Earlier on the day of the reception, the personal library of Hungarian folklorist and kartvelologist Márton Istvánovits was unveiled as the Márton Istvánovits Georgian Library in the Oriental Institute of the ELTE Faculty of Humanities. The collection comprises more than 1500 books about Georgian studies, and a plaque was uncovered in memory of Istvánovits, who bequeathed his library to ELTE. The term "kartvelologist" refers to a specialist of Georgian studies, and Istvánovits, who was born in 1929, first visited Georgia in 1955 when he was 25-26 years old.

At that time, he was a recent graduate of the Faculty of Philology of the Budapest University and had worked at the Caucasian section of the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest. It was then that he read translated works by famous Georgian poets Shota Rustaveli, Baratashvili, Ilia Chavchavadze and Vazha Pshavela.

Istvánovits became acquainted with materials about Georgia from the collections of Count Jeno Zichy, a specialist of Caucasian studies of the 19th century, and the illustrations made by Hungarian painter Mihaly Zichy (1827-1906) for "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", a medieval epic poem written in the 12th century by Georgia's national poet Rustaveli.

These works fuelled Istvánovits' interest in Georgian ethnography and folklore. When he first arrived in the country and joined the Faculty of Old Georgian Language at the Tbilisi State University, he didn't speak a word of the language and couldn't read or write it, but his interest was so vivid that he managed not only to learn but to defend his PHD thesis (on the subject of Gender metamorphosis in the Georgian fairytale type local edition) in the Georgian language.


Istvánovits took part in various ethnographic expeditions in the regions of Georgia, studied the country's traditions and recorded samples of its folk art. In 1957 the Georgian fairytale "The king and the nightingale", translated by Istvánovits, was published in Hungary, and he translated and published studies by Georgian ethnographers, and wrote reviews on Georgian folklorists and dedications to Georgian writers. Ambassador Gogsadze recalled that later, when Istvánovits learned the Russian language, he spoke it with a Georgian accent.

The reception included an exhibition titled "Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet". Georgian is one of the oldest languages still spoken today. There are around 5000 languages around the globe but only 14 unique scripts, of which Georgian is one. Moreover, Georgia has three writing systems, all of which could be seen in the exhibition.

Georgian has been written in a variety of scripts over its history, and this evolution has produced three alphabets – Mrgvlovani (or Asomtavruli), Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli – which all remain in use today.

Mrgvlovani was the first alphabet from which Nuskhuri was derived and then Mkhedruli emerged. The alphabets coexist thanks to their different cultural and social functions, reflecting an aspect of Georgia's diversity and identity. Their ongoing use in a cultural sense also gives communities a feeling of continuity. After evolving in parallel for centuries, the three Georgian alphabets were included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.

Georgia's Mother Language Day marks the country's victory over Soviet attempts to do away with Georgian as the official language. Georgia was one of the few republics in the USSR where the native language was recognised as a sole state language, but in 1978 Communist Party officials decided to abolish that privilege by making constitutional amendments.

The Soviet government sought to elevate Russian to equal status as a state language, a highly unpopular move that was met with wide disapproval. Demonstrations broke out throughout the country, climaxing in Tbilisi on April 14, 1978, the day when the Soviet regime had to ratify the new legislation.

Tens of thousands of Georgian students, professors, teachers and citizens, took to the streets of Tbilisi. It was a defining moment in Georgia's history. Soviet police managed to partially block the march but protesters still reached the government building, which was quickly surrounded by the Soviet army. Another wave of protesters gathered at Tbilisi State University.

The situation threatened to turn dangerous but the public outrage was so strong that finally the Soviet regime was forced to step back. It was an unprecedented case when the regime withdrew and backed down to the community's demands. The demonstrations were a major victory for Georgians, and laid the foundation for re-emergence of a Georgian national liberation movement that called for the revival of national culture and saw no compromise to ultimate independence from the Soviet Union, culminating in April 9, 1989.

The date remains in the history of Georgia as both tragic and heroic, when the whole country united to fight for independence. Young people and others tried to stop Russian tanks with their bare hands, only to be killed by Soviet troops, but independence was successfully proclaimed.

The reception at ELTE was attended by representatives of the Hungarian political, cultural, scientific and academic circles, diplomatic corps and Georgian students of Hungarian universities.

Ambassador Gogsadze, Rector Dr. Laszlo Borhy, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities Professor Dr. Gábor Sonkoly and the head of the Georgian Language Course at ELTE Benedek Zsigmond addressed the gathering. The ambassador awarded the embassy's medal "Friend of Georgia" to Dr. Eszter Istvánovits, daughter of Márton Istvánovits.

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