With a blessing
of His Eminence Metropolitan Dimitry of Batumi and Lazsky

The site is dedicated to the Georgian martyrs for Christ in Adjara, Lazeti and Tao-Klarjeti

7. Islamization of Shavsheti and Adjara

There is a Georgian village of Shavsheti that is from the Turkish side of the border, 137 kilometers from Batumi, in the direction of the Turkish town of Ardahan. There is a terrain known as Erusheti which historical center was the eponymous city, known as the medieval Christian center. It is located to the north of Ardahan. This city is closely connected with the history of the baptism of Georgia in the 4th century under the reign of Marian the Third.

Bishop Leonty Mroveli, author of the 11th century in his work "The Life of Georgian Tsars", in the section "The Appeal of St. Nino to Kartli," writes that immediately after the baptism of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia "... sent Mirian the Bishop Johan and one notable person with him to Tsar Constantine and asked him for a part of the Life Giving Tree, which at that time was discovered by the Queen of God Helen. He also asked a number of priests to send them to all the cities and localities to baptize the people, so that every soul in Kartli would take baptism, he also asked the bricklayers to build churches.

When they arrived to Caesar Constantine, he bestowed upon them parts of the Life Giving Tree with joy, boards to which the feet of the Jesus were nailed, and nails that were in his hands. He sent a great number of priests and builders to Kartli as long as during the time when King Constantine was reigning he built five hundred holy churches and temples of God. He gave the treasure to the great bishop Johan and told him: "Сhoose places and build a church in my name and endow these gifts in the cities of Kartli." The bishop departed with the ambassador. When they arrived in the area called Erusheti, the bishop asked builders to build the church, put the treasure and nails of the God, and left. He also left the builders and treasure in Tsunda, and as soon as they started building the church, he left. He came to Manglisi, proceeded to build the church and left the Lord's boards there.

Then King Mirian was saddened by the fact that they did not come to the capital city but began to build churches in other cities and left parts there. But St. Nino came to the King and said: "Do not be sad as it is meant to be this way, where they come, there will sow the name of God, and there is a wonderful chiton of the Lord in this city¹".

When the Ottomans came to these places, the people met them in different ways. There were those people who changed the faith of their ancestors and accepted Islam out of fear, or bribery and promises of privilege. There were some people who stood up with arms in defense of Orthodoxy. There were also those people who meekly, imitating the Lord, took death for their faith, echoing the feat of the martyrs of the first centuries.

The story of Abdul-Effendi Mikeladze

"Shavsheti accepted Islam because Kola², Erusheti, Tortomi³, and Taoskari were Muslims before this city. We accepted Islam after them, Akhaltsikhe also became Muslim, Potsvi and Kvabliani began to slowly accept Islam, where people did not want to become Muslims, many people left or fled to other places. Many villages were emptied, houses were abandoned, there the Ottomans drove other Muslims from the inner regions and settled there. In the end, the remnants of the local population mingled with the arrivals, assimilated and lost their language. After them we became Muslims. From the old people, I heard that there are cowardly people in Shavsheti, what you tell them, they believe. They were very afraid of the Ottomans, Shavshetis quickly adopted Islam and tried to imitate the Turks. Therefore, they forgot the Georgian language quickly, and the Ottomans did not oppress them.

