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Location of Samtskhe–Javakheti
Country Georgia
Subdivisions6 municipalities
 • GovernorBesik Amiranashvili
 • Total6,413 km2 (2,476 sq mi)
 • Total151,110
 • Density24/km2 (61/sq mi)
ISO 3166 codeGE-SJ
HDI (2021)0.775[3]
high · 9th

Samtskhe–Javakheti (Georgian: სამცხე-ჯავახეთი, pronounced [samtsʰχe dʒavaχetʰi], Armenian: Սամցխե-Ջավախեթի, romanizedSamts’khe-Javakhet’i) is a region (mkhare) in southern Georgia with a population of 147.400 (2023[2]) and an area of 6,413 km2 (2,476 sq mi).[1] The region has Akhaltsikhe as its administrative center. Samtskhe–Javakheti is made up of the historical Georgian provinces Meskheti, Javakheti and Tori.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the South Caucasus natural gas pipeline, and the Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway pass through the region.


Relief map of Samtskhe–Javakheti region

Samtskhe–Javakheti borders Adjara and Guria in the northwestern tip, Imereti in the north, Shida Kartli in the northeast and Kvemo Kartli in the east. The southern border is formed by Armenia, the southwestern flank borders Turkey. The region covers the Javakheti Plateau, a highland of volcanic origin and the northern extension of the Armenian highlands. The plains are between 1500 and 2000 meters above sea level. Samtskhe–Javakheti is bordered by several mountain ranges, the most important being the Meskheti Range and Trialeti Range in the north and the Samsari Range and Javakheti Range in the east.

The highlands are home to some of Georgia's largest lakes, such as Paravani Lake, Tabatskuri Lake, Khanchali Lake and Kartsakhi Lake. Georgia's largest river, the Mtkvari, flows through the region from Turkey, a few miles north of Kartsakhi Lake. The river has carved a canyon through in the highlands and forms the eastern boundary of the Erusheti Highlands, a mountain range along the border with Turkey. In this gorge the large historic cave monastery Vardzia is situated, an important tourist attraction. The river flows initially in a northwesterly direction through the gorge to Akhaltsikhe via Khertvisi Fortress where the Paravani River joins the Mtkvari. The river gorge has a depth of approximately 500 meters. At Akhaltsikhe the river turns to the northeast and streams to Borjomi between the Meskheti Range (left bank) and Trialeti Range (right bank), after which the river leaves the region through the Shida Kartli plain.

Due to its high location, the region has cold and snowy winters. In the northern situated Bakuriani, not far from the tourist attraction Borjomi, there is a ski resort.


Akhaltsikhe, the administrative center of the region
2014 population density of the Samtskhe–Javakheti Municipalities

The region has six municipalities with 82 administrative communities (temi)[1] and a total of 271 populated settlements:

Map Municipality Area
Adigeni 799 20.1
Akhalkalaki 1,235 33.2
Akhaltsikhe 998 39.5
Aspindza 825 12.8
Borjomi 1,202 20.8
Ninotsminda 1,354 14.0
Population density based on 2021 population.[2] Municipality area[1]


According to data from the National Statistical Bureau of Georgia, Samtskhe–Javakheti had 151,110 inhabitants as of January 1, 2021,[2] a decrease of 6% compared to the 2014 census.[1] Of these, 35.9% live in urban areas and 64.1% in rural villages. Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki are the most densely populated municipalities.

Population development of the region Samtskhe–Javakheti[4]
1959 1970 1979 1989 2002* 2002** 2014 2021
Samtsche-Dzjavacheti 213,329 Increase 231,593 Decrease 227,676 Increase 238,750 Decrease 207,598 Decrease 183,096 Decrease 160,504 Decrease 151,110
Akhalkalaki 62,977 Increase 69,992 Decrease 68,234 Increase 69,256 Decrease 60,975 - Decrease 45,070 Decrease 41,026
Akhaltsikhe 50,420 Increase 51,907 Decrease 49,836 Increase 54,747 Decrease 46,134 - Decrease 38,895 Increase 39,463
Adigeni 19,593 Increase 20,272 Increase 20,278 Increase 21,284 Decrease 20,752 - Decrease 16,462 Decrease 16,092
Aspindza 11,265 Increase 12,494 Decrease 12,264 Increase 13,262 Decrease 13,010 - Decrease 10,372 Increase 10,587
Borjomi 37,010 Increase 39,661 Increase 40,796 Increase 41,266 Decrease 32,422 - Decrease 25,214 Decrease 24,998
Ninotsminda 32,064 Increase 37,267 Decrease 36,268 Increase 38,935 Decrease 34,305 - Decrease24,491 Decrease 18,944
* Research after 2014 census showed the 2002 census was inflated by 8-9 percent.[5]
** Corrected data based on retro-projection 1994-2014 in collaboration with UN[6]

Ethnic groups

In 1926, the Akhaltsikhe Uyezd (corresponding to Meskheti or Samtskhe) had a population of:[7]

In 1926, the Akhalkalaki Uyezd (corresponding to Javakheti) had a population of:[8]

In 2002, Samtskhe–Javakheti province ethnic makeup of 207,598 total population:[9]

In 2014, Samtskhe–Javakheti province of Georgia had the following ethnic makeup of 160,504 total population:[10]


Part of historical Samtskhe in modern Turkey.
Part of historical Samtskhe (light blue) in modern Turkey.

