The ethnic background of the population of Kakheti province in general and of the Akhmeta district in particular.is very colorful. Its inhabitants are descendants of ethnic Georgians, Jews, Armenians, Vainakhs, Ossets, Daghestanis, Azeris, Greeks, and Russians, among others. Extensive intermarriage and intensive economic and cultural relations influenced the ethnic identity of the regions non-Georgian groups.
Ossets and various Eastern Georgian highlanders (including the Pshavs and Tush) lived alongside the Kists. The others also came to this region from different places at different times. Before migrating to Pankisi, all of them had experience living with other ethnicities.
After the Bakhtrioni rebellion, a sub-group of the Tush, the Tsova Tush, migrated from the mountains. They were the first to settle in the territories across the Alazani River: Pankisi, Bakhtrioni, Lopoti, Kistauri, Dumasturi, Khorbalo, Birkiani, Pichkhovani, Koreti etc. Extensive intermarriage and intensive economic and cultural relations influenced the ethnic identity of the regions non-Georgian groups. Today, the native language of most of the population is Georgian. They have Georgian last names and consider themselves Georgians, in spite of the fact that many are aware of their ancestor’s non-Georgian origin. A minority of the population is bilingual and bicultural, living in mono-ethnic villages of the region. The Kists and Ossets are good examples.
The inhabitants of the southern slopes of Caucasian mountain range were under the direct protection of the Georgian kings. They were free of any taxes. The major duties of these societies were protecting Georgia.s northern borders from invasion and participating in the military operations of the Georgian king. In return they had administrative and religious autonomy.
The population of these regions was never large, not more than 2,300 to 4,500 inhabitants in any one district. Despite their small numbers, these village communities were important northern shields for Georgia throughout its history. The highlanders considered the Georgian king a modzme or .comrade. of local deities. In return for their military service, the Georgian king granted the highlanders land in the lowlands of Kakheti province. In some ways, then, these highland societies, which were organized around local religious sanctuaries, resembled the feudal structures of medieval Europe.
Before the disintegration of the Soviet Union, interethnic relations in this region were quite stable. Later, conflicts in Georgia and the Caucasus influenced the situation of the local population in the Pankisi Gorge and the Akhmeta district as a whole. Relationships between the Ossets and Georgians and between the Kists and Ossets became tense.
The Osset inhabitants were sympathetic to the Chechen refugees fleeing Chechyna during the Russo-Chechen conflicts. They saw them as protecting them against oppression by the Kists. The Ossets felt pressured by the Kists and started leaving their villages in the Pankisi Gorge to resettle in Northern Ossetia. Because they were often unable to sell their properties, they left behind cultivated lands and houses built over many generations. Kists and Chechen refugees settled in these abandoned houses. In this manner, the Osset villages of Dumasturi, Kvemo Khalatsani, and Tsinubani were vacated from 1998 to 2002.
Nazy's Guest House
Republic of Georgia