World Abaza Congress

17 July 2024
The pioneer in everything and the patriarch of Abkhaz literature
Dmitry Gulia
To the 145th anniversary of the national poet and writer of Abkhazia
Summing up his life journey in his memoirs, Dmitry Gulia wrote that, probably, he was "dispersing his energy", dealing both with science and literature. In fact, his contribution to the development of his native Abkhazia is amazing and cannot but amaze those for whom this talented person has worked all his life.
Dmitry Gulia, drawing by Georgy Gulia
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
The founder of Abkhaz literature, its patriarch, people's poet of Abkhazia, educator, scientist, linguist Dmitry Gulia was born on February 21, 1874 in the family of an ordinary peasant Urys Gulia (Urys was the "home" name of Dmitry's father Joseph, - ed.) in the village of Uarcha, Gulrypsh district.
Dmitry Gulia at the age of 25
Eviction from native Uarcha
One of the memories of Dmitry's early childhood relates to the situation in which thousands of Abkhaz found themselves when they were forced to leave their homes and move to the Ottoman Empire. The family of Urys Gulia was just one of those who were forced to leave the shores of their native Kodor after the Russian-Turkish confrontation in the Caucasus.

They were not deceived by talking about what benefits await them on the shores of neighboring Turkey, and did not want to leave their native Abkhazia.

Here is how Dmitry Gulia himself describes these events in his autobiography: "A certain nobleman Maan brought Turkish askers - a soldier to our yard. "These do not want to be evicted," he said. Askers burned our house, and the family was driven to the sea, where a Turkish steamer stood on the roadstead. I was then four years old. I carried a toy felucca in my hand and held onto the hand of my grandmother Fyndyk."
The place where the house of Urys Gulia allegedly stood before the relocation, the village of Uarcha
Later he will describe this event in the poem "My hearth".

On the way to Turkey, the Gulia family was on the verge of death more than once, but in the end, they were thrown onto the coast of Trebizond. They were in a difficult situation: without food, water, and shelter. Poor Turkish fishermen and those Abkhaz who, having arrived earlier, more or less settled on the spot, helped them. Together with little Gachem (so was called Dmitry in the family) in these wanderings was also the mother - Rebiha (Rabia) Bargandzhia, whom the poet himself described as "a meek, sensible woman who did a lot of housekeeping", also with them was the future writer's grandmother - Fyndyk Tsabria .

"My grandmother brought me up," Gulia wrote about her in his autobiography, "it was good health, an exceptionally strong-willed woman. Her voice was clear and domineering. However, I was not afraid of her. I went where she went. She was over a hundred years old."

Corner of folk musical instruments and household items
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
The father of the future writer had no doubt that they needed to return to Abkhazia, and therefore they set off for home in a small fishing boat. First, they managed to get to Batum. Here, unable to withstand the severity of wandering, little brother and sister of Dmitry died. But there was no going back. Under the shelling of Russian and Turkish ships, the boat with the Gulia family reached the shores of Abkhazia.

Gulia was not allowed to settle in his native village, Urysu, and he chose the opposite bank of the Kodor River, Adzyubzha.

The writer devoted more than one poem to the theme of the motherland and those who were forced to leave it. Perhaps the most famous of them. — «Сыпсадгьыл» ("My homeland" from the Abkhaz — ed.). The extract of this poem in English is the following:

Dear motherland, why are you
Looking so sadly -
Or maybe you've lost someone
Who was loved by you?

Or about those who left
Your nests. Why are you sad?
Beyond the sea, their trail melted ...
Isn't it where your are looking at …
Dyrmit Gulia with friends - brother and sister Anua
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
School years and meeting Machavariani
Gulia studied literacy for a few years with a local priest, and then became a pupil of the Sukhum Mountain School, specially opened for Abkhaz children in 1863. True, this was not immediately possible, since for the most part the children of princes and representatives of the local nobility were accepted to school, and he was the son of a simple peasant. However, Dmitry's father was persistent: he drove him to go to school for three years in a row.

