In the remote mountain villages of Georgia’s northwest region of Svaneti, 84-year-old Bauchi Qaldani of Adishi is universally regarded as a wise man. And Qaldani, a village elder now in his fifth decade as a mediator and matchmaker, is still ready to dispense his wisdom whenever called upon. "I was born for others," he says.
Law and order is finally taking hold in Svaneti, which for decades had a Wild West-like reputation among Georgians. Nevertheless, in this region's clan-based, gun-ready culture, village elders still play a central role in day-to-day life.
As elsewhere in Georgia, older men fulfill a critical function in deciding disputes in the villages nestled in Svaneti's mountains, peaks that range from 3,000 to over 5,000 meters in height. Elders are never elected. Rather, they are simply the people to whom everyone goes to for advice based on their age and their reputations for giving even-handed guidance.
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Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi.