Are Mingrelians Georgians?

The Mingrelians (Mingrelian: Margalepi; Georgian: Megrelebi) are a Kartvelian people who live in northwest Georgia, in the region of Mingrelia (Mingrelian: Samargalo; Georgian: Samegrelo).

mingrelian

Sounds innocuous, right? It’s not. The claim that Mingrelians constitute a “people” would be considered seditious by many Georgians, since it suggests that Mingrelians are not, in fact, Georgians. This, in turn, might lead one to suppose that Mingrelians ought to have their own independent state. That would be a big problem for Georgians, so they claim Mingrelians as their own.

Similarly, you might think that it would be uncontroversial to say (as I have said several times on this blog) that the Mingrelian language is a language which is similar to but distinct from the Georgian langauge. But here again, many Georgians (and many in the outside world who haven’t looked very far into it) think that Mingrelian is not a separate language, but rather an exceptionally corrupt dialect of Georgian. This is because classifying Mingrelian as a language would suggest that Mingrelians are a people unto themselves, and this would again raise the threat of separatism.

megrelebi

In fact, fears of Mingrelian separatism are greatly overblown, as Richard Berge has argued. This is mainly because Mingrelians tend to think of themselves as Georgians, or at least as Georgians who are also Mingrelians. Indeed, Georgia’s first democratically-elected president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was both a Mingrelian and a rabid Georgian nationalist. He was a proponent of the infamous slogan “Georgia for Georgians“, which helped foment violence against Ossetians and Abkhazians. He never said “Georgia for Georgians and Mingrelians Alike”, which suggests that he took Mingrelians to be Georgians without a problem.

zviad gamsakhurdia

On the other hand, after Gamsakhurdia was deposed in 1993 by a coalition of mob bosses and Party bureaucrats, his support base largely receded to his native Mingrelia. Consequently Mingrelia was ransacked by Georgian criminal paramilitary groups in search of Gamsakhurdia supporters, many of whose burnt-down houses can still be seen in the region today. This has led some commentators (not without controversy) to suggest that Gamsakhurdia’s toppling and the ensuing civil war were at least partially motivated by Georgian distrust of Mingrelians, giving Mingrelians a more second-class status than they or other Georgians would like to admit. Nevertheless, Mingrelians remain well-integrated into Georgian society.

MingreliaWar

The so-called “Zviadists”, many of whom were Mingrelians, controlled much of Mingrelia during the Georgian Civil War.

At this point, if the reader is anything like me, she’s thinking “Okay, political considerations are well and good, but ethnically speaking, are Mingrelians Georgians or not? Are they a subgroup of Georgians, like Wikipedia says, or are they something else altogether?”

mingrelians wikipedia

When you see nine references (one of which is fake) for what should be a simple matter of classification, you know somebody has an agenda.

First off, we should clarify what we mean by “Georgian”, since under some interpretations this question is trivial. Recall that Georgians don’t call themselves Georgians (or gruziny, the Russian word for Georgians). They call themselves kartvelebi (Mingrelians call them kortuepi) and they would more usefully be called Karts in English. It has been suggested that “Georgian” / “gruzin is a strictly exonymic category: the outside world makes no distinctions among Kartvelians and groups them together as one. Thus “Georgian” is a unifying name for the conjunction of Karts, Mingrlians, and Svans***. If we interpret “Georgian” in this way, then it becomes trivially true that Mingrelians are Georgians.

mingrelian gurian cart

Some people think that all Mingrelians are Karts…get it?

But this is a highly idealized interpretation. In reality, when Georgians (Karts) argue that Mingrelians are Georgian, what they really mean is that Mingrelians really are Karts. This is why it is so critical for them to establish that Mingrelian is merely a dialect of Georgian. It’s also not uncommon for Georgians to insinuate that Mingrelians speak Georgian natively. This isn’t true either. Young Mingrelian children do not in general know Georgian, and they don’t learn to speak it until they learn it in school. So if by “Georgian” we mean “those people whose first language is Georgian”, then (disregarding typical Georgian misinformation) it is trivially false that Mingrelians are Georgians.

Update (11/7/13): A Canadian English-teaching friend of mine living in Mingrelia tells me that, in fact, many Mingrelian children do know Georgian when they begin school, at least where he lives. As far as I know there has never been a study done on the true extent of Mingrelian usage. If any reader knows of one, please let me know.

mingrelie autrefois colchis

Most discussions of Mingrelian ethnicity vis-à-vis Georgian focus on the language difference. This is because culturally, Mingrelians are not all that different from Karts. About two months after I got to Georgia, I visited Zugdidi, the capital of Mingrelia. At that point I didn’t know much about Mingrelians, and it never once occurred to me that I was among a different ethnic group. As far as the ignorant observer that I was could tell, they were just Georgians. Generally, Mingrelians speak Georgian perfectly well, and historically, literate Mingrelians (i.e. clergy and royalty) have always spoken Georgian. They’ve also always been Christians, and in particular they’ve always belongედ to the Georgian church. So there aren’t a lot of outward signs of difference besides the language.

nanashi nina page

A page from the Mingrelian children’s book Nanashi Nina

The separate ethnicity (or not) of Mingrelians is not an easy case, but we can compare it to some other cases which are easy.

  • Adjarans speak Georgian. Unlike most Georgians, they are Muslims, not Christians. Historically, Adjarans have been oriented towards Turkey. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to compare their relation to Georgians to the relation between Austrians and Germans. Although they have a different history and religion, Adjarans are Georgians.
  • Ingliois speak Georgian. Like Adjarans, they are Muslims. They live in Azerbaijan and are oriented towards Azeri culture. I’m inclined to say that Ingilois are Georgians, but they are quickly assimilating, and it’s not impossible that within a few generations they will be completely Azerized. If they were to stop speaking Georgian, I would say that Ingilois would not be Georgians.
  • The Laz speak a Kartvelian language, but few of them speak Georgian. They are Muslims, and for the most part they have nothing to do with Georgia. In spite of what some Georgians say, Laz are not Georgians.