The capable student Dmitry Gulia was immediately noticed by the teacher David Adjamov, and later the school superintendent Konstantin Machavariani. These two made a lot of effort to write down fairy tales from the words of little Gulia, and then publish them in the Materials for Describing Localities and Tribes of the Caucasus.
Konstantin Machavariani will play a significant role in the life of the young Gulia. He will be the first to show him two Abkhaz alphabets, created by the largest linguist Peter Uslar, and another, the so-called "Bartholomeev" alphabet. It is the Machavariani, who is going to tell Gulia that it is time to study the history of the native land at least according to the fragmentary information that is, from ancient times themselves. Perhaps it was then that Gulia had the idea to write the first textbook on the history of Abkhazia. This idea, as we know, later he brought to life. His "History of Abkhazia" was published in 1925.
In 1889, fifteen-year-old Dmitry Gulia entered the Transcaucasian Pedagogical Seminary in Gori. "Here I studied for four months, fell ill with typhus, and they expelled me, as was said in the order, due to the fact that "the local climate is clearly not suitable for the listener Dmitry Gulia". My school study is over. Books and life have become my teachers," he will write in his autobiography.
The first Abkhaz alphabet
In 1890, on the initiative of Machavariani, who did not know the Abkhaz language, but helped Gulia with methodological advice, the latter began working on the compilation of the Abkhaz alphabet. However, for this, the alphabets of Uslar and Bartholomeev, which were based on Cyrillic, had to be improved. This work was done in a year, and since 1892, Abkhaz children had the opportunity to study in their native language and master the writing system, which was created by a seventeen-year-old Abkhaz youth from Adzyubzha. This contribution to the Abkhaz culture cannot be overestimated.
Petr Uslar's alphabet
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
After the death of his father, mother and grandmother from the "Spanish flu" that raged in those days, Dmitry had many business concerns. After all, now he was left as the elder and had to raise younger brother and sister. Many years later, his son, Georgy Gulia, in his work "Dmitry Gulia: A Tale of My Father" will write that his father began working as a teacher in those years, and in the evenings he studied himself.
The school in which Dmitry Gulia taught in the village of Kyndyg. Trees planted by him in 1900
The first Abkhaz poem, Dmitry Gulia, Sukhum, August 26, 1912
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
Interestingly, Georgy Gulia describes his twenty-five-year-old father: "His appearance is always flawless, Circassian best cloth, soft Asian boots, arkhaluk of bright purple silk, gilded dagger and sword, and, of course, the Smith-Wesson revolver."
Gulia's literary activity began in the second half of the first decade of the twentieth century. His first poems of those times, especially "Big Khojan", gained immense popularity among the people.

In 1912, the first Abkhaz book "Poems and Chastooshkas" was published in Tiflis, authored by Dmitry Gulia.
And in 1918, Gulia wrote the story "Under a strange sky." According to his own recollections, during the day he was busy teaching in several schools, and wrote mostly at night, at the same time collecting material for the future "History of Abkhazia".

In his first volume on the History of Abkhazia, he cited facts in support of the theory that the Abkhaz descended from the Egyptians. Later he doubted the theory put forward by him and openly admitted it: "I don't insist on this theory now, but I am sure that the book contains many useful materials on the history and ethnography of Abkhazia" (written 23 later - ed.).

First in everything
The word "first" is repeatedly applicable to Dmitry Iosifovich's activities. In 1919 the first Abkhaz newspaper "Apsny" was published, the editor of which he was. He was the organizer of the first dramatic workshop "Morning Star" in the teacher's seminary in Sukhum. It was on his initiative that the first Abkhaz theater group, founded in 1921, performed in the villages of Abkhazia. For her repertoire, Gulia urgently translated from Russian and Georgian several vaudevilles and a small play "Long Live Freedom!" As Gulia himself recalls, "the tours of the troupe in the Abkhaz villages turned into a wonderful holiday."
Dmitry Gulia
The "Apsny" newspaper for April 1919
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
The first scientist who wrote a textbook on the history of Abkhazia, Dmitry Gulia was, in fact, the first Abkhaz historian, although many of his theories were ambiguous. Academician Nikolai Marr wrote about him: "... It's an indisputable fact that, until today, no one on such a scale as Gulia was interested in the past destinies and present life of Abkhazia at the same time, not a single scientist, either in Europe or in the Caucasus ... Not a single work can be compared with the work of D.I. Gulia to compile the depth of sincere interest".
Dmitry Gulia and Nikolay Marr
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
Nikolay Marr
© Russian National Library
Dmitry Gulia and academician Nikolay Marr, had friendly relations and a common interest in the history of the origin of the Abkhaz people and language. Marr, who first shared Gulia's theory of the Egyptian origins of the Abkhaz, later withdrew from it and began to look for something in common between the Abkhaz and the Spanish Basques.

