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სერენა კარლას მოგზაურობა საქართველოში 1875-1881წწ

სერენა კარლას გრავიურები Serena Karla engravings



Grateful acknowledgment is offered to Richard H.R. Smithies, who rendered Mme Serena’s at times stately and at times convoluted 19th-century French into fluent English, and to Michael Baron Shaw, whose design skills ensured an attractive fac-simile presentation of Mme Serena’s texts as printed in the 1880s. Grateful recognition is also offered to Levan Kiknadze, who prepared the maps and who, with Michael Shaw, is responsible for the impressive clarity of the book’s illustrations.

Special thanks are due to Nana Kvaratskhelia, Mariam Okhtmezuri Charlton, Indira Kvratckhelia, Esma Enik, Ano Shanshiashvili, Niko and Tamar Abazadze and Levan Kiknadze, and to others who choose to remain unnamed, who contributed English-language spellings for Georgian, Mingrelian and Abkhazian words. All cheerfully pointed out the possibility of one or more variant spellings, particularly in Mingrelian and Abkhazian words. The editor respectfully seeks the indulgent sympathy of professional linguists who may note unfamiliar forms or remaining errors.

A full measure of appreciation is owed to Diana Moore and to many members of the Georgian community in New-York for constant support and encouragement, and particularly to Vakhtang Kiziria, Maia Acquaviva at Oda House, Teona Khaindrava at Senza Gluten, and Vasil Chkheidze at Old Tbilisi; their generous provision of piping hot khachapuri imeruli and excellent Khvanchkara and Kindzmarauli wines did much to sustain the editor’s energy and efforts.

I cannot overstate my gratitude to Beso Kiziria and Dora Vepkhavadze, generous hosts and enthusiastic guides in my three expeditions to Georgia. Through their efforts – and with the great benefit of their company – I was able to visit much of the Georgia that Mme Carla Serena had written about so vividly almost a century and a half earlier.


This very welcome volume presents – for the first time in English – Excursions in the Caucasus, the illustrated travel reports of the formidably adventurous Mme Carla Serena, who in 1875-77 and in 1881 traveled through much of Georgia. In the west, this pioneering woman made her way through Imereti and Mingrelia and up into Samurzakano and wild Abkhazia; in the southwest she visited Guria and the Gori-Borjomi-Akhaltsikhe region; and in the east she journeyed extensively through Kakheti. Throughout her travels, Mme Serena enjoyed the support of Grand Duke Mikhail Nicolaevich, Viceroy of the Caucasus, who furnished her with letters of introduction and official documents that required Russian posting stations Throughout Georgia to supply her and her local guide-assistants with needed horses. Nonetheless, the system was far from guaranteed, and it becomes clear that once on the road – on the forest track – Mme Serena often had to make her own arrangements. Despite the hardships of travel, Mme Serena always noted, locality by locality, the instinctive warmth, generosity, and concern of her hosts, however humble.

The French magazine Le Tour du Monde published Mme Serena‘s articles between 1880 and 1884, but they were not translated into English and have not been reissued in French, even though their author was the recipient of gold medals from the kings of Sweden and Italy, and a welcome presence at the geographical societies of Rome, Vienna, Paris, and London. Despite her achievements, Mme Serena hes remained an almost unknown traveler; the literature makes few – and generally inaccurate – comments about her. This can be explained in part because she began her travels late in life (at the age of 54) and was almost continuously abroad until her death in Greece in 1884. Had she spent more time in London (her place of residence) or visited New York, she might well have enjoyed far greater celebrity.

Carla Serena’s colorful travel narratives are valuable not only because she met such a variety of people to whom she brought an enquiring mind and observant eye, but also because her illustrations captured the persons and the places she experienced; these illustrations derive from photographs she commissioned or took herself. She did not fall back on loosely related stock photographs.

Sincere thanks are due to Narikala Publications and its editorial staff for bringing to the English-language reader this important and generously illustrated source on life and events in Georgia in the 1870s; it is to hoped that a translation into Georgian will follow. The book is a valuable – if not unique – resource that greatly enriches our knowledge of a lost chapter of travel history, and it will reward all its readers.