Based on this list, it looks like speaking Georgian natively is sufficient to qualify a group as Georgian. The question is: is it necessary? We can say that the Laz aren’t Georgians, but language in this case is not the sole consideration, since they are also heavily Turkified. Mingrelians are have always been a part of Georgia and the general Georgian cultural realm. Since they also all speak Georgian nearly-natively, shouldn’t we at least say that they are quasi-Georgians?

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that, contrary to what I just said, a significant population of Mingrelians used to live outside of Georgia. Immediately following the Circassian Genocide, Mingrelians began moving into mostly-vacant Abkhazia (especially around the town of Gal / Gali). This process was accelerated in Soviet times under the control of the Mingrelian director of the Soviet secret police, Lavrenti Beria. For much of the twentieth century, southern Abkhazia was majority-Mingrelian (to the point that many Abkhazians spoke Mingrelian!).

beria soviet

Beria: chief of the NKVD, serial rapist, and Mingrelian

Unlike the Mingrelians of Mingrelia, the Mingrelians of Abkhazia often did not speak Georgian, instead using Russian as their literary language, and they were oriented more towards Russian culture than towards Georgian. Following the Abkhaz War of 1993, most Mingrelians were expelled from Abkhazia, and to this day many of them live as refugees throughout Georgia. (These so-called IDPs (internally displaced persons) are almost entirely Mingrelian. Some commentators have suggested that the Georgian government’s refusal to resettle the IDPs is motivated in part by Georgian distrust of Mingrelians.)

It’s not as simple as saying that Mingrelians are Georgians because they belong to Georgia, because some of them didn’t! There is nothing necessary about Mingrelians’ connection to Georgian culture. That said, the Abkhaz Mingrelian community is a thing of the past, so it’s fair to say today that Mingrelians are all part of Georgia.

gali mingrelian newspaper

Gali, a tri-lingual Abkhaz/Russian/Mingrelian newspaper published in Abkhazia. Gali is one of the few Mingrelian publications in existence.

Okay, blah blah blah, are Mingrelians Georgians or not? I would say yes, Mingrelians are Georgians, but it must also be kept in mind that Mingrelians are Mingrelians. I’m fine with referring to someone like Beria as Georgian, but it irritates me when I hear the New York Times or the BBC talk about “200,000 Georgian refugees”, completely ignoring what could potentially be an important ethnic dimension to the problem. In general, a person’s being Mingrelian should be mentioned whenever it might be relevant. The conjunctive designation “Mingrelian Georgian” is an economic solution, being both descriptively adequate and recognizable to people who don’t know what Mingrelians are (i.e. most of the world).

Fun Fact: Mingrelians do not refer to the capital of Georgia as “Tbilisi“. Instead, they call it “Karti” (ქართი), as in Karts, Georgians. Abkhazians call it by a similar name (Қарҭ).

REQUIRED READING

This post is mostly based on two articles.

  • The first is an essay by George Hewitt called “Yet a third consideration…” Hewitt argues strongly against the identification of Mingrelians as Georgians and gives many examples of Georgian suppression of Mingrelian identity. He addresses the issue in other contexts as well; see, for instance, his article “Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Circassians“.
  • The second is an article by Laurence Broers called “Two Sons of One Mother“. Broers takes a less polemical approach than Hewitt, and he argues that Mingrelian identity has always existed alongside other identities (Georgian, Soviet, Christian, etc). As far as I know, it’s only available in a recently-published collection called When the Elephant Broke Out of the Zoo: A Festschrift for Donald Rayfield. However, a rough draft of the essay is available, and although it’s not as detailed as the long version, it’s still excellent.

***Svans are another Kartvelian people who live in the mountains north of the Mingrelians. I probably won’t get around to writing a post about them, but much of this post applies to them, since they are also kinda-sorta-but-not-really Georgians.

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55 thoughts on “Are Mingrelians Georgians?

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  4. To my mind, the Mingrelians are the Georgian version of the Cornish. The Cornish pride themselves on being ethnically and culturally different from the rest of England, and typically choose to align themselves more with the Welsh, Scottish and Irish. There is merit in their claims, since the British Isles are ethnically divided; England is populated by people of Saxon and Scandinavian descent, while the other three countries are predominantly Celtic, but Cornwall is the only major Celtic area of England, a fact which is reflected in their language and physical appearance. In both respects, they favour the Welsh appearance more than the English, typically having darker hair, eyes and a wiry build when compared with people of Saxon descent, who take after our German ancestors. The Cornish trace their heritage back to the Britons, came to our island from Brittany (hence ‘Great(er) Britain’) and settled in Wales and Cornwall (FYI, if you’re a fan of George Martin’s books, the ‘First Men’ motif he uses in his Ice and Fire novels is an old Welsh expression used to refer to themselves as the first people who made their homes in parts of Britain. LIke so much else in his books, he is capitalising on our history). The Saxons and Danish invaders who would eventually comprise the English race came later.

    I think talk of Mingrelian independence is as ridiculous as the same talk that comes from the Cornish from time to time. Some people in Cornwall occasionally demand absolute secession from the Union, or recognition as a fifth state; there’s even an organisation called the Cornish Liberation Front, which for all intents and purposes is a poor man’s wannabe IRA that has never actually done anything. The bottom line is that Cornwall is a part of England, therefore the Cornish are English. The Welsh don’t really want to know; whatever their shared origins, it was a hell of a long time ago (something that I wish Georgians would sometimes realise about their own history and move on) and they themselves view the Cornish as Englishmen. Georgians as a whole remind me so much of the Celts, with all this fiery talk and bluster, and the way in which they seem to turn on each other at the drop of a hat.

