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The Dvals (Georgian: დვალები, Dvalebi; Ossetian: Туалтæ, Twaltæ) were an old people in the Caucasus, their lands lying on both sides of the central Greater Caucasus mountains, somewhere between the Darial and Mamison gorges. This historic territory mostly covers today’s South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia and part of North Ossetia–Alania, Russian Federation, as well as some neighboring lands in Georgia’s historic regions of Racha and Khevi.


Circa 19th century photo of Dvali family sisters.

The name of the Dvals (Georgian: დვალნი, Dvalni) comes from the old Georgian annals, their land called Dvaleti (დვალეთი. Dvalet`i) after them.

The ethnonym survived to modern times as "Tual" and "Urs-Tual" (Ossetian: Урстуалтæ meaning "white Tuals"), Georgian surname Dvali (დვალი), Dvalishvili (დვალიშვილი) and Ossetian Tuallagov/Twallægtæ come from the name of Dvals.[1][2]

The Dvals are sometimes tentatively linked[by whom?] to the "Talae" of Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy.


When the Mongols destroyed, in the 13th–14th centuries, the Alanian kingdom in the Northern Caucasus, the Ossetes migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains, forming in part of Dvaletia their community called Tualläg. The Dvals were pushed southward and, as a result, the process of their assimilation into the Georgians and Ossetes accelerated and was completed by the early 18th century. The term Dvaleti, retaining only a geographic meaning, then narrowed to refer solely to the area around the Kudaro valley in the west (modern-day Java district in South Ossetia/Shida Kartli).

Language and origin[edit]

Dvals was Kartvelian tribe. Their name means "eye" (თვალი(Tvali)) in Georgian language. Their language is sparsely attested.

Nakh version[edit]

According to a number of historians and linguists, the Dvals probably spoke a Nakh language [3][4][5][6][7] Gamrekeli (a Georgian historian) provides the typical version of the Nakh theory, stating that the Dvals had a language clearly distinct from that of the Ossetes (who eventually migrated onto their land) and akin (but not equivalent to) to the Vainakh languages.[1]

Backing the theory that the Dvals were Nakh includes numerous sources.

  • The people directly to their West (the Malkh; in the northern part of their territory in Southern North Ossetia-"Alania"; not the South Caucasian part where the Svans bordered them) are already more or less confirmed to be Nakh in origin.
  • There is evidence produced by the German Caucasologist, Heinz Fähnrich, of extensive Nakh-Svan contact (thus, in order to have extensive contact with the Svans, enough for the strong Nakh influence detected by Fähnrich in Svan, a Nakh people must have lived close to them; however, without the Dvals or at least a people who lived on their territory before them being Nakh, this could not have happened, as the Malkh, the closest people, lived across one of the most difficult parts of the Caucasus, and to this day the modern inhabitants of Malkhia and the Svans have little if any contact with each other) before the advent of Iranian-speaking invaders.[8] The Georgian historian Melikishvilli argued, using the similarity of the tribe to the old Vainakh clan Dvali, that the Dvals were akin to the Vainakh (i.e. a Nakh people) but distinct and that a remnant of them became absorbed by the Vainakh proper (as was confirmed happened with actually confirmed Nakh peoples, such as the Malkh after they declined).[1]
  • Kuznetsov notes the presence of Nakh placenames in South and North Ossetia: including Tsei, Leah and Leah-hee (Liakhvi).[1]
  • Almost all historians agree that the Dvals were not Alans. If they were really Scythians, it would be unlikely that they would have diverged so sharply in such a small area (especially considering that in the Caucasus, many peoples that are no longer ethnically identical and had been separate for a long period already were still considered the same).

Ossetian version[edit]

Another theory is that the Dvals were Ossetian speaking people.[9][10][11] According to this, they were among first Ossetes to settle to southern Caucasus.[9][10][12] Evidence for the Ossetian theory also draws from various elements:

  • In 1957 example of text thought by some to be Dval found in Dvaleti.[10][13] It was text written on Syrian-nestorian writing system.[13]
Original text, provided by Turchanikov:[13]
hcawj acgar ama[r]di a jnn mishnq jtkajin ish kwtwn ljkchh khnkn dan aljka ja ctj (m) mhhh at r k jz azj
Translation to english
Modern Ossetic form:[13]
Xwycwy agcar amardi a jyn mysinag y tyxa jyn yz kotton ...
Translation to english
Ossetian tribes (according to B. A. Kaloev).[14][15]
  • Much of former Dvaleti is now populated by Ossetes (i.e., although Dvals were clearly not Alans, similarity could have aided the assimilation of the remainder of the conquered Dvals)
  • Modern day Ossetes living in the old territory of the Dvals (who some believe to be partially descended from the Dvals), called Tuals in the north and Urs-Tuals in the south, speak the Tual dialect of the Ossetic language.[9][10][11][12][16]

Georgian version[edit]

Throughout the entire history of the Georgian statehood, even after its inclusion into the Russian Empire, (up to 1858), Dvaleti had always been considered integral part of Georgia.[17] From the 15th century settlement of Ossetians starts in Dvaleti province, located in the Northern part of the main Caucasus Range.

