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Chuck In Oregon

Order of Queen Tamar

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It looks like I missed all the fun last summer, in the thread "The World's Most BIZARRE Award-- A New Chapter!" at http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=1032&st=0 . I thought I'd share what little I know.

First off, here is the only book I am aware of devoted to Georgian phaleristics. It is in Georgian, Russian and English, a total of 96 pages including the front and back inside pages. The author admits that this is a little-studied field. As you can see, both the front and back covers are adorned with likenesses of the Order of Queen Tamar.

I was stunned to find that several members here own examples, and even a 1st Class at that. Let me tell you how hard it is to find an authentic example of this order.

Until the spring of 2004, Georgia's so-called Adjaran Autonomous Republic -- on the Black Sea bordering Turkey -- was ruled by the iron hand of Aslan Abashidze. Aslan abdicated under extreme pressure shortly after the success of the Rose Revolution.

Aslan had it all in Adjara -- money, power and influence in nearly unlimited degrees. For all practical purposes, he was an untouchable head of state within a sovereign state. He could do and have almost anything he wanted. Almost anything, but he couldn't find an Order of Queen Tamar, First Class.

Aslan claimed that his grandfather had earned that Order of Queen Tamar. Contrary to what some have written, quite a few native Georgians, especially -- but not necessarily limited to -- those in Muslim regions and/or close to the Turkish and Azeri borders, were members of the Georgian Legion. That would include Adjara and Aslan's grandfather, according to him. He set out on an unsuccessful quest to find an original order. What he wound up doing was commissioning a private maker to craft a duplicate for him. There simply weren't any available.

Now, to my utter astonishment, I find one here. Assuming its bona fides, which I am pleased to do in the absense of any other information, that First Class is rare beyond my ability to describe rare.

More to follow.

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Most of what is believed about Tamar is based on rumors that flowed for centuries out of the Caucasus. Remember, this was a forbidding and scary place back in the day. Still is, in some ways. These stories -- the most common were about seducing unwary travelers, then killing them the next morning -- were the equivalent of whistling past the graveyard. The Caucasus region was terra incognita for centuries and this was as good a reason as any not to go there.

These horror stories were immortalized in Lermontov's brief poem about her:

В той башне, высокой и тесной

Царица Тамара жила

Прекрасна, как ангел небесный

Как демон, коварна и зла

In that tower, high and narrow

Tsaritsa Tamara lives

Lovely, like a heavenly angel

Like a demon, treacherous and evil

Well, poets don't always get it right.

Here is my Order of Queen Tamar. It is a Third Class and I never thought I'd see another one, in any class. This one was sold at auction in Europe 2-3 years ago for 2,000 euros plus premium. I paid significantly less than that for it or I wouldn't own it today. Times are tough in Georgia.

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Tamar is universally adored in Georgia. As an historical figure, she ranks along with King David "The Builder" and only slightly below St. Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia. As an aside, did you know that Georgia is the second-oldest Christian nation? Some Georgian say the oldest, but Armenia probably has a stronger claim to that.

Tamar was succeeded by two ne'er-do-well sons who allowed the nation to fall into ruin and domination. I have one or two odd-shaped period coins with her name on them and a couple with her sons' names.

She is routinely referred to by the honorific "King Tamar", rather than as Queen. That was the highest honor that Georgians could grant a woman, to call her a man. Hmmm. I don't think I'll try that at my house any time soon. I have been in dozens and dozens of discussions about her, and I never, not one single time, ever heard a single disparaging remark about her. I later stumbled onto Lermontov's poem, then later still I began to hear of the horror stories about her.

Here are the two pages in the book in English that are devoted to Georgian awards. Yes, I'd say there is room for more study here.

OK, your turn.

Chuck

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I'll plunk this in here since things got a bit silly in the "New chapter" thread linked above. This is part of other places other times earlier chapters, to which that thread alluded as a continuation.

The ONLY Saint/Queen Tamara awards that were ever actually issued on the soil of Georgia were preliminary award documents issued by the units stranded in Poti at the collapse and came home the OTHER way, by sea:

[attachmentid=17859]

Sergeant Michael Forster (1892-1966) of the 2nd Machine Gun Company, 1st Bavarian Reserve J?ger Battalion aka 15th J?ger Regiment had his signed there by Battalion/Regiment commander Major Martin Scheuring and Soldatenrat member Keilhofer. (This as the only "non-Red" Soldier's Council on the Eastern Front, as will assume significance later.

Adding to the strangeness, Sergeant Forster received his Iron Cross 2nd Class by personal decree of Bavarian war hero, trans-Suez raider, double Max Joseph and Pour le Merite recipient and the man who would stop Adolf Hitler's 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, later General der Artillerie Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein (1870-1948)

[attachmentid=17862]

aboard the repatriation steamer "Minna Horn" as she passed the White Cliffs of Dover (and say THAT about any other Iron Crosses ever awarded!) on April Fool's Day 1919.

But wait! There's MORE weirdness attached to the Thrilling Tale Of Tamara!

