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Friday, November 11, 2011

Eristavi (Eristov, Eristoff) - Noble Family of Georgia

Eristavi (Eristov, Eristoff) is one of the best known representatives of a duke Georgian family descended from two ancient Georgian clans of Eristavi: Eristavi of Aragvi and Eristavi of Ksani.
In 1560, the Georgian king Simon-I split the country among his two descendants into two counties: younger brother got Ksani area where the Princes Eristavi of Ksani are comming from and Aragvi area got senior brother, Jason, founding head of Eristavi of Aragvi clan. Jason's grandson, Nugzar, started a line of Princes Eristavi of Aragvi.
Eristavi of Aragvi family portrait
Surname Eristavi originates from the title "Eristavi" which in Georgian language means “head of the people”. In the Georgian aristocratic hierarchy the name Eristavi is a title of the third rank of prince and governor of a large province. Holders of the title Eristavi were ex-officio commanders of a military 'banner', wore a distinctive dress, ring, belt and spear and rode a particular breed of horse.

Back to the noble families of Eristavi of Aragvi and Eristavi of Ksani. Both families, and two others that resulted from a later county splits (Eristavi of Racha and Eristavi of Guria) confirmed in their princely ranks under the Russian rule in the 19th century. These four families were often known simply as Princes Eristov in Russia but they did not have the same origin. So, the last name Eristavi (Eristov, Eristoff) should not be confused with the title Eristavi the Georgian aristocratic hierarchy.

Georgian Princes Eristov played significant role in Russian empire politics, history and culture. The most famous Eristovs of the past two centuries are:
  • Eristov (Eristavi-Ksani), Alexander (1873-1955)-Russian and Georgian military commander, Lieutenant-General .
  • Eristov, Nikolay - Russian commander
  • Eristov, Andrew M. - member of the State Council of the Russian Empire .
  • Eristov, George Davidovich - poet and playwright
  • Eristov, David G. - poet and playwright
  • Eristov, Raphael - poet
  • Eristov (Eristov-Ksani), George Evseyevich (1769-1863) - Prince, General of Infantry, senator, member of the Caucasian campaigns.

Nicholas D. Eristov (Eristavi) (1821-1856) - Prince, a Russian general, hero of the Crimean War

It is a very little known fact, but Prince Vladimir Eristov was among the first 39 avia pilots certified in Russian Empire. Prince Vladimir Eristov born in 1968 was a pilot #24 in Russian empire and #324 in the world. His licence was issued for a plane "Anrio" on November 08, 1910 in France. Prince V. Eristov was one of the first 11 pilots selected for the first in history of Russian aviation flight from St.Petersburg to Moscow. Flight was scheduled for July 23rd 1911. Unfortunately on the day of the flight Eristov cancelled his participation as his plane was not ready by that date and didn't arrive to the departure location. Prince Eristov, Lieutenant Grenadier Corps Squadron, in May 1917, was drafted into the Russian white Army - The Black Sea Air Division as a pilot-observer. During the Civil War he served in the White Russian Navy. 

Portrait of Prince Eristoff, 1925 (Tamara De Lempicka)
Soviet occupation of Russia and Georgia forced most members of Erisoff families to leave the motherland. For example, among those refuges was a Georgian family of Sidamon-Eristavi who immigrated to the U.S. following the Soviet invasion of Georgia. Descendant of this family Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff is a Republican Party politician from New York City who currently serves as New Jersey State Treasurer under Governor Chris Christie. Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff's father, Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff is one of the is the founding Chairman of American Friends of Georgia, Inc., formed to provide charitable, educational and humanitarian aid to the people of the Republic of Georgia.  He is also President of the Caucasian Society Allaverdy, Inc. (a non-profit association benefiting refugees from the Caucasus mountain region now settled in the U.S. and their descendants) and a Trustee of the Allaverdy Foundation.
Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff, Esq.
Even being away from the homeland for several generations Eristavi were trying to participate in life of Georgia, support Georgian people and as far as possible to help the country of their ancestors. This is one of the greatest Georgian families that for generations influenced history, culture, social and economic life of whole countries and regions.