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CAUCASIAN CULTURE

 The indigenous Georgians have lived on the slopes of the Main Caucasus Ridge, the boundary between Europe and Asia, at the crossroads of the ancient trade route called the Silk Road from time immemorial.

Modern Georgia borders the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. Georgia is a country with one of the worlds oldest civilizations with historical and cultural roots dating back to ancient times.
The country has an abundance of natural recreation resources. Although in terms of territory Georgia is a small country  it is distinguished by a diverse landscape and fabulously beautiful nature.
Thanks to its geopolitical position Georgia has always been the bridge between the West and the East. The Apollonian and Dionysian forces counteract and inter flow here as the West and the East, as rational and irrational, intellectual and sensual. Who are the Georgians? Are they the Europeans or the Asians? The Georgians have always aspired to be European, however, the essence of Georgian culture is oriented to the East. Yet, Georgian culture has arisen under both of these influences, maintaining its Caucasian originality. 

 It was here, where the remains of the first primitive Eurasians – Homo erectus, dating back 1.8 million years, were discovered. The aboriginal inhabitants of the Caucasus are considered to be the founders of an agricultural culture and it is in Georgia where the hotbeds of approximately 18 types of wheat and other cereals have been found. Throughout the ancient world the Georgians were famous as skilful smiths and metallurgists. It has been proved that they traded bronze, copper, iron and gold items with the Sumerians, Hittites, Egyptians and other already extinct civilizations… The Greeks call iron “khalibus” which is the name of one of the Georgian tribes – Khalibebi. The first goldfield in the world dating back to 6,000 years was found to the south of Tbilisi, in the immediate locality of Dmanisi, where copper and gold are mined to the present day.

 The concept of the centaur in the Greek mythology was inspired in the Caucasus , where Greeks saw men riding horses first time.

 Georgia adopted Christianity as an official religon in the 4th century and this religion is  deep-rooted in Georgia even today, but in the mountains we meet the coexistence of Christianity and paganism. Ancient ritual of baptism still performed in Khevsureti Georgian polyphonic songs have preserved fragments of ancient hymns, glorifications and chants in which the names of gods of the Sumerians and Akkadians, epithets and invocatory prayers are mentioned. As is known, they were also the gods of Proto-Georgians, such as Arale, Armaz, Kviria, Lale, Nanina, Lile… The ancient epics, such as the narratives concerning Gilgamesh-Prometheus-Amiran, dev-kerpebi (“demons”, “evil spirits”), giant human beings, Kopala – the liberator from demons, the Narts, etc. have been handed down to us through orally transmitted Caucasian legends. The entire territory of Georgia, especially its upland regions is abundant in ethnographical material still alive in ancient rituals, festivals and ceremonial arts (Khatoba), such as Atenghenoga, Lasharoba, Gomitsroba, Tetri Giorgoba, the cult of the Tree of Wishes and many others. A great deal of historical secrets are hidden under a veil of mystery in the snow-capped mountains of the Caucasus. Many of them will probably be revealed in the future. Such are the petroglyphs which have been discovered in abundance in Tusheti, Khevsureti and other highland regions of Georgia and enveloped in an obscurity of mysticism. The indecipherable petroglyphs found on the stronghold towers located in one of the abandoned villages of Khevsureti – Kistani, are exact copies of the ideograms inscribed on the walls of ancient Gordion, in the territory of present-day Turkey. The Caucasian symbols inscribed on the stones also have much in common with the Etruscan petroglyphs as well as with the ones found in the Basque Country of Spain and in Mycenae.

Over the course of history many powerful empires—Arab, Mongol, Persian, Ottoman—sent armies rampaging through Georgia, the frontier between Europe and Asia. But the home of the Svans, a sliver of land hidden among the gorges of the Caucasus, remained unconquered until the Russians exerted control in the mid-19th century. Svaneti’s isolation has shaped its identity—and its historical value. In times of danger, lowland Georgians sent icons, jewels, and manuscripts to the mountain churches and towers for safekeeping, turning Svaneti into a repository of early Georgian culture. The Svans took their protective role seriously; an icon thief could be banished from a village or, worse, cursed by a deity.

In their mountain fastness the people of Svaneti have managed to preserve an even older culture: their own. By the first century B.C. the Svans, thought by some to be descendants of Sumerian slaves, had a reputation as fierce warriors, documented in the writings of the Greek geographer Strabo. (Noting that the Svans used sheepskins to sift for gold in the rivers, Strabo also fueled speculation that Svaneti might have been the source of the golden fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts.) By the time Christianity arrived, around the sixth century, Svan culture ran deep—with its own language, its own densely textured music, and complex codes of chivalry, revenge, and communal justice.

If the only remnants of this ancient society were the couple of hundred stone towers that rise over Svan villages, that would be impressive enough. But these fortresses, built mostly from the 9th century into the 13th, are not emblems of a lost civilization; they’re the most visible signs of a culture that has endured almost miraculously through the ages. The Svans who still live in Upper Svaneti—home to some of the highest and most isolated villages in the Caucasus—hold fast to their traditions of singing, mourning, celebrating, and fiercely defending family honor. Svaneti is a living ethnographic museum, nowhere else can you find a place that carries on the customs and rituals of the European Middle Ages.”

Image by Jacques Kleisterlee

Tusheti