Аҧсны Амитрополиа Ҧшьа аофициалтә саит > Астатиақәа > Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), Akhra Smyr. CULTURE OF BEHAVIOR IN THE MOUNTAINS OF ABKHAZIA

Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), Akhra Smyr. CULTURE OF BEHAVIOR IN THE MOUNTAINS OF ABKHAZIA


Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), Akhra Smyr


In recent years, more and more people take interest in mountain recreation in Abkhazia – both tourists and local residents.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people visiting mountainous Abkhazia have no idea at all about the basics of a culture of behavior in the mountains, and it has a catastrophic effect both on changes in the mountain landscape and on the ecology of the mountains.

Studying ethnographic materials and observations of contemporaries, we draw attention to the fact that, human behavior in the mountains has always stood out in the culture of the Abkhazians. It was due to the Abkhazians’ perception of mountains. Abkhazians, like Circassians, even created their own special language of communication in the mountains – the so-called “forest language” (Abkh. абна бызшәа).

Highlands were perceived as the place closest to heaven, i.e. sacred. Metaphorically speaking, climbing mountains was perceived as an approach to God, who lives in the “Mountain World”. Open area, treeless meadows of the alpine zone (where the highlands begin – mountains with a height of 2.5 km), and rocky ridges were perceived as openness to the All-Seeing Eye (God).

Accordingly, such a perception contributed to the fact that, being in the mountains, a person treated everything around him with great reverence.

In addition, the highlands, for many different reasons (sudden change in the weather, the complexity of the terrain, wild animals, the danger that could come from abreks who hide in the mountains, landslides and blockages, the risk of getting lost, etc.) is not a safe place for humans. Of course, such risks limit freedom of humans. The usual looseness and ease of perception of the world in the mountains becomes another risk factor. Therefore, humns, being in the mountains, felt the need for protection and patronage, and each time turned to the Heavenly Forces.

The behavior of a human in the mountains was in an appropriate way – that is, not a host, but a guest. It was expressed in a change of behavior. For example, no one has ever left garbage – a source of unwanted attention from wild animals, including bears. Personal hygiene has always been associated with the construction of special light shelters, no one has ever bathed naked in rivers and lakes. Hunters always shared their game with the people they met. Shepherds always gave food and lodging to the traveler. Hunting and fishing in the mountains has always been limited to the volume necessary for subsistence and did not allow the extraction of excess. This was expressed, among other things, in the regulations for shooting game: when a group of hunters saw game (even if there was enough for each hunter), only one always had the right to shoot. Moreover, indiscriminate shooting was unacceptable. A special attitude was to the available sources of drinking water, pollution was totally prohibited. But cleaning the source was an unspoken obligation of anyone who had the time and energy for this.

In one of the stories of the famous Abkhazian storyteller Maadan Sakania, entitled «Ԥсҳәы ақыҭан иҟалаз ажәабжь» describes the mythological history of the emergence of the Auadkhara mineral spring. At the foot of the mountain, where the shrine (аныха) of Inal-Kuba was located, there was a mineral spring (аӡы ҵәыҵәы), which served as a healing source for all residents of the high-mountainous village of Pskhu. The villagers treated it with great reverence. And one day a man who came from the Sochi region and settled among the inhabitants of Pskhu deliberately washed his clothes in this source.

«Аӡы абни еиԥш аназиуаз, — Maadan Sakania continues his story, — уахынла, адыд-мацәыс ҭыҵын, акырцх ауит, кааимеҭ ҟалеит, Ԥсҳәы бгеит ҳәа уаҩы иҳәо, амшцәгьа бааԥс ҟалеит; ауаа рыцәа ыҟамкәа, ртәа ыҟамкәа, убриаҟара агәаҟра иақәшәеит Ԥсҳәы иҭанхоз. Аҽны анша, ианеиқәха, ажәлар ааит рныхаҿы, иҟала аабоит ҳәа. Иара аӡы зхәмгаз адыди-афи исын, дбылны џьара дкажьын, аӡы ыҟаӡам, иҭыҵны ицеит, аҭыԥ иахьҭатәаз бгеит, тышахеит»[1].

Due to such defilement, the source of healing mineral water moved from the village of Pskhu to the place that we call Auadkhara today.

Special norms of behavior in the mountains also ruled out any loud vocalization – screams, laughter, swearing, songs, as well as senseless running around and even dancing. The main form of leisure in the mountains was the joint eating and long evening conversations before the fire.
Regarding the last form of leisure in the mountains, there is another curious fact, connected with another storyteller, Platon Dbar. According to the folklorist Zurab Dzhapua, Platon Dbar “remembered almost the entire main plot of the Abkhazian Nartaa legends.” “He learned the Nartaa legends,” continues the named researcher, “from his Abaza friend, with whom he grazed cattle in his youth (in the mountains — Father Dorotheos for two years). And his Abaza friend learned the legends from his father and knew about 300 texts”[2].