However, the real point of collision between two scientists was the question of the Abkhaz language. As it is known, Nikolay Marr was the author of the Abkhaz alphabet based on Latin. Many people adopted the alphabet; by the way, typography began in Abkhazia based on it in the twenties of the last century, but Gulia could not accept such an alphabet, considering it too complicated. "He was an enthusiastic, ardent, deep and diversified man," wrote Gulia about Marr, "the alphabet he proposed, adopted in many republics of the Caucasus, was categorically rejected by me. This dramatically cooled our relationship. The Abkhaz government introduced the Marr alphabet. However, life has shown that Marr was wrong in this dispute - his alphabet existed only a few years and then disappeared."

Dmitry Gulia did not complete his historical research with the publication of the first volume of the History of Abkhazia. In addition, although he did not publish the second volume, several other interesting historical materials came out of his pen.

One of them is the article "Sukhum not Dioskuria", in which the author suggested that the ancient city of Dioscuria was not on the site of present-day Sukhum, but on the shores of Skurcha lake. Later, because of archaeological excavations, it became obvious that Gulia was mistaken. Nevertheless, his article was of great value in the scientific world, since it set the task for scientists to put more effort into understanding where the legendary Dioscuria was located. Dmitry Gulia also wrote "The History of the Mountain School". Articles about the school filled out several issues of the Apsny newspaper for the 1920s.
Dmitry Gulia, being himself a pioneer writer in Abkhazia, always put maximum efforts to bring together young people from Abkhaz intellectuals on the horizon of literature, culture and education. He wrote with admiration about one of the first writers Samson Chanba, about the talented poet Iua Kogonia and about those who appeared later: "In Soviet times, the development of literature went wild, and now the Union of Writers of Abkhazia has up to forty members, including such poets as Bagrat Shinkuba, Alexey Lasuria, Ivan Tarba, Kirshal Chachkhalia, Alexey and Chichiko Jonua, Kumph Lomia and others. Good "harvest"! And I am glad that I am no longer alone in the literary field" (written in 1958 - ed.).
Alexey Dzhonua, Alexey Lasuria, Dmitry Gulia, Mota Akobiya, Georgy Gublia, Bagrat Shinkuba, Kumph Lomia, Ivan Papaskir, Chichiko Dzhonua, Nelli Tarba, 1955
In 1929, as head of the Abkhaz Academy of Language and Literature, Gulia fully contributed to the work of composer Konstantin Kovach and Kondrat Dzidzaria who helped him in the so-called recording of "Songs of the Kodor Abkhaz". This event as a whole marked the beginning of the development of the musical culture of Abkhazia.
Gulia had a hand in creating the first geographical map of Abkhazia. At the Mountain School, he studied with the first cartographer of Abkhazia, Mikhail Levanovich Shervashidze-Chachba. In 1912 both of them were in Tiflis: Gulia was engaged in literary translations there and was preparing a book for publication, and Shervashidze-Chachba was working on the creation of the first map. Mikhail Levanovich often came to Gulia and consulted with him on toponymy and geography of Abkhazia.
Mikhail Levanovich Shervashidze-Chachba
Literary path
The main prose work of Dmitry Gulia, whose genre literary scholars define as a novel, is "Kamachich". This work Gulia wrote for several years, finally completing it in 1940. According to experts, in the novel strongly influenced by folk aesthetics, the writer also used a large amount of ethnographic material.

"Kamachich" is to some extent opposition to the literature that was completely sociologized, denied the traditions, national ethics of Apsuara, historical themes ... Strengthening of ethnographic art in the work is due to the writer's desire to create an ethnographic portrait of the people, to reveal the peculiarities of its ethnophilosophy and history, its worldview"- writes doctor of philological sciences Vyacheslav Biguaa about the novel.
"Kamachich" by Dmitry Gulia
Of the poetic works of the poet often distinguish the poem "My hearth", in many ways autobiographical. "There is a lot of sadness in it, a lot of personal drama," writes the poet's son Georgy Gulia about the poem, "and the tragedy of the Abkhaz people as a whole. Is it possible to separate your own drama from the fate of the people?"

