Ilia Chavchavadze can safely be named as the most important person in the history of Georgia in 19th century.

Chavchavadze was a writer, publicist, manager and most importantly he was a civil activist. Following his emergence on public arena in 1860s, he started or participated in almost each and every important civil or national project in Georgia.

His productive and active life was a product of his strong belief in capacity of human beings to change environment around them. The beginning of this paper reviews his theoretical views about the importance of civil activity. The paper later discusses major civil projects, that he had led or participated.

Two main periodicals he had established and led – literature journal – “Sakartvelos Moambe” (Narrator of Georgia) and newspaper “Iveria” were most instrumental in his fight to spread his modern ideas about language, national identity, economics, politics, social life and importance of civil activism.

Liberation of peasants was a major topic in 1860s in Georgia and Chavchavdze actively participated in this process. He called for a liberal reform benefiting peasants. Most important project of the 19th century was the creation of Land Bank of Tbilisi. Ilia Chavchavadze wasn’t an initiator of this idea, but he was the person who brought the idea of a bank into life. The bank was nicknamed “Georgian Parliament”, because number of serious debates took place in it.

This Bank pushed revival of cultural and social life in Georgia. Ilia Chavchavadze can also be framed as a founder of the first NGO in Georgia, aiming spread knowledge of Georgian language and literacy in Georgia.

I believe, success of his work toward creation of civil society in Georgia was manifested in 3 manifestations which took place during his life and in which he participated much. These manifestations showed, that Georgian nation had acquired sense of unity and what is no less important – spontaneous – ability to organize themselves, without serious prior organization and bureaucracy.

The role of Ilia Chavchavadze as one of the first civil activists and propagator of the idea of civil activism mustn’t be forgotten in modern day Georgia, where nihilism and indifference, especially among youth, is quite common

Rati Kobakhidze

The article “Ilia Chavchavadze’s Civil Activities” was created by the Europe-Georgia Institute with support from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom South Caucasus. Ideas and opinions expressed in the article belong to the Author – Rati Kobakhidze – and might not represent positions of the EGI or FNF.
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The articla is availiable in Georgian language only.

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