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Oath of Memory: The Taking of Oaths on Icons in Svan Villages of Southern Georgia

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

In the late 1980s, Georgian Svans were first resettled from the highlands of Svaneti to a rather plain region in the south. The resettlement took place because of natural disasters in the 1980s and continued thereafter because of economic problems. In their new environment the Orthodox Svans regularly perform oaths on icons and swear to stand together and to respect their “traditions”. Oaths on icons are an important constituent of the Svan traditional law. In so called “Free Svaneti”, the oath of unity was until the 19th century an important vow of solidarity. The local segmentary society managed to resist being incorporated into neighbouring principalities and Tsarist Russia. But while the oath of unity in “Free Svaneti” was performed to bind people together in an autonomous region with no central executive, today, in Southern Georgia, the oath binds the people to a mythologised Svaneti. It ties them to a nostalgic conception of their Svan homeland.

Affiliations: 1: Philipps University, Marburg


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