    When I first moved to Georgia I thought the debates over who was and was not Georgian really rather amusing, although back then it was especially topical since it wasn’t long after the 2008 war and Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s bids for independence (I still don’t understand it when Georgians tell me they want those regions back, because they’re a part of Georgia, but not the people in them, because they’re not Georgians. Well, I can’t see Britain being taken seriously if we demanded our former conquests back…which would be France, Canada, parts of the US, India, Australia, New Zealand, a lot of Africa…I could go on. Time to grow up, Sakartvelo).

    There are many types of Englishmen, especially divided between the north and the south, and by extension there are many different types of Briton these days; not only our native Saxon and Celtic populations, but people who have settled from all over the Empire, who now comprise our populations of Indian and African descent etc. The point is, nearly all would describe themselves as being English first, British second and their heritage third (with the notable exception of British Pakistanis, who typically describe themselves as being ‘Pakistani’ first, and ‘Muslim’ second, despite usually never having set foot in Pakistan and being less than devout followers of Islam). Georgians have historically always been at each other’s throats (maybe that’s why they can’t win any wars?), and I think if they really want to be included in the outside world then they need to relax their…conservative…attitudes towards their own niggling differences in regional cultures. For such a nationalistic country they do seem to fragment a lot, don’t they? That is until one portion of the country actually does leave, and then the outbursts of patriotism for their brother Georgians would have the most die-hard American Republicans bolting for the door. Oh, Georgia. You massive lunatic. Still, interesting post, old boy.

    • The trouble with that analogy is that the Celtic peoples of Britain were subjected to invasion and conquest by foreigners (Saxons, Vikings, Normans). With Mingrelians, the issue is merely that they’ve been subsumed by a closely related ethnic group. A commenter on a previous post brought up the example of China, where Mandarin gained dominance over Cantonese and all the other regional Chinese languages. A European example might be the relation between the Frisians and the Dutch. The Frisian language is already very close to Dutch, and Frisians speak Dutch anyway, so why not just call them Dutch?

      • I have two Mingrelian friends I’m close to, and another four that I would say that I know well. The former describe themselves as Georgians first and Mingrelians second, which I think is a step in the right direction, and the latter bunch are a mixed bag – literally. Two of them have Mingrelian surnames but have a Slavic appearance due to their Russian mother. They identify as Georgian and Mingrelian, but in the opinion of culturally and ethnically concerned true-blue Georgians, they have a case for neither – for one reason or another. Another of them has a Ukrainian last name but physically resembles people native to Samegrelo – he identifies as a ‘European Ukrainian’, despite being the most backward traditional Georgian you could ever hope to meet, and not being able to speak Ukrainian or Mingerlian. I’d put all down to capital city sentimentality if they hadn’t all been born and raised in Samegrelo. But should they really care? Preserving cultural heritage is just another way of saying maintaining pointless boundaries.

        You’re exactly right about the Frisians – they should just call them Dutch and be done with it, though the Dutch won’t always accept them as such because they’re almost as culturally preoccupied as the Georgians. My German friend calls it ‘small country syndrome’ – the pointless obsession over national differences. Whenever I care to think about it, the small countries that have a history of being beaten and conquered by bigger countries do share culturally pretentious characteristics…the Belgians, the Dutch and the Georgians have more in common than one might initially think.

        Here’s an anecdote for you…it’s not strictly related but I’ve already started typing. You’ve been here long enough to have met a fair few arrogant Georgians by now, I expect, and this Mingrelian/Svani/Kart argument surfaced in the most unusual way a few years ago. A Georgian man (let’s call him Giorgi. Christ, that was probably his actual name) was telling me about the Svani and the Mingrelians and their different languages, prompting me to remark on the similarities between them and our own circumstances with the Welsh, Scots and Irish. ‘They do not speak English?’ says he, surprised. ‘They do, but they have their own languages as well. Like your Svans and Mingrelians,’ says I. At first, he didn’t believe me. He didn’t even really know that we were four nations in one (although he had heard of Scotland, Wales and England as well as the concept of ‘Britain’. He probably thought they were just territories). That didn’t bother me, really. I don’t expect the rest of the world to be au fait with our cultural and history. No, what pissed me off was his reluctance to admit that similar cultural divisions existed elsewhere – after all, nowhere is as interesting as Georgia. It’s circumstances are unique. That’s why it’s the best country on Earth and shouldn’t be remembered just for Stalin, d’ye see?

        We had a pointless argument over it, but I was preparing to dismiss the incident as being the opinion of one arrogant wanker until I had the same discussion with another dozen people over the next year; you’ll note this is a discussion that doesn’t even matter. I even had one insolent bastard tell me that ‘Georgian history is more interesting than English history’, despite knowing nothing about our country beyond Winston Churchill (who could not have led our country had it not been for Stalin, a Georgian, suppling the Bulldog with Sarajishvili until the end of ’45), Manchester United and Harry Potter (and this man worked for the Ministry of Justice, God help us).

        Longer reply than I intended, that. Whoops. Ne’ermind, swing by the Marriott this afternoon if you have a care to.

        • I’ll admit that the “shut up and assimilate” view sounds appealing when you belong to the most dominant ethnic group in the history of the world (counting Americans as a subgroup of English)! But helping to maintain such boundaries is only part of the issue. The other part is using existing boundaries to analyze other problems.

          Going back to the Frisian example, IMAGINE that Frisians were significantly poorer than the regular Dutch (I have no idea whether that’s true, but bear with me here). If you thought that the Frisians were just more Dutch, you wouldn’t be able to explain why those Dutch were so poor compared to the rest. However, if you found out that they were actually a subtly different ethnic group, it would open up a variety of possible explanations of why they were poor and the rest not.

          This is the case with Mingrelians. It doesn’t make much sense when you hear “300,000 Georgians were expelled from Abkhazia and they haven’t been resettled 20 years later”. But when you find out that the refugees are mostly Mingrelian, you start to wonder…

          As to your anecdote, I’m not sure it demonstrates much besides myopia. What I’m curious about (and here’s an experiment you should try, if you see them again) is whether those same people will argue, in a different context, that Mingrelians are really just a regional variety of Georgians!

