In the summer of 2023 we - the National Trust of Georgia and our friends, rehabilitated the Tsiskarauli Family Tower in the village of Akhieli, Khevsureti. The culmination of three years work, with a Covid interruption, that involved surveying and preparing the tower - damaged by a Russian missile during the 2nd Chechen war in 2001. With several holes and large cracks the tower, like so many in Georgia's mountains, was in danger of collapse.
A team of local experts, many working with ICOMOS Georgia, combined forces with a number of volunteers from France, Poland, England, America over two summers, to save this splendid 22 metre high monument.
There is only a three month window for work, due to the high 2900 metre pass separating the Arkhoti valley from the rest of Georgia.
The work was finished at the end of August 2023, and we celebrated our achievement at our HQ on 14th September 2023, in the presence of the French and British Ambassadors.
The work was made in association with the International National Trusts Organization (INTO) and the French Cultural Heritage Protection Organization - Rempart, ICOMOS Georgia, and funded by ALIPH.
We now have a 16 minute film showing the process of active restoration and work by the volunteers - mostly young Georgians - made during July and August 2023.
“This year, for two weeks all the participants of the project were living together with the family of Jarji Tsiskarauli under one roof. This was interesting and important experience, as for the local family as for the members of our organization. In fact, we’re very glad, that National Trust of Georgia could involve volunteers in the preservation of the heritage. I’m sure the volunteers participating during the summer working holidays will always stay as the supporters of the heritage”, explained Co-chair of the National Trust of Georgia, Marine Mizandari.
Together with the rehabilitation of Tsiskarauli ancestral tower there is ongoing parallel project of building hiking trails near Akhieli. One 600 meter long trail starts from the bank of river Assa and runs to the midpoint of mount Sairme. The first phase group discovered and rebuilt an old trail, ready for tourists coming to visit the valley and restored tower in the future. During trail building no damage was inflicted on the environment and no trees cut. This and the other trails is part of a grander ecotourism scheme being developed for Georgia's remote high mountain regions.
The French organization Rempart was established in 1966 and works on preserving heritage with the support of volunteers around the world. It’s the fist time they have worked in Georgia. But not the last.
"First of all, I want to say that this is a project that is full of features and values", said Rampart President Marie-George. “We are implementing an important project for the first time in Georgia, are working on the rehabilitation of a cultural heritage site, the implementation of which is not easy, although I am already confident in its success. The existence of a cultural heritage monument in the countryside and the implementation of a rehabilitation project implies a close relationship of volunteers with the locals and participation in daily life. The involvement of French and Georgian volunteers has made the project reality. I hope this first step is the beginning of a bigger work than the rehabilitation of a cultural heritage site”.
The project first involved
Meeting with Mtskheta-Mtianeti authorized representative;
The International Day for Monuments and Sites held on 18th of April the National Trust of Georgia presented the project of rehabilitation of Tsiskarauli ancestral tower in village Akhiela, Khevsureti;
Meeting in municipality of Dedoplistskaro with the Tsiskarauli family members and Khevsurian community exiled from Arkhoti valley in 1957;
Meetings with the local community in the village of Akhiela;
Competition for volunteers willing participation in the project;
Project managers were invited in France to observe and train the working holidays together with international volunteers in Aussois, France on the rehabilitation project of the castle Victor Emmanuel II;
Two heritage experts were then invited on a secondment to England, hosted by the National Trust of Great Britain.
Visit of Rempart to Georgia;
Presentation of the Tsiskarauli Tower rehabilitation project to the volunteers and the start of work;
Masterclasses, meetings with the local community and visits in different parts of Arkhoti valley during the working holidays;
Continuing Rempart participation with ongoing training for heritage preservation in France.
The team members of the project of the National Trust of Georgia - rehabilitation of Tsiskarauli ancestral tower in village Akhieli, Khevsureti, are: project manager Marine Mizandari, co-managers: Salome Tsiskarauli and Guga Klibadze; architect restorers: Nino Kordzakhia, Lela Naroushvili, Guga Sutidze, Erekle Naroushvili; Historian - Manana Suramelashvili.