O. and M. Wardrop – British friends of GeorgiaPosted: June 23, 2013
Sir (John) Oliver Wardrop (10 October 1864 – 19 October 1948) was a British diplomat, traveller and Georgian scholar, primarily known as the United Kingdom’s first Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Georgia (1919-21), and also as the founder and benefactor of Kartvelian studies at Oxford University.
After traveling to Georgia, then part of Russian empire in 1887, O. Wardrop wrote his study The Kingdom of Georgia, published in 1888. In 1894 during his second journey to Georgia he mastered the Georgian language and published a series of books on Georgia, including his translation of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s The Book of Wisdom and Lies.
In July 1919, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon offered O. Wardrop the post of the first British Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Tbilisi. The government of independent Georgia and its head Noe Jordania welcomed Sir Oliver’s return to Georgia. O. Wardrop tried to promote Georgian culture and gather all the support from the west for the newly formed country under the threat of Bolshevik aggression.
After Soviet Russia’s Red Army’s invasion of Georgia in 1921, O. Wardrop organized the set-up of the Georgian Society and the Georgian Committee in London. In 1930, along with William Edward David Allen, politician and historian of South Caucasus who published in 1932 A history of the Georgian people, he formed the Georgian Historical Society which published its own journal Georgica.
O. Wardrop also catalogued the Georgian manuscripts at the British Museum and continued to add to the Wardrop Collection of Georgian books and manuscripts at the Bodleian Library.
His sister Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909) was an English scholar. Fluent in seven foreign languages, she also learned Georgian and traveled to Georgia in 1894, 1895 and 1896. She translated into English prose the 12th-century Georgian epic poem by Shota Rustaveli, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, published after her death by Oliver Wardrop in London (1912). She translated and published Georgian Folk Tales (London, 1894), The Hermit by Ilia Chavchavadze (London, 1895), The Life of St. Nino (Oxford, 1900), etc.
After her death, Sir Oliver created the Marjory Wardrop Fund at Oxford University “for the encouragement of the study of the language, literature, and history of Georgia, in Transcaucasia.” In 2003, based on the legacy left by Sir John Oliver Wardrop and his sister Marjory, the Oxford University Georgian Society was founded.