Distribution of the Svan language in relation to other Kartvelian (South Caucasian) languages.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Predominantly † Eastern Orthodox Christianity
(Georgian Orthodox Church)
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|Ancient Kartvelian people|
|History of Georgia|
The Svans (Georgian: სვანი, Svani) are an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians (Kartvelians) living mostly in Svaneti, a region in northwest Georgia. They speak the Svan language and are mostly bilingual also in Georgian. Both these languages belong to the Kartvelian (South Caucasian) language family. In the pre-1930 Soviet census, the Svans were afforded their own "ethnic group" (natsional'nost) category. The self-designation of the Svan is Mushüan, which is probably reflected in the ethnonym Misimian of the Classical authors.
In the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union Mingrelians and Svans had their own census grouping, but were classified under the broader category of Georgian thereafter in the 1930s. They are Georgian Orthodox Christians, and were Christianized in the 4th–6th centuries. However, some remnants of pre-Christian beliefs have been maintained. Saint George (known as Jgëræg to the locals), a patron saint of Georgia, 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.
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