More Old Photographs of the Mikeladze Sisters – posted by Alexander Bainbridge on his fabulous blog
These photographs here courtesy of the Mikeladze sisters, who generously brought out several African carrier bags of old photographs and let me pick out these (and other) pictures to copy them at my leisure during my latest stay in Zemo Alvani (27-30 August). All of the photographs are numbered on the back, and many of them are labelled, as they were destined to be exhibited in a small museum in Zemo Alvani dedicated to Batsbi history and culture, which – alas! – never saw the light of day for lack of funding. The Author was also shown several old examples of traditional Batsbi carpets and some undatable funerary urns, all duly photographed, the photographs being destined to appear on this website very soon.
This photograph was taken as a record of the Batsbi/Tsova-Tush men who fought on the Russian side against the Ottoman Turks during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8. Note that many of the Batsbi fighters are still wearing chain-mail! (See also this photograph of two warriors.)
Historically, Batsbi men who left Tsovata to fight – against the Persians down in Kakheti, for example – each left a white stone on a mountain pass close to the source of the Alazani River. (The Batsbis in Tsovata could muster around 500 fighting men, approximately a third of the total population.) When they returned from the war, each man removed a stone; thanks to this system, rapid tallies could be made of how many men left, and of how many returned.