Dannon: “In Soviet Georgia…”

From 1973 to 1978, the Dannon yogurt company ran a series of successful commercials featuring centenarians from “Soviet Georgia“. Here is a transcript of one of the TV commercials (with captions in brackets):

In Soviet Georgia, there are two curious things about the people [Tarkuk Lasuria, age 96]: a large part of their diet is yogurt [Temur Vanacha, age 105], and a large number of them live past 100. Of course, many things affect longevity [Kasteh Tanya, age 101], and we’re not saying Dannon yogurt will help you live longer. But Dannon is a natural, wholesome food that does supply many nutrients [Shadat Marcholia, age 103]. By the way, 89-year-old Bagrat Tabagua liked Dannon so much, he ate two cups. That pleased his mother very much.

When I first saw this ad, three things stood out to me as strange:

  1. Although I would occasionally get yogurt or kefir at convenience stores in Tbilisi, I don’t think I ever once had yogurt in a Georgian village. Maybe they eat it somewhere, but I don’t associate yogurt with Georgian cuisine. On the other hand, yogurt, in a variety of forms, appears frequently in Turkish cuisine.
  2. The men appear to be wearing some kind of traditional dress, but it’s not the kind of traditional dress I would expect to see in most of Georgia. In particular, several of them are wearing a kind of headwrap that I’ve only ever seen in old photographs and ethnographic depictions of Mingrelians, Adjarans, and Laz. In other words, their dress, if it’s actually authentic, has a distinctly lowland style, rather than the highland, mountaineer style I was expecting to see.
  3. Few of the names sound familiar to me. I’ve never heard of TarkukKasteh, and ShadatTemur is a name of Turkic origin not often used in Georgia; those Georgians who do use it seem to be mostly from extra-Georgian ethnic groups (like Svans). Bagrat was the name of a powerful dynastic family in Georgia and Armenia, though I’ve never actually met someone with that name. The surnames also sound strange to me, not having the typical -shvili or -dze suffixes. The only mention of Marcholia I can find is of a director of a play at the Abkhaz State Drama TheaterTabaghua, as far as I can tell, is a Mingrelian name; at least, it’s the name of a fifteen-year-old X Factor contestant from Zugdidi (will she live to become a centenarian?). In any case, none of these names are names I was expecting to hear.


These oddities can be explained, I suppose, by the fact that the commercials were actually shot in Abkhazia. I can’t tell the precise ethnic identities of the people featured: probably they are not Karts (i.e. regular Georgians), but they may be Mingrelians, Svans, or Abkhazians. I’m certain that the American executives involved in the production of the commercials had no idea that such distinctions even exist (the obituary of Dannon president Juan Metzger refers to the subject of the ads as “old Russians”).


Do they eat yogurt in Georgia? If so, is it limited to a particular region? There’s a Wikipedia article about a yogurt-like food called matsoni, but I’ve never heard of it anywhere else (as is often the case with this kind of thing, there’s an edit war over whether the dish is of Georgian or Armenian origin).

Regardless, the ads were a huge success, and they played a major role in thrusting yogurt into the mainstream of American food.

Further reading:



28 thoughts on “Dannon: “In Soviet Georgia…”

  1. Hey, glad to see you’re still posting. I always assumed that when people talked about Georgian yogurt they just meant mats’oni, although supposedly there is some distinction between the two things which I’ve never understood–something to do with the process of preparation, or the bacteria, or what? We definitely ate a ton of mats’oni up in Svaneti (where they called it martswen and made it pretty much daily), but I bought the fresh village version at some of the produce shops down in Tbilisi too from time to time. In addition to that corporate stuff they sell in the grocery stores and markets.

    That ad’s a classic, for sure!

  2. When I first saw “In Soviet Georgia…”, I expected some kind of punch line, like “…Yogurt eats YOU!”

    Here in Japan, it seems that the media keep saying even today (in vague expression where they are technically not lying) that some Georgians are known to live very long [not a lie], and they eat yogurt [not a lie]. Companies are trying to sell what is called “Caspian Yogurt” this way. I’m not sure if it’s okay to sell Georgian things as Caspian. Perhaps it’s not even Georgian to begin with. It might be random yogurt only given a fancy name.

