For centuries the Batsbi proudly populated the highlands of Tusheti, in north-eastern Georgia. Their language, Bats - also known as Tush-Tsova - was part of that pride. Bats belongs to the Nakh family of Caucasian languages, like Chechen and Ingush; but since it is not mutually intelligible with either, it is unique.
Little remain of that glorious past. The Bats, is inexorably fading, threatened by demography and assimilation with the Georgian language. Unesco lists it among the “severely endangered” languages, estimating the number of speakers to be 500. Almost all of them live in Zemo Alvani, a village of 3,000 people down in the lowlands crossed by the Alazani river, where the Babtsi settled in the 18th century. And almost all of them are over 50. Since Bats is not taught at school, what the odds of the language surviving for generations to come?
Filmmaker Anna Sarukhanova set on a quest to find under-30s able to speak the language of their ancestors.
Millennials, February/March 2019