Georgian Surnames

Jakob Tsurtaveli

   Jakob Tsurtaveli, a 5th century Georgian writer, is the author of the hagiography "Torture of Shushanik", the oldest surviving piece of Georgian literature.  The story describes how the Kartlian "Pitiakhsh" (regent) Varsqen betrayed his homeland and faith for the Persians, converted to their religion and tortured his wife Shushanik to force her to convert as well.  It is known from his work that Jakob Tsurtaveli was a court priest of the Kartlian “Pitiakhsh” in the township of Tsurtavi, and that he was an eyewitness to the tragedy he describes.  

His work was written between 476 and 483, after the agonizing death of Shushanik.  This work marks the beginning of the history of Georgian literature.  Jakob Tsurtaveli was a literary master, and by virtue of this talent he was able to create a highly artistic work instead of merely writing a biographical account.  The heroine of the work is a woman who defies her husband, a man who betrayed his homeland and faith.  In resisting him, she defended not only her own dignity but also her faith and the independence of her homeland.

 This work has been translated into many languages.  In 1978, Georgian society commemorated the 1500th anniversary of the composition of “Torture of Shushanik”.  Between 1979 and 1983, UNESCO and the world community commemorated this milestone as well.