9 famous Georgians known better abroad than at home
Georgia has a deep and rich history that spans more than a millennium and has one of the most diverse backgrounds of any culture on the planet.
While Georgians are known for their exceptional affection to their motherland,
there are still many who left home and became famous Georgians abroad.
Unbeknownst to many Georgians, these movers and shakers are sometimes forgotten. Luckily, we’ve created the list of six famous Georgians who are known better abroad than at home.
Dumbadze was a famous Georgian whose travels took him across the globe. He was most notable for his role as a financier as well as a nobleman.
He was born in Guria to the family of a priest. His time in Georgia didn’t last long as he left for studies in Germany in 1897. It was here where Dumbadze began his intellectual career.
He wrote several essays, such as Georgians – ethnographic analysis. Dumbadze never lost his love for his home country, even when working abroad.
His works proved useful to many industries, as his thesis even served as a guide book within the oil industry.
After his studies, Dumbadze returned home to Georgia where he became close to the family of the governor of the Caucasus. He also befriended politicians such as the Russian Ambassador to the US Bakhmatiev.
His ties to the US only strengthened as he became part of the establishment of Morgan’s Russian-American Bank. His goal was to resolve the autonomy of Georgia into the Russian Empire.
He began his life in America in 1924, where he published his first book in English a year later. It was titled The Republics of the Caucasus. He attempted to turn the American government’s attention toward the Caucasus, but more specifically, toward Georgia.
One of his last achievements was his work with US Senator Henry Wilson. Together, they founded the American Society for the Caucasus.
George Coby, or otherwise known as Grigol Kobakhidze was most notable within the US rather than in Georgia. He became incredibly successful and became the first millionaire from Georgia within the US.
His roots begin in 1883, in the village of Tkhmori. He was used to hard labor from an early age as he worked in a glass factory beginning at the age of 10.
He began to gain attention when his talents couldn’t be ignored. He developed new efficiency protocols and significantly increased the factory’s production.
His innovation within the glass factory grabbed the attention of management. The owner of the factory introduced him to the Russians, who then dispatched him to work in the Russian province of Krasnodar at the Konstantinovka glass factory.
George’s success followed him everywhere he went. He later moved to Germany as well as Britain and found increasing success.
In 1909, his success accumulated and he moved to America where he worked for General Electric for nine years. General Electric took note of his talents and paid him well enough for George to accumulate his wealth.
His innovation never stopped work, and he patented a couple of fountain pens. Using this as a springboard, he opened up a small business selling stationery materials.
After 10 years within the US, he went for broke and established a large glass factory within the state of Massachusetts. He quickly became a big-time industry player and started racking up the dollar signs.
If adjusted for inflation, George would be making an annual salary of more than $54 million.
He eventually went bankrupt during the Great Depression in America. However, he was able to gain financial aid through the government after the outbreak of WWII.
He was granted two million dollars as well as a license and was able to relaunch his factories as well as other businesses.
Bagration was a prince of Georgian origin who made it to the top ranks of Russia as a general.
He was born in either Tbilisi or Kizlyar, to a family within the Bagrationi dynasty to become an emerging famous Georgian.
His father was a large influence in his life, as he began the same occupation of his father – a soldier. His father was an officer in the Imperial Russian Army and Bagration enlisted when he was of age in 1782.
Bagration has a long history of participation in wars with continued success.
His military origins begin in the Russo-Circassian War. Later he participated in the Ottoman War as well as the capture of Ochavok in 1788. He later helped suppress the Kosciuszko Uprising in 1794.
In 1805, enlisted in the Russian military, he joined the coalition against Napoleon. He was praised for his success for his defense displayed in the Battle of Schongrabern. The defensive victory allowed Russian forces to make a withdrawal and reunite with the main Russian army.
His relentless military success didn’t end there. He commanded Russian troops in the Finnish War as well as against the Turks.
His life ended as expected – in battle. It occurred during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Bagration leads one of the two Russian armies, while Barclay de Tolly commanded the other.
