Sunday, September 2, 2007

Batsbi Population

From 1803 to 1918, Georgia was a “gubernia”, a “governorship”, of the Russian empire. The Russian administration responsible for the Georgian province of Kakheti (and others, perhaps) carried out several population censuses during this period – in 1831, 1873, and 1886 – censuses which naturally also considered the population of Tusheti and therefore of Tsovata.

The census of 1831 registered 278 Batsbi households, some 1,531 individuals (5.5 per household). According to the census of 1873, the number of Batsbis was slightly higher – some 1,571, a 3% increase. And in 1886, a total of 1,533 Batsbis were registered , representing 337 families (4.5 individuals per family).

It would seem that the census of 1886 was much more comprehensive. In it we can discover that there were 49 villages in Tusheti as a whole, of which four were in Tsovata (and therefore inhabited by Batsbis): Indurta, Sagirta, Tsaro, and Etelta. The remaining 45 villages were inhabited by Georgian-speaking Tush – the so-called Tchaghma, Pirikiti, and Gometsari Tush – whose number was recorded as being 4,174 individuals representing 830 households, an average of 5 per household, and 2.7 times superior in number to the Batsbis.

This data is however complicated by the fact that scientific and ethnographic data accounts for another four Batsbi villages in Tsovata: Nazarta, Nadirta, Mozarta, and Shavtsqala. However, it is believed that these villages were largely abandoned in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their inhabitants moving to the other four village mentioned above. In addition to this, the migration of the Batsbis from Tsovata to the Kakhetian lowlands took place during the first half of the nineteenth century, in the 1830s - The data of the 1908 census is the first to take into account this migration, the increase in numbers reflecting the relatively easier conditions of life in the lowlands.