The Adjarians were different, they fought for a hundred years against the Ottoman conquest, they fought against the adoption of Islam for a long time, so the war, struggle, bloodshed were the companions of the Ottoman invasion of Adjara. The Machekhela people were the same. They hated the Ottomans, and they applied all forces to fight with them. The Adjarians nearly drove the Ottomans away from here, raised an uprising and killed many Ottoman soldiers in this century. It was with great difficulty that the Ottomans subordinated and deified Adjara, but so far the Adjarians did not become allies of the Ottomans. Also, they could not destroy and eradicate the Georgian language. The Ottomans offered the Adjarians many privileges, in the personal guard of the Sultan, there were always many Adjarian warriors who served, many of them became Pashas and other military commanders. If the Adjarians wanted to serve in the Ottoman service and occupy a place, they soon succeeded, since the Ottomans gladly accepted the Adjarians for service, and gladly gave them various advantages. Often the Adjarians were appointed by the rulers of the counties in central and seaside Turkey. This was done with the aim of total control over Adjara and Adjarians, more strict Islam, and that the Adjarians were loyal supporters and companions of the Ottomans, when this would be necessary, during wars they had to fight the enemies of the Ottomans without fear, without sparing their strength. The Ottomans almost reached their goal, they destroyed all Georgian, soul, heart, feelings, and character of Adjara, but they could not destroy the Georgian language, and I think that they will not be able to do it, although after 1850 actions against the Georgian language were held here. Ottoman hodjis and mullahs, and hodjis from Georgian clans, so opposed the Georgians to Adjarians, with such hatred and disgust taught people to deny everything Georgian, which directly pushed people to killings and mockeries. One Muslim Katamadze from Adzhariczkali told us: our Georgians were killed in the Machachal gorge, when I approached he was still breathing, raised his hand and drank his blood saying: "Oh, finally I drank the blood of the godless Georgian." I heard it from him. "

The griefs that struck the Georgian people became the reason for disagreements, as evidenced by the stories told by the old-timers Chichinadze. The main point in these events was touched upon in the disputes - why did Christ allow the sufferings of the Orthodox? Can this be seen as the weakness of Christianity and God? Is this the advantage of Islam? The Turks persuaded the Georgians that it was Allah who lead them to victory over Christians. And those who were weak in the faith, accepted these arguments, agreed with them. Undoubtedly, such disputes were not a unique event for this area and the era. Such conversations were conducted at all times when the words of Christ were fulfilled. "You will be blessed when they vilify you and drive you and in every way maliciously speak evil for Me. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you "(Matthew 5: 11-12)," Then they will torment you and kill you; and you will be hated of all nations for my name's sake; and then many will be tempted, and they will betray one another, and they will hate each other; and many false prophets will arise, and will deceive many; and, because of the multiplication of iniquity, in many will grow cold love; the one who endures to the end will be saved. " (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Later, at the time of the Bolshevik persecution, the same question will also arise in front of the Orthodox Russia: "Why did God allow the destruction of temples and the murder of priests and monks, why did His Church become persecuted in an Orthodox country?". The same question will find the same answer: "persecutions are committed for a deviation from the faith." And the same answer, according to the testimony of the old-timers, will sound even then, in the Middle Ages, in the southern Georgian lands. Deviation from faith, expressed in lack of faith and ritual, will lead to persecution, and persecutions will give the Church a new upsurge - thousands of martyrs will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And today's modern world, again gravitating towards a pagan retreat, may be saved by their prayers - the prayers endured to the end - "You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its strength, how will you make it salty? She is no longer worthless, maybe only to throw it out to be trampled upon people "(Matthew 5:13).

The story, recorded from the words of the old residents of Shavsheti villages Garkilufshi, Shavmta, Dzhvarebi, and Iveti:

"The Georgians stood firmly during the invasion of the Ottomans. They were not afraid of the enemy and did not intend to obey them. This is what the residents of one of the villages said to the Ottoman representatives who came to them for talks: "If you want, cut our heads, if you want, throw them in Chorokhi, but we will not accept Islam." The Ottomans replied: "Whether you like it or not, Islam will have to be accepted by you, many have tried to resist us, but everyone will have to convert to Islam. You have no other way out. "

"Do not expect this from us, it will not come from us. We keep a word from our ancestors that we will never give up our faith, we will not change it, "the Georgians answered.

"So this is your last word?" So you do not want to accept Islam? Then you will regret, we forcefully humiliate you and your refusal will not mean anything. "

"Let's see but we tell you that we will not obey the hodjis, mullahs, or mosques."

(In the early days of Islam, newly converted Georgians called the mosque the place of reading sunna (jama), and now it is also called like that by the Ottomans.)

The Ottomans have seriously taken up the task of humiliating the local population, sparing no effort, time or money. Gradually, the village after the village passed to Islam, left without the support of Christians or fled to other places, or accepted Islam. But again, among the new Muslims, there were those who secretly professed Christianity.