After the combined failure to stop the French advance at the Bottle of Smolensk, Barclay instituted a scorched earth retreat. Bagration disagreed and stood by his opinion to confront the French in a major battle.
He was succeeded by Barclay’s commander and continued the policy through Bagration’s death at the Battle of Borodino.
Bagration was mortally wounded and died several weeks after the battle. He was buried at a local church and was reburied in 1839 on the battlefield of Borodino.
Bagration’s tactics were always heavily influenced by Alexander Suvorov, who was a tactician of fame who favored mobile offensive warfare.
His tactics would provide the Russian army with strategic objectives and tactical maneuvers. He relied on speed and accuracy to quickly engage the enemy and deny them a chance to respond, react, or retreat.
His strategies were put at odds with the other general of the army, Barclay, who had more command over the entire army. His tactics always favored good positioning that leads to entrenchment while they waited for the enemy.
In the end, ironically, it could be seen as him being denied a chance to succeed through the inferior tactics of his superiors.
His fame and notoriety were well known through Russia at the time, but the information was lost to many Georgians. This leads him to become one of the most famous Georgians abroad to not be well-known in his home country.
John Shalikashvili is perhaps the most well-known Georgian on this list. While forgotten at home, John made his mark on history with his involvement with the US Army. He became a general within the US Army and served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 1992 to 1993.
He was born in Warsaw, Poland, in the family of Georgian officer Dimitri Shalikashvili. He was a scion of the noble house.
His career path was similar to his father in that he was involved with the military. His father, however, went a different path and served in the army of Imperial Russia. His grandfather, Dmitry, was a Russian general. His long lineage of military members granted him a good base of knowledge to begin his military career and success.
Interestingly, John never saw himself in a military career initially. He had planned to work for Hyster Truck Lift but received a draft notice in 1958. He enlisted into the US Army as a private.
As it turns out, John enjoyed his time in the military and applied for Officer Candidate School, where his career choice become the foundation for his future success.
His various roles included platoon leader, forward observer, instructor, and battery commander. He served in the Vietnam War and was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions in the war. The award was given with a “V,” which identifies the award as given for heroism.
After Vietnam, he attended Naval War College to advance himself further.
He commanded his first Battalion in 1975. Two years later, he attended U.S Army War College and served as the Commander of Division Artillery while stationed in Germany.
His rise through the ranks continued until he accumulated a lot of claim for his success as the commander of Operation Provide Comfort. The operation had the goal of peacekeeping and providing humanitarian efforts in northern Iraq following the end of the Gulf War.
His dedication to his career began to bring him to fame as he quickly became one of the most powerful Georgians abroad in 1992. That is the year he was promoted to Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the commander of NATO’s Allied Command Operations.
The following year, US President Bill Clinton appointed Shalikashvili as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He worked diligently until his retirement in 1997. He’d earned it after serving 38 years in the military and becoming one of the most prominent Georgians abroad at the time.
Dimitri, like many others who have claimed fame on this list, was a French military officer and Lieutenant Colonel of the French Foreign Legion.
He was vital to the French Resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II. He was an icon of the Free French Forces and he became incredibly popular for his efforts against the occupation.
He was born in Bazorkino, now known as part of the Russian Federation. His life is compiled with many moves, as his family had moved from their estate in Gori, Georgia, during the Russian Revolution. They were able to retain their noble dignity during the rule of Georgia.
His grandfather served as an eminent general in the Russian army as well as his father, Giorgi, who served in the Russian military.
After the Russian SFSR occupation, his family fled to the Ottoman Empire where Dimitry attended a British school. Keeping in line with his family’s tendency to constantly move, Dimitri landed in France in 1922 after his family emigrated.
After his graduation from a highly-respected French military academy, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, serving France. He was promoted to lieutenant shortly after and took part in all major operations that occurred in southern Morocco in 1932 and 1933.
His military success continued and he eventually married after his naturalization as a French citizen. He married Princess Irina, another member of the Georgian nobility who had been exiled.
His roots in Georgia lost hold because of his unstable childhood and were forgotten to many. However, he was one of the most well-known, if not the most well-known, Georgian in France during the Nazi occupation.