The current division of Georgia into "regions" (Mkhare) was introduced by the Shevardnadze government in the mid-1990s, partly as a response to the secession of Abkhazia and the South Ossetia conflict. Samtskhe–Javakheti was basically formed by combining the two traditional provinces of Meskheti (Samtskhe) and Javakheti.


The ancient tribes of Meskhi (or Moschi) and Mosiniks are the first known inhabitants of the area. Some scholars credit the Mosiniks (or Mossynoeci) with the invention of iron metallurgy. From the 2nd millennium to the 4th century BC, Meskheti was believed to be part of the Kingdom of Diauehi, in the 4th century BC to the 6th century AD part of the Kingdom of Iberia. From the 10th to the 15th century it was part of the united Georgian Kingdom. In the 16th century Meskheti was integrated into the Safavid Empire, followed by the Ottoman Empire. After the conclusion of the Russo-Persian War of 1826-28, it was a part of Russian Tiflis Governorate from 1817 till 1829, from 1918 to 1921 part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia, and from 1921 to 1990 part of the Georgian SSR. After independence from the USSR Meskheti was reinstalled as a province of Georgia, and later cast into the new Samtskhe–Javakheti region.


In ancient sources, the region was recorded as Zabakha in 785 BC, by the king Argishti I of Urartu. According to Cyril Toumanoff, Javakheti was part of the Iberian duchy of Tsunda from the 4th or 3rd century BC. Saint Nino entered Iberia from Javakheti, and, following the course of the River Kura, she arrived in Mtskheta, the capital of the kingdom, once there, she eventually began to preach Christianity, which culminated by Christianization of Iberia.

In struggle against the Arab occupation, Bagrationi dynasty came to rule over Tao-Klarjeti and established the Kouropalatate of Iberia. rulers of Tao-Klarjeti fought the Arabs from there, gradually incorporating the surrounding lands of Samtskhe and Javakheti, along with a few other lesser lands, from the Arab dominance. For a long time the region became a cultural safe-house and one of the most important religious centers of Georgia.

In the mid-10th century, Javakheti was incorporated into Kingdom of Abkhazia. In 964 Leon III of Abkhazia extended his influence to Javakheti, during his reign was built Kumurdo Cathedral.[11][12] In subsequent centuries, Javakheti was integral part of unified Georgian monarchy and had a period of significant development: lot of bridges, churches, monasteries, and royal residences (Lgivi, Ghrtila, Bozhano, Vardzia) were built. From the 11th century, the center of upper Javakheti became Akhalkalaki. From the 10th century, the center of lowland Javakheti was Tmogvi. From the 12th century, the domain was ruled by representatives of the feudal family of Toreli.

In the 15th century, Javakheti was incorporated to principality of Samtskhe-Saatabago. In the 16th century, the region, as well as the adjacent territories of western Georgia, was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The Georgian population of Javakheti was displaced to inner regions of Georgia such as Imereti and Kartli. Those who remained gradually became Muslim.

As a result of the struggles of the Russian Empire with the Ottomans, Russian authorities settled Christian Armenians and Caucasus Greeks in the area after 1828.[13] Armenian refugees from the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire came in the early 20th century. Also a large number of Russian Doukhobor sect members settled the region.

Soviet era

Georgia came fully under Soviet control in 1921, after the Red Army invasion of Georgia. The remaining Muslim minority in Meskheti, also known as "Meskhetian Turks", were deported in cattle-trucks to Central Asia by order of Stalin and settled within an area that overlaps the boundaries of the modern nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Today, many are still dispersed across those countries. Of the 100,000 forcibly deported, as many as 30,000-50,000 perished.[14]

Tourist attractions

The major tourist attractions are the cave monasteries of Vardzia (which was founded by Queen Tamar in 1185), Vanis Kvabebi (which dates from the 8th century), Rabati Castle and Khertvisi Fortress. Also, among national visitors is very popular 10th century Sapara Monastery, Tmogvi fortress, and 8th century Zarzma monastery.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Main Results of the 2014 Census (Publication)" (PDF)., National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) (in Georgian). 2016-04-28. p. 280. Retrieved 2022-02-04.
  2. ^ a b c d "Population and Demography - Population as of 1 January by regions and urban-rural settlements". Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  3. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  4. ^ "Divisions of Georgia". Population Statistics Eastern Europe and former USSR. Retrieved 2022-02-04.
  5. ^ "Population Dynamics in Georgia - An Overview Based on the 2014 General Population Census Data" (PDF). National Statistics Office of Georgia, Geostat. 2017-11-29. pp. 1–4. Retrieved 2022-02-04.
  6. ^ "Retro-projection of main demographic indicators for the period 1994-2014". National Statistics Office of Georgia, Geostat. 2018-05-18. pp. 3, Table 1. Retrieved 2022-02-04.
  7. ^ [1] AKHALTSIKHE UEZD (1926 year.)
  8. ^ [2] AKHALAKAKI UEZD (1926 year.)
  9. ^ "" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2009.
  10. ^ "Population Census 2014". National Statistics Office of Georgia. November 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Kumurdo Church". Georgian patriarchate, Eparchy of Shemoqmedi. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Kumurdo". Parliament of Georgia. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  13. ^ Boeschoten, Hendrik; Rentzsch, Julian (2010). Turcology in Mainz. p. 142. ISBN 978-3-447-06113-1. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  14. ^ Dan Brennan (5 Apr 2003). "Guram Mamulia". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 Apr 2008.
  15. ^ Discover Samtskhe-Javakheti Georgian Journal 14 August, 2018

41°35′N 43°16′E / 41.583°N 43.267°E / 41.583; 43.267

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