Arriving in the Bavarian city of W?rzburg by train on 9 April 1919, the Georgian campaigners found that city in the armed hands of truculent Spartacists-- whom they promptly ejected with personal sidearms only, restoring the city to "blue-white" governance.

And on 9 April 1934, 15 years later, the town fathers gratefully bestowed upon participants of that day's events the very last unofficial "Freikorps" (for a day, mind) award ever made, this silver-gilt rarity:

[attachmentid=17863]

The Tamara document above was read to me over the phone by my mother (those of you who do NOT have mothers who read Sutterlin are at a distinct collecting disadvantage!) while I was away at college in 1977, sparking what turned out to be my undergraduate honors thesis. It had been sold for $8 as "unknown document to same recipient" with the $10 EK2 document by a Famous :rolleyes: American Militaria Dealer (who either could not read German or could not believe what he WAS reading). The W?rzburg pin came as an "unknown" object for similar price from a Well :rolleyes: Known American Militaria Auction House, back in the 1980s. There has not been another one on public sale for over 25 years-- price guides show this as "*." Oh yes, obscure and arcane knowledge is a Very Good Thing! Of such strange chance fortunes are tales written and remember-ed.

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Be careful Chuck.......... we usually have to sedate Mr. research after one of these Tamara discussions!

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Relatively speaking! :ninja:

I have noted, to my dismay, recent lead-footed, bottomless-pocketed Russian "interest" in Tamaras-- three 1919 final award certificates documented Bavarian junior NCO groups were sold on German eBay in the last calendar year (as opposed to none anywhere the previous 28 years, arrrgggh), of which only the partial group I managed to get (I was the original bidder on individual items-- twasn't ME that SPLIT the group, parts were ripped from it away from me! :angry::angry::angry: ) in the other thread escaped totally insane "trophy" bidding--

that is ironic, since what is generally available are the German-made, 1919 awarded TO Germans stars. Certainly an odd Caucasian footnote of history, but nothing to do with NON-German recipients.

I have seen ONE "Legion" star and award document come up for sale in the last 35 years, and even THAT was to a German advisor, sold by Jack Sweetman in Florida, end of the 1970s, early 1980s. He xeroxed the award document for me, which accordingly is sadly black and white rather than multicolored. Where that star and document went I have no clue-- it has certainly never surfaced again. And I have been watching and waiting.

I have never seen another Poti on-Georgian-soil preliminary award document, though the late Dr. Klietmann knew of them and had seen at least one. :rolleyes::ninja:

So I am rather amused that the political strongman's fantasies should turn to 1919 K?st marketing ploys (there were NO "classes," the variations simply presented that way as snob sales techniques since every GERMAN recipient had to BUY his own star, after receiving the GERMAN printed final award certificates). The 1917 Legion type was shellacked in the Georgian national colors black and red-- not the 1919-GERMAN-manufacturer's-"1st class"-fantasy blue enamel!

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Hi Chuck, you have not truly lived until you've seen the 9 day "bated breath of anticipation".... followed by the 12 day tantrum, followed by the 9 day sulk when he loses out on one of these......

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I didn't know I was stepping into a phaleristic minefield with this thread. I don't mean to offend. It's just that I was so surprised to see any mention at all of this award. You can tell how new I am.

As to whether there were multiple classes, I have no independent knowledge. However, I do know from personal conversations that the most advanced collectors in Georgia and Azerbaijan think there were, as does the author of that pamphlet. I defer to better minds.

I do know, from an inside source, that Aslan had a fancy version made in memory of his father in the belief that there was a first class version. He must not have had access to that thesis. As for the example I own, a Georgian collector bought it at auction in Europe a few years ago. He believed, and passed along to me, that it was made in Georgia.

I have one question. Where and how are WW II examples that are attributed to the re-constituted Georgian Legion accounted for?

I, too, will seek sanctuary in sedation.

Chuck

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Hi Chuck, no apologies needed and no offense taken anywhere, I am sure! RR is just an extremely avid afficiando of this award! I've seen two of these stars in the last 3 months made in german silver with enameled blue centers!

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Chuck: the "Bible" on Tamara typologies is Dr. Kurt-Gerhard Klietmann's 1964 Ordenskunde pamphlet Nr. 23, "Das 'Abzeichen' und der 'Orden der K?nigin Thamar' in Georgien 1916 und 1918."

He dealt with all varieties, including some oddballs apparently privately made for dubiously legal paperwork only presentations by the Georgian emigr? government in France in the 1920s (I've got a xerox from the owner of one of those dubiously "legal" documents too. I am nothing if not thorough with these! :cheeky: ), and cites chapter and verse of all authorizations for them.

The Menshevik government of Georgia never manufactured or issued anything relating to the Tamaras.

The original Legion badges were unit distinctives created by the outfit's German officers. Although Klietmann showed an Azerbaijani NCO wearing one in uniform taken for propaganda purposes (I have a very old xerox of the pamphlet not an original copy of it) it is probably safe to say that not every member of the little merry Muslim band got one.

