The Tush divide themselves into two groups, the Chagma-Tush, who speak the local Georgian dialect and Tsova-Tush, also known as Bats or Batsbi, who speak the Bats language, a Nakh language (cousin of Chechen and Ingush). Most Bats also speak Georgian, to which there is a continuing trend of linguistic assimilation. Despite differences in language and culture (to a degree), both Chagma- and Tsova-Tush consider themselves to be part of the larger group of Tush, which in turn is considered a subgroup of Georgians.
Anthropologically Tushetians have an Eastern Georgian type of face, with light colored eyes and hair color ranging from blonde to brown.
Traditionally, the Tushs are sheep herders. Tushetian Gouda (cheese) cheese and high quality wool was famous and was exported to Europe and Russia. Even today sheep and cattle breeding is the leading branch of the economy of highland Tusheti. The local shepherds spend the summer months in the highland areas of Tusheti but live in the lowland villages of Zemo Alvani and Kvemo Alvani in wintertime. Their customs and traditions are similar to those of other eastern Georgian mountaineers, such as the Khevsurs and Pshavs.
Like most Georgian groups, they are mainly Georgian Orthodox Christian in religion.
The origin of the Tush themselves is a mysterious and debatable matter, with numerous theories regarding the origin of Tsova-Tush and of the Chagma-Tush. It also is uncertain whether the two groups have a common origin or not.
Theories regarding the origin of the Tsova-Tush include involving descent from South Caucasian Nakh in Ancient times (either a Nakh people inhabiting areas of Kakheti and Tusheti), North Caucasian Nakh in the 16th century, or Old Georgian tribes who were influenced or intermixed with Nakh.
Anthropological studies on the Tsova-Tush found them to be somewhere in between the Chechen-origin Kists and the Chagma-Tush of the region, but significantly closer to the Chagma-Tush.
Theories regarding the origin of the Chagma Tush all include descent from Georgian tribes (possibly pagans fleeing Christianization in the 300s AD), but variously involve influence or admixture from South Caucasian Nakh, Dagestani peoples, or none.
The region of Tusheti was first mentioned by its name in the 4th century BCE.
The lands of the Tush have variously been under the rule of Caucasian Iberia, the medieval united kingdom of Georgia, the Kingdom of Kakheti (which eventually fell under heavy influence from Persia), the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and then independent united Georgia.
- |Batsav.Com], a site mainly dedicated to the Tsova-Tush with significant information on the Chagma-Tush as well as their neighbors in addition
- The Red Book of Peoples of the Russian Empire; Bats section. Available online: http://www.eki.ee/books/redbook/bats.shtml
- Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook. Routledge Curzon: Oxon, 2005. Page 30. "The Kakh(etians), who used to call themselves Kabatsas and their territoryKakh-Batsa, were surrounded by Nakh tribes and were themselves thought to be Tushians of Nakh extraction. The eighteenth-century historian Vakhushti asserted that the Kakh considered the Gligvs, Dzurdzuks and Kist as their ethnic kin."
- NICHOLS, Johanna, "The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush: A Study in Alpine Linguistic and Ethnic Geography", Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2004.
- 15 and 20(c) in ALLEN, W.E.D. (Ed.), Russian Embassies to the Georgian Kings – 1589–1605, The Hakluyt Society, Second Series No. CXXXVIII, Cambridge University Press, 1970