  5. You should ask how Mingrelians view themselves they are smartest of us will get some interesting answers.
    As an imeretian and rachvelian person am not kartleli but i am kartveli. ethnically am kolx rather than qortu , but that lost any meaning since the time Jason stole golden fleece .
    I don’t agree with all of your reasoning above but you quite right about who is Georgian and who isn’t. Though as an atheist Georgian i don’t think religion should be considered as a component of Georgianness .
    Mingrelians were and are not silent victims they were creators initiators integral part of our nation making unlike laz people. Without Mingralians there will be no Sakartvelo. Russians will have better chances making Tbilisi separatist region, they have always failed in past.
    What do you know about Meskhetians that might be something you will be interested in . four nations claim them .

    • 1) For a Mingrelian perspective, you should read the second article I linked to (by Broers). He interviews a variety of Mingrelians (different ages, occupations, etc) about their relationships with Mingrelian-ness. The general theme is that older people identify as Mingrelian more strongly than younger people do, but other than that it is not easy to generalize.

      (Personally, I don’t have much experience with Mingrelians. I can say that I met a Mingrelian man while I was in Ukraine. He was introduced to me as a Georgian, but I soon found out that he was from Zugdidi and spoke Mingrelian. He was delighted that I knew Georgian, and he laughed when I made a toast (at a dinner party made up mostly of Russians) to “chveni Sakartvelo”. I don’t know if there is any moral to that story, except maybe that for that Mingrelian, going as Georgian was at least good enough for dealing with people outside Georgia.)

      That said, how Mingrelians self-identify is only one part of the story. IMAGINE that Mingrelians were to all self-identify completely as Georgians, but Georgians (Karts) didn’t accept Mingrelians as Georgians. Would we still say they were Georgians? This is the kind of problem that can arise when talking about refugees, for instance, so it’s not just about Mingrelians.

      2) Religion is important only to the extent that it coincides with other kinds of divisions. I would never say that someone isn’t a Georgian because they are atheist (I’m an atheist too, after all). However, if your grandparents were all Christians, then you probably come from a different background than someone whose grandparents were all Muslims. If all the Laz converted to Christianity tomorrow it wouldn’t change the fact of their Muslim history and their association with Turkey. So I’m interested in religion only to the extent that it informs other kinds of divisions. For example, Europe today is increasingly atheist, but it can still be useful to generalize about Catholic vs Protestant vs Orthodox countries.

      3) I know a little about the Meskhetians, but not much. They might be the subject of a later post!

  6. You seem to think biggest division in Georgia follows language lines while biggest division is west and east division . temperament, mentality, traditions, food, differ greatly ……. gurian, imeretian , megrelian are much closer ,more likely to be friends, marry, understand each other than gurian and kaxeli both speaking kartuli.

  7. Hello! Nice to see that someone still finds my work interesting!

    I just have a couple of comments to an otherwise thorough article:

    1: Some of the Ingilois are actually converting back to Christianity nowadays, although curiously, they are choosing the Baptist faith and not the Georgian Orthodox Church! Culturally, they are also very Georgian, including practicing the typical Georgian supra (with wine drinking and toasting, very un-Azeri like!). My information is from visiting Zaqatala/Saingilo in 2009, so my information might be somewhat out of date though.

    2: I am curious about your claim that the Mingrelians at some point lived outside Georgia. What do you mean by this? I suppose you mean that they lived in Abkhazia, but setting aside the contentious issue of whether or not Abkhazia is part of Georgia or not, it is clear that Mingrelian-speaking Mingerlians did live in Abkhazia before the late 19th century Mingrelian migrations into Abkhazia and the Stalin/Beria-era population transfers. I am of course talking about the Gal(i)-Mingrelians here (however, I am sure you are also familiar with the controversy over the ethnic origin of the so called Samurzakanians!) who arguably “always” lived in Gal(i).

    Richard

    • 1) I’ll take your word for it. Regrettably, I’ve never been there, and most of my information comes from old Soviet ethnographic encyclopedias.

      2) I did mean Abkhazia by “outside of Georgia”. Boundary controversies aside, what I really mean is that a significant number of Mingrelians have lived outside of the Georgian cultural world, away from Georgians and the Georgian language. Instead, they were more cosmopolitan, belonging to the much wider sphere of Russian / Soviet culture.

      There had always been Mingrelians who didn’t know Georgian, because there were uneducated Mingrelians peasants who had never seen anything outside of their villages. But in Abkhazia there were educated, cosmopolitan Mingrelians who didn’t know Georgian. These are the interesting case, because it’s much harder to argue that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that Georgian really is their “mother tongue”.

      I actually didn’t know about the Samurzakanians, so thanks for pointing that out to me. But I wonder, did they live “outside Georgia” in the sense I’ve described? In what language did they worship? In what language(s) did educated Samurzakanians write?

  8. Pingback: Notes on Terminology | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

  9. im mingrelian and im kartvelian(georigian) გაუმარჯოს საქართველოს !

  10. You have really interesting articles, though in this case your question whether Mingrelians are Georgians or not has one answer: Yes and No. You should first define ‘Georgian.’ Who are Georgians? Do Georgians = Kartvelians or not? It is a very difficult question, you make a claim and have not enough evidence to prove what you claim: Mingrelians are not Georgians. What should I, a Mingrelian person ask myself: ვარ მე ჯორჯიელი? (var me djordjieli – am I Georgian?) or should I ask: ვარ მე ქართველი? (var me kartveli? – am I Kartveli?). Well, you see it. There is no word ‘Georgian’ in our vocabulary. That’s your word. We do not know this word. We have one word for us: Kartveli. There is no Georgia for us. There is Sakartvelo – that’s how we call the country you call Georgia. So, yes, I am Mingrelian and I am Kartveli and I live in Sakartvelo. I am Kartveli both by ethnicity and by country of origin. I am not Georgian and the same way I am not Gruzin, Gurji or whatever strangers call us. The discussion is all clear. Full stop.