In addition, all of the above and many other restrictions were a kind of instruction on life safety in mountainous conditions. All these and other restrictions, being part of behavioral norms, were integral with the sacred perception of mountains, thus forming the corresponding philosophy and culture. These rules are still relevant today. Moreover, the disappearance of sacred perception and globalization have led to the washing out of the basic principles of safe human behavior and its proper attitude to the environment.

All of the above does not mean at all that the mountainous area is similar to a temple or a museum. On the contrary, our ancestors actively used the resources that the mountainous part of Abkhazia could provide. Livestock grazing, logging, mining of ore and minerals, the use of mineral waters, hunting and recreation have been carried out by local residents since ancient times. Atsanguars, furnaces, paths, mines, bridges and even modern “booths” of hunters – all this testifies to the active economic activity of humans in the mountains.

But the observance of all the above-described rules of human behavior in the mountains has made it possible to preserve to our time the magnificent flora, fauna and natural landscapes that today attract both residents and guests of Abkhazia to the mountains.

Unfortunately, we have to witness how the culture of human behavior in the mountains has changed dramatically. The mountains are becoming an object of predatory exploitation, and this is due to the development and expansion of the tourism industry in Abkhazia. A huge number of off-road vehicles pollute not only the air, but also mountain rivers. According to the studies of scientists – biologists and ecologists, it has been established that the main factors of pollution of the rivers of Abkhazia are two: when herds of livestock cross the rivers and heavy off-road vehicles cross the channels.

This does not mean that grazing livestock or heavy off-road vehicles in the mountains should be banned. Of course, the regulation of these phenomena is needed, but it is much more important to build bridges where they are needed: this solution will equally alleviate the environmental burden and protect the drivers and passengers of vehicles.

A lot of tourists in clothes that are completely unsuitable for the area, drinking strong drinks, go to the mountains. Or vice versa, small groups of trekking enthusiasts, completely unprepared and not observing proper security measures, get lost in the mountains, unfortunately, even perish there. Moreover, cafes and restaurants have appeared near lakes and rivers, draining sewage waste and gray water directly into reservoirs, on the purity and beauty of which they earn! The appearance and assortment of these establishments do not correspond to the very concept, the very essence of mountain tourism, they do not correspond in any way with the culture and cuisine characteristic of the mountainous area, but represent a type of public catering that is more suitable for a shopping center in any city in the world, but not for the mountains of Abkhazia.

Swimming in mountain rivers and lakes categorically contradict the established culture of behavior and it is also unsafe for people. The cold water of lakes and rivers, the rapid flow and the danger of mudflows are dangerous for humans. But, unfortunately, even deaths of some people do not stop others.

Throwing garbage (especially plastic) and cigarette butts into rivers and lakes, washing cars and dirty shoes has, unfortunately, become the norm things. Even the behavior of people at the sources of spring and mineral water is increasingly accompanied by conflicts and abuse in the queues. Although in such cases, on the contrary, patience and respect should be shown. It should be remembered that during conflicts, even an accidental push can lead to a fall from a height on sharp stones and cause injury and death.

Sometimes young people, going to the mountains for a few days for a picnic, also ignore the norms of behavior, turn on loud music, make much noise, drink alcohol and take psychoactive substances, etc.

To correct this situation, it is necessary that the owners of the country (first of all off-road drivers, owners of restaurants and cafes, shepherds, guides, lovers of trips to the mountains for picnics, etc.) remember the traditional culture of behavior, make it part of their daily lives and only then they can demand compliance with the rules and regulations from others.
Otherwise, the mountainous part of Abkhazia will have no prospects, and everything will end in an ecological disaster.

In October 2016, the Third International Inalipa Readings took place in Sukhum. Paula Garb, a professor at the University of California, also took part in them. In her speech entitled “Reflections on the Significance of the Scientific Heritage of Sh. D. Inal-ipa in the Caucasus and Beyond”, speaking about the threats of destruction of mankind, she noted: “… I would like to dwell on one more very important aspect, related to this topic. Shalva Inal-ipa paid much attention in his works, particularly in “Abkhazians”, to the ecological aspect of the Abkhazian culture. He wrote how important it is for Abkhazians to feel the kinship not only between people, but also people with nature. If you took something from nature, then you must return it… Previously, such an approach was perceived as archaic, anachronistic, but now we see that this folk wisdom is modern, universal and meets today’s challenges”[3].

[1] Маадан Сақаниа иҳәамҭақәа. Еиқәиршәеит К. Шьаҟрыл. Аҟәа, 1970. — Ад. 75.

[2] Dzhapua Z. Dbar Platon Basiatovich // Abkhaz Biographical Dictionary. Ed. V. Avidzba. M. – Sukhum, 2015. – P. 274.

[3] Third International Inal-ipa Readings. (Sukhum, 4–6 October 2017). Sukhum: Abkhaz Institute for Humanitarian Research, 2017. – P. 16.