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Bats people

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Title: Bats people  
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Subject: Nakh peoples, Bats language, Peoples of the Caucasus, Karata people, Botlikh people
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Bats people

The Bats people (Pankisi Gorge.

Language and customs

Part of the community still retains its own [1] Batsbur language is unwritten and the Batsbi have used Georgian as a language of literacy and trade for centuries.

The renowned Georgian ethnographer Sergi Makalatia wrote in his study of Tusheti[2] that "the Tsova-Tush speak their own language, which is related to

Nowadays, all Batsbi speak Georgian (usually with a Tushetian or Kakhetian accent). Only a handful speak Batsbur with any kind of proficiency.

The Batsbi have retained very little of their separate cultural traits, and their customs and traditions now resemble those of other [3]

Debate over ethnic origins

The origins of the Bats are not so clear, and there are various theories.[4] As the Estonian scholar Ants Viires points out in his Red Book, it is actually two separate disputes: the first being whether it was Nakh tribes or Old Georgians that inhabited Tusheti first, the second being from which (or both) the Bats are descended.[4]

Descent from 16th century Ingush migrants

Some scholars, such as Caucasus linguist Johanna Nichols, argue that the Batsbi crossed the Greater Caucasus range from Ingushetia in the seventeenth century and eventually settled in

Descent from the South Caucasian Nakh tribes

Others hold that they are descended from ancient Nakh tribes inhabiting the region.[4] Caucasus historian [7] Jaimoukha notes that according to an 18th-century Georgian historian named Vakhushti, the Kakh considered other confirmed Nakh peoples as their kin.

Another theory is that the Georgian name (Tsova-Tush) may be linked to the Tsov, who were claimed by the Georgian historian Melikishvilli to have been Nakh and ruled over the Erebuni, a region linked by some to Nakh peoples by place names and various historiography.[8][9][10]

Descent from Old Georgian tribes

Ants Viires also notes that there are theories involving the Bats being descended from Old Georgian tribes who adopted a Nakh language.[4] According to this theory, the Batsbi are held to have originated from Georgian pagan tribes who fled the Christianization being implemented by the Georgian monarchy. A couple of these tribes are thought to have adopted a Nakh language as a result of contact with Nakh peoples.

Tsovata and migration to Kakheti

Map of the Tsova Gorge ("Tsovata") in Tusheti
A panorama of Tsovata in the mountainous eastern Georgian region of Tusheti. The photograph was taken during the Bats people's annual summer festival (dadaloba) in 2010. The small square stone building half-way up the hill on the left-hand side of the panorama is the shrine of "k'en [old] sameb [Trinity, from the Georgian sameba]"; the ruined village with two stone towers just right of centre is Indurta, historically the Bats people's main settlement.

The Batsbi's villages in the Ts'ova Gorge (Tsovata) were Ts'aro, Shavts'qala, Nazarta, Nadirta, Mozarta, Indurta, Sagirta and Etelta. Each was inhabited by one or several extended families who believed they shared a common ancestor. In the early nineteenth century, following the destruction of two of their villages by landslides and an outbreak of the Alazani river in western Kakheti.

A significant proportion of the village's women work in Europe and in America, sending money home to the village. Many men still work as shepherds or cowherds, most of them wintering the animals in the Shiraki lowlands (south-eastern Azerbaijan) and then taking them up to summer pastures in Tusheti (a two- to three-week journey).

According to a study written and published by Prof. Roland Topshishvili[11] as part of the University of Frankfurt's ECLING project, the Batsbi only lived in temporary dwellings around Alvani in winter. In the summer, the men and their families would lead their flocks of sheep up to summer pastures around Tbatana and in Tsovata, returning to Alvani in the autumn.

Prof. Joanna Nichols also wrote about the migration of the Batsbi in her article on "The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush":

Batsbi tradition as recorded by Desheriev (1953, 1963) preserves memory of a two-stage descent: first, abandonment of the original highland area in northern Tusheti, settling of villages lower in the mountains, and a period of transhumance plus permanent descents of a few families; then, complete abandonment of the highlands and year-round settlement in the lowlands after a flood destroyed one of the secondary mountain villages in the early nineteenth century. That is, Batsbi lowland outposts were established by a combination of transhumance and individual resettlements, and some time later there was a sizable migration into an established outpost.[12]

Most of the Batsbi currently live in the village of Zemo ("Upper") Alvani in the eastern Georgian province of

Figures from the Russian imperial census of 1873 given in Dr. Gustav Radde's Die Chews'uren und ihr Land — ein monographischer Versuch untersucht im Sommer 1876[14] include the Bats villages in the Ts'ova Gorge (dividing them into the "Indurta" and "Sagirta" communities):

  • Indurta community: 191 households, consisting of 413 men and 396 women, totalling 809 souls
  • Sagirta community: 153 households (Sagirta proper: 79; Ts'aro: 26; Etelta: 48), consisting of 372 men and 345 women, totalling 717 souls

1873 TOTAL: 344 households, consisting of 785 men and 741 women, in all 1,526 souls.

Dr. Radde adds: 'The members of [these two communities] have largely emigrated to the lowlands along the Alazani River, to the east of Akhmeta; they move up in summer to the rich pastures of Tbatana at the southern end of the Massara mountain range (see Itinerary), but still consider Indurta as their property and even leave 2-3 families living there in winter. [The Ts'ova Gorge is situated] By the north-western spring of the Tusheti Alazani River. [...] Together, these two communities made up the Ts'ova community until 1866.'

