Roland Topchishvili
Svaneti and Its Inhabitants
(Ethno-historical Studies)

The Georgian people are one of those, who have maintained selfhood among old nations up to date. The Georgian state, which was formed on the verge of IV-III centuries B.C., besides the Georgian population, included non-Georgians as well. At the same time, according to the Georgian historical sources, the non-Georgian population was thought as a part of the Georgian nation. According to the mentioned historical sources, the linguistic moment did not matter. Georgian-speaking Megrels, Svans and Dvals were considered as Georgians. Megrels and Svans consider themselves Georgians even today and in their opinion, they speak old Georgian language. As for Dvalis, it is difficult to say anything about their language today. As scientists suppose (taking into consideration onomastics data), the Dval language was one of the Georgian languages which was placed between Svan and Megrelian and moreover, it had the common with the latter (R. Topchishvili, Issues of Settling Ossethians in Georgia and Ethno-history of Shida (Inner) Kartli, Tbilisi, 1997, pp. 6-72; The same author, Ethno-historical Etudes, Tbilisi, 2005, pp.169-189). Tsova-tushi people have their own spoken language (Batsburi). They think that they are Georgians, too. Mentioned languages used to be only the family spoken languages for centuries and from the sociolinguistic point of view, they are equal to the Georgian language dialects. The state, official, church and literary language was only Georgian in Svaneti as well as in Samegrelo and Dvaleti.

Thus the Georgian nation has always been a union of people speaking several languages. The fact that the language is not the basic determiner of ethnos can be proved by several analogies from the ethnic history of the world people. For example, lower German speech is different from literary German – “plat-Deutch”. Mordovians speak two languages (Erzian and Moksha). It is known that during his visit in Moscow, when Mao-Dze-Dun made his speech at M. Lomonosov University, many of Chinese students listened to the text with the help of an interpreter.

During the whole long history of Georgia, Svaneti has been its historical-geographical and historical-ethnographical part. It had the different status both in the unified Georgian state and West Georgia (first it was the part of Egrisi or Colkheti, then Abkhazia). In comparison to other historical-ethnographical parts of Georgia, as mentioned above, Svaneti has been distinguished by having its own family spoken language (one of the Georgian languages). At the same time, the inhabitants of Svaneti have always considered themselves as the inseparable part of the Georgian ethnos. In this case, language was not a precondition for them to realize themselves as different ethnos. Even today the Svans think that the old Georgian lexical units have been maintained by the Svan language. In this view, the question asked by a six-year-old girl is very remarkable: “What is for water in Svanuri?” And the answer was followed by her: “lits”. In Georgian “litslitsi” of water (a glass full of water) is the same as Svan or old Georgian word “lits”.

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Photo on July 13, 2007 by Dato Rostomashvili


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