ABASHIDZE, IRAKLI (1909–1992). Prominent Georgian writer, scholar, and academician. Abashidze was born on 23 November 1909 in Khoni (western Georgia) into a family of humble origins and, after receiving early education in the village, he graduated with a degree in philology from the Tbilisi State University in 1931. He worked as an editor of the journal Chveni Taoba (1938–1939) and of Mnatobi from 1946–1953. Starting in the 1930s, he regularly published collections of his poems that brought him critical acclaim. He served as the executive secretary of the Writers’ Union of Georgia from 1939–1944, first secretary of the union from 1953–1966, and was its chairman in 1966–1967. He served as the secretary of the Writer’s Union of the USSR from 1968–1970.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Abashidze visited India and Palestine on scientific missions which resulted in a series of discoveries; Abashidze’s was particularly important in discovering Georgian literary legacy in various monasteries in Palestine. His book Palestine, Palestine garnered him the Rustaveli Prize in 1965 and Mtsvel Indoetshi and Indoetis Gzebze brought him the Jawaharlal Nehru Prize in 1972. In 1979, he was granted the title of the Hero of the Socialist Labor in 1979. In his later years, he produced excellent translations of Russian and Western European writers and won the Galaktion Tabidze Prize for his poems in 1987. He was elected a member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences in 1960 and served in the academy presidium from 1965–1988. Among his greatest accomplishments, Abashidze organized the massive celebration of Shota Rustaveli’s epic poem Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin) in 1966 and supervised the publication of the multi-volume Kartuli entsiklopedia (Georgian Encyclopedia) between 1966–1992. In 1988, he became the chairman of the Rustaveli Society of Georgia and was awarded the State Prize of the Georgian SSR. He died on 14 January 1994 and was buried in the Pantheon of Public Figures in Tbilisi.