Manana Kvataia                                                                                                                                                                         # 11

 Prophetic Writers from Grigol Robakidze’s “Portraits”

     In Grigol Robakidze’s multifaceted analytical essayistic compositions written in Georgian, Russian and German languages of particular importance are the essayistic portraits of famous people performed with amazing skill where the author puts an emphasis on artistic research of person’s inner world.

Robakidze’s particular interest to individuals, personages and, correspondingly, his unique perception of the world or creative method also reflect existentialism, “life philosophy”, phenomenology, personalism and other doctrines of this kind established in Europe in the early 20-th century. Western thinking put a man into the centre of philosophical and ontological problems, new time shifted an emphasis from object to subject. In the process of research the preference was given to the methods of introspection (reflection, self-analysis), perception and interpretation (Kakabadze 1985:43).

The achievements of the last century western thinking in Grigol Robakidze’s compositions were creatively developed. The writer’s sharp eye was directed to the study of the soul of the known historical figures. In his letter titled “Expressionism” Robakidze defines his creative orientation in the following way: “I wish to depict a subject not as it appears by itself and not as it is reflected in my impressions but in the way as it is transformed in my soul…In expressionism the main thing is transformation of a subject with soul and not merely reflection” (Robakidze 1996: 341).

The book came out in Russian language in 1919 which was totally dedicated to the artistic and essayistic research of the influential men’s inner world, represents small scale “portraits”. Here Robakidze analyses his heroes’ personal enigma and provides an interesting insight into their phenomenon.

Thorough study of a person’s phenomenon also makes possible an approach to his inner world. Special skill is needed for the writer to penetrate into the cosmic  breath, the inmost recesses of the supersensitive soul of the other creator because his inner world of conscious and unconscious, of real and imaginative, of the past, present and future is a secret quintessence which is frequently revealed in prophetic visions. According to the “Portraits”, Russian writers of different epochs Mikhail Lermontov and Andrey Bely were distinguished with this unique gift. The architectonics of their soul is presented in Robakidze’s essays rather originally.

In the essay “Lermontov’s Mask” the external or spiritual image of the writer’s tragic fate is expressively outlined: this is a lonely soul estranged from everybody but a proud creator whose true identity is covered with a mysterious and inaccessible mask. In the essay G.Robakidze studies the enigma of this tragic mask and for this he uses various sources.

According to the contemporaries’ recollections, Lermontov appeared to be an unknown, split personality: for the closest people - generous, for the majority – arrogant and strict (everywhere: a mask of bifurcation and the “face” is covered, - writes Robakidze). V.Solovyov explained this dualism by poet’s demonism (demon =corrupted superman). According to D.Merezhkovsky “the hardest and the most fatal in Lermontov’s fate is an infinite dualism, fluctuation of the will, mixture of light and darkness…And this is the state of human souls before coming to this world from other world, of those fluctuating angels who in the struggle with devil take neither one or another side.

In his essay G.Robakidze explains Lermontov’s phenomenon in different way. He considers that the poet’s “mystery” is concealed under his own “mask” because “our faces” are accidental “masks” of our own individuation” (here and further the citations of the text of G.Robakidze’s essays according to Robakidze 1919 – M.K.). All of us are shadows being in search for one’s own identity. The initial “monad” and empirical “body” - that’s where dualism is. He is a lonely soul and proud but strong and cruel; he, the son of the Chaos, is ready to grasp the whole universe with the wings of chaos so as to rush into the disastrous abyss.

