The majority of inhabitants of the Pankisi Valley are descendants of ethnic Chechens and Ingush who share the common ethnonym ‘Vainakh’. They are Sunni Muslims and called ‘Kists’ in Georgian. They migrated into the region from the North Caucasus between 1830 and 1870.
The Kist population today is around 15,000 inhabiting villages on the western and eastern sides of the Alazani river. Kists are typically bilingual in Chechen and Georgian but speak Russian too.
The Kists cultivate a traditional small-community rural life which is close-knit and clan orientated. Religious observance and practise plays a significant role in personal, family and community life. Social etiquette and the division between men and women is largely prescribed by moderate Islamic teachings and cultural customs.
Kists are hospitable people who enjoy feasting and toasting like their Georgian countrymen. Many Kists are grape growers and drink wine. There is a trend towards following stricter Islamic injunctions especially amongst young adults, though this is a minority. The majority of inhabitants are open-minded.
Staying with a host family
It is important to remember you will be staying with representatives of a different faith. Kist families providing agro-tourist accommodation wish to make their guests feel at home and relaxed, and in doing so guests are requested to respect the privacy of the family and its customs.
Please note that shoes or trainers are not worn inside Kist homes. Therefore please use the slippers provided and remember to remove your footwear before entering.
Guests are kindly requested not to bring or consume alcohol inside the house or bedrooms. Please respect the wishes of the family.
We feel guests should be made aware of certain standards expected of them while living with the host family and while out in the community. This is to avoid causing embarrassment or offence.
In social life Muslims are expected to show restraint in their conduct and behaviour especially in relation to social interaction between men and women. Kissing or holding hands in public or other intimate behaviour between couples is considered anti-social and should be avoided. This is also applicable to communal areas of your guest house where family members and their relatives are present.
Public drunkenness is to be avoided and guests are advised to drink responsibly at social gatherings.
In family homes guests are expected to dress modestly. Men should not present themselves topless or bare-chested at home or in public regardless of how hot it is. When visiting a Mosque women should wear a scarf and long skirt or long trousers. Men should wear long trousers. The general rules are modesty, cleanliness and restraint.
Nazy's Guest House
Republic of Georgia