The Georgian Toponyms on the Territory of the North Caucasus (1944-1957)

Nowadays, only a small part is left from Georgia's large territory. This small Caucasian country, which has fought for the maintenance of its identity throughout the history of its existence is argued for the territory inhabited by the Georgian nation. It's a paradox, but Georgia belongs to those countries, which have lost their parts (for objective or less objective circumstances) one after another at the dawn of the contemporary civilization. The beginning of the 20s of the 20th century can be regarded as the initial stage of this process (the agreement of 7 May 1920). At that period of time, a weak government of independent Georgia had to cede Sochi region (Sochi-Tuapse region), which had belonged to the North-West part of Georgia (Abkhazia) since the ancient times. Tsarist Russia began the partitioning of these territories at the end of the 19th century, when a military administrative border was drawn on Mzimta. On 25 February 1904, the Russian government moved this border to the South and separated Gagra region from Georgia. Historical justice was partially "restored" on 30 October 1917, when the Meeting of the Transcaucasian Committee under the leadership of Akaki Chkhenkeli abolished the resolution of 1904 and returned Gagra region to Sukhumi district (Abkhazia) [The documents... 1919].   

The separation of Saingilo was especially painful for out country. Saingilo - which consists of Kakhi Region, the Zakatal Region and the Belakan District - has been the North-East part of Hereti since ancient times. It was inhabited by Georgians' kindred tribes Hers. In the 4th-5th centuries Hers' and Georgians' close neighborhood and Georgians' migration to Hereti, stipulated Hers Georgianization and cultural-political merging with the Georgian people. During the 11th -15th centuries "Hereti" was located on the territory of Kakheti. In the 15th century the name "Hereti" disappeared in the historical sources. Therefore, it merged with Kakheti. In the 17th -18th centuries, the political changes in Kakheti Kingdom (permanent attacks of foreigners, Lekianoba (attacks from Dagestan)...) caused the economic and political decay of this region. Georgians' physical destruction and exile as well as the raid of Tsakhurians, Khundzians and other Northern tribes facilitated the extinction of this region. The survived Georgians were Islamized by force. Therefore, this ancient region was alienated from its motherland. The term "Saingilo" was established in the 19th century. The Islamized Georgian was called a Turkish term "Iangil", which meant "newly Islamized". According to the "political considerations", Saingilo became the part of Azerbaijan in 1921. Similarly, in a short period of time, the Artvini and Artaani regions (regions of annexed Georgia) as well as the historical Georgian land Lore became the parts of neighboring countries [Nachkebia, 2006; 147-148].

After the Russian-Georgian War of August 2008, Russia unilaterally gave the status of independent states to the ancient Georgian territories of de facto Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia. Even nowadays, in spite of the international recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity, the perspective remains very vague. Present and future generations will need great efforts for territorial "rehabilitation".

It's worth mentioning, that for subjective and objective reasons, Georgia significantly expanded in the middle of the 20th century [Menteshashvili, 1990]. From the North it was joined by:


  1. Territories in the upper zone of the rivers Teberda and Kuban, in the North of Svaneti, beyond the West Caucasus (a part of today's Karachay-Cherkessia);
  2. The territories in the upper zone of the rivers Arghun and Assa, beyond the Caucasus Range (a part of today's Ingushetia);
  3. Itum-kale region (a part of today's Chechnya).


These territories joined Georgia by means of the famous events. By the end of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet government accused Karachais, Karabardians, Balkarians, Cherkessians and Ingushians: in co-operation with German fascists, in treason to the motherland, in the denunciation of Soviet citizens, in informing the German armies about the paths of the pass leading to the Transcaucasia and in carrying out the destructive actions against the state after banishing fascists from the above mentioned territories. Therefore, the decree of 12 October 1944 was signed by a chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR M. Kalinin and a secretary of the presidium A. Gorki. It stated, that: "During Germans' occupation of the Karachai autonomous region, many Karachais acted treacherously. They joined the detachments organized by Germans against the Soviet government, denounced honest Soviet citizens, accompanied Germans and showed them the way across the passes leading to the Transcaucasia. After banishing fascists, Karachais prevent and oppose the actions carried out by the Soviet government, hide bandits and Germans' agents from the governing organs and actively help them. Considering these facts, the presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR ascertains:


  1. All the Karachais living on the territory of the region will be exiled to other regions of the USSR. The Karachai autonomous region must be abolished.
  2. For the reason of the liquidation of the Karachai autonomous region... its former district  Ushkulan and a part of Mikoyan district will be given to the Georgian SSR. A new administrative region Klukhori district with its center in the town of Mikoyan-Shakhar will be created on the given territory. The name of the town Mikoyan-Shakhar will be changed into Klukhori" [The order... 1944: 1].


