SOCIETY
Khevsur Tradition on Gender Relations
26 September, 2013
Among the highland traditions, one of the most interesting and diverse is “Stsorproba” of Khevsurs. It has no analogue among other people of the Caucasus. With slight variations, it was also upheld in the neighboring Pshavi region, where it is called “Tsatsloba” in reference to Tsatsali, a person who takes part in it.
The term Stsorperi means appropriate, suitable (Shesaperi in the modern Georgian). Stsorproba is the tradition of a specific man-woman relationship, which existed almost until 1950s.
What was
the factor that led to the birth of such a tradition in Khevsur highland of Eastern Georgia? There are numerous studies regarding this issue. But the researches frequently contradict each another.
Stsorperoba is the expression of pure love between woman and man. Some researchers find some analogues between the Platonic love and Stsorproba.
Actually, this tradition has lived for centuries. “Stsorproba” had different variations: if a man and woman liked or loved each other, it was called “Nandauri”. The person who was a mediator was called “an ambassador”. The Stsorproba that did not imply any sympathy or affection was called tsola-dgoma (lying and standing in the literal translation). Sometimes, the youngsters who were relatives and glad to see each other could also lye in one and the same bed, chatting and laughing all night long. The relationship between Stsorperis was strictly limited as it ruled out sexual intercourse. A person, who did not obey this rule, would lose his repute. The marriage among Nandauri couples was forbidden.
The only form that was not forbidden was caressing and kissing. A dagger was lying between the man and the woman when they shared a bed. It meant that their physical contact had limits. During the caressing, the woman’s breast was tied up. If the man dared to untie it, his repute and status would immediately fall down in the local community and no other reputable women would ever share a bed with him. He would be considered as immoral. If the contrary happened and a woman proved to be impatient and untied her breast herself, a man would curse her and she would be declared an immoral woman and condemned by the community. In spite of the forbidding rule, there were frequent cases when the couple fell in love of each other so passionately that they could not help getting married. In that case, they were viewed as a couple without strong will and were marginalized by the community.
The relationship between Stsorperis often lasted for years. As a rule, babies were often engaged while they were still in cradle. However, they soon fell in love of others persons, often for their Stsorperis. A woman who did not want to marry a man with whom she was engaged, would protract the process. Such women would not often marry a man until the age of 35 in order to make the period of being with Stsorperi as long as possible, since after the marriage, for women Stsorproba was forbidden while for men it was still affordable. Often, a woman would refuse to marry a man without love and as it was banned by the community to marry a Stsorperi – one whom she dotted on, she ended her life with a suicide. Sometimes, a married woman did not find enough force not to date her beloved Stsorperi. If such cases were revealed, the tradition of vendetta would be revived, implying the revenge by means of bloodshed and thus it could lead to the hostility for several generations.
According to the Khevsur tradition, a woman was left without the choice from the very cradle – the moment of her engagement with her future husband. The Khevsur family was not based on love. Rather, it was made for one aim – reproduction. Pure love was possible only among Stsorperis. For a Khevsur man, a wife was a sex object and an obligation, while Stsorperi embodied a romantic love. For Khevsurs, sex and love were different concepts. It is also notable that a woman, who was about to give birth to a baby, was considered to be unclean and in the period of childbirth, she had to go to the separate abode and give birth to a child without the outside help.
Tradition of Stsorproba used to set a lot of norms and restrictions to the community. At the same time, it was a test for a Khevsur man’s manly features, such as strong will, etc. It was considered that a real man (in Georgian ‘kai kma’) would be best examined in two cases: in the face of death and in the face of opposite sex – in the former, he had to defeat the fear and in the latter, he had to overcome the passion. Respect for this tradition became the topic of so many love stories and wasted young lives. Stsorproba as the institute gradually faded away and vanished altogether in the second half of the 20th century.
The Khevsur tribe that was quite isolated for centuries gradually opened its borders to the rest of the country, disclosed itself to a different civilization and left so beautiful but strict tradition of Stsorproba in the realm of the history.







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