In G.Robalidze’s view such dualism is also felt in the writer’s creative works: “It seemed as if Lermontov himself contemplated the embodiment of the eternal soul into the mortal body because he as a tragic mistake of this embodiment stood apart of it. Hence, this amazing feeling of eternity and all those things associated with eternity”. At the age of 15 he would say: “I’ve lost feeling of time”. “Isn’t it the “face” from the eternity which appeared on our planet by chance?” –questions the author of the essay. This strange enigma is explained in the following way: “Lermontov’s initial soul failed to find its historical “body” from Lermontov’s mask”. Therefore the poet “speaks about supreme will with personal offend” (V.Solovyov), he is angry with somebody and with titanic power rebels against it: he had created his terrible prototype – Demon. He is totally disastrous and brings disaster everywhere. He is a wing of disaster, drunken with the noise of Chaos and satisfies his “severe voluptuousness” with destruction”.

This feature of the writer was also manifested in relations with the opposite gender: Lermontov does not need love, he only wants to subordinate the subject of his love, and as he is personally offended with super powers, he is ready to pour this offence furiously because the writer’s “monad’ cannot feel own “body”: he is not “he”, but somebody the third person; and therefore, he is merciless to “him”, is said in the essay.

Grigol Robakidze recalls the poet’s adolescent verses in which his tragic fate was predicted far earlier: “Proud but odious, would find my end at the battlefield”; “I’ve guessed my fate, my decease: the bloody grave is waiting for me”; ”I knew my head so loved by you would shift from your breast to the executioner's block”. Lermontov had a gloomy foreboding of his death: “Steam was still floated from my deep wound, my blood was poured in drops”.

If in Mikheil Lermontov’s supersensitive poetic visions a foresight of tragic fate of the creator is given, the twentieth-century symbolist writer Andrey Bely predicted global apocalyptic cataclysms in his compositions. 

This writer is also closely related to eternity. According to one of his contemporaries, “Time in Bely’s world was not the same as it is for us. He thought in epochal categories”(Chekhov 1986: 195). G.Robakidze had much in common with him, although “unlike Bely, Robakidze paid more attention in search of demonic beginning in historical figures interested for him” (Nikolskaya 2009: 166).

The essay “Andrey Bely” explains well the writer’s inner world, his creative world. At the beginning of the composition Robakidze writes: “To penetrate into the poet’s mystery means to find individual rhythm of his creative spirit”. It appears that this rhythm can be revealed by the poet’s relation to the earth (according to the author’s commentary under the image of the earth there are implied things, time, chaos.. The things are in time and under them there is chaos). For the poets who love the earth, the Earth is Great Mother. However, there are creators who do not love the earth: their gloomy look is directed to decay and disintegration of the things. By G.Robakidze’s observation to them belong Gogol, Goya, Picasso, partially Bodler.

Other writers: Dostoyevsky, V.Solovyov, Merezhskovsky, Blok beyond the subjects contemplate other subjects –“A new heaven and a new earth”, the things essential for their consciousness are always “disclosure of invisible subjects”, - is said in the essay, they love the earth’s body but that of modified (transformed); for the them Mother Earth is the soul of the universe, Sophia divine wisdom, eternal feminine, she is waiting for fertilization from the Sun and birth from the Eternity.

Robakidze considers that the rhythm of the poets’ soul of apocalyptic type passes not through love to the universe but through hatred to the earth body. Such creator wishes “a new heaven and a new earth” be born through the incineration of the body of the same world. In G.Robakidze’s view such poet is Andrey Bely, a real Russian prophet who through the image of the city of Petersburg expressed denial by means of the earth apocalypses (reduced to ashes).

In Friedrich Nietzsche’s view, “the Earth” “must be interpreted as life”. The “earth” that in Nietzsche’s doctrine occupies the place of god, it is life giving power, life itself, i.e. creative process stretched in time and space…The “earth” is not something passive, inert material beginning but ”life” (Buachidze 1993: 259-260).

   After meeting with Andrey Bely at Merezhkovsky’s lecture in Paris in 1907, Grigol Robakidze was under the impression that he was a “true epileptics of the apocalypses”. His nickname is interpreted by him as: “Andrey” is unconsciously associated with the first called (Andrew-the-first-called); “Bely” is associated with apocalyptic image: “new name which is not known to anybody, besides those who take it: it is imprinted on the soul’s “white stone”.

