Batal Kobakhiya, a renowned archaeologist, public figure, and Hero of Abkhazia, spoke to an Apsnypress correspondent about his acquaintance with Mirra Konstantinovna Khotilashvili-Inal-ipa, her contributions to historical science, and his friendship with the Inal-ipa family.
December 5th marks the birthday of the distinguished historian, archaeologist, and honoured cultural worker of Abkhazia, and honorary doctor of the Abkhazian National Academy, Mirra Konstantinovna Khotilashvili-Inal-ipa. This year, she celebrated her 95th birthday.
Batal Kobakhiya: In the 1950s and 1960s, Abkhazia was a breeding ground for unique personalities. I was fortunate to be in the company of some of them, witnessing their approach to life, people, work, and science. Among these eminent individuals were Shalva Inal-ipa, Georgy Dzidzaria, Leo Shervashidze, and Georgy Shamba. Mirra Konstantinovna Khotilashvili-Inal-ipa, a brilliant historian and archaeologist, and wife of Shalva D. Inal-ipa, was also part of this group.
It was largely due to her efforts that a superb archaeology department was established at the Abkhazian State Museum. She devoted immense energy to it. Mirra Inal-ipa has a unique work dedicated to the problems of dating the Late Antique period. No historian working in this field can ignore this study.
I must also note that Mirra Konstantinovna created the conditions for Shalva Inal-ipa to engage in serious scientific work. Furthermore, after his passing, she did everything to prepare for the re-publication of some and the publication of other important scientific works by Shalva Inal-ipa. She later published several of her own scientific works.
I am delighted that, while working in the Ministry of Culture, I managed to find the funds to publish her book on the history of Abkhazia. The significance of this work is incalculable. It turned out to be a genuine bestseller.
Working with her was challenging yet fascinating. She took scientific work extremely seriously. When preparing the manuscript of "A Reader in the History of Abkhazia" for publication, she might call at 8 in the morning and ask me to come over. I would arrive, she would first feed me, and then we would get down to work. In a day, we could go through hundreds of pages. Sometimes we finished at 9 in the evening, at my request, when I would say, "I can't go on." The next day, the work continued with equal enthusiasm.
Mirra Khotilashvili-Inal-ipa had a knack for finding the tiniest errors in the edited and nearly ready-to-print material. Once, I couldn't take it any longer and said, "That's it! We're publishing the book; there's no more time for corrections."
And what do you think? She found an error in the already published book. I am absolutely certain she will remember it and remind us before the next edition.
I worked with her on excavations at the Sukhum Fortress. I remember how we washed ceramics. She shared many interesting stories during those moments. She had the skill to precisely date shards just by examining them.
I was very close to her son Adgur, who tragically died in my arms during the capture of Sukhum in September 1993. I am friends with her daughter Arda Shalvovna and daughter-in-law Marina Shamba.
I knew Shalva Inal-ipa well. We looked up to him as a saint. He was an extraordinarily cultured man. Imagine, when we, still quite young, visited him, he would stand up and greet us.
It's difficult to overestimate the importance of Shalva Inal-ipa's seminal work "The Abkhaz" in Abkhazian science, in shaping national identity, and in understanding that we are an ancient people with our own history and culture. Confidently, this work ideologically fuelled the national liberation movement in Abkhazia. And in this too lies the merit of Mirra Konstantinovna, who devoted much strength and time to her husband and his scientific endeavours.
When Adgur died, it seemed this tragedy would devastate her; that she would not survive her son's death. Fortunately, this did not happen. She immersed herself entirely in her work, which became her salvation.
One small detail that might give you an insight into what I am talking about. Being already of advanced age, she called the Minister of Culture and asked to be relieved from her position at the museum, as she could no longer work daily.
We couldn't fulfil Mirra Inal-ipa's request as we fully understood her role in the museum. We had to establish the position of chief scientific consultant at the museum.
Her field of scientific activity is extraordinarily broad: the history of Abkhazia across different periods, ethnology, archaeology, numismatics. Mirra Konstantinovna can write about almost any topic, and she does so professionally and in a way that is comprehensible not just to specialists. An example of this is her small book about the organ in the Pitsunda Cathedral.
I greatly enjoy visiting her. The first thing that awaits every visitor to her home is a delicious meal. She has a huge table at her house, and I don't recall a single occasion when it wasn't set.
Often, we would sit in her study; she would tell many fascinating stories, getting carried away, moving from one topic to another. I find it immensely interesting to talk to her even today. She still retains absolute clarity of mind.
Another stroke in her portrait: It was risky to tell Mirra Khotilashvili-Inal-Ipa that you were going somewhere.
"Are you going to Moscow? I need you to find a book in a library there and write down a quote from a specific page," she would often say.
Many scientists visiting Abkhazia would call on the Inal-ipa family. I remember when Vasily Lyubin, a specialist in the Stone Age and the scientific supervisor of Mushni Khvartsikya, visited Abkhazia. He was over 90 years old, we visited Mirra Inal-ipa, who was approaching 90. My goodness! They conversed animatedly for several hours.
"She is an absolutely unique person, she knows everything," the astonished scientist quietly said to me.
One could talk endlessly about Mirra Konstantinovna, as well as about every member of her family.
She is a brilliant historian, archaeologist, and encyclopaedically educated person. Her professional scientific activity began in a complex historical period, but she never feared anyone or anything. Knowing Mirra Khotilashvili-Inal-Ipa well, I am not surprised that she, born in Tbilisi and of Georgian nationality, was deeply committed to Abkhazia achieving independence. The entire Inal-ipa family did everything possible to realise the Abkhazian people's dream of freedom and their own state.
Mirra Konstantinovna Khotilashvili-Inal-ipa dislikes being wished a long life. I wish for her to accomplish what she herself has planned.
This article was published by ApsnyPress and is translated from Russian.