The Batsbi of Georgia

The Google Map shows the Batsbi, or Tsova-Tushebi, a highland people who are thought to have moved into what is today Georgia from Ingushetia, possibly so as to avoid pressure to convert to Islam but equally possibly due to demographic pressures (population expansion and a need for grazing) or natural disaster.

Once in Georgia, initially they settled in the village of Chontio, which is situated within the Pirikiti community. Chontio is where the historic ancestral cemetery of the Batsbi was located.

From Chontio, they founded the Tsova community: the eight villages in the Tsova Gorge, shown with blue pins on the Google Map. From the early 1830s, following catastrophic flooding and an epidemic of disease (possibly plague), the Batsbi began abandoning their Tsova villages. Only four of the eight villages survived into the C20th: Etelta, Indurta (the largest), Sagirta and Tsaro. This movement followed the pattern of transhumance, initially with the the summer pasturing settlement at Tbatana, and then with the wintertime pasturing quarters in the (relative) lowland areas, increasingly being used as permanent places of abode. Ultimately, this culminated in the inhabitants of the four longest-surviving Tsova Gorge villages named above moving en masse to Zemo Alvani and settling in their own discrete neighbourhoods with their own places of worship. The Tsova Gorge settlements are all now in ruins.



For more information on the Batsbi and other peoples of the Caucasus, we recommend AJT Bainbridge’s excellent Batsav website.