Gulia was engaged in translations: he translated into the Abkhaz language the Gospel, some works of Pushkin and Lermontov, many Georgian poets, including Shota Rustaveli.
I dedicated the first decade of our century to translations, mainly, of church books. As a member of the translation commission, he put a lot of work into the Gospel in the Abkhaz language. Trying to be as precise as possible, we attracted to our work texts: Greek, Old Slavic, Russian, Georgian. It seems to me that in terms of language and accuracy of the text, the translation was a success. This huge work, of course, was not very noticed by the Abkhaz people indifferent to Christianity - however, as well as to Mohammedanism, the writer writes in his memoirs.
Gulia's family
Faithful assistant in all matters for Dmitry Iosifovich was his wife Elena Andreevna Bzhilava. Gulia himself notes that "he would not have written a hundredth part if it were not for Elena Andreevna - a woman who is ready for self-sacrifice when it comes to literature and art."

Gulia had three children - sons Vladimir and George, and daughter Tatiana. In his "Stories about Childhood," Georgy Gulia very poetically describes relationships within the family. In Sukhum, they lived in the house where Gulia's house-museum is now located. It was built by Dmitri Gulia himself in 1912 at the site presented to him by the mother of his wife Fotine Nikolaevna.
Gulia was revered and respected by all in the town; they called him the "national teacher". Neighbors of all nationalities - Sukhum was a multinational town - considered it an honor to live alongside Dmitry Gulia and treated him with the utmost respect.
Dmitry Gulia with his countrymen
As Georgy Gulia writes, his father was busy almost all the time with teaching and with his educational activities, often focused on checking student's notebooks, then on other important matters. His wife, Elena Andreevna, is a woman with a gentle disposition: she knew how to fix her life perfectly, was engaged in household chores and in every way tried to make Dmitry Iosifovich never worry about the family.
Dmitry Giulia with his family
The children were friendly with each other. Although my father had little time to deal with them, Georgy Gulia recalls in one of the stories, Dmitry Iosifovich read to them "Ruslan and Lyudmila" and the poems of his favorite poets.
The main blow for the family was the death of Volodya Gulia. "The Great Patriotic War was a great test for our country, writes Dmitry Gulia. - I lost my son, Vladimir, an engineer, whose abilities raised many hopes in his friends. I could not fight with a machine gun in my hands, but I did my little business in my literary position."
Georgy Gulia, Tatiana Gulia, Dmitry Gulia, Volodya Gulia and Elena Gulia, 1931
George Gulia, Dmitry Gulia and Elena Gulia
© Dmitry Gulia's House-Museum
In 1946, during his visit to Abkhazia, the famous English writer John Boynton Priestly met with the Gulia family: with Dmitry Gulia and his wife Elena, their children Tatiana and Georgy, daughter-in-law Valentina and grandson Dima.
The patriarch of Abkhaz literature, Dmitry Gulia, died at the age of 86 in 1960. He wrote only a modest autobiography about himself, bequeathed to descendants to seek answers to all their questions in his poems and prose.
The man who did so much for literature, culture and education of Abkhazia, by the end of his life, evaluated his work as follows: "Without exaggeration I can say: I am satisfied with my work, because I did everything I did, sincerely. However, I could have done more if I always understood exactly what is more important and what does not require delay. I sprayed my energy, doing some poetry, then science. Maybe it would be better if I devoted myself entirely to literature only? Maybe. When a person starts something first, he inevitably spends more energy, and his activity inevitably becomes versatile. This is both good and bad."
A plaque on the wall of the House-Museum of Dmitry Gulia
© Naala Avidzba

Author of the text - Arifa Kapba, photo-editor - Naala Avidzba, editor-in-chief - Amina LazbaВ подготовке очерка о In the preparation of the essay on Dmitry Gulia the following material was used: Autobiography of Gulia D.I.; Gulia G.D. "Dmitry Gulia: A Tale of My Father"; V.Biguaa "Abkhaz historical novel. Story. Typology. Poetics".