Vazha Kiknadze

Director, Iv Javakhishvili Institute of History and

Ethnology, State Universiti of’Tbilisi, Geogia

A walk through old Abkhazia guided by Carla Serena with Denis Chachkhalia commentaries


With a stroke of luck, I got a chance to have the book by Carla Serena “Travels in Abkhazia” “Путешествие по Абхазии”.

I knew about Carla Serena that she was Italian researcher and ethnographer who had traveled Caucasus in 70-80thies of 19th century. Based on her travels in 1881 Carla Serena published her “Notes of traveler” in Parisian journal “Le tour du Monde”, where she pays much attention to describing Abkhazia in a section called: “excursion au Samurzakan et enAbkhazien” (Travels in Samurzakano and Abkhazia).

It also should be mentioned, that in 1882 Carla Serena was awarded with a gold medal by the king of Italy for her commitment in ethnographic work and being devoted researcher of the Caucasus.

Not surprisingly enough I took a great pleasure seeing that important book published on such an exceptionally high quality, moreover it had numerous sketches and engraving reproductions of an author. I even blessed the publishers to myself for promoting literature showing my homelands historicalpast in such a nice way. I opened the book. Publishing year and place – 1999, Moscow.

Who could possibly be lobbying that kind of book nowadays in Moscow? – I asked myself.

Soon enough I found the answer on the same page–Цент ргуманитарных исследований Абаза. As this page informs us sponsor of this book launch is Vakhtang Qetsba. The editing, preface and commentaries are done by Denis Chachkhalia. Well done my compatriots!You’ve done the work of lifetime indeed! You’ve translated the researcher’s work from French and published it on a remarkably high quality.

It is really important for ethnographers, historians, linguists, artists, writers and for ordinary people to get familiar with Carla Serena’s work asevery country’s patriot (regardless one’s descent!)takes great deal of pleasure by traveling along his country’s beloved places, remembering historical past, affectionately embracing his cultural heritage, looking over his ancestors being. Through Carla Serena’s work one may even recognize his distant relatives, recall the rituals of wedding and funeral, others may enjoy closely observing clothes and household items of that time etc. The work delivers really unique experience and it is priceless for that matter. So I felt genuinely sympathetic towards the authors, but sympathy lasted only until I went through the book.

The excitement brought by Madame Serena’s exquisite piece of work and illustrations were diminished by Mr. Chachkalia’sthoughts and commentaries. By commentaries he allows himself to take over the role of narrator and tells the story through his point of view by falsifying and corrupting terminology based on his subjective thoughts without any scientific research or historical source, which is endorsed by“Humanitarian research center”.

Let’s move on further and travel through dearly missed Abkhazia’s historical past. We will be guided by wide-range researcher and unbiased chronicler Carla Serena, from time to time Mr. Chachkhalia will lead the way – our fellow countryman might be “linguist”.

Readers must be careful as Mr. Chachkhalia could easily mislead anyone by “masterfully” manipulating with Georgian and Mingreliantoponims proving them Abkhazian. Obviously, he can’t have enough arguments to prove it, so he collides not only with author butwith himself.Still he doesn’t worry about it, as the Russian speakers would be easily deluded being gullible not knowing the language, they even will be delighted by made up story. The comments will only hurt long troubled and tormented Abkhazian refugees. Chchkhalia would easily retort – you haven’t been to Abkhazia for 18 years you must have forgotten Abkaziantoponims. You are wrong devious researcher! – As long as the single Georgian of Abkhazian descent exists, the love and remembrance to cherished part of Georgia will never cease to exist.

Mr. Chachkhalia,in the introduction you write: “Ксожалению Карла Серена сравнивает быт Абхазов cбытом Мингрелов или Грузин - разумеется, не в пользу первых ”. Where on earth did you bring that from. For forging this statement he relies on the arguments as if Samegrelo and Kakheti regions were not opposed to Russia, didn’t have any loses, their rights were protected and were never isolated nor subdued. Well done Mr. Chachkhalia! Master of history of Georgia!

As the last Georgian prince of Abkhazia said - “Our country – Iveria, and its parts through it’s historical past has been dramatically affected in every way by country-subjugator and wears the double-headed eagle stigma as a deep wound”. In that regard no part of the country is exception.