    I heard that in the USSR, Mingrelians and Svans were classified as Georgians. So perhaps calling them Georgians was technically not wrong?

  3. The Armenian version also seems to be -TS- (maTSun). The Persian version is māST. The Syriac version is maSTā (originally mSāṮā). These three may or may not be related.

    The other post of yours is, well, spicy. Mingrelians remind me of Hazaras in Afghanistan. The problems of identity are personal/internal/subtle/touchy/difficult. I see you’re writing very good articles, thought-provoking and bold, frank and sincere, based on some serious research/personal experiences.

  4. They’re most likely Abkhazians.

    – The last name Lasuria is borne by a few Abkhaz on Wikipedia, for example Robert Lasuria, dean of the physics and math faculty of the Abkhaz State University; A. Lasuria, apparently a playwright of at least one play named “Toothache”; and Mushni Lasuria, an Abkhaz poet.

    – The next man, Temur Vanacha, is definitely Abkhaz, although he is referred to as “Temuraz Vanacha” in the Wikipedia article about his son, notable Abkhaz WWII veteran and educator Ivan Vanacha. Apparently old Temur(az) made it another 12 years and lived until 117!

    – Unfortunately I can’t find anything about Mr. Tanya. Since Tanya is such a popular first name, any searches done for Таня inevitably just lead to millions of results where it’s the first, not last, name. I can’t find anything for the first name Kaste either.

    – Marcholia seems to be a rare surname, though I did find a woman on a Russian social media website that bears it. She lives in Abkhazia, so there’s a decent chance she’s ethnically Abkhaz. Of course, names ending in -ia often point to Mingrelian provenance, e.g. Gamsakhurdia, Beria, Tsaguria, etc. However, I read somewhere (a lamenting Russian-language livejournal post by an Abkhaz patriot, if I remember correctly) that a lot of Abkhaz surnames have been Mingrelianized, so to speak, so that they now bear Mingrelian-sounding ending. That means the -ia ending pointing to Mingrelian heritage is far from a slam-dunk. I’d say the jury is out on this one but Marcholia can be pinned down to either Mingrelian or Abkhaz. My gut tells me to lean towards Abkhaz, though, because if it was Mingrelian I feel like there would be a lot more results for მარჩოლია/მარჭოლია than there are, and that the Marcholia I found on social media probably wouldn’t be as well integrated with Abkhaz-surnamed friends as she seems to be (though I could be wrong; I don’t know how tense the inter-ethnic situation is right now in every part of Abkhazia). Seems a safer bet to go with Abkhaz.

    – As for the last guy, Bagrat Tabagua, that sounds pretty Abkhaz to me. Bagrat is a name he shares with the famous Abkhaz writer Bagrat Shinkuba, and the -gua ending sounds like it’s probably a labialized uvular consonant. In fact, a quick visit to the Abkhaz language Wikipedia yields a couple of results for notable Abkhaz people with the surname Tabagua: Табаҕәуа. Once again, though, it’s not really a sure thing because there is famous “Georgian” (I don’t know if they’re Georgian by ethnicity or nationality, though) named Paataa Tabagua (პაატა ტაბაღუა). Since there are a couple of notable Abkhaz Tabaguas, though, and the fact that one of them is a member of the Abkhaz government leads me to believe Bagrat was probably Abkhaz.

    The anthropologist Sula Benet wrote a couple of books after she spent some time doing research in the Caucasus, one of them called The Abkhasians: The Long-living People of the Caucasus which dealt, at least in part, with their longevity. All or most of these centenarians from Abkhazia being ethnically Abkhaz would, then, make a lot of sense.

      • Thanks! Yeah, like you said, I’d imagine it was an issue with documentation.

