Rhyming the National Spirit: Taras Shevchenko and Ilia Chavchavadze

Metreveli, Tornike (7 May 2015). Rhyming the National Spirit: Taras Shevchenko and Ilia Chavchavadze (Unpublished). In: 39th IARCEES Annual Conference - Memories and Identities in Central and Eastern Europe. Tinity College, Dublin, Ireland. 07.05.-10.05.2015.

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The paper is a comparative inquiry into the roles of Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) and Taras Shevchenko (1818-1861) as national poets and anti-colonial (anti-Tsarist) intellectuals within the context of their respective national traditions (Georgia and Ukraine). During the period of their activity (19th and the beginning of 20th century) both Ukraine and Georgia were under Tsarist imperial rule, albeit the two poets lived in different periods of Russian empire history. Through their major works, each called on their communities to ‘awaken’ and ‘revolt’ against oppression, rejected social apathy caused by Tsarist subjugation and raised awareness about the historical past of their nations. The non-acceptance of present and belief in an independent future was one of the dominant themes in the poetry and prose of both. Their contemporary importance is illustrated in political discourse both after Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004), and Rose Revolution in Georgia (2003) where both poets are referred “as founding fathers of national ideology”, the history textbooks alluding to them as “symbols of anti-colonial resistance”.
To this day, however, there has been surprisingly little academic writing in the West endeavoring to compare the works and activities of the two poets and their impact on national mobilization in Tsarist Ukraine and Georgia, even though their countries are often mentioned in a same breath by commentators on contemporary culture and politics. The paper attempts to fill this gap and tries to understand the relationship between literature and social mobilization in 19th century Russian Empire. By reflecting on Taras Shevchenko’s and Ilia Chavchavadze’s poetry, prose and social activism, I will try to explain how in different periods of Russian imperial history, the two poets helped to develop a modern form of political belonging among their compatriots and stimulated an anti-colonial mobilization with different political outcomes.
To theorize on the role of poets and novelists in anti-colonial national movement, I will reflect on the writings of Benedict Anderson (1991), John Hutchinson (1994; 1999), Rory Finnin (2005; 2011) and problematize Miroslav Hroch’s (1996) three phase model of the development of national movements. Overall, the paper would aim to show the importance of, what John Hutchinson called, ‘cultural nationalists’ in understanding contemporary nationalist discourse in Georgian and Ukrainian societies.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Metreveli, Tornike


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 890 Other literatures




Tornike Metreveli

Date Deposited:

27 Apr 2015 11:03

Last Modified:

27 Apr 2015 11:03

Additional Information:

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