1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Khevsurs

KHEVSURS, a people of the Caucasus, kinsfolk of the Georgians. They live in scattered groups in East Georgia to the north and north-west of Mount Borbalo. Their name is Georgian and means “People of the Valleys.” For the most part nomadic, they are still in a semi-barbarous state. They have not the beauty of the Georgian race. They are gaunt and thin to almost a ghastly extent, their generally repulsive aspect being accentuated by their large hands and feet and their ferocious expression. In complexion and colour of hair and eyes they vary greatly. They are very muscular and capable of bearing extraordinary fatigue. They are fond of fighting, and still wear armour of the true medieval type. This panoply is worn when the law of vendetta, which is sacred among them as among most Caucasian peoples, compels them to seek or avoid their enemy. They carry a spiked gauntlet, the terrible marks of which are borne by a large proportion of the Khevsur faces.

Many curious customs still prevail among the Khevsurs, as for instance the imprisonment of the woman during childbirth in a lonely hut, round which the husband parades, firing off his musket at intervals. After delivery, food is surreptitiously brought the mother, who is kept in her prison a month, after which the hut is burnt. The boys are usually named after some wild animal, e.g. bear or wolf, while the girls’ names are romantic, such as Daughter of the Sun, Sun of my Heart. Marriages are arranged by parents when the bride and bridegroom are still in long clothes. The chief ceremony is a forcible abduction of the girl. Divorce is very common, and some Khevsurs are polygamous. Formerly no Khevsur might die in a house, but was always carried out under the sun or stars. The Khevsurs like to call themselves Christians, but their religion is a mixture of Christianity, Mahommedanism and heathen rites. They keep the Sabbath of the Christian church, the Friday of the Moslems and the Saturday of the Jews. They worship sacred trees and offer sacrifices to the spirits of the earth and air. Their priests are a combination of medicine-men and divines.

See G. F. R. Radde, Die Chevs’uren und ihr Land (Cassel, 1878); Ernest Chantre, Recherches anthropologiques dans le Caucase (Lyons, 1885–1887).