Are you really that ignorant of Georgian history? I doubt that. Just “it’s needs to be that way” – is your primitive logic. That logic explains your wish to prove people of different parts of Georgia have different nationalities. I’m sure you don’t like Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, but I must quote him : “During my travels in isle of Malta in 1714, among the freed people from Ottomans I saw Georgians as well, some from Abkhazia, from Imereti, from Guria, from Megrelia. In spite of being captivity for a long time, they preserved Georgian language well”.

определенную негативную роль в иформирований Серены играли несколько факторов: первое - начальную информацию о современной Абхазии, она получила в Тифлисе - где официальная администрация могла дать - и наверняка дала, пристрастную характеристику Абхазам какнеблагонадежному населению...“ Seems like you are doubtful too. You are not sure but claim Tbilisi would give Serena negative information about Abkhazia. I have two questions about that.

First –why do you think of Madame Serena being such an ignorant researcher not knowing her ethnographically described part of Georgia at all, and would totally base her thoughts on official Tbilisi’s information.

Second - “неблагонадежноенаселение” that’s what Russian officials call you. Just in case you were you not referring them in “official administration”?

A lot of times you call Samurzakano - “Самурзакан”. It’s clear you try to alter the toponym, as it didn’t sound like Megrlian. Sa-murzakan-o – that is, possessed by Murzakan, Murzakan’s land.

If we take into consideration the fact that Murzakan is Sharvashidze-Chachba, son of the principal governor, who was given these lands by principalKvapuSharvashidze. So it is obvious they were calling the place Samurzakano byMegreliantoponym. But that doesn’t suit Mr. Chachkhalia.

At some point Serena describes thetypical Megrelianhouse, what is made of braided wood with lake sedge roofing called “patskha”. Mr. Denis doens’t miss a chance and calls it ”правильнейапацха (абх.)”. But, why “apatskha”?They talkedmegrelian in samurzakhano and would normally call it “patskha”.

“apatskha” may be more recent Abkhazian word derived from “patskha” by adding Abkhazian prefix “A”. But Mr. Denis doesn’t believe that, as on the 32 page he suddenly and inappropriately gives a comment stating: “Самурзакань в то время поболшоей части еще говорила на абхазском языке“ It would have been even better if you wrote wholeSamurzakan would have given us a better laugh. Or who are you telling that? Did you forget that the descendants of Anchabadze, Sharvashidze, Marshania and Emukhvari families still exists? Or did you forget there is preserved the correspondence in Georgian language between the highest aristocracy of Abkhazians?

Samurzakhano was always populated by Megrelians and they always spokeMegrelian. Abkhazians never lived in Samurzakhano, According to Carla Serena they didn’t even live in Sukhum-kale “в товремя“ dear researcher!

On the 43 page Carla Serena writes: “Я завтракала на соседней поляне, где летом проходит Тамаша…“Chachkhalia makes a comment “от индийсcкого слова Тамаша - играние” Tamashoba, Tamashi (play) is the Georgian word, of course Denis Chachkhalia is very well aware of that, but look at his impudence, it is an Indian word - he teaches us.

Mr. Denis before you ascribe Samurzakanoans’toponym “Tamasha” to Indians you must be careful as some Indian falsifier linguist like you not to claim village “Tamasha” and nearby lands theirs.

Moreover, dear readers all of this is happening in village Eshqeti, as Serena tells us. She is instantly “attacked” by the “comment”: - “Правилно Эшкыт - т.е. село Эшбовых“.

Правилно”is what author informs, please don’t forget, that she is ethnographer and wouldn’t let herself mistakenly name villages. You are afraid of village name sounding too Georgian, otherwise you would have indicated any historical source proving your thoughts.

Now you reach out to Ochamchire, first you named it “Ochamchira” then you went even further calling it “Правильней Ачамчира”. When I read that,“Что вы говорите? slipped out of my mouth unwittingly, like Zurikela Vashalomidze(Georgian movie character) says.

I must inform you that my village was in Ochamchire region. I used to spend a lot of time there and I never heard the term “Achamchira” I’m sure neither have you. Buthow can you pass up a chance not to undermine Megreliantoponyms. Even non Megrelian speakers can easily distinguish its Megrelian sounding,therefore its origin.

and “e” prefix and suffix stand for indication of place in Megrelian, for instance: o-dabad-e (the place where I was born) (dabadeba – to born), o-chai-e (place where tea grows), o-chamchir-e (place where “chamchir” (boxwood, Turk.) grows).