        Sorry to be off-topic, but I commented somewhere on your blog (the Q&A section maybe) before I made this post about the centenarians, and I was wondering if you saw that one. I’m not registered, just commenting as a guest, so I have no way to check my comment history and see. Since you saw and approved this post, which like I said I made later, but not my previous one makes me wonder if it just didn’t go through.

        I wanted to know what you thought of Hewitt’s Discordant Neighbours. I saw you mentioned it in an entry. It’s being sold at B&N at a significant discount right now ($38, down from a whopping $150), but I don’t want to waste even that much if it’s just Hewitt ranting and raving about the evil Kartvelians. I need to be able to trust the factual information, and I’m not sure I can do that if it reads like a screed.

        Sorry if you saw my earlier post, since this one is little more than a duplicate.

    • I can assure you that the only abkhazian person in the whole video is Mr. Vanacha. The rest are Megrelians from Georgia’s western region.

      Lasuria, is ethnonym version of a last name, and a derivation from root word of Laz. There are many versions of this name among Georgians. Lazishvili, Lazuri, Lazuria, Lazidze,… Another theory is that it comes from first name ლასური/lasuri. There is long history of Lasurias living in Abkhazia. Some even participated in Abkhazian-Russian conflict and ended up getting deported to Turkey. Large number of them actually assimilated into Abkhazian population. This is not uncommon. There are many Abkhazians today with Georgian origins who live in Turkey or even Syria, who fought against Russian empire and lost. I was able to find even my distant relatives among Turkey’s Abkhazian population and I am Rachvel. Simple facebook search will do the trick, if you want to check it out. Vast majority of surnames with laz root come from either Megrelian or Imeretian regions.

      Tanya is not uncommon name among Megrels, although most would probably spell it as Tania. ტანი (Tani) means body in Georgian and Megralian. However, nowadays there are actually some numbers of Abkhazians with the lastname of Tanya. Most of them have Georgian origins. Similar to Babia, Chania, Mania, Pataraia…

      Marcholia. The root of the lastname is Marcho which in Georgian (and also in Megralian) is associated with curing, or tending to someone. It can also mean someone who is very loyal and obedient (მორჩი/მორჩილი). მარჩენალი/marchenali translates as someone’s keeper. I had a classmate with that very same last name in Tbilisi.

      Tabagua is also Megrelian. A simple google search should do if you want to look up some Georgians with that surname. Tabaguas were actually chased out and ethnically cleansed from Abkhazia specifically for their Georgian origins. There is a large number of Tabaguas among Georgia’s internally displaced population (IDPs) for that reason.

      In general, I would not be surprised to see some Abkhazians with these same lastnames, or at least derivations of them. Historically, there was always a very large presence of Georgian population in current Sanigia/Abkhazian region. Abkhaz and Georgian were even used interchangeably at various points in history and there are multiple examples of Georgian nobles in Sanigeti/Abkhazeti region:Shavliani, Marushiani, and Kobakhia to name a few.

      In general, truly Abkhazian lastnames will be ended by sufix of either Ba or ipa. Like for example, Ardzinba, Shamba, Adleiba, Ketsba, Inalipa, Adleipa… There are vast number of people in Abkhazia whose last names end on ia, a, ava, or ua. However, most of those last names have Georgian origin and, combined with indigenous Abkhazian population, make up the indigenous people of Abkhazia.

      To digress a little bit, a vast number of Georgians actually have their ancestry stemming Abkhazian region. It was a mountainous area which was used (like Svaneti, Racha, and Mtskheta-mtianeti) area to repopulate Georgia after constant incursions in the south. Even my lastname, for example, Kobakhidze originated from Sanigeti/Abkhazian (from the Kobakhia house of nobles).

      As for Matsoni, it is hugely popular in Georgia. Which is specifically the reason why people dont by them in stores. Most of the time it is homemade by people who live in villages and countrysides. Georgians rarely consume wine bought in stores either; however, that does not mean wine is not popular in Georgia. In general, Georgians are quite skeptic of anything bought outside and like to make things at home.

