Tsinandali Estate display to highlight Georgian connection of first Nobel Peace Prize-winning woman

  • Von Suttner spent nine years in Georgia, writing articles published in Europe and involving herself in a project on translating the greatest historical piece of Georgian literature. Photo: berthavonsuttner.com

Agenda.ge, 23 Mar 2023 - 13:40, Tbilisi,Georgia

A display opening at the historical Tsinandali Estate in Georgia's east on Saturday will invite visitors to explore the story of the life and activism of Bertha von Suttner, a  leading pacifist figure in the late 19th and early 20th century Europe, and the years she spent in Georgia.

The two-month exhibition will illustrate the legacy of the Austrian historical figure and the time she spent in residence in the country between 1876-1885, with organisers saying it would also look at the "influence Georgia had on her later work in the international peace movement".

Set to open in collaboration between the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Library in Tbilisi, the event will be hosted at the 19th century venue that served as the residence of the Georgian poet and nobleman Alexander Chavchavadze, and has more recently been hosting the annual Tsinandali Festival of classical music.

It will take a look at the story of von Suttner, born Countess Kinsky in Prague, who travelled to Georgia following her secret marriage to Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner, to a disapproval of the von Suttner family who rejected the couple.

Arriving in western Georgia through Arthur Suttner’s connections with the local Dadiani noble family, they settled in the western city of Kutaisi.

The Prague-born countess (third from left) became a leading figure in the peace movement in Europe in the run-up to World War I. Photo: berthavonsuttner.com

Later moving to the city of Zugdidi in the Principality of Samegrelo, von Suttner became close friends with Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani, the final regent of the Principality.

Teaching foreign language and music to children of local aristocracy, the two nevertheless found themselves in precarious financial conditions due to absence of support from their Austrian family.

This was compounded by the onset of the 1877 conflict between Imperial Russia - which ruled over Georgia - and Turkey.

The couple began writing to financially support themselves and later moved to capital Tbilisi, where Bertha von Suttner wrote pacifist articles subsequently published in Austria.

[Von Suttner] considered [the years spent in Georgia] as the inspiration for her work in the international peace movement in the years to come

- exhibition organisers

She was also involved in an attempt of translating the 12th century Georgian national poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin along with her spouse and a Georgian journalist in the city.

The collaboration involved the now widely recognised illustrations for the poem by Hungarian artist Mihály Zichy, however the translation was never finished.

The couple returned to Austria in 1885 and lived at the Harmannsdorf Castle, following a reconciliation with the von Suttner family.

Becoming a major figure in peace movement in Europe — principally through her 1889 work Down with Weapons! — Bertha von Suttner was awarded the newly established Nobel Peace Prize in 1905.

The recognition made her the first Nobel Peace Prize-winning woman, the second Nobel Prize laureate after French-Polish physicist Marie Curie, and the first recipient from Austria.

She died in 1914, after suffering from cancer while continuing active work in the peace movement and agitation against rearmament on the continent and throughout the world.