Prof. George Hewitt

Removal of ‘Non-Persons’ from Literary Texts. A Few (Soviet) Georgian Illustrations from My Personal Archive

From the creation of the USSR, it was common to find references to the founding fathers of communist ideology (Marx, Engels, Lenin) in a variety of publications in order either to reinforce the ideological legitimacy of the regime or to underline the author’s/authors’ commitment to it (or for both these reasons). Once Stalin’s position at the helm of government in the Kremlin was secure, he too came to figure in the named list of the founding fathers. And so, for example, we can take the opening page in the Introduction of a volume of articles to celebrate the 45
th anniversary of the scholarly activity of the Georgian-Scottish linguist, Nikolaj (Nik’o) Marr, which was published, entirely in Georgian, in 1934. The title was marksist’uli enatmetsniereba ‘Marxist Linguistics’. As seen in Scan 1, the Introduction begins with the word ‘Marxist’ in the phrase marksist’uli enatmetsnierebisatvis ‘for Marxist linguistics’. The penultimate sentence of the second paragraph then presents the coupling ‘Lenin-Stalin’ when readers are informed: ‘As a result of the realisation of Lenin-Stalin’s national[ist] policy, 160 languages are possessed of their own writing-system(s), their own literature’. Engels makes his first appearance in the quadripartite pantheon only on p. 2 of the Introduction.

As Stalin’s position became ever stronger, a cult of personality arose and eventually grew to absurd levels of obsequiousness. The cult was established by the time ‘The Great Terror’ was at its height in 1937, when it had become normal to refer to Stalin as the State’s beladi ‘(supreme) leader’. But, mass-slaughter and despatch to the gulag across the Soviet Union apart, 1937 was the year when the Union (and Georgia in particular) celebrated the 750th anniversary of the birth of Shota Rust(a)veli, author of Georgia’s national epic ‘The Man in the Panther-skin’. This monumental poem had first been luxuriously printed in 1712 under the supervision of King Vakht’ang VI on his newly founded printing-press. It was, therefore, wholly appropriate that a high point in the year’s celebrations should be a facsimile of Vakht’ang’s glorious first edition; the print-run was 3,200. It was duly prepared, with addditions and elucidations, under the editorship of Ak’ak’i Shanidze (1887-1987). Page 1 of his 2-page Foreward is reproduced in Scan 2. The second paragraph reads as follows:

The Communist Party and I. Stalin, the great (supreme) leader of the peoples, pay the highest attention to this monument of rare value. An expression of this is the jubilee-celebration which this year is being organised on a grand scale and with great solicitude on the initiative of Com[rade]. L. Beria.

At this point, Stalin’s chief lieutenant in Soviet Georgia was its Party Boss, the Mingrelian Lavrent’i Beria, and so it was perhaps entirely natural that he should rate a mention alongside that of the State’s beladi in this Georgian publication.

The full text in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here

The scanned pages can be downloaded by clicking here

Two images from the 1937 facsimile of the 1712 edition of Rust(a)veli's epic poem.


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