    • “Yes and no” is a very appropriate answer for someone named Orutsnobiani Gantoleba 😛

      But look, in a way I’ve already addressed your point! I considered the idea that “Georgian / Gruzin / Gurji” is something like a unifying composite ethnicity (constructed by outsiders) of Kartvelian peoples. Under that interpretation, it’s true by definition of “Georgian” that Mingrelians (and Svans too) are Georgians. You’re making similar but opposite-minded argument: no, Mingrelians are not Georgians, and in fact nobody is Georgian, because “Georgian” is not a real ethnicity.

      Now that’s an interesting argument, and I hadn’t heard it before, but like the other argument, it somewhat misses the questions that I really wanted to address. Namely, are Mingrelians a people distinct from Karts (Kartvelebi)? You can hear Karts say things like “Mingrelian is just fucked up Georgian” or that Mingrelians are just one more regional variety of Georgians, like Imeretians or Kakhetians. I don’t think these things are true, and that’s what I wanted to consider.

      • I’m a Migrelian from my father’s side and let me tell you this, whenever we have a “supra” it’s always “Glory to Sakartvelo” “Glory to Iberia/Colchis” “Gaumarjos gartianebul saqartvelos” and you’ll never hear “dideba samagrelos” and “tavisufleba samegrelos” so here you have it.

        We’re Georgians and so are the Lazs, they’ll soon be joining us and you can count on that- we tend to rise up every three century or so.

        • By the way, just gotta say this; drop the Soviet handbook or Russian ones if you really want to learn anything about Georgia. what Russians and Soviets wanted was to divide us so badly that we would slice eachother up and make it easier for them to indirectly rule us – “strong enough to fight eachother, not united enough to fight them”

  11. I am megrelian, and i am georgian.i am 10000 % georgian. And you asshols who say that megrelians are not georgians F u. I am kartveli , kartvelian georgian, you can call whatever you want. I dont care. I was born in zugdidi, as kartveli megreli, georgian. Megrelians are kartveli lake imeretians, kaxetians….. We are kolxians true georgians kartveli as are iberians . Wehave one blood one culture and one motherland sakartvelo georgia.
    ***
    I dont give a fuck what u think. Fuck you. Ppl like you trying to divide georgians. You russian motherfucker. And if you are not georgian ,that is not your business to talk about us. We have one nation and i would put the bullet on your head for trying do divide us. Go do something else. Georgia and georgians is not your concern.youmust be russsian or russians pay u money to talk about this. Otherwise you got nothing better to do??
    ***
    Tell all this to my uncle. He livs in senaki samegrelo
    Tell all this to my family in samegrelo that they are not georgians that they are not kartvelebi ,and you will see what will happen. You idiot mf er. Give me your phone number and i will explain you if megrelians are kartvelebi or not. How about u go and have a sex w your slut mama and tell her megrelians ar not kartvelebi, how abot that? I think you are sitting somewere in rusdia or insoxumi and runing this site??? Am i right you?, ha u pice of shit. U waisting you time . Go shoot yourself.

    • If you live in Zugdidi or Tbilisi, I can recommend you a good English teacher, since you seem to have problems with reading comprehension. I suggest that you go back and read this post again slowly and carefully. If you do, you’ll find that I’m not saying what you think I’m saying. At that point you can come back and we can discuss the issue like reasonable people.

      By the way, in the interest of reducing clutter, I went ahead and consolidated your four angry little comments into one long angry comment.

    • what matter what termin you call himself. is termin so important for you? be carefool, you will becamr mad.

  12. I’m an American citizen. I grew up speaking Russian, my mother is Malorussian with touch of German and Prussian and my father is Mingrelian. I was baptized in Greek Orthodox Church in Abkhazia as a child. My father speaks Mingrelian and Georgian, and considers himself Georgian. He and my half sister now live in Tbilisi, and fit in just fine . I didn’t grow up with my dad, nor really identified with Ukrainians since the community where I live in US their all from Lvov (Western Ukraine) and baptist. The German and Prussian roots never really identified me as in both World Wars my family fought for Russia/Soviet Union and came over during Catherine the great time to Russia. My family went to Russian Orthodox Church, but nobody in my family ever called themselves Russian. I also recently found out on my dad’s side there was some Malorussian (Eastern Ukrainian), before I thought it was Russian, but it turns out i don’t have any Russian blood. I’m having my young children learn Georgian and eventually will teach them Mingrelian once I master it. I will apply for Georgian citizenship once I master the language. I feel Georgian. Perhaps cause that is what my dad, but also Georgian Orthodox Church, the shared over millennium of history where Mingrelians formed bounds with Kartvelians voluntarily. Mingrelian foods like Mamoliga (Corn/polenta) are distinct from Georgian, but they make Georgia richer. Mingrelians will always be Mingrelians, but nobody will take our Georgian soul.

    • Taking away Mingrelians’ Georgian-ness is not the problem. Rather, the issue is their Mingrelian-ness being denied. This is what happens when people say, for instance, that Mingrelian is merely a corrupt dialect of Georgian.

  13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colchis#

    in this map you can see Iberian tribes in PONTOS Trapezunt region (georgians are Ibero-Colchians) such as: Tibareni (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibareni) , Mossynoeci Iberian tribe MESKHETIAN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mossynoeci), Chalybes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalybes) Saspers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saspers) TAOKHS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taochi) etc. Parts of Lazistan where incorporated in Tao-Klarjeti as well.

    Colchis appears as the first Caucasian State to have achieved the coalescence of the newcomer. Colchis can be justly regarded as not a proto-Georgian, but a Georgian (West Georgian) kingdom. . . .It would seem natural to seek the beginnings of Georgian social history in Colchis, the earliest Georgian formation.[ Toumanoff. Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p 69,84

  14. ?????????????? “That said, the Abkhaz Mingrelian community is a thing of the past, so it’s fair to say today that Mingrelians are all part of Georgia”….Today there are about 30 000 Mingrelians still living in Gali they form about 20 % of population of Abkhazia. Practically entire Gali is still predominantly Mingrelian as it always hav been see Samurzakano.

