Archive for July, 2009

Kvirikoba in Khaishi


Kvirikuba in Khaishi, near Marneuli: the grilled heart and liver of a sacrificed sheep were presented in a short ceremony to St. Kvirike (Foto: E. Kamm)

Always on the 28th of July the Svan celebrate “kvirikoba”. This festivity generally takes place in the little village of Kala, near Ushguli in the Svan Highlands. Kvirikoba is the most important festival for the Svans. Even president Saakashivili was today in Kala, as people told me. I do not grasp in the moment all the complex background of the ritual. On the one hand it refers to the martyr of Kvirike, the son of Ivlita, who both were tortured to death to abjure their faith. On the other hand it is set in relation to Kviria, a pre-Christian pagan deity, protector of soil, man and animals.

In the last week we were in Khaishi, near Marneuli (see below). We were invited to join “kvirikoba” in their village, which took place today for the first time around the recently built little church. We (together with our field assistants Tatia Khutsishvili and Sandro Shandidze) were warmly welcomed by the around thirty men of the village. The villagers said, that the best would be, if they would stay in Kala for the festivity. But, unfortunately, there are not able to go and that would necessitate a ceremony in lowland Khaishi. They sacrificed a sheep and presented its grilled heart and liver in a short ceremony to St. Kvirike. In front of the church was held a banquet (supra) and we were able to have some interesting conversations.


Read Full Post »

In the last days we discussed if Tetri Tskaro might be a suitable place for our research. We agreed, that we should try, at least in this year, to start our research from there. The little town is in the middle of a region with numerous interesting villages, like for example Khaishi, where Svans live and extra-court conflict mediation appears to be important. In Tetri Tskaro, the prices for accommodation seem to be more reasonable than in Manglisi. But as the Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan-pipeline is passing nearby the living space is rare. Apparently, a lot of workers on the pipeline do work here.

Last Thursday we went again to Tetri Tskaro. The purpose was to organise a place to stay for August and September. The apartment that we were able to visit with the help of colleagues of the local historical Museum was unfortunately in very miserable conditions. Compared to this a wooden hut in the forest would have been a wellness park. We will have to come back again.

Then we went to the above mentioned little village Khaishi. Svans from the highlands were forced to migrate in the 1980s after major landslides in their home region. Do they still rely on their traditional law, which is still prominent in the highland? Or do they create some kind of new local legal tradition? A short interview gave us some first insights. Next Tuesday we will be back in this village for a religious festivity.

Read Full Post »

In Kinoti

Last weekend we were in Kinoti, a small village near Zestaponi in the region of Imereti. This is the home of our team member Lavrenti Janiashvili. He proudly showed us his village and his wine-grapes. Our research team is indeed in a very comfortable position: there are propably not many other research teams who also have their own winemaker.

His family piled delicious food on the table and Lavrenti “invited us” to drink his tasty wine (I might rather say “forced” with reference to Georgian tradition). Of course, this getting together is not about drinking. Oh no! It is only about talking. Before each glass a toast is given on the family, friendship etc.

The next day we went to Zestaponi, where we were invited to the family of Lavrenti’s wife. There again it was only about talking … We had a very nice time. While listening to the people talking (occasionally followed by a little glass of wine …) I was thinking of the book of the German anthropologist Florian Mühlfried. He did study the “supra”, how such banquets may be called. I really wonder how he managed to survive his fieldwork.

Read Full Post »

Last Wednesday we made our second trip to Kvemo Kartli, in our possible research region. The purpose of this trips is still to find a suitable place for our research. The little city is a regional center of – accourding to official sources – 25,000 inhabitants. However, the place appears to be much smaller. We talked to a representative of the municipality and to three colleagues of the Historical Museum in the city. They welcomed us warmly and were very engaged in recommending us their city as a base for our research. Our first impressions and first conversations were rather promising. Also the prices for accommodation seem to be much more reasonable in Tetri Tskaro compared to Manglisi (see below “First Contact”).

We made a short stop in the village Asureti, which was formerly called “Elisabethtal”. German lived here until their deportation in the early 1940s. We discovered numerous timbered houses (“Fachwerkhaus”), unfortunately not in the best conditions. We also saw a recently renovated German cemetery.

Lavrenti, Natia, Elke and myself, we plan to come back soon for additional conversations and first interviews in order to finally decide to stay in Tetri Tskaro in August and September.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday we went to Manglisi in the region Kvemo Kartli. The place is a “kurorti” (health resort), especially because of its air. Indeed, in comparision to Tbilisi the air was brilliant. But that is probably the case for all places outside of the capital. Our goal was to look around and to have some first ideas if that place may be an interesting research site for our project. Conversations with locals gave us the impression, that topics like extra court conflict resolution or informal administrative structures may well be found here. Others, in a neighbouring village, tould us exactly the opposite. We do not want to overemphasize the rather superficial insights we got. But by collecting more and more of this pieces of informations we might get a clearer picture. Therefore out next trip will lead to Tetri Skaro (Kvemo Kartli) and its surroundings next week.

One argument against Manglisi comes mainly from a practical point: As we want to stay for around 2 months this year and 8 months in 2010  we have to rent a flat somewhere. The prices in Manglisi are unbelievable: They want to have around 1400 Lari (approx. 600 EUR) for a rather rustical place. Even Tbilisi appears to be cheap. There must be a gold mine somewhere in Manglisi.

Read Full Post »


Swans in bronze with two German anthropologists in the ethnographic open air museum in Tbilisi (Photo: L. Janiashvili)

We did arrive on July, 5 in Tbilisi. Our hosts, Natia and Lavrenti, brought us to our appartment in Saburtalo (part of Tbilisi), where we will stay. One of our main objects is now improving our language skills and preparing some field trips in the regions of Kvemo Kartli and possibly Kakheti. The first weeks of our stay is also for contacting different Georgian researchers. Tomorrow we will drive to Manglisi and Tetri Skaro, then later to other places in Kvemo Kartli. Our plan is only staying one months in the capital and then doing first steps in the field in August and September.

Read Full Post »