Historical monuments and toponyms on the territory of Shida Kartli
30/06/2010 14:38
Vasil Kvirikashvili
Experts' Club

Some Ossetian historians argue that Ossetians have been living in Shida Kartli region i.e. on the territory of former South Ossetian Autonomous District from time immemorial. If so, their culture must have left at least some trace on this land. But there is nothing there. All that was found on the territory of so-called South Ossetia as a result of archaeological excavations by art historians under the ground or over land and studied by them is only Georgian.

People began to settle on the interested area since the Paleolithic era. People accommodations in this era were found in the villages of Lashebalta, Nagutni, Pichijini, Dzagina, Digva (formerly Znauri district), Dampaleti, Kverneti, Tamarasheni (Tskhinvali district), Morgo, Tsru (Java district) and so on. Paleolithic caves in Tsoni and Kudaro belong to the same era.

Neolithic monuments were found on the Jurmugi Mountain in the village of Pichijini, Nagutni, Tsnelisi, Rustavi and others. Monuments of the Eneolithic era were found on Natsargori hills (near Tskhinvali). Here were also found pottery, mortars for stone grains and other. Monuments dated the third millennium of the Bronze BC were found in the villages of Dzagina, Nuli, Gupta, etc.

In the first half of the second millennium BC in the Shida Kartli region, in particular, on the territory of former autonomous district appeared places of metal processing. In the Middle Bronze Age, along with metallurgy, agriculture on plains and livestock breeding (sheep breeding) into mountains developed. In the beginning of the Late Bronze Age several cultural centers were identified on the territory of Georgia, which were closely related to each other, but at the same time characterized by certain original features.

The discovered archaeological complexes confirm close relationship of Shida Kartli region with western Georgia and North Caucasus. At the end of the second millennium BC and the beginning of the first millennium there have been some development of iron. Starting from the VII century BC production of iron objects has a mass character. Iron implements (VII-XVI BC) found in Ozhori burial place belong to this area. "Akhalgori treasure" (burial of Saguramo) and Kanchaeti burials (VI-IV BC) reflect the stage of transition to a higher level.

The monuments of antiquity were discovered in the villages Sokhta, Ursdzuari, Rocki, Dirgina, Jria, Stirfazi, Patkneti, Arkneti, Ozhora, Monasteri, etc.

A study of monuments of architecture of the mentioned territory in terms of art history began in 1935 and it was started by Chubinashvili expedition, conducted in Ksani gorge.

After the declaration of Christianity as a state religion of Kartli Kingdom in the IV century many churches were built there, notably Nikozi basilica erected by Vakhtang Gorgasali in the V century. Religious building was especially intense in the VIII-IX centuries. Such monuments of ancient Georgian architecture as Armazi (of Ksani (864), Tsirkoli (IV century), Kabeni of Kanchaeti (X-XIII), Tigva (1152), Ikorta (1172), Khopa church and refectory (XIII) ,Tiri Monastery (XIV), complex of Dzagini palace (VII), etc belong to this period. Many significant examples of Georgian monumental paintings and relief sculptures also survived.

Attention of researchers was grabbed by church in the village Kusireti (near Tskhinvali) and a church-semi-cave in the village of Bieti in the gorge Mejuda.

Castles in Tsiroli and Grua built in the VIII-IX centuries for protection of Aragvi and Ksani valleys, apparently, were so strong, that their possession has always caused conflict among nobles.

From the late IX century until the beginning of the XI century rulers of one part of Shida Kartli region were members of the Tbeli family. Lands of the Tbeli family were important because there passed a road leading to North Caucasus. This road was reinforced by fortresses and towers - Achabeti, Kekhvi and other fortresses. Similar ones were built in Vanati, Atsriskhevi, Bikari. Churches and monasteries also had walls which, if necessary, were usually turned into fortified posts.

Indicatives of intensive scale of construction of this period are the following monuments: church of St George in Eredvi, so-called monk's church, St. Saba of Kheiti, Dodoti Tkhrakara, church of Tbeti Bortsviskhevi, small-domed church of Nikozi, etc.

In the thirties of the XX century it was started and unfortunately, with consent of Georgian authorities of the time continued substitution of Georgian names with Ossetian ones in Tskhinvali region - in so-called South Ossetia. Generally, Ossetians either translated Georgian names or changed them phonetically in a way that a reader unfamiliar with the matter would believe Ossetian people to be their creators. Some Georgian toponyms used to be pronounced in the Ossetian population in Ossetian way and some of them were called names in their language. Despite that even today there are not many transformed toponyms and names of non-Georgian settlements are often Georgian. We can mention Tsinubani, Mamulaani, Tsikhissopeli, Monasteri, Mskhlebi, Nadarbazevi and others.

First of all formation and development of toponyms, depend on state of population and their diversity of vocabulary. Geographical names are a reflection of character of a country, lifestyle and history of people. From ancient times people give a relevant name to every place and handed over from generation to generation. A geographical name always shows a concrete content. But sometimes we meet some names meaning of which are already lost. Thai is caused by gradual change of the name or by influence of a foreign language. Practically there is no meaningless name. The thing is that while giving geographical names people used words that were frequently used in their language. But with times some of them disappeared, some of them are no longer used in speech and got transferred into passive vocabulary of the language. Some words altogether dropped out of live language vocabulary but geographical names preserved them as a witness of the historical process of the language.

Change of toponyms mainly took place in northern part of Shida Kartli. Population migration in southern areas did not change Georgian toponyms but even there are traces of Ossetian vocabulary. Georgian toponyms dominate in middle and lower parts of the rivers of Big and Small Liakhvi, Mejuda, Ksani and Lekhura. At that due to certain characteristics of Ossetian language forms of many Georgian names were changed. For example, K was transformed into Ch (Kvirkiri – Kvichiri), O turned into U (Roka – Ruki), Zh into S (Zhba – Sba) and so on. All names that were changed were changed in this manner.

