Tusheti is an historic mountainous region of Georgia which today forms part of Georgia's eastern region of Kakheti. The largest village in Tusheti is Omalo.
In the past, Tushetian Gouda cheese and its high quality wool have been famous and were exported to Europe and Russia. Even today sheep and cattle breeding is the leading sector of the economy.
The first inhabitants of Tusheti were the pagan Georgians from Pkhovi who took refuge in the mountains during their rebellion against Christianisation in the 330s. Eventually however, they were forcibly converted to Christianity by the Georgian kings.
After the collapse of the unified Georgian monarchy, Tusheti came under the rule of Kakhetian kings. When the North Caucasian Bats people (relatives of the Chechens and Ingushes) began settling in Tusheti in the sixteenth century, they were granted lands in the Alvani Valley in exchange for their military service.
Known to the local Georgians as the Tsova-Tushs, they have a high degree of assimilation and are typically bilingual using both Georgian and their own Bats languages.
Geography and climate
Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Tusheti is bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan to the north and east, respectively. The Georgian historic provinces Kakheti and Pshav-Khevsureti lie to the south and west
Tusheti is distinguished by deep river gorges that slice forcefully through these mountains, and unlike the other regions of East Caucasus, the slopes of Tusheti are blanketed in aromatic, virgin pine forests.
What to see and do
One of the most ecologically pristine regions in the Caucasus, Tusheti is a popular and well established mountain-trekking venue.
The area is also an idyllic setting for travellers interested in botany, birds and wildlife. The severe climate and giant massifs have resulted in unique varieties of vegetation and its endemic plants will be of great interest to the botanist. As the snows melt and the temperatures begin to thaw, the blossoming of the Caucasian rhododendron, huckleberry, crowberry and other plants carpeting Tusheti's hillsides is a magnificent sight.
Tusheti has always been renowned for its biodiversity. Its thick forests and rocky peaks are the safe habitat for birds and animals from black grouse and ring-dove, to Caucasian goat and bear, and the rivers are full of wild trout.
A tour around the delightful mountain villages in Tusheti, built in a traditional style of architecture, also makes for a lovely day of sightseeing.