The Descendents of Nikolas Dadiani Mingrelski
The Soviet takeover of Georgia was a great tragedy for the Dadianis and other noble families, all of whom were presumed by the authorities to be enemies of the Soviet government. Not only were they the symbolic “class enemy,” but they also represented the most educated stratum of society, and thus potentially the most effective force for resistance to the new system. A glimpse into the fate of the Georgian aristocracy under the new Soviet regime is provided by the personal stories of the descendants of Nikolas Dadiani Mingrelski, the last Principal of Samegrelo.
Nikolas had four children: Ekaterine, who died as a young child; Nikolas (1876-1919); Salome-Mia (1878-1961); and Menik (1880-1954), who was born out of wedlock to Niko’s mistress Kesaria Chikovani .
The story of the eldest son, also named Nikolas, is short and tragic. Nikolas was working in the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Empire at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. Upon seizing power, the Bolsheviks imprisoned him at St. Petersburg, where he soon died, hungry and ill.
His body was released to his fiancée, Elena Eristavi, who buried him the garden of a Georgian church in Russia. The location of his grave is unknown.
In 1897, Niko’s daughter Salome-Mia married Alexander Obolensky, a major general in the Tsar’s private forces who later became a provincial Governor. After the Revolution, Alexander fought with the opposition Mensheviks and later joined an expatriate army in Estonia that managed to break through the Soviet front lines. However, the army was turned back before it reached St. Petersburg, and Alexander and his family fled to France, where they were forced to endure both material poverty and the psychological scars of seeing the total destruction of their way of life. In 1924, Alexander died, leaving his wife and children without material support.
The year before Alexander died, Salome sued the government-in-exile of the Republic of Georgia, which was also domiciled in France, in an effort to recover ownership of some of the Georgian national treasures that it had spirited out of the country when Georgia fell to the Red Army. She claimed that the items in question had been illegally seized from her family. The French courts, however, rejected her claim.
The years after this setback were difficult for Salome and her family—to the point where her son Nikolas Obolensky attempted suicide. However, they eventually managed to pick themselves up and adjust to their diminished circumstances. Nikolas finished a military education and went on to study economics at the University of Geneva.
In 1940, after the occupation of France by Nazi forces, Nikolas joined the French national resistance. The organization in which he served had strong connections to General Charles de Gaulle, and specialized in reconnaissance, smuggling arms, training members of the resistance, and helping captured British soldiers to escape. In 1944, Nikolas was captured by the Germans and sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Against the odds, Nikolas survived Buchenwald and was liberated in 1945 by U.S. forces. For his heroic actions and personal sacrifice in the service of France, Nikolas was formally honored by General de Gaulle.
In 1963, Nikolas joined the clergy of the Orthodox Church, where he remained until the end of his life. His ecclesiastic service included stints as Rector of Biarica Montare, an Orthodox School in France, and as Monsignor of Alexander Nevsky Church in Paris.
Menik was fathered out of wedlock by Nikolas Dadiani Mingrelski. She married Andria Gelovani and gave birth to a son of her own, Dadash Gelovani (1899-1924). Although Menik survived the turmoil of the early Soviet period, her remarkably gifted son was not so fortunate.
Dadash was a talented student from his earliest days. He studied at Tbilisi State University, where his brilliance earned him both a government scholarship for advanced studies in Germany, and the nickname of “The Georgian Hegel”—after the influential German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose work was, perhaps ironically, a powerful influence on the young Karl Marx. During the Soviet repression of Georgian nationalist resistance in the 1920s, Dadash laid low in the village of Lechkhumi and concealed his relatively privileged status. On a trip to Kutaisi in 1924, however, he was detained by the Soviet police and questioned. According to one story, the police failed to find anything suspicious about him and set him free; however, while leaving the building, he tripped on the stairs and his gold-filigreed eyeglass case fell out of his overcoat. Seeing this symbol of privilege, the police hauled him back into custody. He was later summarily executed.
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