Diplomacy | KHEVSURETI

Diplomacy

It is no secret that the relationship between the Khevsuris and Northern Caucasian tribes was accompanied with conflict situations, which emerged occasionally as the northern neighbours used to attack and rob mountain-dwelling Georgians. Sometimes the feud between them lasted for years. It was in such cases, when decisive and conscious actions of clever and prudent men were required. A “delegation” of several people, so-called kats-shuakatsi, took the responsibility upon themselves and went to the enemy’s country or somewhere else in the marginal area to conduct negotiations. The highlanders were known for their respect towards guests, no matter – their friend or foe. Sometimes, the negotiations lasted several days and, not infrequently, ended in the reconciliation of the parties. “Once a young Khevsur, arrogant and self-confident, sets out to Kisteti (the land of the Kists – the name of the modern group of Chechen Georgians, actually referred to as the Ingush) to take vengeance on his enemy. He goes up a steep hill, passes deep gorges and at last reaches the aul (“settlement”, “village” in the North Caucasus and Central Asia) of the enemy. Here it is! The habitation of the Khevsur’s deadly enemy is before his eyes… But, what is it?! The whole village has gathered in Khiziri’s yard, going up and down, shouting… A scene of utter confusion! All of a sudden, somebody starts playing the accordion and peerless sounds of the Kist dance a melody fills the air around… Khiziri is celebrating his younger sister’s wedding… At that moment Khiziri storms into the circle of the dancers at lightning speed and on tiptoes, with his hands spread like wings, follows the dancing slim girl, overlooking her with an eagle eye. “Hai, hai… Marjah!” Words of hearty cheer are heard. The mepele (“killer”) takes aim at Khiziri. He just has to trigger the rifle and everything will change in a moment…But the young man lingers and in the meantime Khiziri keeps on dancing rapturously… Some more seconds… and the Khevsur lowers his rifle and turns abruptly to his homeland. The whole village comes to meet him. People ask him to tell them everything.And he tells them…
– Why haven’t you killed him? – ask him the young and old alike, burning with anger.
– If I had killed him, who would have danced that magnificent Kisturi?
– says the young man sharply in reply.”
In Khevsureti, legal issues were decided and settled according to the local faith and justice. A council of authorized men, known as matsodari (“cognizant”, “competent”), considered all disputable, saardarao, issues and delivered appropriate judgments within their competence. They were guided by an unwritten code of law. Anyone, who violated the established legal regulations or ignored moral norms, was punished…One of the ancient customs was vendetta, the blood feud. In any case was it understood by Khevsuris as a permission for a murder. There are also examples of nobleness and magnanimity displayed by the Khevsur to their deadly enemies: “The Khevsurs abandoned him […] for the simple reason that by killing him our far-famed kin of the Jalabauris would have ceased existence…»

“Khevsur, by nature, never puts up with cowardice, not at any price, but at the same time, acknowledges a person’s dignity, self-esteem and always tries to side with a defeated, abased, insulted one, even if the latter is supposed to be his deadly enemy.”
Giorgi Tedoradze

Alexi Chincharauli writes about this subject the following way:
“A certain Gamikhardi from the village of Amgha once dropped a hint addressed to Mikheil, a native of Tsinkhadu: – “You’d better have the shroud in your bosom”.
This was a figurative message on declaring hostility (“mtrobis bareba”), which meant: “Be ready and always have arms on you!”
As regards the deadly feud, it should be noted that the law of blood revenge practised in the mountainous region, is interpreted incorrectly and is reflected, so to say, unfairly, both in fiction and scientific literature. This is probably motivated by the fact that this adat (“habit”, “tradition”) is exotic and striking. This adat actually contributed to decrease in the death rate, made people control their behavior and language, cultivated reasonable caution while using arms, because he who gave severe wounds, was considered coward and clumsy. Therefore, however paradoxical it may seem to the reader, the adat of blood revenge at the same time played a positive role in society.”

“When one sees the Khevsurs, bearing the scars on their face and on their body, always under arms and ready for battle, one may think that they are bloodthirsty. But that’s not right. Quite to the contrary. Nobody, not a single nation or tribe fears shedding blood as the Khevsurs do. “Coward” is a stigma attached to a killer in Khevsureti. It is their firm belief that a real hero always manages to avoid killing his rival, and the wound should be a scratch only, even in a fierce clash. That’s an obvious token of the Khevsurs’ bravery and gallantry.”
Grigol Robakidze*

* Gr. Robakidze – a well-known Georgian classical writer of the 20th century