The Plastunkian Georgians (History and Contemporaneousness)

If we look through the history of the humankind, we will easily notice uninterrupted processes of peoples’ migration caused by different reasons. Various ethnics, which settled in different countries, rarely maintained their originality and a link with their motherland. 

    The Georgians’ native country is Georgia. The Georgians rarely left their motherland (unless they were forced to do so). However, wherever they settled, they always tried to create “small Georgias”.

     The given paper will remember the society the history of those Georgians, who migrated from Western Georgia to Sotchi almost 150 years ago. Their contemporary life and conditions are not enviable as a result of a feeble policy of the leadership of Soviet Georgia.

    Who are the Georgians from Sotchi (Plastunka)? How long have they been living here and what was the reason of their migration to the coast of the Black Sea? The paper will give short answers to these questions.

    At the end of the Crimean War (1854-1856), the king’s government forcibly settled the Kubanian Kazakhs and Russian peasantry in boggy uninhabited parts of Sotchi. However, the new-settlers could not endure an unfamiliar climate. They stirred up a rebellion. The government gathered the Plastuns and crushed the rebellion via their garrisons. The majority of the new-settlers died during the fights or escaped. Some of them were exiled to Siberia. The territory of Sotchi became more uninhabited.

     On 21 May 1864 the Caucasian War ended. It was followed by Muhajiroba – the exile of the Caucasian population to the Ottoman Empire. The number of Muhajirs, who exiled from North Caucasus and Georgia (Abkhazians and Muslim Georgians living in Southern Georgia) reached 700-750 thousand [Vereshchagin, 1878:10]. The given mass exilement resulted in the depopulation of a large territory (from Bzipi to Novorossiysk) on the coastline of the Black Sea.

    The government of Tsarist Russia raised the question of the settlement of the given territory once again. The authorities decided to migrate Caucasian and Southern Georgia’s population. The Georgian press  -  the newspaper “Droeba”, the newspaper “Tsnobis Purtseli”, the newspaper “Iveria”, the newspaper “Shroma”, the journal “Mogzauri”, etc. -  operatively  responded to the processes, which took place on the coast of the Black Sea. The newspaper “Droeba” published the letters of G. Tsereteli (1873), S. Meskhi (1875), etc. The Georgians of the 1860s were especially active. While analyzing the existed situation, they appealed the government to settle “Caucasian peoples” (among them were considered the inhabitants of Western Georgia – Megrelia, Imereti, Racha, Lechkhumi) on the lands of the coast of the Black Sea.

    As the government of Tsarist Russia “bitterly” faced the issue of the settlement of the given territory and the first plan had failed, it was constrained to migrate Caucasian and Southern Georgia’s population to these territories.

     Therefore, approximately 150 years ago Georgian village Plastunka appeared on the valley of the river Sotchi, 15 kilometers away from town Sotchi. Nowadays, it is a part of Adleri region – an administrative division of town Sotchi of Krasnodar region. 

     The first note about the Georgians’ exile to Sotchi was published in the newspaper “Droeba” (1875). The process of migration was in progress during the 80s. It is noteworthy that the exilement was encouraged by the government  -  the new-settlers were exempted from the state taxes for 10-15 years.     

   The Georgians inhabited the surroundings of Sotchi  –  Sotchi, Plastunka, Mamaika, Novaia Zaria … In 1888 the newspaper “Iveria” wrote: The Georgians chose the neighborhood of  Sochi as the place of their inhabitancy. This place is in 12 versts from small town Sochi. The place is entirely mountainous. It is divided by a large river. The valleys are hardly met. The Georgians like this place. They do not inhabit valleys, but choose the higher places. If you ask the reason, they will say that they exiled from Racha-Lechkhumi, which is a mountainous area they had accustomed to …

    The village inhabited by the Georgians is called Plastunka. The given name of the village came from Plastunkas’ regiment, which defended this territory during the unrest. Village Plastunka is inhabited only by the Georgians. Their number is more than 70 households. From time to time, the Georgians come to settle in this village. The place is mountainous, but quite fruitful” [Iveria, 1888].

    From the Georgian press of that period one can infer that the inhabitants of Western Georgia migrated to Sotchi, because of a land-shortage of this region.

    According to the incomplete data of 1905, the number of the Georgian inhabitants of Sotchi and its neighbouring villages (Plastunka, Mamaika, Novaia Zaria) reached 14 000. Balshaia and Malaia streets of today’s Sotchi were inhabited by the Georgians, while Gorki Street is still called “Mingrelskaia Ulitsa”.

    Plastunka was mainly populated by the Lechkhumians. According to the data of the newspaper “Tsnobis Purtseli”, in 1897 ninety-seven Georgian families lived there [Tsnobis Purtseli, 1897]. They migrated from the following villages of Lechkhumi: “Alpani, Orkhvi, Derchi, Orbeli, Nasperi, Lajani, Atchara (a village in Lechkhumi), Zogishi. Surnames: Alavidze, Burjaliani, Tutisani, Kvantaliani, Lepsveri, Leshkasheli, Mamardashvili, Svanidze, Silagadze, Uchadze, Pruidze, Shkubuliani, Tskhvediani, Chakvetadze, Chkhetiani, Tchokhonelidze… [Mikiashvili, 1994:9].

