05 Ноя 2011

As the song says, it’s a wonderful world. It’s exciting and varied, and includes many nations each with their own culture, traditions and customs which have usually been created and then passed on from generation to generation. The proverbs and sayings of a nation reflect the wisdom and experiences of its people, accumulated through the centuries.

         Abkhazia is an ancient country with a highly developed folk culture, and has naturally produced a large number of memorable expressions arising from this culture. The Abkhazians call their country “Apsny” which means “the land of the heart and soul” and is intended to include a wide range of deep meanings. Each generation has passed on their spirit heritage “Apsuara”, some kind of code of ethics which still influences all aspects of their lives.

            For thousands of years this multinational country has survived numerous wars and other disasters, which have created the situation whereby the majority of ethnic Abkhazians now live outside the country. Nevertheless, they still maintain a very strong connection with their motherland, and this has found its reflection in many of the proverbs in this book. Some fifteen years after the 1992-93 war for independence from Georgia, Abkhazia has at last been recognized by its powerful neighbour Russia, and thus has received the opportunity for its peaceful development.

         Having lived in this country for quite a while, after several years in Moscow, I have had the opportunity to experience rather close contact with different aspects of Abkhazian life. Unless you are a Hollywood star, it is difficult to imagine a wedding reception organized for 800 – 1000 guests. The menu includes traditional mamalyga (a type of corn porridge), adjika (a very hot spice puree made from peppers and garlic), cha-cha (a homemade vodka-type drink) and excellent wine from local grapes – again homemade of course.

         The welcoming hospitality of the local people is one of the first pleasant things I noticed here, but the very first thing was the breathtaking beauty of this country – snow-capped mountains, wooded valleys, countless lakes and rivers, and many kilometers of coastline, with beaches and all that lovely sea. The sub-tropical weather is another big plus, particularly after Moscow! No wonder so many of the country’s proverbs celebrate the wonders of nature here, and mention for example the singing mountains, dancing rivers, and shining sea. The other major subjects are the character and close ties

 of the people themselves, and of course their motherland and all its delights and wonders.

         I moved to this country looking for a place far from the rat race, in which to spend the rest of my life relaxing in a quiet and lazy manner. That’s why the most appealing proverb for me is “Don’t do the job until it starts to scream”, which I heard from my good friend and neighbour Timor.

         I’m grateful that fate has already put me in contact with a number of Abkhazians who have had an influence not only upon my life here, but even upon my way of thinking – my soul, if you like. One of these people is the author of this book, Oleg Shamba. Oleg has acquainted me with a set of charming proverbs which reveal the essence of Abkhazia better than anything I had met before. His research papers on folklore reflect the spirit and grandeur of the Abkhazian people. The indefatigable activity of Oleg Shamba – the “Abkhazian Dal”* - involving the collection, translation and popularisation of national proverbs deserves great respect and honour. I share his belief that Abkhazian proverbs and aphorisms deserve to become the cultural property of the civilized world. I believe that the present edition will promote this purpose.

            I think I was lucky to find the exact place in the world where my soul is now in complete harmony with my body. I hope this book will also help you at this stressful time to achieve a similar state of internal tranquility and well-being, and to perhaps develop a more philosophical attitude towards life. So God bless you, Abkhazia – the country of the heart and soul “Apsny”.


                                               Professor Roger Jesse





* Vladimir Dal (ВладимирДаль) was an outstanding Russian linguist of the 19th century, who created one of the most important and complete Russian explanatory dictionaries.