      • Thanks for these remarks! What about the first names? Tarkuk sounds like it could maybe be a Kartvelian name, but what about Katseh and Shadat? Of what original spelling is “Katseh” the transliteration?

        And why did I never have or even hear about matsoni in Georgia? Most of my time was spent around Tbilisi and Kakheti; is matsoni a western dish?

        • Firstly, Samegrelo is notorious in Georgia for having some of the most weird sounding first names in all of Georgia. It even often becomes subject of humor. They are usually very unique, not just in Georgia but all of Caucasus and can not be found anywhere else in the region. So figuring out first names in this ad will be a hard task, unless we can get someone who is Megrelian.

          I would spell it more as Tarquq then Tarkuk (თარქუქ). I dont think it is a very common name in Georgia, or in Megralia. I have not heard of many people, if any, with that name in Megrelia. But, again, there are so many weird names, its hard to keep track. This just might even actually give some credence to theory that the person might just be Abkhazian of Georgian origin. As I stated before, this is not uncommon at all. However, I could not find any Abkhazian on a social media with a name that remotely resembles Tarquq. Who knows…

          As a side note, there was a famous Mameluk (of Circassian origin) named Barquq, who established Burji dynasty in Egypt. It sounds similar to Tarkuk. It could simply be an Arabic name, since almost all Mameluks had their names changed when kidnapped. There are bunch of Middle-eastern names in Georgia and in Caucasus: Bakur, Jemal to name a few.

          Shadat (შადათ) is another name I have hardly ever heard. I cant tell you much about it. I have heard of name სადა/Sada used by Georgians. Not sure if there is a connection.

          Kasteh should stem from Greek Kosta. It is fairly common name in Georgia (and in Samegrelo) with various derivations: Kostia, Kotsia, Kosta, Kotso (კოწია, კოსტია, კოსტა, კოწო). These are all shortened Megrelian versions of name Constantine.

          Bagrat is a very common Georgian name. Number of Georgian nobles bore it. The surname of Georgian royal house is Bagrationi. King Bagrat III of Kartli unified all Georgian noble dynasties in establishing unified Georgian monarchy. He is actually berried in Bedia Monastery, Abkhazia. It is not used as commonly these days, like Giorgi, Lasha, Beqa…. However, it was much more commonly used back in the days. My grandfather was named Bagrati.

          Lastly, Temur (თემური) is another fairly common name in Georgia. It has Mongolian origin – Tamerlane was a turqo-mongol conqueror of 14-15 centuries. However, what is very interesting to me is that even though person has probably Abkhazian last name (Vanacha) his first name is Georgian version of Tamerlane. In North Caucasus, as well as among predominantly Muslim populations, word is Tsimur (წიმურ). Temuri (თემური) is almost exclusively used by Georgians, or those who speak Georgian tongue.

  5. Hi Nick :). Glad to see you come back to post about Georgia and Caucasus related issues every once in a while.

    Here’s a link to a useful database on contemporary Georgian names: http://mashasada.me/en

    The linked database was based on the official list of voters from the Georgian parliamentary elections in October 2012. In other words, it contains information on first and last names of all 18 year old and older resident citizens of Georgia as of August 2012 – 3,613,745 people in all.

    The database, available in Georgian as well as in English, allows you to check the number of representatives of every first and last name of Georgia and lets you see their distribution by municipalities. For in stance, by typing in the last name “Lasuria” we learn that there were just four 18+ year old Lasurias residing in Georgia in August 2012: two of them in Tbilisi, one each in Zugdidi and Tsalenjikha. So it is one of the rarest last names in Georgia, possibly on the verge of extinction.

    Search draws no results for first names Tarkuk, Kasteh, and Shadat; search in English draws no results for last names Marcholia, Vanacha, Tanya, or even Tania (its alternative spelling in Latin alphabet). The search in Georgian also does not draw any results for მარჩოლია/მარჭოლია, ვანაჩა, or ტანია. So its safe to say that these three first names and three last names are not Megrelian, and by extension Georgian. I can think of only two ways that one or more of these last names is theoretically Megrelian/Georgian: 1) they went extinct sometime from 1978 to 2012, or 2) they were widespread only in Gali, and since some Megrelian Georgians remain in Gali to this day, the last names are continued only there. The odds of either of these being true are extremely low. Thus, the names must be Abkhaz.

