Phoka Nunnery of St. Nino

Geo | Eng | Rus

 Javakheti – historical region in Georgia with special landscape.  Javakheti highland -  it is a mountainous terrain at a height of 2000 metres above sea level in the center of which a big Abul mountain (3301 m) can be seen from every side. The unique character and  distinctness of the landscape creates a woodless cover, fields spread with bog volcanic blocks changing in color depending on a season, and in winter they are covered with infinite whiteness. The coldest region throughout Georgia where the temperature drops to – 25 in winter, and does not exceed 22 degrees in the hottest days in summer. Javakheti is conditionally divided into two parts – lower Javakheti and upper Javakheti. The lower Javakheti occupies the territories bordering the historical Meskheti, and the upper Javakheti is the lands around the  Agul mountain. Housing and farmstead are conditioned by the climate. The shape of houses is like a half dugout roofling construction with an aperture for lighting in the center, and the inner space is partitioned for accommodation of human beings and domestic animals. Such houses are intrinsic to the landscape and create a seamless whole. Over the last fifty years the population has moved to normal village houses built of  tufa and the preserved old construction are used for agricultural purposes. Due to the climate the local farming involved cereal crops, growing potato and cabbages.

 Archeology and monuments. In spite of the hard natural conditions and twists and turns of the history, Javakheti is a region which is of rich archeology and architecture, starting from Cyclopean fortresses and unaffected burial mounds and ending with remarkable architectural churches of the Georgian renaissance epoch. In the lower Javakheti one can find cultural monuments such as Vardzia, Upper Vardzia, Vanean caldrons, Tavkvetula complex, fortress Tmogvi, fortress Khertvisi, Tsunda, Khizabavra. The Upper Javakhety in turn has important monuments such as small Abuli and Cyclopean fortresses of Shaori mountain, remains of antique caravansarai In Tavparavani, temples in Poka, Gardzani and evening temples, The Baraleti and Khospio temples, Central building in Javakheti – cathedral Kumudo.

 History and modern age. In historical sources Javakheti (Zaabakha) is first mentioned in 785  B.C.E in the scripture of Argishti I – king of Urartu, as a conquered region occupying at that time the western part of the lake Childiri (territory of modern Turkey). From the ancient times Javakheti has been one of the administrative districts “saeristavo” (Tsunda, the center). The historical Javakheti was divided into the upper javakheti (Akhalkalaki highlands) and lower Javakheti (the left embankment of the canyon of the river Mtkvari).

 From the XI century, Javakheti became Akhalkalaki. From X century Tmogvi is the center of the lower Javakheti. In the époque of prosperity of the Georgian national statehood (XI-XII centuries) Javakheti enter the époque of renaissance: constructed were caravanserai bridges, churches and monasteries, king residences (Dvili, Khrtila, Bozhano, Vardzia, Alastani). From XII century the domain was governed by the representatives of the family of seigniors Toreli. From XII century the administrative borders of Javakheti included also Palakatsio and part of Samtkhe. In XV century Javakhety included saatabago Samtkhe. In XVI the south Georgia was conquered by osmans. The part of the Javakheti population moved to the inner regions of Georgia – Kartli and Imereti. The non-moved population was converted to Islam. In the first half of XIX century Javakheti was densely settled by Armenians who had escaped from Turkey and by Dukhobors – the sectaries moved from the inner regions of Russian empire.

 In the first triens of XIX century, after annexation of Transcaucasia by the Russian empire, the relationship between Russia and Iran and Turkey further worsened. The main purpose of Russia was to defend the south borders. The only solution of the problem was to settle the borders with Iran and Turkey by the most loyal nation which would be able to reliably defend the southern borders and avoid the government from running into huge expenses for keeping the armed forces defending the border.

 Victory of Russian troops over Turks in 1828 tasked the government to move the reliable population to Samtkhe-Javakheti. It was decided move Christians – Armenians and  Greeks from Turkey to Trialeti and Javakheti. On December 3, 1829, general Ivan Paskevitch founded Special committee of migration presided by a civil governor Zavileyski. The committee worked out the migration regulations. According to the pre-estimate of the committee, 8000 families had to be migrated to Georgia from Kars, Erzurum and Bayazet vilayets, but the number increased up to 14000 after the migration has been started. Tsarism had political objective to form ethnically variegated population in Georgia. They never trusted the Georgians in Russia somehow. Therefore the meskhetians who were moved to Imereti region were refused to settle the liberated territory. Shortly after the seizure of Akhaltsikhe, heirs of Tsitsishvili, Avalishvili, Muskhelishvili and others who escaped from Meskheti in XVI-XVII centuries presented before Paskevitch. They presented charters granted by Georgian kings and asked to return the family estates. Paskevitch did not heed their request and expressed grown-up annoyance.

 To date 97 thousand people live in Javakheti, of which 95 per cent is the Armenian population and the rest are Georgians, Russians and Greeks.