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Xevis Tba | by Mikheil Samkharadze (kesha)
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Xevis Tba

www.samkharadze.inf.ge

 

khevi

Georgia

Spring 2008

  

Stepantsminda (Georgian: სტეფანწმინდა; formerly Kazbegi, ყაზბეგი), is a small town in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia. Historically and ethnographically, the town is part of the Khevi province. It is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality.

 

The town is located along the banks of the Thergi River, 157 kilometers (98 miles) to the north of Tbilisi at an elevation of 1,740 meters (5,710 feet) above sea level. Stepantsminda’s climate is moderately humid with relatively dry, cold winters and long and cool summers. The average annual temperature is 4.9 degrees Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of -5.2 degrees Celsius while July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 14.4 degrees Celsius. The absolute minimum recorded temperature is -34 degrees Celsius and the absolute maximum is 32 degrees Celsius. Stepantsminda’s average annual precipitation is 790 mm. (31.1 inches). The town is dominated by large mountains on all sides. The most notable mountain of the region, Mount Kazbek, lies immediately to the west of town. The second most prominent peak, Mt. Shani, rises to an elevation of 4,451 meters (14,600 feet) above sea level, 9 kilometers to the east of Stepantsminda. The town is located 10 kilometers to the south of the famous Darial Gorge.

 

According to tradition, Stepantsminda, literally "Saint Stephen", was named so after a Georgian Orthodox monk Stephan, who constructed a hermitage at this location on what later became the Georgian Military Highway. It came under the control of a local feudal magnate, the Chopikashvili clan, who were in charge of collecting tolls on travelers in the area in the late 18th century. After the expansion of the Russian Empire into the Kingdom of Georgia in the early 19th century, the people of the region revolted against Russian rule. However, the local lord Gabriel Chopikashvili, son of Kazi-Beg, remained steadfast in his loyalty to Russia and helped to suppress the revolt. In return, he was promoted to officer in the Russian Army. He adopted the surname Kazbegi, and the village under his control was also frequently referred to as "Kazbegi". The name was officially changed to Kazbegi already under the Soviet rule in 1925. Gabriel Chopikashvili-Kazbegi's grandson was the famed Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi, who was born in this town. In 2006, the town reverted to its original name of Stepantsiminda.

 

Stepantsiminda is known for its scenic location in the Greater Caucasus mountains, and is a center for trekkers and mountain climbing. Local attractions include the Alexander Kazbegi Museum and Ethnographic Museum in town, and the Gergeti Trinity Church outside of town, as well as Mount Kazbegi itself and the alpine meadows and forests of the surrounding Kazbegi Nature Reserve.

 

Khevi (Georgian: ხევი) is a small historical-geographic area in northeastern Georgia. It is included in the modern-day Kazbegi district, Mtskheta-Mtianeti region (mkhare). Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountains, it comprises three gorges of the rivers Truso, Tergi (Terek) and Snostsq’ali.

 

The landscape of Khevi is dominated by alpine meadows dotted with rhododendron, mountain passes and waterfalls, and the Mount Kazbek (locally known as Mkinvartsveri, i.e. “ice-capped”), a dormant 5047-meter high volcano. The area is a popular tourist destination. It is a part of the projected Khevi-Aragvi Biosphere Reserve. Among the important cultural sites of Khevi are the Gergeti Trinity Church (fourteenth century), Garbani Church (ninth to tenth century), Sioni Basilica (ninth century) and castle, Betlemi Monastery Complex (ninth to tenth century), and Sno fortress.

 

The name of this province, literally meaning "a gorge", comes from the ancient and early medieval district of Tzanaria known to the Georgian annals as Tzanaretis Khevi, i.e. the Tzanar Gorge. People of Khevi are ethnic Georgians called Mokheves. History, traditions and lifestyle of the Mokheves are very similar to those of other mountaineers of eastern Georgia. Since ancient times, Khevi has been of great strategic and military importance due chiefly to its immediate neighborhood to the Darial Pass, which connects North Caucasus with Transcaucasia. Free of typical feudal relations, they lived in a patriarchal community governed by a khevisberi (i.e. “gorge elder”) who functioned as a judge, priest and military leader. The Khevian mountainous communities were regarded as direct vassals of the Georgian crown except for the period from the end of the seventeenth century to 1743, when the area was placed under the control of the semi-autonomous Duchy of Aragvi. A fierce resistance offered by the Mokheves to the attempts of the Aragvian lords has been largely reflected in local folklore as well as classical Georgian literature. The establishment of the Russian rule in Georgia (1801) was met hostile by the mountaineers who staged, in 1804, an uprising, which was promptly suppressed by the Tsarist military. However, the people of Khevi retained their medieval traditions and a unique form of society until the harsh Soviet rule changed their lifestyle through permanent repressions, forcibly removing several families to the lowlands.[1][2]

 

Mount Kazbek Georgian: მყინვარწვერი, (Mqinvartsveri), is a dormant stratovolcano and one of the chief mountains of the Caucasus located in Georgia, [1] dominating the town of Stepantsminda. It is the third highest mountain in Georgia (after Mount Shkhara and Janga) and the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains. The name in Georgian, Mqinvartsveri, translates to "glacier" or "Ice Mountain".

 

Kazbek is located on the Khokh Range, a mountain range which runs north of the Greater Caucasus Range, and which is pierced by the gorges of the Ardon and the Terek. The mountain itself lies along the edge of the Borjomi-Kazbegi Fault (which is a northern sub-ending of the Anatolian Fault). The region is highly active tectonically, with numerous small earthquakes occurring at regular intervals. An active geothermal/hot spring system also surrounds the mountain. Kazbek is a potentially active volcano, built up of trachyte and sheathed with lava, and has the shape of a double cone, whose base lies at an altitude of 1,770 meters (5,800 feet). Kazbek is the highest of the volcanic cones of the Kazbegi volcanic group which also includes Mount Khabarjina (3142 metres).

 

Owing to the steepness of its slopes, the glaciers of Kazbek are not very large. The total combined area of all of Kazbek's glaciers is 135 km². The best-known glacier is the Dyevdorak (Devdaraki), which creeps down the north-eastern slope into a gorge of the same name, reaching a level of 2,295 meters (7,530 feet). Kazbek's other glaciers include the Mna, Denkara, Gergeti, Abano and Chata. The recent collapse of the Kolka Glacier, located in a valley between Mt. Jimara and Kazbek in the year 2002 was attributed to solfatara volcanic activity along the northern slope of the mountain, although there was no eruption. At its eastern foot runs the Georgian Military Road through the pass of Darial 2,378 meters (7805 feet).

 

Mount Kazbek is associated in Georgian folklore with Amirani, the Georgian version of Prometheus, who was chained on the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals. The location of his imprisonment later became the site of an Orthodox hermitage located in a cave called “Betlemi” (Bethlehem) at around the 4000 meter level. According to legends, this cave housed many sacred relics, including Abraham's tent and the manger of the infant Jesus. [2]

  

19th-century postcard of the Georgian Military Road near Mount KazbekThe summit was first climbed in 1868 by D. W. Freshfield, A. W. Moore, and C. Tucker of the London Alpine Club, with a Swiss guide. They were followed by the female Russian alpinist Maria Preobrazhenskaya, who made the climb nine times starting in the year 1900.

 

The area around Mount Kazbegi was designated a nature reserve by the Soviet government in 1979, and includes beech forests, subalpine forests and alpine meadows. Many of the plants and animals in the reserve are endemic to the Caucaus region.

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Taken on June 29, 2008