Dartlo Tusheti 1

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Story of Tusheti

Being geographically isolated and distant from the centers and events, history of Tusheti and Tushetian people before the late medieval period is scarce in chronicles. However, bronze item found in Tusheti and dated back to XXI-XXII centuries give and evidence that men had lived in Tusheti since ancient times.

Located in the heart of high mountains of Caucasus, Tusheti was inaccessible for foreign enemies as well as for Georgian feudals and it lived a life of its own. Tushetian people had cattle and raised crops. Often they would attack neighboring tribes to seize their property and cattle and so did the other tribes from Chechnya and Dagestan and Tushetian had to fight back to protect their own property. Severe natural conditions and frequent fights with neighbors made Tushetians into skillful warriors.

King of Kakheti Levan II (1520-1574) gifted Tushetians Aloni valley (now, Alvani) as a winter pasture. Since that time, life of Tusheti people became closely linked to their neighboring region – Kakheti. Every time Kakheti was in need, Tushetians and other ethnic groups from mountainous parts of Georgia were there to help.

You don’t need to be well versed in the history in order to say that Tusheti had suffered constant attacks from northern neighbors. You can easily guess this by having a simple look at traditional Tushetian villages all surrounded by fortresses. Omalo and Tsovata fortress was attacked many times but never defeated. Such fortresses were built by the whole village, since each family separately couldn’t afford to build a castle of its own and not having a protection and shelter was equal to death. Traditional Tushetian house was fortress-type and it served not only as a living and household space, but also provided protection when enemy attacked. Nowadays you can find typical medieval settlement remnants in Pirikita, Tsova and Chagma communities.

Architecture in Tusheti is very unique and distinguished: Houses and fortresses built from shale with roofed balconies are different from architecture of neighboring Khevsureti and Dagestan by their roofing. Constructions in Tusheti have a pitched roof made out of float slates and any visitor notices this difference from the first sight.

In the end of XIX century architecture in Tusheti started to be dominated by urban houses with open balconies. In Pirikita and Chontio communities you can often see non-typical to Tusheti fortress with cemented, pyramid-shaped roof. Those fortresses have experienced many battles as any other fortress in Tusheti.

Religious buildings are inseparable part of Tusheti villages. They represent a very distinct interconnection of Christianity and pagan religions of the past.

In early 30’ies of XX centuries Tushetian started to migrate in Kakheti. New settlers formed two large villages – Zemo Alvani and Kvemo Alvani. In early 50’ies of XX century soviet government started forceful migration of people from mountainous regions of the country to the valley. Many villages in Tusheti remain abandoned from that time on and only few villages in Chagma community are still populated: Omalo, Shenako and Diklo.

Most of the time Tushetians spend in Kakheti since roads are closed and there is no communication. They return to Tusheti during summer-time. Every Tushetian feels obliged to visit his/her village at least once a year and attend religious celebrations during summer.

Sheppard pasture sheep from Shiraki Valley to Tusheti. They milk sheep there and produce famous Tushetian “Guda” cheese. In summer, Tusheti is very lively, full of people and a lot of sheep. However, in winter only few men remain there and abandoned villages are silent and covered with a blanket of snow.

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