The Order version was never intended for or awarded TO Georgians. It was NOT a decoration of the 1919-21 Republic, but given solely for German action against the Turks in the last half of 1918.

Authorization decree #5352 of 13 December 1918 was issued in Tiflis by Georgian War Minister Mdivani and states in toto:

"F?r die Verdienste in Georgien wird hiermit den Offizieren und Mannschaften der deutschen Truppen in Kaukasus die nach dem 4. November 1918 in Georgien verblieben sind, das Recht zugesprochen, den Orden der Heiligen Tamara zu tragen."

Klietmann apparently saw the original in the German Foreign Office files from the German Delegation to the Caucasus papers, before WW2.

As the sole "official" statement, it should be noted that it was called the Order of Saint Tamara. Nobody ever seems to have figured out the Saint/Queen thing, even at that time. There was an additional tweaking which allowed Germans wounded in action in and repatriated sick from Georgia who had been evacuated before 4 November to also qualify, as cited in the Bavarian J?ger Regiment 15 WW1 history.

Again, per Klietmann in 1964:

"Da die Georgische Regierung nicht in der Lage (und wohl auch willens) war, die Auszeichnungen im Lande herstellen zu Lassen, wurde allen Beliehenen nur eine vorl?ufige Verleihungsbescheiningung {{which is what I show above, from Michael Forster}} ausgeh?ndigt, w?hrend die Dekorationen selbst von den einzelnen in Deutschland privat k?uflich erworben werden m??te."

The OTHER half of the German recipients, who made it home overland via the Ukrainian civil war, didn't even get the "Poti" certificate, since their commander was not with their party and they were in combat until they made it home in the summer of 1919. THAT half of the recipients received formal printed award documents (again, I've got xeroxes from owners 25+ years ago and blurry eBay scans from this year) which the "W?rzburg" veterans appear not to have received, discharged before then. The formal documents show a nice graphic of the Tamara star and cite the 13.12.18 authorization.

Here is the German group splitting seller's crappy scan of the "final" award document as presented to "my" Oberj?ger from the other thread, and sniped from me by a last second ONE EURO increase bid. Notice that the BERY junior NCO splurged and bought himself a so-called "1st class"--

[attachmentid=17903]

YOUR all gray "3rd class" star as well as mine, and my "2nd class" star were made in Berlin in 1919 by Meybauer, as below.

Legion stars were made by the Paul K?st company of Berlin. Godet also made various versions and whatever "fakes" there are of this star are apparently of that origin. I've never seen a fake, though Werlich in the 1970s seemed to dismiss all Tamara stars out of hand-- not enough specilized knowledge. :beer:

But the best known types were those marketed by Paul Meybauer of Berlin, who hit upon the clever ploy of offering different versions (much as the privately made examples of the WW1 Turkish War Medal star were bought in degrees of "de luxe" by fashionable veterans).

The so-called (as Klietmann reinforces) "classes" were OFFERED as "1st Class" with blue enamel for "officers," "2nd class" with a gilt central disk for "NCOs" and the plain all gray "3rd Class" for mere privates and losers too cheap to upgrade--or so he hoped. There never were any classes in the sole official decree. One of this year's very junior Bavarian NCO groups had- you guessed it-- a "1st Class" Meybauer star.

So no information to the contrary coming out of post-Soviet Georgia concerning these is accurate. Though certainly obscure, they are extremely well documented in all regards and have been since inter-governmental War to Foreign Ministries squabbling over whether or not it was "legal" to wear them, from 1919 on. Obscurity aplenty, but no mystery! :cheers:

Here at left of the senior Georgian behind the hearse is the Delegation's General Staff officer, Hauptmann iG Jen? von Egan-Krieger (later a Luftwaffe Generalleutnant and still wearing his Tamara ribbon bar in WW2) at the 8 August 1918 funeral in Tiflis for Oberj?ger Alois Hitzler, who died of wounds in the skirmish at the Chram River Bridge. Thanks to the JrR15 regimental history and my awards detection, I could also identify for the Archive the Delegation's diplomatic representative, later 1941 German Ambassador to Moscow and executed 20 Juy 1944 plotter Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg at center, wearing his "Legion" version Tamara star.

[attachmentid=17902]

This photo kindly supplied to me in 1982 with many others by the Bavarian Kriegsarchiv from their Positiv-Bildsammlung, and used with their permission: photo number IV Otfront 607 oben.

It would have been passing awareness of such "Legion" related stars that prompted the 13 December 1918 on-paper one-off mass entitlement decree.

There was never any WW2 revival of this badge for WW2, and confused accounts of any such from Georgia these days are incorrect rumor.

Anyone facing a sleepless night can only encourage me to even more on my single favorite collecting subject! :rolleyes: Sadly non-commercially viable, but if anybody living KNOWS this award, c'est moi! :lol:

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Apparently more Russian made fakes appear out of Israel via eBxay!!    RR would have been thrilled!!!  

s-l1600.jpg

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Edited by 922F
splcheck

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