Therefore, the Karachai autonomous region was abolished in such a way. Ushkulan region and a part of Mikoyan district were given to Georgia. Klukhori district - a new administrative-territorial unit - was created on the above mentioned territory. Its central city was called Klukhori. For the same reason, Balkarians were exiled from their dwelling places to different regions of Georgia. Their dwelling was named the Kabardo ASSR. Some parts of the territory - the South-West parts of Elbruks and Nagorni Districts - were united to Zemo Svaneti region of the Georgian SSR.  

According to the directive of the Kremlin, more than 5000 Georgians (mainly Svans and Rachians) settled the newly created districts. In contrast to Ossetians and Russians, they generously ceded their dwelling places to the later rehabilitated brotherly Caucasians. Moreover, Georgians helped the new-comers in arranging their lives. Natives recollect this with great love.

The Chechen-Ingush ASSR was also abolished. Hence, we have to remember the pre-historic activities - the period of Bolshevik's reign, when the policy of ceding the Georgian territories acquired a large scale nature. Besides the above mentioned territories, in the 20s of the 20th century the Georgian Bolsheviks "ceded" a particular territory in the Chechen-Ingusheti sector of the Georgian-Russian border. In 1925, on the request of the government of the Chechen ASSR, official Tbilisi "ceded" the following villages (located in Tianeti province, on the valley of the river Arghun) inhabited with kists: Jarego, Teretego, Melzesti, Tsekaro, Sakhano and others. Therefore, the border between RSFSR and Georgia was drawn in several kilometers from the village Shatili [Kiladze, 2008: 8-9].  In 1928 the Georgian government made concessions and satisfied the Chechens (from Jarego) demands to give them additional grasslands. On 20 August 1928 the presidium ascertained this fact and a part of mountain Alako was added to Chechnya. Hence, Shatilians did not cede their grasslands and began fighting. The district committee of Dusheti had to ask the central government to reconsider the resolution of 1928. Hence, a lingering correspondence between Moscow, Tbilisi and Grozny was "overtaken" by the war between Germany and the USSR.

The decree of 7 March 1944 of the presidium of the Supreme Court of the USSR solved the problem.  Under the given decree, Chechens and Ingushians were exiled to remote provinces (like the North Caucasian people). Grozny region was created on one part of the territory of the abolished Chechen-Ingusheti. The rest of the land was divided between North Ossetia, Dagestan and Georgia. Itum-kale district with its borders, the west part of Sharoi region, South-West of Galanchezh, Galashka and Prigorodni region were added to Georgia. According to the new partition, the South-East of Gizeldon region of the Ossetian ASSR "appeared" within Georgia's borders. Therefore, Georgia "received" the villages (with their mountains, forests and grasslands), which were given to RSFSR (Chechen-Ingushians) in 1927-1928.

The largest part of the added territories was united as Akhalkhevi region. It was abolished and added to Dusheti region in the beginning of 50s. Gizeldon region of the North Ossetia and the South part of Prigorodni region of Chechen-Ingusheti were added to Kazbegi region.

Therefore, by means of Moscow's venturesome policy, Georgia's population had increased with 26 000 persons and its territory expanded by 74,4 thousand square kilometers by 1944 in return of the historical territories - Sochi region, Saingilo, Lore district, Artvini and Artaani regions  - lost in 1919-1921. Hence, Georgia did not maintain these territories for a long time. In 1955 Klukhori district was given to RSFSR. On 9 January 1957 under the decree of the presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR Chechens and Ingushians were rehabilitated and their state formation was restored. Therefore, Akhalkhevi region was abolished and returned to the North Caucasian autonomies of RSFSR. The Georgian-Russian border restored its previous position (occupied before 7 March 1944).

This is a short history of those territories which significantly expended the Georgian borders for only 10 years.   

It's natural, that the geographical names of the North Caucasian territories were massively changed. Similarly to Tsarizm, the "national policy" of Kremlin was based on the change of the established toponyms for the purpose of achieving particular aims. This process provoked the contradiction of different ethnic groups, which can be illustrated by the example of the creation of new Georgian toponyms on the "newly added" territories.

Karachian, Chechnyan, Ingushian, Kabardian and Balkarian toponyms established on non-Georgian territories were changed by the Georgian geographical names. This process was carried out in several directions:


  1. The local toponyms were replaced by the names of Communist-ideological character. The government tried to propagate the priority of Socialism in the population. The similar process was carried out across the country and resulted in the establishment of the following names: Shroma, Akhalsheni, Mzisa, Akhalsopeli, Ganakhleba, Shukura and others;
  2. The North Caucasian people were exiled during the World War II. Therefore, the government tried to raise patriotic fighting spirit by means of media and geographical names.  For example, Zemo Baksani was named Bukhaidze in commemoration of Captain Bukhaidze - the hero of the USSR, who died in Balkaria.
  3. The exiled ethnics were called traitors. Therefore, the toponyms representing the names of Caucasian communists, who fought for the establishment of the Soviet government "were sacrificed" to this fact, for instance, the name of the village Baidaev was replaced by Tamariani.
  4. Some non-ideologised names characterized by the peculiarities of the geographical points are also met, for instance: Shuamta, Mtisdziri, Dariali, Tergula, Magharo, Kubanisi [The administrative... 1949].


