Khevsur - Orientation

Identification and Location. The Khevsur are one of the ethnic subdivisions of the Georgian people. They dwell in a mountainous region in northeastern Georgia. Their territory lies on both sides of the main range of the Caucasus, which serves as a natural border dividing Khevsureti (the name of the province) into northern and southern halves. This province is now part of the Dusheti region. The Khevsur have as neighbors the Christian Tushetians and Pshavs (both Georgian groups) and the Moslem Kistis (related to the Chechens). Because of their secluded location, the Khevsur have preserved many ancient customs and traditions that distinguish their culture from those of neighboring Georgian communities.

Demography. At present the population of Khevsureti is a mere 800, compared to 5,000 in the previous century. There are many reasons for this decrease. In recent decades there has been migration from rural areas to the large cities as people search for an improved standard of living. Even today many Khevsur villages lack electricity and good access roads. In addition, under Stalin's regime, many people were deported from Khevsureti to increase the urban labor force.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Khevsur speak a dialect of Georgian, the most widely spoken of the South Caucasian (Kartvelian) languages. Not surprisingly, given the remoteness of the province, the local dialect resembles medieval Georgian in several respects. Certain speech sounds and morphological and syntactical features are retained in Khevsurian that have been absent from the literary language for many centuries.

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