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The Svans (Sanni, Kabardian: Sone, ) are an ethnographic group of Georgians that mostly live in Svanetiamarker, region of Georgiamarker speaking the Svan language. The self designated Svan is Mu-shaun, known to the ancient authors as Misimian.


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

Until the 1930s, Mingrelians and Svans had their own census grouping, but were classified under the broader category of Georgian thereafter. They are Georgian Orthodox Christians, and were Christianized in the 4th-6th centuries. However, some remnants of old paganism have been maintained. Saint George (known as Jgëræg to the locals), a patron saint of Georgiamarker, 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, which together with the Georgian, Mingrelian, and Laz languages constitute the South Caucasian or Kartvelian language family. The Svan language is being largely replaced by the Georgian proper.


Svan culture survives most wonderfully in its songs and dances. Svanetia boasts the most complex form of Georgian polyphonic singing, traditional to Georgian vocal music.

Famous Svans

  • Mikheil Khergiani - alpinist, rock-climber
  • Yaroslav Ioseliani - seaman, captain of submarine 1942-1944
  • Otar Ioseliani - director
  • Mikheil Gelovani - Georgian actor


  1. History of Georgian Mountein Regions / R. Topchishvili. Available at The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia

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