It is notable that there are no great changes in hydronyms and oikonyms. Changes are mainly present in micro-toponyms in places populated tensely by Ossetians. Relative stability of toponyms is caused by the fact that Ossetian population gradually assimilated into native population. Because of such gradual assimilation it had not had enough time for change of names. Complete change of names happened in those places where Ossetian population settled in destroyed villages and uninhibited areas. Despite this vocabulary of such toponyms is scant and it is very easy to explain their etymological meaning. Migration processes of Ossetians give us explanation about changeability of toponyms and their spread. Names of Ossetian origin are mainly of household character. Most of the toponyms are one-root names. Often besides these names are used Georgian equivalents. This is noted in upper parts of Ksani and Frones. Significant part of old Georgian geographical names, due to certain ways in which they were pronounced by Ossetians, are considered to be names of Ossetian origin. Examples of this are: Brut-Sadzeli and Bur-Samjeli, Gagini and Bagiata, Dudeti and Dodoti, Zekari and Zikara, Magran-Dvaleti and Mglandori and so on. Almost all names that have not been changed appear in this form. Unfortunately, some of them are officially established. And those names that were given to places by Ossetian population are of the very recent past. At that some Ossetian names are marked on topographical maps along with Georgian names. It is confirmed even on the places that Georgian names are firmly established in population.

Georgian toponyms were especially attacked after completely unfounded and artificial formation of so-called South Ossetian Autonomous District (April 1922) when one part of Ossetians thought Samachablo and territory of Saeristavo of Ksani to be their historical homeland. The first and most important for this purpose to be done was to erase historical Georgian toponyms and establish officially Ossetian and Ossetian-sound toponyms instead of them. Naturally they failed to take into account that old Georgian toponyms of this territory were depicted in ancient and later historical sources.

In the thirties of the XX century Ossetians set an aim to change 411 out of 986 Georgian toponyms with Ossetian ones. It appears that the ones to be changed were: Gorgasheni into Daldagkaud, Nagomevi into Tijiti, Pichvnari into Kuldim, Sarbieli into Zanga, Tsikhissopeli into Khubiati, Vashlovani into Patkujin, Tsinagari into Amazarin, Kedigora into Ualbil, Mskhlebi into Ualaz, Orchosani into Zilakhar, Lomisi into Khuasar, Metekhi into Tsagat, Monasteri into Dongaron, Kemerti into Chemert, Kverneti into Kubpie, Kekhvi into Chekha, Didmukha into Stirtulz and so on. Thus with one flick of a hand they wanted to destroy the entire history and give artificially-created names to them.

The Znauri district and its center -Znauri was earlier called the Okoni district and Okoni respectively. In 1931 a village of Tkisubani of the mentioned district was named Znaur-Kau and later the entire district and its centre was called Znauri. Usually Communists used to name some districts after certain persons (although neither this was justified), but in this case the entire district and its center was given a name of a person's name while one of the villages of upper Kartli (in Borjomi district) was named after surname of this person.

Who was Znaur Aidarov? He was born in North Ossetia and had two-grade education. After demobilization from military service he came to Tbilisi where he started to work in one of smithies. He was an initiator of formation of "revolutionary committee of Ossetians of Tbilisi" that accelerated formation of Ossetian Bolshevik organization in Georgia. In January 1918 Ossetian Bolshevik Organization "Chermen" emerged in Tbilisi. In 1919 Aidarov conducted meetings in villages of Gujareti gorge. He called on people to start fight against Georgian government. At that he took part in many raids on Georgian villages of Karti.

On November 7th 1919 armed group of Ossetians lead by Aidarov occupied the village of Khtsisi, overthrew local government and declared Soviet authority. Many documents exist that confirms that Znaur Aidarov was one of the leaders of those who fought against the Georgian government. And this was a person whose name was given to indigenous Georgian land.

A name of Isak Kharebov was given to a village of Giorgitsminda of the same district. At the same time many Georgian toponyms were renamed into Ossetian ones. West of Kornisi is Rustavi. There are several "Rustavis" in Georgia. This name is related to "Ru" - which in Georgian means stream. And south-west of Rustavi there is Tsunari. The village was built on fallow slope. And that was because Georgian landowners were specially choosing infertile land for Ossetian refugee-settlers. Tsunari in Ossetian means sparse bushes. This historical village lost its name on January 1920 when it was renamed, and absolutely unjustifiably, into Khetagurovo. This old village is situated on the plains of Shida Kartli at the banks of river Tiliani. Tili or mtili means garden, orchard in old Georgian.

Also name of ancient Georgian city Tskhinvali was changed into Stalinir in the thirties of the XX century. Stalinir means Stalin's Ossetia (Ir means Ossetia). On November 24th 1961 the city was given back its real name Tskhinvali.

As we know "don" is Ossetian word and means water. They say that from here comes name of the river Don. Also there are names of rivers in the historical homeland of Ossetians such as Gizeldon, Fiagdon, Ardon. Names of Rivers Dnepr and Dniester also are considered to derive from Ossetian. Fantasy of some scientists goes even further and they consider "London" to be Ossetian word. It's their business. Don, Ardon, Fiagdon, London... Let them think that every name in the world that ends with "don" is Ossetian. It does not concern us. All the more that there in no Don, Ardon or Gizeldon in Georgia. And there can be no such thing here as these names are in historical land of Ossetians – North Ossetia.

This once again confirms that historically Ossetians never lived in Georgia.

This article is based on "South Ossetia" in Georgia?! by Avtandil Songulashvili

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