Author and reporter
translated by Tinatin Bujiashvili
Tusheti, with its snowy peaks, open mountains, unique pine forests and deep rivers, with its old villages and castles, has always attracted visitors. Today a lot of tourists visit the place from Georgia and from abroad, either.
The director of Tusheti Tourism Association “Tusheti guide”, Ia Chvritinidze said that number of foreign tourists was increased significantly. Most of the tourists are Jews and tourists from Post Soviet countries.
This part of the Caucasus is a real heaven for ethnographers and biologists, amateur photographers and adventure seekers, for anyone whom trekking across wild mountains pass is the ideal holiday.
Tusheti reserved was created in 1980. In 2003 new protected areas were created and today they include Tusheti National Reserve (12 607ha), Tusheti National Park (69 515ha) and Tusheti Protected Landscape (31 518ha).
The biggest of the territory is the National Park (the largest National Park in Europe). The borders of Tusheti region and the international boundary between Georgia and Russia are its limits.
Tusheti National Reserve includes the velleys of the Piriqiti Alazani, Gometsari Alazani and Chanchakhovani gorges. It also includes the forests adjacent to the villages Omalo, Diklo, Shenako, Qumelaurtasa and Khiso as well as the forests spread on both sides of the river Alazani from where Gometsari and Piriqita merge up.
Tusheti Proetcted Areas include all the villages in this region. The purpose of the Protected Landscape is to maintain the traditional type of Tusheti villages, while at the same time promoting development of tourism and traditional branches of agriculture without causing environment damage.
Tusheti Proetcted Areas have diverse functions. Observation of living nature, advatures treks, historical-cultural tours, photo tours, amateur fishing, horse riding tours, mountain biking tours can be organized there.
Archaeological materials, found in Tusheti, show that the area has been inhabited since ancient time. Animals figures or symbols, dated Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, are important chronological markers of the history of Tusheti traditional household fields – sheep-breeding and cattle-breeding. Information about Tusheti in Georgian historical source is limited. The kind of information is connected to the declaration Christianity as the state religion in Georgia and also, Phkovs migration to Tusheti.
In VIII century Tusheti is mentioned to be under the control of Georgian kingdom with the Khumdzakhi (North Caucasian tribes) Saeristao in Tsuketi kingdom. It was the time Tushs adopted Christianity. Christian monuments, dated back to IXX century, located in Ingusheti and Daghestani prove the fact. In the XV century king George I ruled the country and instead of Eristavis appointed Governors. A historical source, which speaks about the assignment of the governor in Tusheti is notable. It is the first notification that Tushs are sheep herders and they can use winter pastures in Kakheti. In 1660 Tushs greatly supported the kings of Kartli and Kaheti in the wars at that time with the kingdom of Persia. Zezva Gaprindauli was seen at that time as one of those ‘brave ones’ perhaps the greatest hero of Tusheti. His name is linked with the historical battle of Bakhtrioni. After freeing Bakhtrioni from the Persians in a very bloody battle the elders of the Tushs asked the King for a fertile homeland as a reward. The King agreed, but under one condition – he would grant the elders the homeland up to the point an elder rode his horse nonstop from Bakhtrioni. Zezva rode his horse until it fell down dead. The right of using Alvani medows was legitimated By Kakhetian kings Teimuraz II and Erekle I.