(last updated: September 27, 2007)
Khevsureti is a historical settling area in the Northeast of Georgia (map). It is traditionally divided into two parts: Lower Khevsureti on the Southern slope of the Great Caucasus and Upper Khevsureti on the Northern slope of the mountains (along the rivers Assa, Argun, Charokis Tsqali).
Location: Eastern Greater Caucasus, at the north-eastern borders to Ingushetia and Chechenya
Geology: mostly metamorphic shale rocks, some granite rocks (e. g. Tshaukhi massiv)
Conditions: dry-continental climate, colline-nival zones
Destinations: Juta-Roshka Pass (3300m N. N.), Shatili, Mutso, Khone
Plants: due to the continental climate there is no beech (Fagus orientalis) in Khevsuretia. Instead we find other woody species: Quercus iberica (around Shatili and Mutso), the endemit Betula raddeana, B. litwinowii, B. pendula, Sorbus caucasidena, S. hajestana as well as Astracantha denudata, Artemisia fragrans, A. lerchiana. Endemits: Senecio lapsanoides, Tephroseris karjaginii, T.caucasigena, Primula luteola, P. bayernii, Saxifragaruprectiana, Cerastium polymorphum, Angelica tatianae, Heracleum sosnowskyi, H. osseticum, Mandenovia komarovi, Trigonocaryum involucratum, Vavilovia formosa, Jurinea filicifolia, Veronica petraea
Animals: Capra aegagrus, C. caucasica, Brown Bear, Wolf
Lower Khevsureti - ფირაკითელი ხევსურეთი
Barisakho - ბარისახო
Barisakho is a small town at the southern entrance of Lower Khevsureti. Besides a small store there is the beautifully maintained museum of the artist Shota Arabuli. He collects and exhibits all kinds of cultural treasures of his tribe - the Khevsurs. One should not miss the galery and his paintings, either.
further: Juta, Roshka - როშკა, Datvis valley - დათვის ხევი
Upper Khevsureti - ფირიკითელი ხევსურეთი
After WWII most inhabitants of Upper Khevsureti were displaced to the lowland to work in the newly established factories.
Nowadays only few people live in Upper Khevsureti - during the summer they raise cattle, make cheese or grow potatoes.
Near each village there are holy places (Khatis - ხატი), traditionally used to celebrate religious rituals (both pagan and christian). Traditionally, wood-cutting and grazing was forbidden around the khati, with the result, that khatis could and can still be recognized in the landscape from a distance as small forests in a heavily grazed scenery. Here you can see the khati of the small settlement Khone (described below). Horns of the now protected Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica) and Bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus) used to be put on the khati. In his 1878 monograph on the Khevsurs the German explorer and founder of the Caucasus Museum in Tbilisi Gustav Radde reported from his expedition to Khevsureti that the Khevsurs used tu cut up these horns in order to make them (monetarily) worthless because Chechen thieves would else steal them. Inside this here pictured khati there’s also a bell. At the base there are fresh offerings from the Atengenoba ritual held at 25 July, 2007. Offerings include meat from the sacrificed sheep and calf as well as homebrewed beer in small bowls and tshatsha in bottles(Georgian schnapps).
Also, there are dead-houses a little way from each village. In past centuries the moribund used to retreat to these huts to die. Pictured are the dead houses of Mutso (left) and Shatili (right). The latter is also referred to as the Anatori-place. Gustav Radde reported that these dead houses had been build around the 1830s. Even today there are human sceleton-parts to be seen through the windows but it seems that travellers are taking souvenirs.
Kistani - კისტანი
Nowadays it is uninhabited and falling to ruins. Only one family raises cattle nearby in the summer.
Giorgitsminda numbers only a few houses with not more than two families. A hiking-path to Assa valley ascents behind Giorgitsminda into a beautiful high-mountain landscape. Assa valley is believed to be one of the few refuges for the Caucasian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), of which traces were found only a few years ago in this area.
Shatili - შატილი
Shatili is the most famous Khevsuretian aul (mountain village). It was built like a fortress because tribes from neighboring Chechnya and Ingushetia regularly invaded Khevsureti coming across mountain passes or up the river Argun.In the early 19th century (1815?) a large force of about 5000 Chechen and Dagestani warriors stormed Shatili, which was defended by only 50 Khevsurs.
During Soviet times a new village was built nearby (New Shatili) with electrified houses. The pictured old aul was reconstructed in the 1990s - using funds of the UNICEF.
Ardoti - არდოტი
Ardoti is situated on a high rock above the Andaki river. Gottfried Merzbacher took a picture of it in 1892, when this aul still was well populated. Nowadays only one family lives here and most buildings have fallen to ruins. Merzbacher also mentioned the small flour-mills below Ardoti. One of them is still intact in 2007 across the small stream behind Ardoti. The tower at which the German traveller found five cut-off right hands nailed to 115 years ago is nowadays almost gone.
From Ardoti it is possible to cross the mountains westward back to Kistani or Pshawi region via the Khelmok’le valley passing the small settlement Khakhabo. Many trekkers nowadays go eastward from hier to Tusheti across Adzunta pass (3700 m).
Mutso - მუცო
Mutso is a very impressive aul situated in the valley of the Kharoqis Tsqali. Nowadays its houses and towers collapse as no maintainance is undertaken. The people live nearby in more comfortable homes.
Khoneschala - ხონისჭალა
Khoneschala is a small village South of Mutso.In 1892 the German explorer and alpinist Gottfried Merzbacher came through Khoneschala on his ascent to Mt. Tebulo and took a picture of it. I think my picture in 2006 (left) pictures the same spot. What do you think?
Khone - ხონე
Khone is probably the smallest village in Upper Khevsureti. Only a small number of inhabitants live here in the summer growing cattle. In the picture Khone lies in the background at the bottom of the valley. The ruin pictured in the foreground formerly belonged to a Chechen family deported to Kazakhstan in February 1944 together with all other appr. 300.000 Chechens and Ingushs.
The German alpinist and explorer Gottfried Merzbacher and his team climbed this mountain for the first time in 1892.
In many places in Khevsureti - and in Khone, too - one can see relicts of the old days, when the Khevsurs grew barley on fields reaching up well above 2000 m NN. The remnants of these fields can be identified in low sunlight on the now grazed steep mountain slopes as small terrasses (see picture).