Ibrahim, originally born as Abram Sinjikashvili, was born into the family of a Christian priest in southeastern Georgia. However, he is of Georgian origin.
He spent his life serving loyal to the Mamluk ruler of Egypt and eventually ascended to be bestowed as a “bey.” Bey is a Turkish title for a chieftain. They served as rulers of various areas throughout the Ottoman Empire.
He became notable through his influence as a Mamluk commander. He shared de facto control over Egypt with another chieftain.
Bey focused on civil administration and became a large influence in swaying Ottoman attempts to overthrow the Mamluk regime as well as civil strife.
While they sometimes would serve as an acting governor to Egypt, they maintained effective power for many decades. Their influence even rose above the appointed Ottoman governor of Egypt.
For two years, beginning in 1771, Bey served as the amir-al-hajj, or commander of the hajj caravan, of Egypt.
His power continued until his defeat against napoleon’s armies at the battles of Pyramids and Heliopolis.
The defeats put an end to Ibrahim’s continued control. He eventually would die without much recognition either in the years of 1816 or 1817.
While not of note at the time, Ibrahim’s death is remarkable as he managed to survive the massacre of Mameluk leaders in 1811.
His power was known to millions for many years as he was one of the most powerful Georgians abroad to shake the Earth.
However, his obscure death leads to him being lost to many Georgian’s knowledge.
Balanchine, originally born Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze, was born in St. Petersburg Russia. However, he maintained Georgian roots through his father, a Georgian opera singer, and composer.
He was a ballet master through and through who traveled around the globe and eventually made his home in America. He was one of the most influential choreographers of his time and co-founded the New York City Ballet.
His father, Meliton Balanchivadze, was well-known in the Georgian-arts world as he was one of the founders of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater. He eventually became the culture minister of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
You could say that George’s future was already engraved in his destiny because of the talent surrounding him as he grew up.
Ironically, George was never thrilled with the idea of ballet. His mother forced him to audition at the age of nine for the Imperial Ballet School, in St. Petersburg.
His education continued at the Petrograd Conservatory while he worked in the corps de ballet for Soviet Russia.
During the year of 1924, on a visit to Germany with the Soviet State Dancers, George, his wife, Tamara Geva, and two other dancers fled to Paris where they found a large Russian population.
He joined the Ballet Russes as a choreographer and worked his way to ballet master of his company.
He would go on to create a couple more companies after Ballet Russes went bankrupt.
Eventually, George found himself making a living in the United States and insisted on his first project within his new home to be the establishment of a ballet school. Due to his classical training, George thought the ballet dancers of New York City were poor dancers. He wanted to develop dancers that showed his particular style and technique.
Through his work, and the eventual establishment of the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet, he was perhaps the most influential person in creating a neoclassical ballet. He truly transformed American dance, as a whole, as well.
Matchabelli was born in Tiflis, Georgia – which was then part of Imperial Russia.
He was a nobleman and a diplomat who eventually found his notoriety in his newfound home of the United States.
While he studied in Tiflis, he later went to Berlin for his studies as an engineer.
His first mark in history came as a founding member of the Committee of Independent Georgia in Berlin, 1914. His goal was to gain German support for Georgia to gain independence and rid themselves of the Russian Empire.
The prince served for a short time as part of the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Georgia to Italy but eventually moved to the U.S with his wife, Norina.
The prince, being an amateur chemist, formed the Prince Matchabelli Perfume Company with his fame and found much success. They become well known for their unique branding and high-quality fragrances.
Gurian Horse Riders
Georgian horsemen weren’t famous in Georgia because they took their talents to the west – the Wild West of the United States.
The horsemen became of much notoriety to those within the US. Because of the constant participation in Wild West shows.
The horsemen, ranging from ages 18 to 25, were under the leadership of Prince Ivan Makharadze.
In 1893, these famous Georgians performed as the Russian Cossacks in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. They also performed in various other shows as well as circuses.
Their difficult tricks and stunts gained fame across the west and heavily influenced the cowboys of the time. You can still see the impacts of their culture in many American rodeos throughout modern-day America.