     Sotchi region was inhabited by the migrants from the villages (Ghebi, Znakvi, Kedisubani) of Racha having the following surnames: Archvadze, Gavashidze, Gotsiridze, Gurgenidze, Kentchadze, Kobakhidze, Lobjanidze, Maisuradze, Metreveli, Mikautadze, Rekhviashvili, Shtaadze, Tsutskiridze, Chelidze, Tchitchinadze…  The migrants from the villages of Imereti  (Okribi (today’s Tkibuli Municipality) and Sairme) had the following surnames: Gvantseladze, Gogoladze, Zviadadze, Intskirveli, Ketiladze, Kublashvili, Kutaladze, Lortkipanidze, Mikadze, Kasrashvili, Chakvetadze, Tsirekidze, Dzidziguri, Tchipadze, Jibladze… from Zugdidi district and Senaki migrated: Barkalaia, Bakhia, Bjalava, Gabilaia, Gvatua, Gvasalia, Gugushvili, Darjania, Dikhaminjia, Dondua, Topuria, Kintraia, Korkia, Shangua, Shushania, Chitaia, Tskhakaia, Dzigua, Tchelia, Khapava, Janashia, Jelia… [Mikiashvili, 1994:10].

     Prof. O. Mikiashvili’s book “The Sotchian Georgians and their speech” describes the cultural initiatives carried out by the Sotchian Georgians from the end of the 19th century till the 90s of the 20th century. Namely, it becomes clear that the first primary school was founded in Plastunka by Kristofer Mikautadze during the king’s government [Tchintcharauli, 1989]. However, a detailed information about the functioning of this school in not known.

    During the teaching year of 1921-1922 under the leadership of the Sotchian Georgians the Georgian school was founded in town Sotchi. It was located in the Consulate of Georgia in Sotchi. The school was headed by famous figure Olga Tsitlidze. The school was registered by the state only in 1925. In 1927 it was moved to other place and was altered into the secondary school, which became the Georgian cultural hearth of the region.  After the beginning of the war (1941), the secondary school was altered into the seven-year school. It was moved to village Plastunka, where it functioned till 1969. Afterwards, it was altered into the Russian school, where several subjects (the history of Georgia, the Georgian language and literature, geography… ) were taught in Georgian for a particular period of time. However, very soon only one subject  –  the Georgian language  –  was taught in Georgian. Its study depended on the children’s desire. In 2010 this subject was excluded from the teaching programs. The local Georgians’ attempt of the establishment of the Georgian school failed several times and factually, Georgian remains the language for a domestic use. 

    O. Mikiashvili makes the following remark about the process of the disappearance of the Georgian school: “The Georgian population of Sotchi, its leading part, greatly worried about this and used all the possible means for saving the school. The alteration of the eight-year school into the secondary school was justly considered as a way of salvation. The given hope flashed in the second half of the 60s. However, it necessitated the guarantee that the graduates of the Georgian school would be educated in Georgia” [Mikiashvili, 1994:15].

    The director of Plastunka’s school wrote to the leaders of the Council of Ministers of Georgia: “We beg you to make for us concessions during the entrance examinations. We will have no problems with the maintenance of the Georgian school in Plastunka if every year even on pupil of our school enters any higher education institution of Georgia” [Kvekveskiri, Shanidze… 1989].   

    Unfortunately, the central government gave no promises. The Plastunkian Georgians could not get education in Georgia. As a result of such careless attitude and parents’ demand, in 1969 the school was altered into the Russian school. One more Georgian cultural hearth was lost in the Russian Federation. The reason was the feebleness of the government.

     How touching is the letter of engineer Al. Tsutskiridze  -  a supporter of Plastunka’s school. The given letter was addressed to the Ministry of Education of Georgia: “there (in Plastunka – M. N.) does not exist the Georgian school and I will not bother you about this topic. I beg your pardon for what I have already written to you…  It is a pity that Plastunka’s Georgian school was closed. For this action you will be recalled together with the others by Georgia’s new generations [Kvekveskiri, Shanidze… 1989].

    Yes, today we, the Georgians, bitterly recall carelessness, callousness and inattentiveness of the authorities of Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Soviet Georgia’s party-elite, which existed four decades ago. As a result of such attitude towards the Puastunkian Georgians, the attempt of the maintenance of the native language (which does not exist in this extremely beautiful place) by enamoured patriots was suppressed forever.  

