Let me bring an example from the Central Asia: many Kyrgyz people refer to bride kidnapping in their country as a “national tradition”, thus justifying its existence (Kleinback, 2000). And though this tradition was somewhat faded during Soviet times, it has revived since 1990s and constitutes one of the most acute problem of women’s human rights violation in Central Asia (where unconsented marriages frequently lead towards unhappy wives’ suicides through their self-burning).Historical context is needed for understanding this practice in 21st century’s countries, and this context is mutually intertwined with the notion of the revival of tradition. Definitely in connection with this goes the notion of Muslim religion’s revival in Central Asia and Christianity’s revival in post-Soviet Georgia.
During the Soviet era, Islam’s and Christianity’s intellectuals were repressed, and most progressive Muslim and Christian leaders were silenced or annihilated (Tabyshalieva, 2000). Revival of religions and religious rituals go on tune with the notion of national revival and national identity (re)construction.From my own observation as well as according to the general belief in Georgia, the majority of Georgians who turned back towards the religion in the beginning of 1990s were merely supporting the then-popular idea of national identity revival, and was in no way connected with suddenly increased trust in God. Both bride-kidnapping and religious issues in the Central Asia I assume are linked with so-called post-colonial nationalism, which is a pride in one’s national identity. This identity is connected with the said nation that has broken free of colonial rule by a larger world power.
Not only Soviet Union but also Eastern Communism regimes can be located under the label of such “large world power”. For instance, Beller (1991) elaborates on causality of another example of national revival by making an interesting comparison between histories of Western and Central Europe. He states that while “invention of tradition” has become a major, and most intriguing, cottage industry within the historical profession, there does seem to be a large difference between the histories of the Western European nation-states on the one hand, and the histories of Central European nations on the other hand.Simply saying, the histories of France, Britain, Italy and Germany (with some qualification) work and convince, whereas those of the Central European nations are much less convincing, much shakier in the claims they make on our credulity. The reason for this is that, no matter how much is invented, a British, French, Italian or German historian can follow centuries of continuity of a “national” state while this is not the case in Central Europe. Either there were states whose history had come to a halt, or whose history had only now to be either disinterred or invented anew.
What was lacking in each state was authority, the authority of continuous tradition. Nationalism was the means chosen to fill this gap, or replace it by a completely different set of bridges between the inhabitants of the region (Beller, 1991). However, nationalism is, from the viewpoint of the functional differentiation thesis, an illusionary ideology which brings forth logically impossible inclusion, namely the national identity of modern individual (Tokuyasu, 1999).
For the sake of this paper, I will not engage into the debate with the functionalists’ challenge whether those customs were merely compensatory mechanisms in former patriarchal societies. This would shift my focus from my primary goal towards discussing functionalism-related issues that I am not going to undertake here, especially because of lack of material here at CEU (as well as the focused research on this tradition in general) about preconditions of tsatsloba.As particularly for tsatsloba, Georgia continues to be a traditional country where premarital sex is sinful and not welcomed by the society. However, there is gradually increasing tendency to introduce girlfriend-boyfriend institution in the country.
But even if this institution is fully introduced and established in mountainous regions (which is not the case now) tsatsloba will no longer be applicable there. To my understanding, one reason for it is that there is no more seclusion of mountainous regions in Georgia.Just on the opposite and still to my surprise, during my recent visit in Germany I recently met a German man married on a Georgian girl from Pshavi region, who told me that this girl had the opportunity to go to Germany for a year to be a babysitter there and this was the way they met.
This means that the roads and possibilities are open for everybody including people from formerly secluded areas, and no sense of seclusion in the case today (Baliauri, 1991).It goes without saying that for people who has full access not only to the culture from lowlands but even to modern Western values and culture (in whatever sense this “culture” may have) any tradition like tsatsloba would seem simply foolish to follow. Why foolish? Because: 1) By introducing contemporary technical equipment to highlands (this process has started to some extent as early as the period after World War II) there are steadily increasing chances to escape such harmful aspects of everyday working life which would inevitably cause young women to lose their beauty rapidly and would justify the institution of tsatsloba;2) Because of outside influence, there is increased tendency of introduction of boyfriend-girlfriend institution in Georgia and in case tsatsloba would be reinvented it would be seen as having a girlfriend-boyfriend rather than an old custom of ethnic origin; 3) There is no guarantee that in the light of today’s wide-spread television and mass media tsatsali (both a girl and a boy) will resist great interest in an opposite sex and will not succumb to his/her bodily calling, thus thwarting all the notion of tsatsloba; and4) Even if tsatsloba occurred again, due to lack of modern societal restraints on marriage politics it would be impossible to ban marriage between the two tsatsalis.
Thus the whole phenomenon of tsatsloba would lose its sense and become merely mockery. To my understanding, these are but a few reasons why I think this formerly deeply rooted tradition tsatsloba will not be reinvented again in contemporary highlands of Eastern Georgia. However, as Geertz (1973) argues in his The Interpretation of Cultures, cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete.
The more deeply it goes, the less complete it is. It is like that Indian story about the world rested on a platform which rests on the back of an elephant which rests on the back of a turtle, and it is turtles all the way down (Geertz, 1973, p. 28). To my understanding, the credibility of cultural analysis, in search of all-too-deep-lying turtles, is quite suspicious especially when the issue discussed is an old and outlived tradition such as tsatsloba.Nevertheless, I attempted to look at this tradition from the lenses of modernity to understand what has blocked its viability in nowadays world full of re-invented national characteristics and identities. To conclude, it should be noted that some culturally determined traditions and customs lasted for many centuries (for example, many scholars believe that tsatsloba had deep roots in pre-Christian period), because the ethnic mentality of a particular society was determined by the centuries of estrangement induced this society’s geographical and climate factors.
Besides, difficulties in many aspects of everyday life and ethics would facilitate invention and establishment of such customs. But that is not the case in the modern Caucasus anymore. As Giddens (1995) rightly pointed out, tradition is not static, because it has to be reinvented by each new generation as it takes over its cultural inheritance from those preceding it. It means that tradition is located not only in space but also in time. Current Georgia is rapidly advancing contemporary country where no geographical unit enjoys seclusion so characteristic just a century ago.Let me just hope that some other “traditions” deeply embedded in the societal conscience (such as bribery and laziness, these two evils widely spread during communism) will vanish completely as tsatsloba and other culturally determined, formerly deeply rooted and now meaningless customs did. Lela Purtskhvanidze MA in Gender Studies CEU, 2003 – 2004Bibliography: Baliauri, N.
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