Thorough study of Andrey Bely’s prophetic novel “Petersburg” (1911-1912) shows that it is saturated with prophetic visions. The fact that the novel’s main character is the city of Petersburg itself seems to G.Robakidze unusual: magically contoured city founded by King Peter in a Finish marsh. The most fascinating of all cities existed on the earth”. Andrey Bely remarks that “Petersburg is a futile game for brains”: “It only appears to exist”; moreover, in Bely’s words Petersburg is a ghost, so are the characters of his novel.

In G.Robakidze’s view Andrey Bely’s attitude to the founder of the city of Petersburg, whose bronze shadow in the novel is in not less degree an active personage than Petersburg itself, is very special. In the essay that episode of Bely’s novel which vividly emphasizes the writer’s insightful vision is included: a bronze horse flung out its hooves prancing with eyes measuring the air and never let the hoofs down: there will be a leap in history; great disorders are expected; the earth will open wide, great battle will be unseen in the world before, the fields of Europe will become red with blood ocean: Tsushima will definitely be! There will be new Kalka!.. Kulikov field, I am waiting for you!” There exist numerous interpretations of this extract from “Petersburg”. As early as in 1917 Georgian poet Titsian Tabidze wrote: “This is a premonition of modern war. The novel was composed before the war” (Tabidze 1917: 2). The subsequent events of the 20-th century demonstrated that Andrey Bely’s prophetic vision did not imply only his time: the rivers of blood covered Russia and Europe in the following period too.

Grigol Robakidze is deeply realized the symbolism of the city founded by Peter the Great: “Petersburg as a mystic subject of something more important, universal manifestation is not merely a shadow: it is also an active symbol”.

Andrey Bely’s novel in modern Russia is evaluated as: “Petersburg” is not just the revelation on the Last Judgment. It happens on the pages of the novel” (Piskunov 1990: 28). In our view, this composition contains numerous enigmas even today.

In the course of centuries the shadow of apocalypses has thrown a scare in human hearts, the anticipation of global catastrophe is also characteristic of today’s society. At the same time, “for Judeo-Christians the end of the world represents a part of messianic mystery. For both of them the triumph of the divine history manifested by the end of the world contains the revival of the paradise. The prophets declare that the cosmos will be renovated: a new heaven and a new earth will appear” (Eliade 1993:131). Such moods are also expresed in Andrey Bely’s world perception.

Today in the epoch of global existential fear and danger the writers’ prophetic visions, far-sightedness and right analysis will perhaps alert to the coming future catastrophes.


  1.  Buachidze 1993: Buachidze T. Friedrich Nietzsche and his “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. In the book: Nietzsche Fr. “Thus Spake Zarathustra”.  Tbilisi: 1993 (in Georgian).

  2. Eliade 1993: Eliade M. Eschatology and Cosmology. – “Iveria” (Journal of Georgian-European Institute), #3, Tbilisi- Brussels: 1993.

  3. Kakabadze 1985: Kakabadze Z. Problems of Existential Crisis and Edmund Husserl’s Transcendental Phenomenology. Tbilisi: “Metsniereba”, 1985, (in Georgian).

  4. Nikol’sksaya 2009:  Nikol’sksaya T. G.Robakidze, A.Bely and German Culture. J. “Sjani”, #10, 2009, (in Russian).

  5. Piskunov 1990: Piskunov V. “In the Fire of Dissonance”. In: A.Bely. Selected Works. v.1. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literature”, 1990, (in Russian).

  6. Robakidze 1919: Robakidze G. Portaraits. Tiflis: 1919 (in Russian).

  7. Tabidze 1917: Tabidze T. “Petersburg”, Bely’s novel. In the newspaper “Sakartvelo”, 1917, 22 (4) September, #134.

  8. Chekhov 1986: Chekhov M. Literary heritage, part 1. Moscow: 1986 (in Russian).




Volume 3, Issue 2


Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature