Tuesday, January 29, 2008




For a general introduction to the Bats people, their history, culture, and language, please click here. I have also reproduced (in full) a lengthy article on the Bats written by Prof. Roland Topchishvili from the University of Tbilisi, which can be read here.

For photographs - old and new - this page would be an excellent place to start. There are many other photographs on this website: More historic images, and some recent photographs taken in Tsovata, others taken by my friend Pridoni Beroshvili.
To see a composite, annotated satellite image of the Tsovatatistsqali Valley, the ancestral homeland of the Bats people, please click here.
To read about a festival called "Zezwaoba-Dalaoba", which involves a dramatic horse race, please visit this page, and for more information on Bats/Vainakh/Caucasian horses and horsemanship, please click here.
I have also translated a very interesting chapter about the traditional "doghi" funerary horse races, i.e. a horse race like that held to mark the anniversary of the death of Zezwa Prindauli (see Zezwaoba), which you can read here. More information on animal symbolism in funeral ceremonies and monuments can be found on these two pages - one is dedicated to a pair of horse-shaped tombstones still standing in situ south-west of Tbilisi in Georgia, and the other to a pair of eastern Anatolian ram-shaped tombstones held by the archaeological museum in Diyarbakir.

For information on Caucasian languages:
1. A Table outlining the 37 Caucasian languages and their corresponding 123 dialects
2. Their numbers (of speakers) and geographical distribution
3. Their phylogenies (i.e. their "family trees"): South Caucasian ("Kartvelian"), (North-)West Caucasian ("Abkhaz-Adyghe"), and (North-)East Caucasian ("Nakho-Daghestanian")
4. A Table showing some linguistic isoglosses among Caucasian Languages
Robert Chenciner (of Eastern Caucasological fame) kindly asked me to publish his notes on the feast of Wastyrdjy, or the Feast of St. George as celebrated in North Ossetia. His blow-by-blow (or, rather, toast-by-toast!) account of the feasting and religious rituals makes for a fascinating read!
Mr Chenciner has also sent me a digital copy of a book on the Andi people of Daghestan, published in Makhachkala in 2002. I plan to slowly edit and publish several extracts from this book here on my blog. The first installment is a copy of the Adat (laws) of the Andi, as well as a text concerned with the levying of tribute by the Andi upon a neighbouring village.
I have also published a short post and links to various works of Prof. Shorena Kurtsikidze and Prof. Vakhtang Chikovani, who are both experts in the ethnography of the Caucasus - particularly of Khevsuerti-Pshavi and the surrounding area. There is an amazing series of photographs taken by Prof. Chikovani on the website of the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a very interesting pdf article written by both profs on the ethnography of the Pankisi Gorge in northern Georgia.
For information on Caucasian rugs and kilims, please read this post.
For information on how to travel to Georgia without flying(!), please click here. I also have a small post on the abandoned railway project which was to link Georgia and Chechnya. It seems that quite a few people end up on this blog when searching for ways of travelling between Turkey and Georgia, so I have written down a few recommendations on how to go from Trabzon to Batumi and Tbilisi.
I have also translated (from the French!) some Vainakh i.e. Chechen and/or Ingush etc. legends, such as:
1. The Hordune-Din ("The Sea Stallion")
2. The Seven Sons of the Snow-storm (an Ingush [Nart] Prometheus)
3. The Star of the Winds (or how it came to be that winds blow in the mountains)
4. Pharmat, "The Blacksmith of the Country" (another Promethean legend)
5. A list of Vainakh divinities.
I have also just compiled a small bibliography of works relating to the Caucasus, which can be found here.
The Deutsches Museum in Munich has a scale model (1:10) of an Ossetian brewery, built according to descriptions of the famous traveller and caucasologist Adolf Dirr, which I have copied here.
Et specialement pour vous les Francais, j'ai mis en ligne la traduction francaise du "stumar-maspindzeli" ("L'Hote et l'Invite") et du "gvelis tchamieli" ("Le Mangeur de serpent") de Vazha Pshavela, traduit par Gaston Bouatchidze.
For Google Earth fans, I have uploaded downloadable ".kmz" files to my blog showing all the villages of Khevi (a.k.a Kazbegi), Pshavi, and Khevsureti (including Arkhoti), as well as a highly-detailed Soviet military map of Pshavi.
I have also copied and compiled some very interesting demographic figures on the population of Khevsureti which I found in Sergi Makalatia's Khevsureti (Komunistis Stamba, Tbilisi: 1935).
I uploaded a song in Bats/Tsova-Tush to YouTube which I filmed in Zemo Alvani.
Kevin Tuite from the University of Montreal let me copy his interview with
Pilipe Baghiauri - tav-khevisberi (chief priest) of the Pshav commune of Gogolaurta in Georgia.
Dr. Mamardashvili from the National Museum in Tbilisi kindly gave me (low-resolution, alas!) copies of the Museum's ethnographic maps of Tusheti, Qvara-Tianeti, and Piraketa- and Pirikita-Khevsureti.
Prof. George Hewitt from SOAS let me reproduce his article entitled The Russian Academy and the Caucasus in the XVIIIth Century, which contains some very interesting information on the first academics to study the Caucasus and its peoples in detail.
Prof. Tuite also passed on to me a catalogue of the collection of Mirian Khutsishvili's ethnographic films, which he filmed all over Georgia. The catalogue comprises Prof. Tuite's descriptions of all the films. Mirian Khutsishvili - who started filming in the 1950s - still works for the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, and is a remarkable man!
I have also copied the sections relevant to the Caucasus of the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
I also created a post entitled "Through Foreign Eyes - The Bats/Tsova and the Tush in Ethnographical Literature", where I copy all the references to them I have come across in the many books I have read.
Please bear in mind that you can return to this Index page (and indeed to any other particular entry) by using the "menu" on the right-hand side!
And feel free to contact me at --alexjtb--at--gmail--dot--com--! Any comments or suggestions would be VERY MUCH APPRECIATED! If you leave comments on this blog without logging into Blogger, please make sure to include your email address, as I will not be able to reply if it is hidden.

Cette page EN FRANCAIS - "Chauves-souris" se refere forcement au peuple Bats...
Diese Seite AUF DEUTSCH Die "Fledermaeuse" sind selbstverstaendlich das Batsische Volk...
Ver esta página EN ESPANOL Con "murciélago" se refiero obviamente al pueblo de los Bats y no al murciélago...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dadaloba 2008

Sheltering from the Sun in Indurta during Dadaloba
The annual "dadaloba" festival of the Bats people will take place in Tsovata in late July/early August. (The word comes from the Nakh "dal", "god", with the added Kartvelian "-oba" suffix meaning "the day of".) Drinking and toasts will start early in the morning - "as usual", cynics will say - and two horse races will be held around midday, before all join in a long and memorable feast! (Please see this previous post for photographs of last year's festival.)
Last year, about a hundred people showed up, most of them Tchaghma-Tush and other Georgians from the lowlands. One small group of men arrived on foot from a side valley; I was told that they had walked all the way from distant Alvani, a three day journey up the Pankisi Gorge and past Alaznis Tavi i.e. the source of the Tushetis Alazani river. (This route is the old road to Tusheti, which was used before the new, motorable road was built from Pshaveli in the early 1960s.) All were dressed in normal clothes and city shoes, and one of them carried a little bread in a plastic bag... They must have been as tough as old boots!
The feast was held on the valley floor itself, between two parallel lines of stones, which have probably been lying there for that purpose for centuries, and consisted of mutton cooked in several different ways (boiled, boiled then fried, etc.), and some vegetables brought up from the lowlands, along with a little bread and endless jerrycans of wine. Needless to say, one does not attend this festival for these culinary delights... Best to wait for the following day, when fresh "khinkali" dumplings (akin to large ravioli) are prepared en masse.
The Supra (feast) to mark Dadaloba, with the Men's Khati (church) in the Background
The Author's route will surely be the same as that followed last year, viz. First travel to Zemo-Alvani from Tbilisi, and the following day join others in a "Tush Taxi" i.e. a sturdy 4x4 driven by a grinning madman, to fight our way up the appalling road over the Abanos Pass (c.3,000m) all the way to Djvarboseli via Omalo and the Tushetis Alazani valley. Having spent an extremely comfortable night in the Djvarboseli guesthouse, one must walk the remaining few kilometres to Tsovata, which takes about a day.
Tusheti as seen from the Abanos Pass

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Thanks to "Google Translate", the entire blog (or individual posts) can be translated!

Pour voir ce site en Francais, cliquez ici!

Um diesen Blog auf Deutsch zu sehen, bitte klicken Sie hier!

Ver esta página en español.


Monday, January 14, 2008

The Gods of the Vainakh


The following is a list of Vainakh divinities - from "Amaga-erda", the protector of lakes, to the "Votshabi", the spirits which watch over herds of aurochs. This list was copied from Mariel Tsaroieva's amazing Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes ("Ancient Beliefs of the Ingush and the Chechens", published in 2005), which I found in a remainders bookshop in Brussels today. Ms Tsaroieva is of Ingush origin, and holds a PhD in History of Religion from the prestigious Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales in Paris. A former teacher of romance linguistics at the state universities of Chechnya-Ingushetia and Kyrgyzstan, she has published many articles and books on folklore and "geolinguistics", both in Russian and in French.

The list reads as follows:

The Gods of the World

"diala" – the god-father

"tusholi" – the goddess-mother

"kurkhars" or "tshugul" – the hairstyle of Ingush women

"tq’a" – the god of the universe

"nana latta" – mother earth

"h’al-erda" – the sky-god

"mago-erda" – the god of magic and of wisdom and knowledge

"eshtar" – the god of the afterlife

The Astral Divinities

"malkha" – the sun-god

"but’ " – the moon-god

The Gods of Nature

"seli" – the god of (thunder-)storms and lightning

"dardza-nana" – the goddess of snowstorms

"mikha-nana" – the goddess of the winds

"khi-nana" – the goddess of rivers and springs

"amaga-erda" – the protector of lakes

"hagar-erda" or "hirga-erda" – the aurochs-god or the rock-god

"amgali-erda" and "saniba-erda" – the tribal gods

"kherkh-erda" – the god of fruit-trees (also protector of great trees, with the "naj-gantskhoi", the spirits which protect "naj", "oak trees")

The Gods of Various Domains of Rural Life

"elta" – the god of hunting

"votshabi" – the spirits which protect herds of aurochs

The “Masters of the Woods” and their daughters or sisters, the "almas"

"tamij-erda" – the god of stock-breeding

"mat-tseli" – the god of agriculture and of justice and equality

"matir-diala" or "matar-diala" – the god of haymaking

"mats-khali" – the god of renewal (of crops)

"boalam-diala" – the god of plants (vegetation) and of travellers

The Gods of Social Life

"susan-diala" – the protector of women and of maternity (i.e. the protector of mothers)

"agoi" – the protector of girls

"orkhus" or "orkhush" – the god of fecundity and procreation

"dika-seli" – the god of goodness and kindness

"arda" – the god of boundaries (or of boundary-markers?) and of clan possessions

The Gods of Work and Handicrafts

"sela-sata" – the protector of handicrafts and know-how

"p’harmat" – the blacksmith-god

"malar-erda" – the god of intoxicating drinks (i.e. the god of alcohol)

"moloz" – the god of war

The Gods of Disease

"una-nana" – the goddess of contagious diseases

"higiz" or "hegiz" – the goddess of smallpox

Some Forgotten Gods of Antiquity

"ami" and "h’ur-ami" or "fur-ami" – perhaps the god of good tidings and the goddesses of the winds, respectively

"baini-seli" – the god of agriculture, perhaps, now replaced by "mat-tseli"; apparently related to the Georgian Mokhevi (i.e. the inhabitants of the Khevi, the valley of the Terek between the Djvari Pass and the Daryal Gorge)

"falkhan" – probably related to Mago-erda, the god of wisdom and knowledge

"suvsa"probably the ancient goddess-mother

"sampai-tsuge" or "siampai-tsuoge" – probably the ancient god of trees or of forests; sometimes worshipped as the rain-god

"mizir" - ?

"miq’al" - ?

"ralo" - ?


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Robert Bleichsteiner

Prof. Robert Bleichsteiner was a noted ethnographer and anthropologist, whose fields of research and expertise were the Orient and the Caucasus.
He was the Director of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna, but his career had rather extraordinary beginnings, during the First World War: Bleichsteiner twice visited a prisoner-of-war camp (Kriegsgefangenlager Eger, in northern Bohemia), where he collected many myths, legends, songs, expressions, riddles, etc. among the Russian prisoners of war, particularly among those from the Caucasus. (This research was published as Gesänge Russischer Kriegsgefangener - the third volume deals exclusively with the Caucasus.)
Bleichsteiner wrote many articles and books - on Georgia, Tibet, Caucasian languages, etc. - but surely his most unusual and amazing contribution to learning was the incredible Roßweihe und Pferderennen im Totenkult der kaukasischen Völker ("The Consecration and Racing of Horses in the Funerary Cults of the Peoples of the Caucasus"), which appeared in the fourth volume of the Wiener Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik ("Viennese Contributions to Cultural History and Linguistics"), published in Vienna in 1936.
The saddled horse in the background awaits the soul of its deceased master to take him to Paradise.
For more information on equestrian funerary cults and the roles played by horses during funerals, please go to these two previous posts: "A Batsbi Poem and Some Notes on Horses and Horsemanship" and "The Batsbi way of Death".