Georgia's former UK and Ireland ambassador, advisor to president Shevardnadze, author Gela Charkviani dies aged 82

  • Along with his work in diplomacy, Charkviani left a legacy in fields of literature, education and television, with his most recent literary involvement coming at the 2020 World Book Day. Photo via Intelekti Publishing., 9 Nov 2021 - 13:51, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian diplomat, author and publicist Gela Charkviani, a notable figure in the contemporary literature and the wider cultural sector of the country, died aged 82 in Tbilisi, with the family confirming the news on Tuesday.

Charkviani passed away only a few days after the national celebrations of those in diplomatic service - a profession he served as Georgia's ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland between 2006-2011. The service followed his position as an advisor to president Eduard Shevardnadze for over a decade between 1992-2003.

The late state official's work in the positions - credited for his contributions in the development of relations between the United States and the nascent Georgian republic in the 1990s - was honoured with state prizes over the last three decades. In 1998, he was bestowed the Order of Honour of Georgia, followed by the Presidential Order of Brilliance in 2011 and the St George Order of Victory two years later.

Beside his diplomatic and advisory work, Charkviani, who graduated from the Institute of Foreign Languages in 1963 before continuing postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan in 1970, also worked as TV presenter for a programme introducing countries from across the world to viewers, taught English language and was Vice-President of the Georgian Society for Cultural Relations.

In the literary field, Charkviani authored memoirs, publications based on notes made during public work across decades, and short stories, while also producing translations. In the latter, his efforts included a modern translation of Shakespeare's King Lear on a commission by theatre director Robert Sturua, with the resulting production staged at the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi.

Charkviani's memoir The Round Dance of Familiar Chimeras, a 700-page work delving into the author's experiences in public service, questions of Georgia's tumultuous post-Soviet transformation in the 1990s, nascent diplomatic relations with foreign partners, and impressions on personal life, was named National Bestseller of the Year in 2016 by the Publishers' Association of Georgia.

In 2017, the Georgian office of the United Nations Development Programme posted a video of Charkviani reading the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to mark Human Rights Day:

Another of his memoirs, entitled Eleven Years by Shevy's Side and dealing with his advisory service to Shevardnadze, was published in 2016. It followed his 2013 book Stalin's Georgian Dimension, a work based on Charkviani's conversations with his father Candide - First Secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia between 1938-1952.

The literary legacy Charkviani left behind also includes three books of Nagerala series (also known under the title Self-sown), bringing together passages made by the public figure and author in his personal notebook over the years. The series deals with questions ranging from legacy of social and political past to personal life events, and thoughts on contemporary issues.

Remaining active in literature throughout his life, one of the author's most recent literary engagements came during last year's remotely organised World Book Day in Georgia, where Charkviani spoke in a video link to the festival organised by the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili reacted to the news on Tuesday by releasing a statement that called Charkviani "one of the remarkable representatives of the contemporary Georgian society", noting the "progressive [values] and personal charm" of the late public figure.