    I’m inclined to think that Tarkuk Lasuria too was Abkhaz: even if we apparently had at least four Lasurias residing in Georgia as late as 2012, we know that Georgian and Abkhaz last names are not mutually exclusive; i.e. some last names have representatives among both ethnic groups.

    As for the first name “Bagrat” and last name “Tabaghua” (not Tabagua) – here search shows that there were 915 Bagrat-s and 354 Bagrati-s and 935 Tabaghua-s in 2012. So there’s a chance this last of the five men (Tarkuk Lasuria, Temur Vanacha, Kasteh Tanya, Shadat Marcholia, Bagrat Tabagua) was a Georgian. What makes me even more inclined to think this is the fact that the text below the last photo you attached quotes Bagrat Tabaghua as assessing Danone yogurt as “dzalian kargia”, which is Georgian for “very good”, as I’m sure you know. Is it possible that Bagrat Tabaghua never actually uttered those two Georgian words and that the writer of the piece, who was no doubt ignorant of the ethnic and linguistic complexity of then Georgian SSR, wanted to attribute some words to one of the respondents and just asked around how “very good” was in Georgian? It is, and its also possible that Bagrat Tabaghua too was an Abkhaz.

    “I’ve never heard of Tarkuk, Kasteh, and Shadat.”

    Neither have I, as a native of Tbilisi. I’d also not heard of the last names, Lasuria, Marcholia, Vanacha or Tanya; I guess that says something.

    “The surnames also sound strange to me, not having the typical -shvili or -dze suffixes.”

    These two are the most common suffixes of Georgian last names, however, lots and lots of prominent and widespread Georgian last names do not end at either of these two suffixes. Consult: http://www.iberiana.webs.com/georgiansurnames.htm

    “Bagrat was the name of a powerful dynastic family in Georgia and Armenia, though I’ve never actually met someone with that name.”

    We should not confuse Bagrat the first name with Bagrationi the royal last name, which have both been in use for over a millennium, even if they share a common etymological root.

    “…probably they are not Karts (i.e. regular Georgians), but they may be Mingrelians, Svans, or Abkhazians.”

    Of course it is great to pose questions and start semi-academic discussions on controversial topics and to try to examine them from every angle as you did so thoroughly in your balanced entry “Are Mingrelians Georgians?”, but is it really necessary to suggest in every other unrelated post thereafter that Megrelian and Svan are not “regular” Georgians or that Abkhaz could be any kind of Georgians at all ethnicity-wise? Seems to me a bit – for a lack of a better word – politically incorrect towards the representatives of the mentioned groups, considering that you yourself write in the opening paragraph of the quoted entry that such a suggestion (about Megrelians) “would be considered seditious by many Georgians”, but its all a matter of taste I guess.

    “Temur is a name of Turkic origin not often used in Georgia; those Georgians who do use it seem to be mostly from extra-Georgian ethnic groups (like Svans).”

    While you’re right about the Turkic origin of the name Temur, it is in fact a fairly common Georgian first name, especially for men over the age of 30. Names Temur, Temuri, Temuraz, Temurazi, Teimurazi (თემურ, თემური, თემურაზს, თემურაზი, თეიმურაზ, თეიმურაზი) could all be passport spellings of the name Temur and if you add the numbers of all these names from the data, you end up with one of the most popular male names in Georgia. As for the second point – without commenting on the merits of the concept of “extra-Georgian ethnic groups” – the existing data points that name Temur is not necessarily more popular in Svaneti or Samegrelo than it is in other regions of Georgia.