   At the end of the 80s of the previous century, during the period of the revival of the national movement, the Sotchian Georgians raised the question of the foundation of the Georgian school once again. They felt “the weakness of a vivifying connection with the native language and addressed their mother-country for the assistance” [Mikiashvili, 1994]. The newspaper “Sakhalkho Ganatleba” published the article entitled “The request of the Sotchian Georgians”, where G. Enukidze, the minister of education of Georgia, was asked for the assistance in the acquisition of needful literature and methodical material. He was informed about a great number of pupils willing to study the  Georgian language, etc. The letter, whose author is Sotchian lady Nelly Intskirveli ends with the following words: “I beg your pardon for bothering you, but supposedly you will agree that it is a glorious issue and a moral duty of the leading strata is the struggle for the revival of the nation” [Sakhalkho Ganatleba, 1990].

    However, the developments of the 90s of the previous century made the Sotchian Georgians’ dream unrealizable.

    The only action carried out towards Plastunka’s Russian school (where the Georgian pupils study) was the erection of its splendid building by “Mining Chemistry” in the beginning of the 90s of the previous century. This fact “was accepted by the authorities of the branch of Sotchi’s education with an appropriate gratitude” [Mikiashvili, 1994:19]. 

    The Sotchian Georgians’ national spirit was not restricted to the school. They felt the crave towards the Georgian theatrical art. In  1997 the newspaper “Iveria” published the article of the Sotchian correspondent. It stated: “The Russian performances are held three times per week in the park founded and arranged by Mr Chitaia. It will be good if Mr Chitaia invites Georgian artists even once and gives us the possibility of attending a performance held in our native language” [Iveria, 1897]. 

     The Georgians’ activity gave a result in 1922. Under the initiative of famous figure Olga Tsitlidze, a circle of Georgian stage-lovers was formed in Sotchi. Later it turned into the public theatre and functioned as a state one as well, because at that period of time there were no theatres in Sotchi. The Georgian theatre was the first in this region. The rich Georgian library was created as well.

    The Georgian performances were attended by the Georgians and by the representatives of other nationalities (the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Greeks, the Armenians… ).The interest was so great that the circles of Armenian, Ukrainian and Greek stage-lovers were formed at the club of the Georgian public theatre. According to the decision of the local authorities, the building (repaired under the initiative and support of the Georgian population) of the Georgian public theatre turned into the club of national minorities and was called “Klub Natsmenov” [Kevlishvili, 1866:60].  

    It is noteworthy that since the 50s of the previous century several theatrical groups travelled from Tbilisi to Sotchi (afterwards, Plastunka). Their performances made the local Georgians especially glad. Unfortunately, since the 90s similar contacts with the Georgian theatres have not existed.

    At the end of the 60s, 3476 Georgians lived in Sotchi region (the so-called “Didi Sotchi”). In the beginning of the 80s, the number of Georgian population reached 4200. According to unspecified data, approximately 6000 Georgians are living in Sotchi and its neighbourhood now.

    On 3 November 2014, Mr Raul Rizhamadze (a chairman of Regional Georgian Cultural Centre “Iveria” in Krasnodar region) visited St. Andrew the First-Called Georgian University of the Patriarchate of Georgia, where he said that Russia’s government intends to give the Plastunkian Georgians the possibility of studying Georgian at school as a facultative (non-program) subject. However, it is not satisfactory for the Plastunkians. They ask the Georgian party to implement Georgian as a subject of a school program simultaneously with “warming” relations with Russia.

   Today 150 Georgian families live in Plastunka. The village has a library, a chemist’s shop, a grocery and a commercial shop, a dispensary, the House of Culture and Adler eight-year school No 44, where pupils are taught in the Russian language.

   The study of the Sotchian Georgians’ speech is interesting from the point of view of :  researching important issues of the history of the Georgian language and its dialects,  development of the Georgian dialects in the non-Georgian environment, merging of the dialects, finding out regularities of the relation between non-cognate languages.

   Georgian linguist Prof. Otar Mikiashvili was the first, who studied monographically phonetic, grammatical and lexical peculiarities (a local vocabulary, Sotchi’s Georgian micro-toponymy, phraseology…) of the Sotchian Georgians’ speech. He was the first, who found the place of this speech among the dialects of the Georgian language and “brought” into a scientific circulation the samples of  the Sotchian Georgians’ speech. On the basis of a direct observation of a “live speech” and detailed analysis of numerous dialectic materials, O. Mikiashvili specified:

  1. The Georgians of this region maintain the Georgian language and no new dialects originated.
  2. The local speech develops as a result of the interconnection of Lechkhumian, Imeretian and Rachian. Consequently, nowadays, the Sotchian Georgians’ speech is essentially a dialectic speech of the uniform west-Georgian type. It resembles Lechkhumian with its intonation nuance and certain lexico-grammatical peculiarities. The reason is the multitude of descendants of Lechkhumians, the “mixture” of families, etc.

According to the analysis of numerous factual materials, the author made a conclusion, whose essence can be formulated in the following way: today’s type of the Georgian speech is a result of the merging of the dialects.


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