Defense towers need defending

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Svani means “tower architecture.” Most towers are 60 to 100 feet tall and date back to between the 9th and 12th centuries. They provided protection against aggressors—usually neighbors. Local disputes were sometimes solved by murder, and then revenged with more murders. Such inhuman methods of resolving a problem consequently caused the annihilation of dozens of people. During such feuds, families might live in towers for several years, and when enemies approached, they would hurl rocks, oil, and insults from the highest level. Towers also protected families and their livestock from avalanches and they sheltered the most valuable possessions of every family, such as religious icons.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

In Adishi, all of the towers need repair; some need major reconstruction; and still others have fallen and become a pile of rubble. Some homes and other buildings also are collapsing. It makes me sad. I see these medieval towers, in a “holy” village, beneath perpetually snow-capped mountains, and I want someone to do something to stop nature’s destruction. The Georgian government promised Adishi financial assistance three years ago, and it may be coming—nearby Mestia has certainly received government support, which caused a construction frenzy. Adishi may even become the site of a major ski resort, which will cause it to also become a boomtown. But I worry. Will too much tourism hurt the traditions of Adishi? Will too little tourism destroy it?

I hope that my documentary film will help answer such questions. Adishi could try to remain a village of farmers who provide homestay experiences to young backpackers for a night, but if it continues along this path, people may suffer so much that everyone abandons Tbilisi. Or the government could build new roads to Adishi, provide new electrical poles re-start a school, and add a library. Meanwhile entrepreneurs could open new hotels and restaurants; maybe even a giftshop. In the winter, skiers could enjoy the slopes during the day and the nightlife after dark. Is this “progress?” Will such development change the “authentic” experience, with real Svaneti hospitality, that some tourists value? Is such progress inevitable? I can’t help but think of the islanders who used to live near the coast of South Carolina and how their homeland is now a Kiawah or Hilton Head resort.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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