Mike Guilfoyle, a member of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, finds a Ladywell connection to a Scottish-Georgian professor who had a class theory of language.
As readers will be aware I am always on the search for unusual historical links to the area and recently lighted on an historical connction that went all the way to Joseph Stalin who led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953.
Nikolai Yakovlevich Marr was born in 1864 in Kutaisi , Georgia (Russian Empire) and was a linguist, archaeologist, and ethnographer specialising in the languages of the Caucasus.
A Professor at St Petersburg University from 1902 he was a prolific collector of old Georgian and Armenian literature who propounded a theory that languages themselves were the products of the underlying socio-economic structure and were therefore class-related.
Marr’s theory lent itself to Marxist interpretation. It became the “official” linguistic approach until 1950, when having once been his favourite linguist Stalin denounced it.
He died in 1934, Leningrad [St. Petersburg]) having been awarded the Order of Lenin in the year of his death.
When he died in December 1934, schools closed for a day and the authorities proposed renaming after Marr two towns, Zinovievsk (Zinoviev had just been disgraced) and Mirgorod (a Ukrainian town celebrated by Gogol.)
But Sergei Kirov, assassinated weeks earlier, took precedence: Zinovievsk became Kirovograd.
Marr’s request to be buried in the grounds of Tbilisi university was spurned (he had opposed a university specifically for Georgia) – his grave is in Leningrad. A fuller biographical outline can be found here –http://www.virtualani.org/marr/index.htm
Not all sources however offer favourable accounts of his achievements of.
‘”A prodigiously learned Scottish Georgian charlatan who invented a class theory of language and for a time persuaded Stalin of it’s validity'”- From Donald Rayfield in his chilling book ‘ Stalin And His Hangmen’ –Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him, by Donald Rayfield
So where does Ladywell feature in this story ?
James came into his inheritance at 21 and married Facunda Villa Nueva who had come to Kent from Rioja (Spain) She died in 1860. Nicolai was born of his second marriage to Aghati Maghularia d.1900.
His father James Montague Marr (1793-1874) was baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church , Ladywell in 1793 as the family settled in Lewisham.
His grandfather Patrick William Marr (1753-1806) owned and ran a school, Lewisham House, where instruction was in French and bequeathed Lewisham House to his eldest son to educate the younger sons in.
By 1821 James was working for J.Atwood (one of many English shipping agents who set up shop in Odessa).
Interestingly, James Montague Marr did meet with Anne Lister, English diarist, famous for revelations for which she was dubbed ‘the first modern lesbian’, who died in Georgia in 1840. (She is buried in Halifax). Her story was recently featured in the 2019 BBC series ‘Gentleman Jack.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uBYRcP44M4
James Montague Marr died in 1874. Ivane, his elder son, claimed in court that Niko, being illegitimate, should not inherit their father’s property.
The claim was partly rejected, but James’s possessions, especially the house and books, were taken by Ivane’s family. Aghati and her son ended up in a smoky hovel with no ceiling or floor.
See link to fuller account of his life –Nikolai Marr – a talk by Donald Rayfield 17 February – British Georgian Society