Boxwood in Russian is самшит, in Turkish “Chamchir”. That boxwood was cut down by one of the main principals of region MikheilSharvashidze and built a castle there. There is another version of deriving city name as well. As Abkhazian regional scientific academy member Valerian Zukhbaia states - “ochamchire –city, regional center, is Megreliantoponym, evolved from “oche” in Megrelian means cornfield, “chire” – small puddle.Places like these were prevalent in Ochamchire before.

“Kvitouli”, or “kvitauli” is alteredas “Кутол “ justexactly like Abkhazians use it nowadays.

But don’t forget it is noted as “kvitauli” on the map of ArcangeloLamberti. Italian missionary and travelerwho lived 18 years in Georgia in 17th century. Toponyms ending with suffixes “uli” and “uri” are Georgian.

Mr. Denis also uses word“Моква” instead of “Mokvi”, by changing a single letter it looses Georgian nature and origin.Surely it will cause same alternation if we apply same single letter change to similar Georgian geographical names like Tmogvi, Dzegvi, Chaqvi etc…

The “Chachkhalian” explanation of “Bedia” is also totally unacceptable as he cites: “Название Бедиа происходит от латинского слова “бадиа”что означает монастырь, аббатство”.

Why would you not name the original source of this “historical discovery”? In contrast to you Madame Carla Serena seems rather more enlightened and having deep knowledge of Caucasian languages. She puts it simple: “Бедиа -что значит счастье. Now let’s see what VakhushtiBatonishvili says in this regard.

Vakhushti Batonishvili, who (you may know), carried out scientific researchcouple of centuries before you, rather more recognized chronicler of Georgian history and lot moretrustworthy, states: “Upon the river Egrisi, under the roof of mountains is home to village Egri, which was founded by Egrosi son of Targamosi, it was lately renamed to“Bedia” after the King Farnaoz has giventhese lands to Quji Eristavi.By gaining lands Quji Eristavi “hpova bedi” (was fortunate. Literally - found luck)”

Madame Carla Serena also happened to attend death anniversary of “great Kesaria” (Regent being under Russian protectorate for 12 years) – Dadiani family descendant the wife of Ali-bei Sarvashidze-Chachba, in Kvitouli, (i.e in 1876). Wherein modern sensethey had a funeral service, it was called “tirili” (to cry) that times. Carla Serena thoroughly describes the traditional ritual of “nishnis dadeba” (literally – marking with a sign), on what Chachkhalia remarks: “Тирили -плачпоминках (минг.) Поскольку консултанты автора были чаще менгрели, то и cреди “кавказских” терминов втексте чаще встречаютcя мингрельские названия”.

Oh, Mr. Denis, how you regret bottom in your heart not being one of those consultants of Carla Serena. It’s not hard to guess how you would consult the researcher.

For Christ sake please tell me,don’t you really know that “tirili” (to cry) in Megrelian is “ngara” (ongari–what makes you cry)? Actually when you write “кавказских”терминов, “Kavkazkikh” doesn’tneed quotation marks unless you try to being cynical about something.

All being said, still I have to thank you, without your publication we wouldn’t be able to understand many things about Abkhazian historical past. I hope one day the magnificent work of Carla Serena will be published in Georgian too, of course not with fabricated commentaries like you did.

Now great editor Chachkhalia, if you let me, I will bring out some lines of my translation with a little cut, what I thought was most noteworthy: “During the hole night from 13 to 14 of August people are most vigilant and observant, they sing and dance, trying not to get asleep they fear evil spirits not to take the chance and gain advantage of lethargic people to steal their hearts. Besides that, every head of the family fires shot in the sky and says: “may this bullet hit and tear the evil spirits, thus it won’t befall malice on my family”

Bless your providence dear Lord! It’s really curious why our ancestors were worried about evil spirits coming to their lands on the very day when war had broken out (The 14th of August 1992)

So, Mister Denis you see what demeaning and faking of our historical sources and neglecting our ancestors will has brought us to? If only we had listened to our ancestors, kept their tradition and spent the night of 14th of August together somewhere in Samurzakhano with singing dancing and preying for “no evil spirits to befall their malice on us”, we would definitely be in a much better spot right now.

truly believe so. Mr. Denis, and you?

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