Aaron Huey



High in the mountains of the Georgian Republic, between the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in a valley surrounded by 5,000 meter peaks, is Svanetia. The old men of this valley say that the Svans are the descendents of Sumerian slaves that escaped their bondage and fled north, to the Caucasus where they worshiped the Sun God Lile' and became known as The Children of The Sun. Isolated by the natural barrier of the Caucasus, the Svans have enjoyed a long history of independence and have used that protection to develop their own language, culture, and customs. Song and dance are the last places the Svanish culture survives. Todaythe economic instability of the region is causing a mass exodus of Svanish youth, drawn away to Tbilisi, Europe, and America where they can get a better education, a job, and a life that does not depend on subsistence farming. The language that the Svans speak, a language which has never been written, is rapidly being replaced by Georgian (Kartuli). There are now fewer than two hundred fluent speakers of the Svanish language left.