Javakheti: land of lakes and ethnic minorities AGNiESzKA ZIELONKA, JAMnews, javakheti

The driver that agreed to give us a lift turned out to be a local, and told us stories about his neighbors’ and friends’ lives along the way. We traveled from Tbilisi to Javakheti, a region located in southwestern Georgia on the border with Armenia.

In order to get there, we had to pass through a village in the Tsalka region, near a beautiful lake. There are several lakes in this area, and this was the first we encountered. There are gloomy, abandoned Soviet era hotels and restaurants standing all along the road.

IIt’s about 20 kilometers to the next lake called Paravani. This is the largest lake in Georgia, and one of the highest, located 2,000 meters above sea level. On its shore lies a little village of the same name.

There are many old houses of a very recognizable style in the village, built 150-200 years ago by the Dukhobors, a dissident Christian group exiled from Russia to the Caucasus at the beginning of the 19th century.

Armenians and Russians live here today, and almost no one speaks Georgian in the village.

There’s not enough wood in the area, so houses are mostly heated with kizyak - dried, pressed cow dung.

Fishing is one of the main sources of income here. The fish caught by locals is sold along the highway. It’s delicious, and is quickly sold out to passers-by.

Slava makes very tasty blue cheese using his own recipe. His entire family is involved in making it. They sell this cheese at Samgori market in Tbilisi.

This small business ensures decent living conditions for Slava, his wife, and their sons. They’re doing repairs on their house now. It would be easier to live in the city, but Slava can’t part with the calm, rural way of life.

Gorelovka was predominantly a Dukhobor village, large and densely populated until the end of the 20th century.

A traditional Dukhobor house in Gorelovka. Today it contains a museum.

Most Dukhobors have already left this Javakheti. Many moved to Canada, others returned to Russia, their historical homeland. Today, only about one hundred Dukhobors live in Gorelovka.

Graffiti of the famous 12th-century Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli, on the wall of a house. He was also from this region

Troitskoe is the last village before the Armenian border, located next to the village of Madatapa.

Javakheti's winters are severe; frost begins here in November.

Masis is a gamekeeper in the local nature reserve. He says that he knows about everything and everyone on its territory, nothing escapes his attention.

His granddaughter. "The apple of my eye," he says of her.

There are always a lot of birds on Lake Madatapa, including pelicans, cranes, and storks.

Masis keeps a log of the birds living by Lake Madatara. He is a fount of knowledge about local fauna as well.

Livestock breeding is the most common type of farming in Javakheti

Created By
აგნეშკა ზიელონკა, JAMnews

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