Georgian National Idea in the Tiflis Seminary of the Post-Reform Time: The Optics of the Russian Language and Literature




history of reading, generation of the 1870s, reform of theological educational institutions of 1867, theological seminary, Georgian national movement, Narodism


This article examines the case of seminarian David Kezeli who compiled the anti-Russian proclamation To the New Generation of Georgia, confiscated in December 1873. Although the St Petersburg and Caucasian authorities interpreted the case differently, they were united in their inattention to the situation of the Tiflis Theological Seminary. The internal problems of the theological educational institution, including the problem of the disloyalty of the “native” teachers, were to be solved by the officials of the Synod’s Educational Committee and the Exarch of Georgia. The author aims to show the ambivalence of the anti-Russian views of the Georgian seminarians and analyse the Kezeli case as part of the processes in religious education initiated by the 1867 reform. Special attention is paid to the discussion about the establishment of the Georgian language class, the idea of which either led to a consensus among the teachers or to a confrontation described in the Synod documents as a struggle between the Russian and Georgian “parties”. The origins and limitations of anti-Russian sentiments among seminarians are considered in relation to conflicts among teachers, the rules of access to educational and extracurricular literature, and the status of the Russian and Georgian languages. The author concludes that in the first years after the reform, young graduates of the theological academies were inspired by the opportunity to change the content of theological education by introducing the achievements of modern science into it. This goal united teachers of Russian and Georgian origin. They worked together both on projects for Georgian language classes and on compiling lists of advanced literature to be purchased for the student library. Georgian teachers, such as Jacob Gogebashvili, were prepared to become conduits of “human Russification”, arguing that only the Russian language allowed their students to access modern science. The transformation of interaction into conflict, which took on the form of a confrontation between the Russian and Georgian “parties” in the seminary, was explained on both sides by its participants’ personal ambitions. They were fighting for power and money, not for the promotion of the Georgian national idea or the defence of Russian interests in the region. David Kezeli was wholly a product of this situation. After completing his studies at the theological school and moving to the seminary, he felt hostility towards his teachers, seeing in them “Famusovs” who were trying to educate him as a “Molchalin”, while he was constructing himself as a “Bazarov”, the only “nihilist” in Georgia. The anachronism of Kezeli’s “nihilistic” identity emphasises his attachment to the generation of “fathers” who determined the literature available to him and provided him with a tool to master it, i. e. the Russian language.

Author Biography

Julia Safronova

PhD (History), Associate Professor, European University at St Petersburg.

6/1А, Gagarinskaya Str., 191187, St Petersburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-3900-1994


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How to Cite

Safronova, J. (2024). Georgian National Idea in the Tiflis Seminary of the Post-Reform Time: The Optics of the Russian Language and Literature. Quaestio Rossica, 12(1), 225–242.



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