  15. Mingrelians are actually canniest and shrewdest of all Georgians, but you ll find out only when you are around for some time.

  16. Ad 1 You are quite vocal on where Mengrelians do live and where they are abroad. The map below show that Odishi – Old Mengrelia of Dadianis actually covered almost half of current Abkhazia. – http://dadiani.si.edu/Images/map1full.jpg – On Mengrelians and other Kartvels – When Mengrelians meet and talk amongst themselves about some non -Mengrelian Kartvelian they say in Mengrelian – Thena Kortu Re – i.e. He is Kartvel, i.e not Mengrelian

  17. Though I would grant you that people often make the outlandish claim that Megruli is just a dialect for Georgian, this is the first time I’m hearing that its referred to as corrupted Georgian dialect. From my experience, its the other way around. Georgian proper has had much larger interaction with different language families and groups which has resulted in many borrowings. Many Georgians, at least as far as I know, refer to Svanuri, Megruli, and Lazuri as much better preserved than Kartuli. Whether to what extent is this true is subject to a different debate. As you already mentioned, Megrelian, and I would also add Svan, have historically been spoken much beyond its current borders, not only in Abkhazeti/Sanigeti region but also in North Caucasus (especially true for Svans in Balkaria region)

  18. I am Mingrelian this is my background – it says everything!
    Why kartlis to decide who I am?(

    • I do not know how you got there in Turkey!
      But Georgia is full of discrimination Mingrels.
      Today in Georgia no Mingrelian schools – prohibited.
      No Mingrelian television …
      Mingrelian language, a dialect of Georgian chauvinists say
      All this is very bad(

      • Mingrelians is ethnicity!!!
        Have one person can have two origins?
        This is nonsense)
        Mingrelia until 1926 considered themselves only Mingrelians and no one else.
        But кartvelian fascists this fact of history do not recognize(

  19. This whole debate is nonsense! Is an African American not American?? Are Cantonese not Chinese? How many languages are there in India?

    Georgia/Gruzia/Gurjistan are the names for Sakartvelo (საქართველო) in Georgian.

    ‘Sa-Kartvelo’ (Georgia), meaning land of ‘Kartvelians’ (Georgians). Ok now the question is who are Kartvelians? (Georgians). Well according to linguists the Kartvelian (Georgian) languages consist of Georgian(Kartuli), Megrelian (Megruli), Laz (Lazuri), Svanetian (Svanuri).

    All languages in this group are Georgian languages even though the group contains a language with the very same name. Therefore originally, Mingrelians, Laz, Svans are ethnically Kartvelian (Georgian) people wherever they live. Be it in Turkey, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia or any other place in the world. Whether they speak Kartuli or not.

    Another question is a question of identity. Megrelians can feel Megrelian, they can also feel Georgian, they can also feel Mingrelian Georgian but this just their identity. Being Megrelian already implies being Georgian naturally. Again any single person is free to identify himself as anything he like but do not expect more than that!

    I have Laz friends living in Georgia partially in Batumi and Sarpi at the border with Turkey. Just a friendly advice do not ever tell them that they are not Georgian!! It can get really messy!

    Georgian people will always stay united. Abkhazians, Ossetians, Armenians, Jews, Azeris, Yezidi-Kurds, Russians living in Georgia are all Georgian citizen and therefore are Georgians and no outsider will ever be able to destroy this harmony that has existed for centuries in this country.

    • You wrote something that is cheap propaganda kartvelian(
      Svans is svans , mingrelians is mingrelians lazs is lazs!!!
      Tell me please, when coined the term Kartvelians ? )))

      • What part exactly do you think is propaganda? Mingrelians are Mingrelian and Georgian at the same time. Sicilians are Italians, Corsicans are French, Swiss Germans are Germans, Mexican Americans are American and Mexican at the same time. You can call Mingrelians a sub-ethnicity but they are too close and similar to other Georgian sub-ethnicities to call them a single ethnicity. The term Kartvelian became widely used just recently before it substituted the term South Caucasian languages to avoid confusion with the North Caucasian languages. That does not change the fact that Mingrelian, Laz, Svan and Georgian have one single root which is proto-Kartvelian. Furthermore, all these languages historically have been and are spoken within the larger Georgian cultural sphere.

        • This ethnic group Svans mushvany, Mingrelians and Svans two completely different ethnic group.
          Svan and Mingrelian are completely different languages.
            Georgian chauvinists are called dialects, but they do not understand these languages.
          From your answer to the question when the term was coined Kartvelians – you answered very inaccurate.
          So Kartvelians an ideology))

          Examples that you have brought to other countries

          • I never said that they are dialects! I said they are languages. Speaking a different language does not mean you are from a different ethnic group!! For the rest, I do not understand what you are saying. Kartvelians is a term that has not been used by foreign linguists up until recently. But it is the term to describe the subject in a linguistic, scientific way. You can dislike it and criticize it but refer to logical arguments!

            • I conclude from your words.
              Regarding the dialect I said it was not about you.
              All Georgian “intellectuals” does not recognize the Mingrelian language and makes it grow.
              In Gali Mingrelians began to learn in their mother tongue, it infuriated all Georgian chauvinists headed Patriarchate.

              About Kartvelians term you do not answer precisely all very confusing.
              I will help you respond Kartvelians is a political and not an ethnic term.
              Ethnic groups living in Georgia who were forcibly “united” under one idea kartvelizma.
              But it did not work!

              • “In Gali Mingrelians began to learn their mother tongue”??? Which mother tongue ?? Why are there no more Georgian language schools in Gali?? Why only Russian ?? This is discrimination. Ethnic Georgians (Mingrelians) in Abkhazia cannot get citizenship and have no right to vote or to own property? Georgian refugees are not allowed to return.
                95% of Mingrelians consider themselves Georgian. What does it tell you ??
                You are part of the small number of Mingrelians that gave up their Georgian identity and sold it to Russians and Abkhaz. Do not speak in the name of Mingrelians because you are clearly poisoned by Russian propaganda! Do you consider yourself Abkhaz?? Because Mingrelians are 100% more Georgians than Abkhaz!! Mingrelians have nothing in common with Abkhaz but they share their ancient history with Georgia.

