Alexander Rondeli was the founder and president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) from 2001 until his death in 2015. He was a distinguished scholar of international relations, teacher, public figure and a person with vast erudition, kindness and sharp humor who left an enormous impact on the people around him, including his friends, students and colleagues.
Alexander Rondeli was born in Tbilisi on January 7, 1942, raised in the family of well known film director David Rondeli and Nino Amirejibi, descendant of a distinguished family of the Georgian aristocracy. Alexander’s father took the name Rondeli when he started his artistic career, replacing Tsagareishvili.
After graduating from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Tbilisi State University, specializing in the history of Iran, Alexander Rondeli enrolled as a post-graduate student in the newly formed Faculty of Geography. Since then, he engaged in a little-developed field in the Soviet Union, the geography of cities. In the early 70s, he worked as in interpreter in Iran, reflecting his continuing interest. His dissertation was on the formation and development of Middle Eastern, specifically Iranian, cities. Alexander Rondeli summed up his work on geo-urbanism in a monograph, Geography of a City, published in 1990, contributing greatly to the field.
A significant part of Alexander Rondeli’s life was connected with Tbilisi State University, where he started to teach quite early, as a post graduate student. Despite being a young man, he immediately earned immense respect from his students through his open discussions, friendly attitude and a firm and principled approach. Alex was much more than a lecturer; he was a friend that everyone respected, a person who was never tired of sharing his knowledge and passion to a young generation, instilling in them a desire to read books and listen to classical music. One can never forget him talking about Mozart.
His one other passion was football. In his early years, he even wrote the football column in the sports Newspaper Lelo. He developed material about worldwide football by listening to VOA, a bold step in the Soviet Union. That was Alex, full of curiosity and desire to share his knowledge with others.
After Georgia regained independence, opening a department of international relations at Tbilisi State University came onto the agenda. Such a department was established and Alexander Rondeli was appointed as its first chair. He had a difficult task—to create an entirely new academic field in Georgia. For this purpose, he took a year-long program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University in 1993-94. As a result, with the enthusiasm of his colleagues, he laid the foundation for the most prestigious and respected school of international relations in Georgia. His two monographs, International Relations and Small State in the International System, became the textbooks that all students or individuals interested in international relations use in Georgia.
Alexander Rondeli’s open character, humor, honesty, erudition and admirable way of communication were the traits that helped him to establish fruitful cooperation and friendship with colleagues from around the world. He was probably Georgia’s best ambassador. The connections and friendships that he established with universities, research centers, think-tanks and leading individuals have continued to guide the Foundation beyond his passing. Many foreign diplomats, researchers, politicians and journalists visiting Georgia seized the opportunity to meet with Alexander Rondeli to get an objective, honest and impartial assessment of developments here. Visiting scholars were always welcome at the Foundation. Indeed, many of Georgia’s friends saw our country through his eyes—objective, critical, sometimes acerbic assessment, but always full of love and hope for a better future. Alex’s special combination of sarcasm and love—also seen in his father’s famous movie, Lost Paradise—sprang from deep knowledge and love of his country, its countryside, people, history and fate.
In 1997, Alexander Rondeli became director of the Foreign Policy Research and Analysis Center at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. There he also surrounded himself with his students, young, talented people who helped him forge for Georgia the new field of foreign policy analysis. During that time, Alexander Rondeli was given the diplomatic rank of ambassador for his work in this field.
Since 2001, now Ambassador Rondeli became the president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studues, an organization that he had co-founded few years earlier with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. This was one of the first attempts in Georgia to create a think-tank working on evidence-based foreign and security policy analysis. Since then, the Foundation has been striving to introduce good governance practices, educate a young generation of leaders, raise awareness within the country and popularize Georgia abroad. The vast number of our young associates who are now working their way to leadership positions in our country stands as a testament to the work of Alexander Rondeli.
The youth magazine My World, published by the Foundation, remains a modest part of Alexander Rondeli’s legacy. It was his dream for Georgian youth to be connected with books and to have interesting reading material exposing it to the entire world. My World helped realize this dream.
Ambassador Rondeli died on June 12, 2015. We, his colleagues, at the now renamed Rondeli Foundation, are honored to have worked with him. Accordingly, we have taken the responsibility to pursue the path he began to raise a new generation of Georgian leaders who will make Georgia a fully democratic, viable, efficient state that will take its place in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.