Jamshid Giunashvili (1931-2017)

Jamshid GiunashviliJamshid Giunashvili, an eminent scholar of Iranian studies and a prominent Georgian diplomat, passed away on 21 January 2017 in Tbilisi at the age of 85.

Jamshid Giunashvili led a turbulent and productive life. He was born in Iran in 1931. His parents had immigrated to the country two years earlier after suffering hardship on political grounds in the Soviet Union. In Iran, Jamshid’s father pursued his engineering carrier in the construction and maintenance of the trans-Iranian railways. Jamshid himself attended Sepehr primary school and Alborz High School (formerly Alborz College) in Tehran.

The Giunishvilis were allowed back to the Soviet Union in 1947, but the old hostilities soon resurfaced and in 1951 they were deported to Kazakhstan, the destination for many other ideological outcasts within the USSR. In the early 1950s Jamshid studied Persian literature at the University of Tashkent, where he also gave instructions in Persian language. In 1958 he returned to his ancestral homeland, Georgia, and pursued his graduate studies for a doctorate degree at the Tbilisi State University, where a chair of Iranian philology had been established in 1939.

Giunashvili was both attentive to his teaching and prolific in his scholarly output. During most of his academic life he was a professor at his alma mater in Tbilisi. As a leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Georgian Science Academy, he published some two hundred articles in Georgian, Persian, Russian, and English. His main focus was on classical Persian literature, particular the Shahnama, but he also wrote on modern Persian literature. He was a keen linguist who conducted experimental research on the phonology of the Persian language.

Prof. Giunashvili began collaborating with the Encyclopaedia Iranica as early as 1982, when his article “Abkhaz” was published, and later contributed the entries on “Parsadan GORGIJANIDZE” and “VISRAMIANI,” a medieval Georgian rendition of the Persian romance of Vis o Rāmin. The 2011 issue of the journal Issues of Linguistics, the annual journal published by Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University was devoted to his festschrift, with many contributions from scholars worldwide in celebration of his 80th birthday.

It was only after Georgia became a fully independent state in 1991 that Prof. Giunashvili’s achievements were publicly acknowledged in his home country. In 1994 he was appointed as the first ambassador of the Republic of Georgia to Iran, a post he occupied for an entire decade. He also served for many years as the chairman of the Georgian-Iranian Society for Scientific and Cultural Relations and Collaboration. As a man of integrity and gentle demeanor and a gifted diplomat as well as a scholar with a profound knowledge and deep affection for Persian history and literature, he played a pivotal role in drawing together the two nations after nearly two centuries of comparative neglect.