                • “Why are there no more Georgian language schools in Gali?”
                  I will answer your question with a question
                  Why Georgian Mingrelian no schools, no Mingrelian TV, no newspapers magazines – is discrimination ?!!!
                  Georgian chauvinists are constantly discriminating all Mingrelian language, culture and history that you ignore.

                  We know that kartvelistian wish mingrelian

                  I translate title:
                  “it is necessary to destroy all Mingrelians, and in their place to settle other”
                  And do not write about anything untill Russia is using Russian Mingrelia you received a gift in 1867.

                  The rest will leave without comment – it is a common propaganda kartvelian
                  No arguments!
                  Just tell all the Georgian “democracy” ends where begins Mingrelian question !!!

  20. “These so-called IDPs (internally displaced persons) are almost entirely Mingrelian.”

    I have two questions here:
    1) Do you have any authoritative source on this claim?
    2) Around what percentage of the population would you qualify to mean “almost entirely”?

    That the Megrelian Georgians far outnumbered, say, Rachveli Georgians, Imeretian Georgians, or Svan Georgians in the Soviet Georgian Abkhazia is usually taken at its face value, and frankly I find it believable that Megrelian Georgians were not only a plurality among Georgians there, but also a majority; in other words, I do believe that Megrelian Georgians constituted more than half of all Georgians in Abkhazia. However, I am disinclined to find credible the claim that the Georgians of Abkhazia, say in 1980s, were “almost entirely” Megrelian. Though Megrelian and Svan Georgians are the only Georgians subethnic groups that lived on the territory of contemporary Abkhazia in significant numbers prior to the Soviet-era population transfers, I think that by 1989 (the year when the last Soviet census was conducted) perhaps as many as one third of the Georgians of Abkhazia were non-Megrelian. Consequently, among the so-called IDPs (from Abkhazia), too, there are tens of thousands of non-Megrelian Georgians.

    “That said, the Abkhaz Mingrelian community is a thing of the past so it’s fair to say today that Mingrelians are all part of Georgia.”

    Abkhaz Mingrelian community is actually not completely a thing of the past – according to both the 2003 and the 2011 censuses (or is it censi?) conducted by the authorities of the unrecognised Abkhazia, the Gali district still has a population of around 30,000 that is almost entirely (and I mean close to 100%) Megrelian Georgian.

    What is interesting here is that in both the 2003 census and the 2011 census Gali residents were explicitly given the option to list themselves as either Georgian or Megrelian. In both cases more than 90% of them listed themselves as Georgians. So Megrelians (albeit in smaller numbers) continue to reside in the territory of contemporary Abkhazia and continue to regard themselves as Georgians, even though the narrative long pushed by the Abkhaz authorities (who conducted the census) has been that Megrelians are different from Georgians.

    • Your answer is Kartvelian (kartvelism) propaganda
      Remember , Mingrelians is Mingrelians!

      In English it would be correct Mingrelia.
      Why you write Megrelia?

    • I’m pretty sure I got that claim from Hewitt. He’s certainly a partisan source, but I’m inclined to take his word. “Almost entirely” may be an exaggeration, and I don’t remember an exact figure being given. I suppose I haven’t seen an “authoritative” source for this claim. On the other hand, conditioned upon its being true, I wouldn’t expect it to be advertised or even officially noted, so it’s a tricky issue. Similarly, I have no idea who to believe regarding the Mingrelians who still live in Abkhazia. And since none of my research is firsthand, everything I say may well be bullshit.

      Indeed, the whole question is a real minefield, as you can see from the comments. I’ve actually considered taking this post down, since I worry that I may have inadvertently given a forum to Russian sock-puppets spreading anti-Georgian propaganda. That’s certainly something I want no part in.

  21. Does anyone here know why my grandfather’s lastname is Chkadua (megrelian) even though he is undoubtedly 100% Svani?

    • Process of assimilating.
      By the way Chkadu with Mingrelian language translation – a blacksmith.
      Another example:
      Dzhaiani, Bendeliani, Dadiani, Charkviani – svan lastnames, but they mingrelians.

    • That’s all you can say?
      Kartvelians – this is the real agents of the Kremlin.
      I repeat Mingrelians is Mingrelians.

  22. Ummm…okay. so let me try to speak my mind using little English I speak.
    Mingrelians and Svans are Georgians. Not Mingrelian Georgians or Svan Georgians, but Georgians. We are Genetically Same people. You can see when the language started developing separated way if you look at the history of Georgians. First known Region were Georgians lived was Diauehi or Diaokhi, 13th century B.C it was many time attacked by Assyrians and Urartuans, People started moving north and eventually formed Colchis second Georgian known Formation, Colchis became stronger and it destroyed Diauehi in 760s BC. Some Georgians that stayed in Diauehi Moved in East of todays Georgia and formed third known Georgian Formation Kartli or Iberia, they refereed to their First place of living as Arian-Kartli. Georgians tended to live in Isolations afterwards . You can see how fast Georgians tended to speak differently if you visit Regions of Georgia, for Example in Guria were they speak Gurian Dialect of Georgian, at points it becomes really hard to understand for Tbilisi residents to understand what they’re speaking, same goes for other Regions of Georgia, were you can see different dialects: Imeretian, Lechkhumian, Rachan, Adjarian, Imerkhevian, Kartlian, Meskhian, Javakhian, Mokhevian, Mtiuletian-Gudamaqrian, Khevsurian, Pshavian, Tushetian, Kakhetian, Tianetian. Svans were most isolated, they lived in high area of Caucasus mountains, they were more in contact with Northern Caucasians then other Georgians, so their Language separated first from Proto-Kartvelian. At that point we had two Languages Proto-Kartlo-Zan and Svan. As I mentioned there was Two formations Of Georgia Colchis and Iberia at the same Time. Different Dialects od Proto-Kartlo-Zan eventually became Different Languages Zan and Kartlian (Kartuli, Georgian) . later Zan seperated to Laz and Mingrelian though some times those two are refereed as dialects of one language.
    So we have common History, we share common ancestors, we spoke same Language, we look and act same because the cultural difference between Mingrelians, Svan and other Georgians are not more significant then the Cultural difference between regions of Georgia. If you ask Georgians სადაური ხარ? (from where are you*) Rachan will say I’m Rachan, Kakhetian will say I’m Kakhetian, Svan will say I’m Svan, Mingrelian will say I’m Mingrelian, but they all will say that their Georgians, because Georgians are all those People.
    My father is Rachan, my Mother is Imeretian, one of My grandmothers is Kakhetian while other is Gurian, My Great Grandmothers are Kartlian, Mingrelian, Svan, Lechkumian. list goes on, I have ancestors from all Regions of Georgia 🙂 . I think I’m good representation what Georgian Ethnicity means.