The notes about the changes of toponyms outside Georgia's contemporary borders are depicted only in the directory of "The Administrative-territorial Partition of the Georgian SSR" of 1949. The Georgian toponyms are not presented in the following editions, because in the 50s of the 20th century they occurred beyond Georgia's territory.

In 1943, Klukhuri district was created on the territory of Uchkulani region (a part of the Karachai Autonomous Region) and on some parts of Mikoyan region. The name of its center Mikoyan-Shakhar was replaced by Klukhori. According to the 21st volume of "The Great Soviet Encyclopedia": ,,Клухори (б. Микоян-Шахар) - город, центр Клухорского района Грузинского ССР. Расположен на р. Кубани при впадении в нее р. Теберди на выс. 879 м. над ур. моря, на Военно-Сухумской дороге, в 65 км к Ю. от ж.-д. станции Баталпашинск и в 88 км. к С. от Клухорского перевала. Основан в 1926-1927... Имеются (1953) русская и грузинская средние школы" [Большая  ... 1953].     

The names of some villages were changed in 1944. For example: Kamenomosti (former Tashkepiuri) became Akhalsheni, correspondingly, Khurziki was called Zedvake, Uchkulan Auli - Madniskhevi, Kvemo Teberda (former Sinti) - Mzisa, Zemo Teberda - Teberda,  Kantjurti - Mtisdziri. In 1947, the village Jalziki became Akhalsopeli, Jingiri was called Bari and correspondingly, Magharo - Ialbuzi > Magharo, Klukhori - Madniskhevi>Kubanisi, Kamenemosti - Shertula, Dauti - Shuamta, Birliki - Shukura, Lastochka >Melnichnaia>Khidiskari, Kubanisi - Ganakhleba, Baidaevi - Tamariani, Gagishi - Ialbuzi, Tegenekli - Pichvnari, Zemo Baksani - Bukhaidze.  

The South part of Gizeldoni region (South Ossetia) and Prigorodni (Chechen-Ingusheti) were added to Kazbegi region, where the toponyms were changed in the following way (in 1944): Armkhi[1] became Akhalsopeli, correspondingly, Hameta was called Ganakhleba, Jeirakhi - Dariali, Armkhisi (resort) - Dariali (resort), Fontaukhi Khutori - Tamariani, Kvemo Ozma - Tergula, Veinakhi - Mtisdziri, Zemo Ozma - Shroma. According to the resolution of 21 March 1944, Itum-Kale[2] region of Chechen-Ingusheti was called Akhalkhevi region, while its regional center - the village Itum-Kale - became Akhalkhevi. Itum-Kale was situated on the narrow valley of the river Arghuni and historically controlled it. This region is rich with architectural monuments and complexes of burial grounds of the 17th -18th centuries.

After I.B. Stalin's death - during Khrushchov's (the hater of Georgians) reign - the maintenance of these territories was unimaginable. They were given to RSFSR. Therefore, the Georgian toponyms were massively changed. Hence, more or less changed forms of the Georgian names are still presented in the Russian guides.

[1] Armkhi or Jeirakhi is the largest settlement in Armkhi or Jeirakhi ravine. Jeirakhi was the mostly used name, which was connected with the Arab commander Jeirakh, who passed Dariali and invaded Alania in 725.  The name Armkhi was called after the river Armkhi. In the Ingushian guides this river is called the Georgian name Kistetistskali. The Christian temple Tkhaba-Erdi is also located on this place. Tkhaba-erdi was built in the 12th century from the stone tiles, which were brought from Georgia. Elbi-Erdi and Targimi temples with the preserved Georgian Asomtavruli inscriptions and frescoes are situated on the valley of the river Assa.

[2] During decades we took the names of countries, nations and languages from the Russian language. This process caused inaccuracy, for instance, the geographical names ended with "kala" (კალა) - Makhachkala, Itum-kale... - are the Russian forms. Kala (a Persian word, means "castle") is the word, which is used in Nari-Kala (ნარი-ყალა) - the name of the castle, which is located in Tbilisi. Hence, Russians have not got "K" (,,"), which is presented in other languages. Therefore, this sound is denoted by "K" (,,"). The Georgian language consists of ,,". Therefore, it must be written instead of ,,".


The documents…
The documents of the foreign policy of Transcaucasia and Georgia. Tpilisi (in Georgian).
Kiladze s.
Once Georgia was big... Asaval-Dasavali #47. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Menteshashvili A.
From the history of the Georgian, Ossetian and Abkhazian people. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Nachkebia M.
Georgians’ ethnolinguistic terms. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
The administrative…
The administrative-territorial partition of the Georgian SSR for 1 September 1949. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
The order…
The order of presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR. „Communist“, 12 October 1944. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Большая ...
Большая советская энциклопедия. Том 21. Москва.