Konstantin Gamsakhurdia is one of the more famous writers in modern Georgian history, and most noted for his work the Right Hand of the Master, which was my first introduction to him. The book chronicles a love triangle between King Giorgi I, the architect of Svetitskhoveli Church, Konstantin Arsakidze, and the sister of Arsakidze’s wetnurse, Shorena. The tryst is set in the backdrop of a feuding medieval Georgia, where the country is being pulled apart by both external and internal pressures, and a fairly ineffective king who’s more interested in hunting does and chasing tail than effective governing. It’s a really great read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to get a better look at Georgian culture and history.

gamsakhurdia museum

the gate to the museum in Abasha

He was born in Abasha, Georgia, and was the father of one of the more controversial figures of modern Georgian history, the first president of the free and independent Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Konstantine himself is far from controversial, and is beloved by most Georgians as one of the dominant players of the Georgian-Soviet literature scene. Though he was born in Abasha, he grew up mostly in Kutaisi and then went off to St. Petersburg. During World War I, he lived in Germany, France, and Switzerland, where he was becoming acquainted with much of the European intelligentsia, and even developed a friendship with the German writer, Thomas Mann.

Just after Russia’s collapse, Georgia declared independence and sought aid immediately from Germany, since they would have had leverage with the Ottomans and be able to hold off the Ottoman advance on Georgian territory. At that time, Konstantine began his Georgian fame, as he became an attache in the Georgian Embassy to Germany and started work helping to repatriate Georgian prisoners and returning them to Georgia, which was now allied with the Kaiser.

Konstantin soon returned to his native Georgia, which was now a free country, and worked editing Tbilisi-based literary journals. He joined the opposition after the Bolshevik takeover, and as he wrote, he kept getting labeled by the government as “decadent”, which was one way of saying that the author’s works would never see the light of day. In 1924, the Soviet government finally tired of him and the sent him off to the Gulag at the infamous Solovetsky Islands netwo