  23. Now listen to me very well mr Russian propagandist… you say you read about Georgia from Russian sources, yes I can see that very well because most of the things you wrote are upside down far away from truth and is just one more try of provocation in Georgia but let me tell you your blablabla will never work and it will never work on Megrelians too. I am Imereli with little Megrelian and also Laz roots too. first of all Georgia is a manual name for my country for you to know, we don’t call our country like that and no Georgian calls himself like that, name of this country is Sakartvelo! which means land of All Kartvelian people not only Karts but all Kartvels including Lazmegrelians, Svans and Karts and we all including Megrels call ourselves Kartveli and then our region for example I am Megreli Kartveli or Kartveli megreli or Kartveli Imereli and so on… we ask Kartveli xar dzmao? xo megreli var… are you Georgian brother? yes I am Megrel… so Georgian means Kartveli not just Kart and all these people are Georgians… if Sakartvelo which means word by word Kartvelia or country of Kartvelians is translated in English as Georgia then Georgian already means Kartvelian ok we cleared this…why? because that was the purpose when this country was created, purpose was so that these Kartvelian people that lived next to each other was united in one unitary state of all Kartvelians… before Kingdom of Georgia Georgia was united only twice but back then it was not in the name of Georgia back then it was in the name of Iberia first time was in 3rd century BC during King Parnavaz and second time was during King Vakhtang Gorgasali… first time we meet with termin Kartveli it is during King of Tao-klarjeti (Southern Georgia today in borders of Turkey) in 9th century when he announced himself as King of Georgians(of Kartvelians “Kartvelta mepe”) because in his borders lived both Lazs and Iberians(Karts) then this idea was developed and progressed and in the end during Bagrat III Georgia was united in first time in the name of Georgia thus in the name of Sakartvelo… the word Kartveli itself has roots in the word Kaldeveli, Kaldea was a region which included Trebizond and eastern region of Trebizond or South western Caucasus, It was a land of Colchis Kingdom later Lazica also sometimes referred as Colchis because it was one and the same Laz Kolkh and Kolkh Laz Megrel was in our language or just Egreli and Egrisi, so generally that region went into western Lazeti “Tchaneti” in Georgian, today western Lazs are extinct or they were forcefully migrated in easter Lazeti which is from Sarpi till rize and Atina… btw Lazeti was conquered by Ottomans from southern Georgian Kingdom of Tao Klarjeti in the end of 16th and beggining of 17th centuries and were muslimized in 18th-19th centuries even thought they rebelled alot against Turks and their church language was always Kart Georgian language http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/7245.htm, what? your Russian sources didn’t tell you this did it? Russians since the beggining were trying to achieve Georgia without Georgians and partly they achieved it sadly in Abkhazia and Samachablo… yes also about Hereti Saingilo or just Zakatala which has always been part of Georgia and it was given to Azerbaijan by Communists in 1921 just like Lore was given to Armenia even though we won war with Armenia that they started to steal a land from us, Artvin was given to Turkey and Sochi they gave to themselves Russia btw Javakhs were ethnically cleansedfrom Javakheti and Armenians were put there by Russia Armenians from Ottoman empire not from yerevan, after genocide of Armenians they put them in Javakheti while Georgians were mostly ethnically cleansed from there and were sent in Turkey together with Meskhetians in marmara region far away from Georgian borders and today they call themselves Chveneburis which means our man in Georgian just like Lazs, Lazs were also mostly sent to Marmara region because mostly these people ofc and logically had simpathies with Georgia and were pro Georgian even if lots of them were already muslimized by that time some of them still even rebelled and helped Georgia and in 1918-21 when Georgia was independent Artvin region was in borders of Georgia and so on and so on… Now about Adjara I think you should Check your propagandist information once more because 70% of Adjarians are Christians man and 65% Christian orthodox under Georgian Orthodox Apostolic church, barely 30% are muslim and thats also by old statistics today orthodoxs there are much more as even now while I am writing this some Adjarian might be baptising as Orthodox only very old people are muslim and thats also high in the mountains in Khulo where also youngsters are mostly christians and all of them including muslim adjarians are mentally Christians because it is religion of their ancestors and they know it and if most Adjarians today baptise are orthodoxs it is because they know it better suits their mentality and they know that is religion of their ancestors they dont become orthodox they return to orthodoxy and all ofc by their own will without any force for you to know there are more then 300 functioning mosques in Georgia which means religious minority rights are maximum protected. Now about Ingilos also propaganda almost half of them today are converted back to christian orthodoxy especially in Kakhi district they are mostly Christians which is also in Azerbaijan… so after reading well all this my advice for you will be to Delete this nonsense article you posted and never doubt again that Megrelians are Georgians

  24. Pingback: Dannon: “In Soviet Georgia…” | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

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