Sir John Oliver Wardrop


 

UK Flag waving

 

British diplomat, traveller and translator, primarily known as the United Kingdom's first Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasia in Georgia, 1919-1921, and also as the founder and benefactor of Kartvelian studies at Oxford University.

After travelling to Georgia (then part of Imperial Russia) in 1887, 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 the series of books on Georgia, including his translation of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s The Book of Wisdom and Lies.

From 1906 to 1910 Wardrop served as Consul to Romania at Bucharest, and in 1914 he was appointed Consul at Bergen, later Consul and then Consul-General for western Norway, remaining at Bergen.

In July 1919 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon offered Wardrop the post of the first British Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Tbilisi. The government of independent Georgia and its president Noe Zhordania welcomed Sir Oliver's return to Georgia. Wardrop, a capable diplomat tried to promote Georgian culture and gather all the support from the west for the newly formed republic under the threat of Russian Bolshevik aggression. However, in February 1921 Soviet Russia's Red Army invaded Georgia, putting an end to the short-lived democratic republic. In England, Wardrop organised the set-up of the Georgian Society and the Georgian Committee in London. In 1930, along with W.E.D. Allen, he formed the Georgian Historical Society, which published a journal Georgica. His sister Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909) translated the 12th-century Georgian epic by Shota Rustaveli, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin in English.

Wardrop also catalogued the Georgian manuscripts at the British Museum and continued to enlarge the Wardrop Collection of Georgian books and manuscripts at the Bodleian Library.

In 1909 he established the Marjory Wardrop Fund at Oxford University after his sister's death. Through it, Wardrop encreased his collection, which today consists of 1,454 items, including 215 periodicals and 73 series; also, 74 MSS in the category of texts and collections of Georgian literature. In 2003 the Oxford University Georgian Society was founded with the help of the legacy left by Sir John Oliver Wardrop and his sister Marjory.

A statue of Oliver and Marjory, by Jumber Jikia, was unveiled on 18 October 2015, during the Tbilisoba festival on Oliver Wardrop Square, which was opened during the Tbilisoba 2014.  A room in the National Library in Tbilisi city also bears their names.