting to become more influential in personal correspondence as well.   State officials were appointed by Russian authorities, who lavishly disseminated Russian insignias and medals and promote Georgian officials according to their merit and contribution to Russian empire. Despite Nikoloz Baratashvili’s reluctant attitude towards civil service, he as well aspired to these positions, since this was the only way to aid the family’s economic situation.


ჩხეტია შ.,
ნიკოლოზ ბარათაშვილი, (მასალები ნიკოლოზ ბარათაშვილის შესახებ), სსსრ შინსახკომის საარქივო სამმართველოს გამომცემლობა, თბილისი.