-Hey, why did you become a Muslim? Is Islam better than Christianity?

"We mullahs and hodjis said that Christianity has decayed, and Islam is growing stronger, we believed them. We are Christians and have become powerless. If our faith is right, then why does not Christ help us, and tell us why! If they are unfaithful, then why are they stronger than us, faithful. Muhammad helps them!

-You are very nasty so how can you talk about Islam like this to us?

-Yes, this is the whole point that we can still talk about it. Today we are Muslims and we pray five times a day, and if we are unfaithful and so pure, why did not we pray every day when we were Christians?

-And why did not you pray, who did not let you do it? What did you do?

"We gathered grapes, made wine and vodka, drank a lot and fought, beat each other, scolded and engaged in all kinds of lewdness when was time to pray?" The Muslims answered.

The quarrel almost began, they took offense at each other and held an angry resentment. The Muslims began to live and work, and where the remnants of the Christian population remained, they were also taught Islam in silence. So little by little in the Liban gorge, Islam was spread. Converts assured everyone that Islam is a very good religion, told we tried, now you should try. Do not persist in vain, do not put your heads in vain, our old faith no longer has any power, like Muslims. The people believed the words of these people and many became Muslims. The Georgians-Christians were very angry with Georgian Muslims, therefore, hostility arose between them. This is what the Christian Georgians said: We will stop fighting against the Ottomans and will fight with you. We will not forgive you betrayal of faith, we will not give you the opportunity to remodel churches in a mosque.

Soon churches were converted into mosques. It was very annoying for Christians, but many of them said the following: why do you worry and cry, anyway it will still be the house of God's prayer, what is wrong with that? But the Christians answered that they will not forget and will not forgive, and will fully avenge everything. And this is what happened: in some places, the mosques were set on fire and so that no one could think of Christians. Not only the Ottomans, but newly converted Georgian Muslims could not think of Georgians Christians. Jame mosque was built of wood, instead of the foundation, it stood on huge pillars. Jama stood on the hillside, there was a precipice on one side. The Christian Georgians secretly began to file these posts, slowly the tree was thinner, and its condition became dangerous. One day, the people gathered for prayer, the people went inside, hodja started praying and said "Allah Akbar", knelt down, with all the worshipers immediately kneeling down, Jama started shaking, the pillars broke, and all people flew into precipice on the stones. Many people died, some were injured, some survived. The case of the collapsed Jama reached Istanbul. Here no one could understand why a newly built and strong Jama suddenly collapsed. Georgians began to mock the Muslim Georgians:

"Look what happened to you." God has shown you that you are doing a bad thing, for your apostasy with you is still not the case, wait a little bit longer. At least now you are convinced that Islam is not better than Christianity, and even more so, how was it possible for Georgians to change their faith !? "

"-We have changed our faith, we will not return back. But if other Jamas begin to crumble, then we will decide, then there will be no other way out. "

"Did not you say that churches are rotting, they can not stand the time like Jama, but your newly built Jama suddenly collapsed like a rotten house?" Show us at least one church that itself would have collapsed? "

Slowly converted Muslims have almost renounced Islam, and many began to secretly pray in Christian ways. They quietly penetrated different villages, set some Jamas on fire, for some sawed the poles and they collapsed, the stone Jamas were broken and spoiled in another way, with such skill that some burned, some completely collapsed, some were showered with walls. The whole population was scared, no one could understand the cause of the phenomena. They also made a strong oath among themselves to not tell anyone.

The people thought that all these misfortunes occur according to the divine will, that the people should not change the old faith and accept Islam. And many began to return back, throw a new religion. But Allah did not like it, he put a holy thought in the heart of one Georgian: this Georgian Christian came to his fellow Muslims and said:

"Brothers, your mosques are destroyed not by divine power, but by Georgians secretly burning and destroying your Jamas. I was also among them and I will show you everything. "

Ottomans and new Muslims were delighted, so they began to follow secretly the Christians. The traitor soon changed his faith and became a Muslim. As soon as other Georgians found out about the betrayal of their friend, they decided that he would certainly reveal their plan. They stopped burning and destroying mosques and amas. They knew that the Ottomans will not forgive this, or they would force them to accept Islam, or they would chop off their heads.

