The messenger logo

History and legends of Bazaleti

Friday, July 23
Dusheti is a town in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of Georgia, 54 km northeast of Tbilisi. Located on both banks of the small mountain river of Dushetis-Khevi in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus, at an elevation of 900m above sea level, it functions as the centre of the Dusheti Municipality which, beyond the town itself, includes several villages of the historical community of Pkhovi (Pshavi and Khevsureti). The 2002 census stated that the town had a population of about 4,600.

Dusheti first appears in Georgian written records in 1215. In the 17th century it served as a residence of the local mountainous lords – the dukes of Aragvi – whose defiance of the Georgian crown more than once led to invasion and devastation of the town by royal troops. After the abolition of the Duchy of Aragvi in the 1740s Dusheti passed to the crown but significantly declined. In 1801 the Russians took over and granted Dusheti town status. The next year it became the centre of the Dushet Uyezd. The town and its environs were a scene of disturbances during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the peasants’ revolt in 1918 and an armed clash during the 1924 August Uprising against Soviet rule. Dusheti was home to nutrition producers and light industry during the Soviet era, but suffered an economic decline and population outflow in the years of post-Soviet crisis. Now most people work in service industries (in banks and schools, as mechanics, and storeowners) and by subsistence farming. The town is also known for its production of khinkali, a meat-filled dumpling very popular in Georgia.

There are several historical and recreational sites in and around Dusheti, such as Ananuri Castle and Bazaleti Lake, which is situated some 60 km northwest of Tbilisi and has a surface area of 1.22 km? and a maximum depth of 7 m. Georgia is famous for its rivers and lakes, and the Bazaleti Lake is the most mysterious of these due to a historical legend.

The area around the lake once housed a flourishing medieval town where the Battle of Bazaleti took place in 1626 between two rival Georgian parties centered respectively on Teimuraz I of Kakheti and his defiant noble Giorgi Saakadze. The battle was the culmination of the power struggle which had emerged after the Georgian nobles rallied behind Teimuraz and Saakadze and recovered much of the eastern Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti from the Iranian occupation. Shah Abbas I of Iran used the rivalry between Teimuraz and Saakadze to divide the Georgians into two opposing parties and punish Saakadze, who had formerly fought in the Iranian ranks. In a pitched battle, Saakadze’s lieutenant Davit Gogrishvili was killed and his demoralised forces were routed by the royal army. Saakadze fled to the Ottoman Empire, where he was assassinated in 1629 after a brief but successful military career under Sultan Ibrahim I.

Currently the area is a popular recreation spot served by a modern tourist complex. It is known that Bazaleti Lake has an outflow somewhere but it has not been discovered. Locals claim that the water recirculates. They tell a story about a bull which was drowned in the lake and later was found in a well in a nearby village. According to local legend, a golden-haired child lies in a golden crib at the bottom of the lake, which was formed from his mother's tears. Thos story is retold in a Georgian poem.