This article is about a people in the Caucasus. For other uses, see Svans (disambiguation).
Svan: შვანარ shvanar
Georgian: სვანი svani

Distribution of the Svan language in relation to other Kartvelian (South Caucasian) languages.
Total population
c. 14,000[1]–30,000[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Georgia 14,000[1]–30,000[2]
 Russia 45 (2010)[3]
Svan, Georgian
Predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity
(Georgian Orthodox Church)
Part of a series on
Ancient Kartvelian people
History of Georgia

The Svans (Georgian: სვანი, Svani) are an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians (Kartvelians)[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] living mostly in Svaneti, a region in northwest Georgia. They speak the Svan language and are mostly bilingual also in Georgian. Both these languages belong to the Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language family. In the pre-1930 Soviet census, the Svans were afforded their own "ethnic group" (natsional'nost) category.[11] The self-designation of the Svan is Mushüan, which is probably reflected in the ethnonym Misimian of the Classical authors.[12]


Svan with dagger and long smoking pipe. Mestia (~1888–1900)

The Svans are usually identified with the Sanni mentioned by Greek geographer Strabo, who placed them more or less in the area still occupied by the modern-day Svans.

In the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union Mingrelians and Svans had their own census grouping, but were classified under the broader category of Georgian thereafter in the 1930s. They are Georgian Orthodox Christians, and were Christianized in the 4th–6th centuries. However, some remnants of pre-Christian beliefs have been maintained. Saint George (known as Jgëræg to the locals), a patron saint of Georgia, is the most respected saint. The Svans have retained many of their old traditions, including blood revenge (although this tradition has been declining over time, as law enforcement takes hold). Their families are small, and the husband is the head of his family. The Svan strongly respect the older women in families.


Typically bilingual, they use both Georgian and their own, unwritten Svan language. However, Svan is being largely replaced by Georgian, which is the language of culture and education in Georgia.

Famous Svans


  1. 1 2 Joshuaproject. Svanetian, Mushwan
  2. 1 2 DoBeS (Dokumentation Bedrohter Sprachen, Documentation of Endangered Languages)
  3. Russian census 2010
  4. Stephen F. Jones. Svans. World Culture Encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 13, 2011: «The Svans are one of the dozen or so traditionally recognized ethnic subgroups within the Georgian (Kartvelian) nation.»
  5. The Svans Kevin Tuite Université de Montréal 1992: «The Svans are one of the dozen or so traditionally recognized ethnic subgroups within the Georgian (Kartvelian) nation.»
  6. Britannica. Caucasian peoples: «The Caucasian peoples ... The southerners, comprising the Georgians, the closely related Mingrelians and Laz, and the Svan, make up the Republic of Georgia and live in western Transcaucasia (the Laz live in Turkish territory).»
  7. R. Wixman. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook (p.181): «Svan ... The Svanetians are one of the Kartvelian peoples of the Georgian SSR»
  8. Levinson, David. Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998. p 35
  9. D.N. Ushakov's Dictionary
  10. Modern Dictionary of Russian language. Efremova T.F. 2000
  11. National population census ZSFSR 1926
  12. History of Georgian Mountein Regions / R. Topchishvili. Available at The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
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