"We will not accept Islam, we will pray as our ancestors prayed. One night they prepared to flee, at midnight, when the whole village was asleep, the Georgians harnessed horses, put wives and children on them, some people walked. They took only the most necessary things and went quietly to the Christian lands. The next day, the Muslims went to the homes of Christians and saw that they were completely empty, nowhere there is not a single person. Things are the same, furniture and cattle all remained in place. All this was shared by the Turks and Muslim Georgians, while a part was given for the restoration of burned and destroyed mosques. After the escape of these people, only Muslims remained in these places. These Georgians-Christians were unbroken and faithful to their religion, they also ruined the country. "

The story that is told above raises many questions. Represented image of angry Christians "ruining the country" and engaged in, in modern terms, terrorist attacks against converts to Islam, tribesmen, is not characteristic of Christianity. History does not know such examples of the behavior of Christians in similar circumstances, since the killing of peaceful people, even those who committed the betrayal of faith, is contrary to the commandments of Christ. It should be taken into consideration that this story is told by Muslims and reflects the official version of the Turkish authorities. At the same time, we do not have other sources, which means that we can try to comprehend it and assume what really happened.

At the same time, the false accusations of Christians, as an excuse for persecution, have been known since the time of ancient Rome to this day, when we see this in the persecution of Christians by Islamists in Syria and Iraq. This practice is also extremely popular in the history of Turkey. History does not know any evidence of the total extermination of Orthodox Muslims, at the same time, the total extermination of Christians by Muslims was practiced quite often.

It is strange that the Turkish authorities could not find traces of Christian "sabotage". To detect the burial of wooden structures is not very difficult. However, the Turkish authorities, interested in the accusation of Christians, could not do this.

"Exposure" of the Orthodox were built on the testimony of one person, who, as it is said, converted to Islam. And they were the reason for preparing the persecution. The very story of the informer is very similar to the actions of Judas described in the Gospel.

It can be assumed that since there was no evidence of criminal acts of Christians, and there were rumors about the punishment of God among the local population, there were no criminal actions. And there was only an attempt by the authorities to slander Christians, that would thereby explain to the converts to Islam the misfortunes that are taking place with them and get an excuse for new persecutions. Without any evidence to say so, we can not affirm this unequivocally. However, this version seems more plausible, as it has many similar precedents in Turkish history, both Ottoman and subsequent periods. If this version turns out to be correct, then one can also say that the misfortunes that occurred with those who converted to Islam could turn out to be signs that were not understood by all, as religious and secular authorities tried to spread their version of events, which reached our times.

¹According to the legend of the Church, the chiton of the Lord Jesus Christ is in the ancient capital of Georgia - the city of Mtskheta (near Tbilisi), in the cathedral of Svetitskhoveli.

²The historical region of Kola is in many respects reminiscent of the Artaani region but it is located to the south of the latter, beyond the ridge and the pass. It is small in size, only about 50 kilometers from east to west. In the center of the region is the Gele (Kola) hill, from which three roads run across the plains - to Ardagan, to Oltu and to Kars. There are no temples or monasteries in the district, and the only thing that can attract attention is the source of the Kura.

³Tortomi is an ancient Georgian fortress in the historical area of Tao, which is now located on the territory of Erzurum silt of Turkey. One of the most beautiful castles in this part of Turkey. It is located slightly away from the route Erzurum-Artvin, so very few people see it if it does not know in advance where it is.

Taoskari is now the Turkish city of Olur, formerly Tavusker which means "Tao Gate", located in Erzurum province in Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. The population is 2225 (according to 2010).

One of the tourist centers of southern Georgia. It was founded in the first half of the 12th century. e. From the fourteenth century to the eighties of the 16th century, Akhaltsikhe was the center of culture, politics and economy of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and the residence of the Atakbegs of the Djakeli clan. In 1579, the city fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and from 1628 the city became the center of the Akhaltsikhe province tour. Ahıska Ottoman Empire. In 1829 he became a member of the Russian Empire. Currently, the district center of the Akhaltsikhe region. It has a number of historical sights.