    • Welcome back! You might be wondering why it took so long for your comment to appear. In fact, your comment was caught by the WordPress spam filter. I think this is because of the two links you included, links being rightfully regarded with suspicion by the filter. It’s actually lucky that I saw it, since I don’t normally check the spam queue. So congratulations, you’re the first false positive! In the future, if something like that happens again, please message me directly — I truly value your contributions to this blog, and I would hate to miss any!

      That name site is amazing, and I wish I had known about it earlier. I do have one complaint about it though. You’re going to be shocked and stunned when you hear this, so you make sure you’re sitting down when you read it.

      Are you ready?

      I don’t like the transliterations they use for the English representations of some names. BOMBSHELL.

      Seriously, how do you think you would look up the name მაყვალა? Try it.

      By the way, do you happen to know the etymology of that word მაშასადამე? It looks like Arabic, but I don’t know. All I know, and really all anybody can know, is that ვაზროვნებ, მაშასადამე ვარსებობ.

      • Glad my comment was found – I thought I must have mistakenly clicked a wrong place while attempting to post it and feared it lost. So I was going to send you the database link as a stand-alone comment one of these days :).

        Transliteration is always problematic, unless there is some sort of official uniform rule for it, no? Some languages using writing systems other than the Roman alphabet have such official or semi-official rules for transliteration into and from that most widespread of the writing systems, but Georgian doesn’t. Therefore, we encounter two related problems with transliteration of Georgian names: arbitrariness and lack of uniformity.

        Nonetheless, arbitrariness and lack of uniformity that often characterise transliteration of Georgian names into English are fading and will gradually cease to be issues worth mentioning: about half-a-dozen years ago Public Service Hall, the Georgian state agency responsible among other things for issuing national identification cards and passports, started to gradually phase out the traditional, Georgian-only national ID cards and to supplant them with newer, so-called “electronic ID cards” that are bilingual. As a result, every single national ID card issued to citizens or residents since August 2011 has been bilingual, with all the pertinent information (first and last names, sex, date of birth, citizenship) appearing both in Georgian and in English, just as it is in passports (which are used for international travel). In contrast to the US, where many simply tend to use their drivers licenses as ID cards, in Georgia almost everyone has an actual national ID card due to its necessity in multitude of daily transactions. So, once all the old IDs are phased out and the new ID cards fully take over (the latest count was that about 2.4 million adult citizens – which is equal to about 2/3 of Georgia’s total resident population – had obtained new electronic ID cards since 2011), the question of arbitrariness of transliterating Georgian names into Roman alphabet will be closed, at least as far as official data is concerned.

        As for the problem of lack of uniformity in transliteration of Georgian names – here the problem is that for most of the 1990s and 2000s, though the national IDs were entirely in Georgian, passports were already bilingual (for understandable reasons) and the state was letting its citizens pick the English equivalents of their Georgian names in them. So if your name was მარიამი, the decision as to whether your name appeared as Mariam, Mariami, or Mary in your passport in English was left in your discretion. As another example, some გიორგი-s had “George” in their passports, yet others “Giorgi”. As I understand (but I could be wrong on this!), the Public Service Hall discontinued this practice of giving citizens such wide discretionary powers in choosing English spellings of their names at around the same time that it introduce new ID cards. Therefore, transliteration of Georgian names into English is now largely uniform. However, for those who had obtained their passports until then, the English spellings of their names that they had chosen stayed and were further used for issuing new IDs for them as well. So for instance, my brother’s name is გიორგი, but because his name was written as “George” in English in his first passport back in 2007, his name now appears as “George” in his second, new passport, as well as in his new national ID card and will always remain so (unless he applies to change it). But for გიორგი-s who are just now getting their first passports or ID cards, their options as to how their names will appear in English are limited to “Giorgi”.

        I don’t know what methods database at mashasada.me used for transliteration, but the above discussed changes pretty much ensure that in the near future compilation of such data in English will be possible by merely relying on the bilingual official data, without need for any additional transliteration. This also means that the data in Georgian and in English will not necessarily coincide (since some გიორგი-s will still appear as Georges and others as Giorgis), but both sets of data shall be official nevertheless.