The mentioned process continued throughout the 16th century, while in the 17th century, assimilation of the local Georgian ethnic group of Dvalians draws to its end. It should be mentioned that before the settlement of Ossetians in Dvaleti, a major part of Dvalians had migrated to different parts of Georgia (Shida Kartli, Kvemo Kartli, Imereti, Racha).[17] similarly to Pshavi, Khevsureti, and Tusheti was ruled by the King’s officials – Mouravis (Giorgi Saakadze was a Dvalian Mouravi). Russia annexed Georgia in 1801 along with Dvaleti. In 1858, the metropolis detached Dvaleti from Georgia in an administrative way (from Tbilisi Province), and attached it to Tersky district of Russia.[17] Several observations have been made by scientists regarding the ethnic origin of Dvalians, but before acquainting you with these observations, we would like to refer to the well familiar assertion by Vakhushti Bagrationi, pointing out that – “the language they speak is old, Dvalian, but presently they use Ossetian as if it were their native tongue”.[18] V. Gamrrekeli regarded Dvalians Vainakhs, Kartvelian Vainakhs to be more exact. V. Gamrekeli believed that Kartization of Dvalians had to have occurred in the 7th century, when Kartlian population, fatigued by the Arab rule had migrated to different direction. The author later, changed his views,[17] and in the article published in Georgian Soviet Encyclopedia, recognized Dvalians as Kartvelian tribes, namely Zans.[17] Some scholars point that they were not exactly Zan but represented one the Kartvelian languages. From Georgian authors, the last to address the issue of Dvalian origin was B. Gamkrelidze, who arrived at the conclusion that “Dvaleti, from the ancient times,culturally, and administratively had always been an integral part of the Georgian world.[17] In favour of the Dvals Georgian (Kartvelian) origin it's important to mention the written messages on the Gospel of 14th–15th century, made in Nuskha – Khucur (Ecclesiastical scypt, meant for use by priests), kept in 1920s in the Saint George Church, Sojanis Kari in Oni. The written notes belong to the same late period.There is an inscription, made in red ink in one of the places of the context list, which reads: “Have a mercy upon the humble Giorgi, interpreter of the Gospel”. Thus the Gospel is edited by Giorgi Mtatsmindeli”[17] There are several inscriptions on the Gospel: “May the God bestow all the heavenly mercy upon Nikoloz, scribe of the book"[17]

Another important detail to prove their Kartvelian origin is the absence of crypts in Dvaleti[17] Crypts were encountered only in Chechnya and Ingushetia,[19] while Chechens and the Ingush were recognized as skillful builders and used to build the crypts not only in their native lands but in neighbouring Ossetia as well.[20] There is no doubt[citation needed] that if Dvalians had been related to Vainakhs, the culture of crypt building would have existed among them as well.


The most prominent Dvals were, perhaps, the 11th–13th calligraphers – John, Michael, Stephen, and George – who worked at various Georgian Orthodox monasteries abroad, chiefly in Jerusalem and at the Mount Athos, and created several fine examples of old Georgian manuscripts, e.g. The Months and The Vitae of St Basil (John the Dval, circa 1055), and the so-called Labechini Gospels (George the Dval, 13th century). Another famous Dval calligrapher was Vola Tliag (Ossetian: Vola Tliag meaning "Vola from Tli"[21]) who worked over Kapelle of Nuzal.[21]

