Khevsur - History and Cultural Relations

In fifteenth-century sources, Khevsureti, together with certain of its neighboring mountain provinces, was referred to as Pkhovi (which may derive from a Georgian root meaning "brave, valiant"). The word "Khevsur" itself comes from Georgian qev-/khev- (gorge, ravine); the Khevsur are therefore "dwellers in ravines." Little is known about the origins of this ethnic group, and there is no reliable historical documentation concerning their original territory or the factors that induced them to migrate into such a harsh region of Georgia. The Khevsur themselves tell the following legend about their ancestor, Gudaneli. Gudaneli originally dwelt in Kakheti, a lowland province to the southeast of Khevsureti. He fled from his feudal overlord and took refuge among the Pshavs, where he found the wherewithal to settle and establish a family. His three children, Araba, Gogona, and Ch'inch'ara, cleared new land for settlement, which came to be the territory of the Khevsur. This legend may in fact be an indication that the first Khevsur fled or were driven into the mountains. The oldest family names are Gogojuri, Ch'inch'arauli, and Arabuli; other clans arrived at a later date. The chief village of Khevsureti is Gudani; other important villages are Ardot'i, Arkhot'i, Blo, Mutso, and Shat'ili (the last of these is noted for its striking architecture, the stone houses and towers built stepwise on the mountain slope). All of these places are at an elevation of 2,000 meters or more above sea level, and the winters last up to half the year. Many villages have been abandoned and left to ruin.

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