        As for the word მაშასადამე – I do not know what its etymology is; however, I’d always assumed that it was a compound word derived from მაშ and სადმე. It does not sound Arabic to me.

        • “the Public Service Hall discontinued this practice of giving citizens such wide discretionary powers in choosing English spellings of their names at around the same time that it introduce new ID cards. Therefore, transliteration of Georgian names into English is now largely uniform.”

          Hi! May I ask a slightly off-topic question here? I’ve noticed that პაატა is spelled Paata in English, and I’m guessing პ = p, ტ = t, and perhaps კ = k, are official. My question is, then how do you officially transliterate ფ/თ/ქ in your ID cards now? Maybe ph/th/kh? I’m wondering: If you use “kh” here, how would you handle ხ?

        • I always make students use the English version of their names, but it seems strange to me to use such a policy for identity papers. Then again, I imagine the same issue existed during Soviet times, so it probably doesn’t strike anyone as unusual.

    • [I]s it really necessary to suggest in every other unrelated post thereafter that Megrelian and Svan are not “regular” Georgians or that Abkhaz could be any kind of Georgians at all ethnicity-wise? Seems to me a bit – for a lack of a better word – politically incorrect towards the representatives of the mentioned groups…

      There are two questions here: 1) Should the supposed distinction between “Karts” and other “Kartvelians” be discussed? 2) If so, what terminology should be used?

      Regarding the terminology, I wouldn’t take a firm stand behind any of the phrases I’ve used — “extra-Georgian ethnic groups” strikes me as especially inept at the moment — and I’m open to suggestions. But should the issue be brought up at all? In this case, I would say it absolutely should be, and refusing to do so would only obscure what’s already a difficult and hazy issue.

      I was thinking about making a tortured analogy with the status of Black Americans, but it would take a long time and probably wouldn’t seem terribly relevant to anyone but me.

      In conclusion: anyone who says my terminology is inadequate is probably right. I’m open to different approaches, but I’m not open to avoiding it altogether in a case like this.

      • Hope it’s OK if I hop in here because this topic is something I’ve currently been wrestling with too.

        My solution thus far has been to refer to Georgians, Megrelians and Svans collectively as “Kartvelians.” Once I figured out that inhabitants of Kartli actually have their own specific ethnonym, Kartleli, this seemed acceptable, given that all three languages are considered Kartvelian.

        But how to refer to Megrelians and Svans as their own subgroup? Possibly “Kartvelian minorities”? Other options would be “non-Georgian Kartvelians” (which sounds silly and a bit oxymoronic, since in English at least all of these peoples are certainly citizens of Georgia and probably call themselves Georgians too, though I’m mindful of Hewitt’s claim that among Megrelians “kortu” is an insult). Or “non-Kartuli-speaking Kartvelians”–that’s unwieldy and inaccurate since almost all Megrelians and Svans actually do speak Georgian. Attempts to refine that–“Kartvelians for whom their ancestral language but not necessarily their mother tongue is not Kartuli but is a related Kartvelian language”–get even more unwieldy. “Non-Kartlelian Kartvelians” is too broad since it would include Imeretians, Khevsurs, Acharans, etc, So for now I’m going with “Kartvelian minorities” or maybe “Georgian with an asterisk.”

        I also wouldn’t make an analogy between these Kartvelian minorities and African Americans since I don’t think the racial distinction is really there (who are Georgia’s black people? Azeris?). Rather, I see them (especially Svans) as Georgia’s white hillbillies–morally suspect people with customs that are somewhat repulsive, but also possessed of an ethnographic and folkloric authenticity that is praiseworthy, partly attributable to the very factors that make them suspect (their isolation and insularity), and emblematic of both the best and worst qualities of our own ancestors. As white hillbillies, they are also still somehow “owned” by, umm, really Georgian Georgians…they’re still “ours” in a way that Armenians and Azeris and other peoples aren’t. Maria Todorova’s concept of the internal other (see her book “Balkanism,” a refinement of Said’s “Orientalism”) and some writings by Paul Manning helped me think through this.