The Orthodox church venerates also the memory of St Nicholas of Dvaletia, a Dval monk from the Georgian monastery at Jerusalem, who was martyred, on October 19, 1314, at the order of Amir Denghiz for having preached Christianity.[22] He was canonized by both Alanian and Georgian churches.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kuznetsov, V. (1992), Essays on the history of Alans (in Russian), Vladikavkaz: IR, ISBN 978-5-7534-0316-2 
  2. ^ Gagloev, Y. (1959). "On ethnicity of tribe Tulas (in Russian)". Fidiwaeg. 
  3. ^ Гамрекели В. Н. Двалы и Двалетия в I—XV вв. н. э. Тбилиси, 1961 page 138
  4. ^ Меликишвили Г. А. К изучению древней восточномалоазийской этнонимики. ВДИ, 1962,1 page 62
  5. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: A Handbook- Partial Ancestry and Kindred Peoples [to the Chechens]. Page 29. https://books.google.com/books?id=PnjAlei9fe0C&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=Dvals+Chechens+Jaimoukha&source=bl&ots=cBdGsyn3uD&sig=S-_XrHPwTc3lxot38j3IAPN1JBc&hl=en&ei=65EfTKixK4G78ga4mvGRDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Dvals&f=false. "At the turn of this new era, the Nakh peoples of the Transcaucasus comprised of the Tsanars in the South, the Dvals in the West, and the Ers in the East. The Kakh(etians) who used to call themselves Kabatsas and their territory Kakh-batsa, were surrounded by Nakh tribes and themselves thought to be Tushians of Nakh extraction. The eighteenth century historian Vakhushti asserted that the Kakh considered Gligvs, Dzurdzuks and Kists as their ethnic kin."
  6. ^ Gamrekeli
  7. ^ Melikishvilli
  8. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad. The Chechens: a handbook. Page 26. https://books.google.com/books?id=PnjAlei9fe0C&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=Dvals+Chechens+Jaimoukha&source=bl&ots=cBdGsyn3uD&sig=S-_XrHPwTc3lxot38j3IAPN1JBc&hl=en&ei=65EfTKixK4G78ga4mvGRDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Fahnrich&f=false. "Heinz Fahnrich (1988) identified lexical traces of Nakh-Svan contact before the advent of the Iranians"
  9. ^ a b c Akhvlediani, G. (1960), The collection of selected works on the Ossetian language (in Russian), Tbilisi 
  10. ^ a b c d Vaneev, Z. (1989), Selected works on the history of the Ossetian people (in Russian), Tskhinvali: Iryston 
  11. ^ a b Lazarashvili, G. (1966), About the time of resettlement of Ossetians to Georgia (in Russian) 
  12. ^ a b Vakhushti (1745), Description of the Kingdom of Georgia (in Russian) 
  13. ^ a b c d Turchaninov, G. (1990), Ancient and medieval monuments of Ossetian writing and language (in Russian), Vladikavkaz: IR, ISBN 978-5-7534-0167-0 
  14. ^ https://s23.postimg.org/aze2tqr9n/2fec9d793e3d.jpg?noredir=1
  15. ^ http://s50.radikal.ru/i129/1003/22/2fec9d793e3d.jpg
  16. ^ Tekhov, B. (1971), Studies in old history and archaeology of South Ossetia (in Russian), Tbilisi 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i http://www.nplg.gov.ge/dlibrary/collect/0001/000355/inglisuri%20osebis%20texti.pdf
  18. ^ Vakhushti Bagrationi, Description of the Georgian Kingdom, Kartlis Ckhovreba (History of Georgia). Georgian text, V. IV, publ.S. Kaukhchishvili, Tb. 1973, p. 755.
  19. ^ Markovin V. I. On the Development of Crypt Constructions in North Caucasus – Issues of Old and medieval archaeology of East Europe., M, 1978.
  20. ^ Abramova T. P. Kumi site burial chambers; M. 1987.
  21. ^ a b Kuznetsov V. The light of Christianity in Georgia. Dvaletiya (from the book "Christianity in the North Caucasus")
  22. ^ Official site of "Allon Eparxi"

Further reading[edit]

  • Gagloity Y. Formation of the southern branch of Ossetian people
  • Gamrekeli V. N., The Dvals and Dvaletia in the 1st to 15th centuries AD, Tbilisi, 1961 (A monograph in Russian)
    • Vaneev Z. To the question on Dvals (A criticism of Gamrekrli in Russian)
  • Tekhov B. V., Studies in old history and archaeology of South Ossetia, Tbilisi, 1971 (A momograph in Russian)
  • Vaneev Z. Selected works on the history of the Ossetian people, Tskhinvali, 1989 (A monograph in Russian)
  • Graham Smith, Edward A Allworth, Vivien A Law, Annette Bohr, Andrew Wilson, Nation-Building in the Post-Soviet Borderlands: The Politics of National Identities, Cambridge University Press (September 10, 1998), ISBN 0-521-59968-7, page 60
  • Dzatiaty R. Role of the towers in the social structure of society (in Russian)