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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Georgia's Pankisi Gorge: An Ethnographic Survey


The Pankisi Gorge region is located just south of the Georgian-Chechen border in the Republic of Georgia. Most of the inhabitants of the region are descendents of ethnic Chechen and Ingush, known as "Vainakh" or "Kists." Since 1994, Pakisi has witnessed an influx of refugees from the Russian-Chechen crises, affecting an already difficult economic and social environment and leading to an increase in crime. Tensions have broken out between Georgia and Russia stemming from fears of Chechen political activism and an increase in Islamic radicalism in the Pankisi Gorge, and since September 11, 2001, the United States has become involved in the region. This paper gives an ethnography of the various groups of the Pankisi gorge, particularly the Kist ethnic group -- discussing the migration of the various groups into the region, their family and kinship structures, and their customs -- and comments on the current situation of the region's inhabitants.

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