      • “1) Should the supposed distinction between “Karts” and other “Kartvelians” be discussed?”

        I had not heard of the word “Kart” until seeing you use it. I performed a cursory online search of the term and sure enough I found several mentions related to history of Georgia, but none with the same connotation that you attach to it. Regardless of that, my point is that there is just no such thing as “Kart” in the psyche of the Georgian people.

        There are the notions of “Kartveli” (i.e. Georgian), as well as notions of sub-ethnicities of კახელი (Kakhetian), ქართლელი (Kartlian),ფშაველი (Pshaveli), მთიული (Mtiuli), ხევსური (Khevsuri),მოხევე (Mokheve), თუში (Tushetian), მესხი (Meskhetian), აჭარელი (Adjarian), გურული (Gurian), იმერელი (Imeretian), მეგრელი (Megrelian), სვანი (Svan), ლეჩხუმელი (Lechkhumian), and რაჭველი (Rachian). But stop anybody in Georgia and ask them what ქართ, or ქართები is, and you’ll get blank stares. There is neither word nor concept in the Georgian language that would collectively refer to ethnic Georgians with the exception of Megrelians and Svans.

        Here’s a comment someone left in your other entry:

        “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.”

        I would basically have to agree with the spirit of this comment. The idea that Gurians somehow share more with a Kakhetians than they do with Megrelians will sound laughable to most Georgians. And this is not to say that Megrelians are not that different from other Georgians, because they quite obviously are; this is simply to say that Tushetians are really different from other Georgians, and that Kakhetians too are remarkably different from other Georgians, especially from those native to Western Georgia. But clearly you’re exposed to such a paradigm of the structure of Georgian sub-ethnic groups and you’ve rejected it, so I see see no point to go on with additional arguments. I understand it seems sexy to categorise ethnic and sub-ethnic groups by language, especially if you have what you think are comparable cases in other countries that you can try to use as parallels; but I think that examples from China, or even from Spain (vis-à-vis Catalan and Catalonia) do not really apply in Georgia.

        “2) If so, what terminology should be used?”

        You should continue to use whatever terminology you like, particularly when it comes to such theoretical discussions. I merely reminded you that constantly suggesting that Megrelians or Svans are not a “regular” or “just” Georgians will sound insensitive and tasteless to most representative of those grups.

    • [T]he existing data points that name Temur is not necessarily more popular in Svaneti or Samegrelo than it is in other regions of Georgia.

      You know, it often happens when I’m writing these posts that I’ll have more details to add, but then I think “Fuck it, nobody is going to read this far anyway” and then write one vague sentence with no details. This is one of those times!

      Now, I did not consult any official statistics when I made that claim. I did, however, consult English Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timur_(name). If you search that page for “Georgian”, you’ll find three hits:

        Director Temur Babluani: Svan
        Diplomat Temur Iakobashvili: Georgian Jewish
        Footballer Temur Ketsbaia: Mingrelian? (born in Gali)

      Although those are the only instances of “Georgian” on that page, there’s also a listing for an Uzbekistani footballer named Timur Kapadze. According to his page, he is “of Ahiska-Turkish descent”.

      If you didn’t know anything else, what conclusions would you draw from this data? How would you describe what these four people have in common? Is it a coincidence that none of them are “just” Georgian? These aren’t rhetorical questions.

      • “You know, it often happens when I’m writing these posts that I’ll have more details to add, but then I think “Fuck it, nobody is going to read this far anyway” and then write one vague sentence with no details. This is one of those times!”

        🙂 I know and your openness and welcoming attitude to feedback is why I (and I suspect others) enjoy coming back to your blog. We’re here not to catch you in one minor misstatement or another, but to appreciate your study of Georgia and the wider Caucasus and to learn something new from you for ourselves. I didn’t know anything about these yogurt ads until your blog entry.

        P.S. – I forgot to mention that Matsoni is as common in Georgia as any food is; I just had one this morning. I’m surprised you weren’t exposed to it while living in Georgia.

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