The decline of the Bats/Tsova-Tush language

Concerning the slow decline of Batsbur as a language, Prof. Topshishvili's writes:

'In the scientific literature, especially in the Soviet Russian ethnographic science great attention was paid to the marriage facts of people of different languages. Russians were greatly interested in russification of the people living in the Russian empire to make them speak Russian. In the Soviet Russian ethnographic literature (I. Bromlei and others) it is emphasized that the problems rise in the languages of small groups when the percentage of their daughter-in-laws of different languages exceeds 15-20%. In this case, the language gradually faces the danger. In such families the children do not speak their fathers’ languages (especially when there do not live grandmother and grandfather in the family). The children start speaking their mothers’ language from the very beginning and speak it afterwards.

'In this view, we got interested in the situation of the Tsova-Tushs at their compact dwelling place in the village Zemo (Upper) Alvani. In the local village board 398 married couples are officially registered. As it turned out, in the last 10-12 years, the considerable part of the married couples, because of different reasons (financial-economic conditions, moving registration center from village to the region center), are not registered officially. It appeared that, from the 398 couples only 226 are Tsova-Tushs. i.e. 226 Tush men’s wives are also Tsova- Tushs. That makes 56-57%. The rest men’s wives are aliens. The most of the latter are the women speaking Tush dialect of Georgian. There are also many women from the different villages of Kakheti region. Several Russian, Kist, Ossethian and Armenian women were also recorded. Thus, the percentage of those women in the Tsova families not speaking the Tsova-Tush language is 43, 22%.

'According to ethnographic data was proved that until the 60-70s of the XX century, the most of the Tsova-Tush (Batsbis) men entered into marriage with Tsova-Tush women. Though, even then were not rare the facts of marrying women speaking Tush dialect of the Georgian language. (Many of them were also studying the Tsova-Tush language. By the way, the Tsova-Tush women married to Georgian-speaking men, often taught their language to their children) But it does not exceed the considerable limit. The above mentioned conjugal relations lasted until the time when the marriage matter was a competence of the parents. Since the parents do not interfere in marriage matters of their children and the young people decide their fate independently, the most Tsova-Tush men often find their partners in other villages. All this reasoned in the dying-out of the Tsova-Tush (Batsb) language. Only 25-30 years ago existing bilingual situation is disappearing and the most part of the population uses Georgian as the usual language. The fact is that, the most Tsova-Tushs (Batsbis) consider this event as quite normal and only some of them are very sorry for that, especially the old people.

'It is also a remarkable fact that in disappearance of the Tsova-Tush (Batsb) language, the role of human factor should be eliminated. The indifference towards the above matter could be explained by their Georgian consciousness. They are the organic part of the Georgian nation and do not differ from other Georgians with their traditions, customs and habits and mentality.'


  1. ^ Johanna Nichols, ibid.
  2. ^ Makalatia, Sergi, Tusheti, Tbilisi: Komunistis Stamba, 1933
  3. ^ Georges Charachidze, Le système religieux de la Géorgie païenne — Analyse structurale d’une civilisation, Paris: François Maspero, 1968 (reprinted by La Découverte, 2001)
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^ NICHOLS, Johanna, "The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush: A Study in Alpine Linguistic and Ethnic Geography", Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2004.
  6. ^ 15 and 20(c) in ALLEN, W.E.D. (Ed.), Russian Embassies to the Georgian Kings – 1589–1605, The Hakluyt Society, Second Series No. CXXXVIII, Cambridge University Press, 1970
  7. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Routledge Curzon: Oxon, 2005. Page 30. "The Kakh(etians), who used to call themselves Kabatsas and their territory Kakh-Batsa, were surrounded by Nakh tribes and were themselves thought to be Tushians of Nakh extraction. The eighteenth-century historian Vakhushti asserted that the Kakh considered the Gligvs, Dzurdzuks and Kist as their ethnic kin."
  8. ^ Джавахишвили И. А. Введение в историю грузинского народа. кн.1, Тбилиси, 1950, page.47-49
  9. ^
  10. ^ Гаджиева В. Г. Сочинение И. Гербера Описание стран и народов между Астраханью и рекою Курой находящихся, М, 1979, page.55.
  11. ^ Topshishvili, Prof. Roland, The Tsova-Tushs (the Batsbs), study published as part of the University of Frankfurt's ECLING project, available online:
  12. ^ Johanna Nichols, "The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush: A Study in Alpine Linguistic and Ethnic Geography", in Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2004
  13. ^ Güldenstädt, Johann Anton. Reisen durch Rußland und im Caucasischen Gebürge. 2 Volumes, Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg: 1787. pp. 376-378 of Volume 1. (An updated, re-edited version of Güldenstädt's Reisen was also published by Julius Klaproth in the "Verlage der Stuhrschen Buchhandlung" in 1834, under the title Dr. J.A. Güldenstädts Beschreibung der kaukasischen Länder — Aus seinen Papieren gänzlich umgearbeitet, verbessert herausgegeben und mit erklärenden Anmerkungen begleitet von Julius Klaproth.)
  14. ^ Radde, Dr. Gustav, Die Chews'uren und ihr Land — ein monographischer Versuch untersucht im Sommer 1876, Cassel: 1878

External links

  • Batsav.Com, a site mainly dedicated to the Tsova-Tush with significant information on other Caucasian peoples.
  • YouTube, a video recording of a song in Batsbur.
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