Thus, when authorities in Mingrelia requested in 1834 that local Orthodox clergy be exempt from the task of keeping metrical books because of their poor education and limited literacy, the Synod's office in Tiflis responded that the introduction of such records "is indispensable for the good of Mingrelians
themselves in their exercise of general civil rights and in religion." Later, in 1905, the chancellery of the viceroy of the Caucasus noted that the development of "civil consciousness" (grazhdanstvennost') among Muslims was producing ever-greater need for documentation based on metrical books, while "the absence of those civil acts impedes progress among Muslims"--for example, by blocking their access to educational institutions.
Arnott is good on relationships, too: "Among the Mingrelians
of the Caucasus, arguments between married couples were usually settled by the local chief who solved the problem by selling one of the pair as a slave."
Although Mingrelians are Georgians, they speak their own language, which is related to Georgian but incomprehensible to Georgians.
The relationship between Georgians and Mingrelians is curious, hard for an outsider to comprehend.
The main languages in the three states are mutually unintelligible (also, those who generally consider themselves Georgians--Kartvelians, Mingrelians
, and Svans--speak mutually unintelligible languages).
that certain silver coins are called by the Mingrelians
tetari, by the Greeks aspri, by the Turks akcha, and by the Zagatais tengh, all of which words in the respective languages signify 'white.' We do not however find such a word in the dictionaries of either Vambery or of Pavet de Courteille;--the latter only having tangah, 'fer-blanc'.
The main languages in the three states are dissimilar (also, those who generally consider themselves Georgians--Kartvelians, Mingrelians
, and Svans--speak dissimilar languages).
Hewitt: If Georgia were prepared to accept federalisation and also to reverse the denial of language-rights for example to Mingrelians, such a demonstration of equitable treatment for those living within Georgia proper might persuade Sukhum and Tskhinval that Georgia's yearning for regional "overlordship" no longer presented a danger.
Ossetia; the Abkhazians have raised no objections to Mingrelians staying in, or returning to, the south-easternmost province of Gal, where, whatever the (disputed) ethnic origins of these locals, there had been a preponderance of Mingrelian-speakers for decades, and Svans who did not take up arms against Abkhazians during the war or thereafter are free to live in their homesteads in the K'odor Valley.
Hewitt: Since Mingrelian, Svan and Laz were not regarded as official languages from c.1930, it has been impossible to see in census-returns the level of their retention as 1st or 2nd languages of the local populations.
Hewitt: Georgian, Mingrelian, Laz and Svan are the four members of the South Caucasian (or Kartvelian) language-family.
Travelling, courtesy of the British Council, to Tbilisi the following year to spend the academic year 1975-76 learning Georgian and gaining a familiarity with Abkhaz, Avar and Chechen (plus Mingrelian and Svan), I realised just how precarious was the future for several of the other indigenous languages of the Caucasus, which had by then become my area of specialisation.