Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In the mountains of Svaneti, Georgia

My fellow Tbilisi resident Sue has a great post about observing last month's solar eclipse in Svaneti, a mountainous region of northwest Georgia. None of the Americans who traveled many miles into the mountains remembered to bring a device for watching the eclipse, so they ended up borrowing a brilliantly effective shard of smoky glass from a Svan boy.

She includes this story, told to her by her Georgian friend Misha:

He was working for a polling firm, conducting a survey up in wild Svan territory with a carload of young girls. This was during Shevardnadze's time, before the revolution, and since that time the anarchy has dulled somewhat, or so they say. A local Svan, who happened to also be with the criminal police, suggested to Misha in that gentle mountain way that smacks of a direct order, that he leave the young ladies behind.

"In return for the girls," said Misha, "he offered to us some marijuana and cows. Well, what could I say?"

"How about 'NO'?" I suggested, mentally calculating just how many cows I'd be worth.

"If I said no," Misha reasoned, "they would kill me for sure. They didn't care back then. So I said okay. I said, meet me at the road at the end of the village and I will bring the girls there."

Then Misha and the girls piled into the car and raced out of town. The Svan man and his cronies chased them all the way to Lentekhi, in lower Svaneti, where a local lawyer friend took in the runaways and fended them off from the pursuing suitors.

Svans are the butt of many Georgian jokes, much like Poles and blondes in America. This reputation is not entirely undeserved; the wheel was unknown in Svaneti until Stalin campaigned to promote modern technology in remote regions of the USSR, and in the last 15 years approximately one quarter of the male population of Svaneti was killed by family feuds. In case any Svans ever find this, I do NOT find the following joke at all hilarious:
A Svan man is walking along, and sees a Kakhetian (from eastern Georgia) man fucking a donkey from behind. The Kakhetian is gripping the donkey's ears in either hand and just going to town on this poor donkey. Seeing the Svan, he cries out, "Hey there! You've got to come try this, it's great!" The Svan looks at him, looks at the donkey, shrugs, and says "Okay... but my ears are gonna hurt!"

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Blogger Jonathan Kulick on Wed Apr 19, 06:51:00 PM:
The first joke I ever heard told by a Georgian was "Diary of a Svan":

Monday: I'm bored.
Tuesday: I'm bored.
Wednesday: I'm bored.
Thursday: Niko came from Mestia and killed my brother, Vakhtang.
Friday: I went to Mestia and killed Niko.
Saturday: I'm bored.