Zaza Tsereteli takes a look at the past, present and future of the small, but energetic Georgian community of Estonia.
When I’m talking about Georgians in Estonia, I mean the real Georgians – not the ones from the state in the US. It’s a small community – around 500 people – but full of southern energy in the Nordic region.
Georgian students establish the first community
According to the archives of the University of Tartu, its students established the first Georgian community in Estonia at the beginning of the 20th century. The Russian Revolution of 1905 also resulted in unrest in Estonia and one of the main forces behind the local revolutionary movement were the students at the University of Tartu. While Georgia had for a century fought for its own independence from the Imperial Russia, there was no surprise that Georgian students also joined this movement.
The Georgian students in Tartu started to publish the newspaper “Kogo” (“kogo” in Georgian means “mosquito”), with mainly satirist type of articles. Among the honourable members of the Georgian society in Estonia were two famous Georgian writers of that period – Ilia Chavchavadze and Iakob Gogebashvili. They were also financially supporting the community.
From the first diaspora establishment to a united organisation
As for the more recent days, in 1989 Vladimir Zhuriari set up an organisation called “Iveria” – the first Georgian diaspora organisation in Estonia that is still functioning today. Later, in 1997, Lerry Japaridze, Yasha Kurshubadze and Ednar Bolkvadze initiated the establishment of an Estonian-Georgian organisation called “Mamuli.” Carrying the same name, a Georgian folk ensemble, initiated by Givi Mamucharashvili and Givi Kaadze, was also formed during that period.
In 2009, the majority of Georgians in Estonia decided to unite their various community establishments under one umbrella organisation. The organisation, “Kartuli Sakhli”, (the Georgian House) was established as a result, chaired until 2016 by its first chairwoman, Maka Sakhechidze.
The Georgian House is proud to have among its members well-known medical doctors who work in several hospitals and clinics; IT-specialists in the leading companies such as Telia, for example; good lawyers and successful businessmen; PhDs at the Tallinn Technical University; a rugby player in the Estonian National Rugby Team as well as one of the leading scorers of FC Flora Tallinn, the football club. In the last two years, several Georgian children became champions both in Estonia and on an international arena, making us full of pride.