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Monday, 23 April 2007

Salt, Ushguli, August 2004

A black-and-white silent film made in Ushguli in 1929 reveals one of the village's biggest weaknesses, a need which the communists exploited in their hurrahed road-building marathon. Salt for Svanetia, it's called, still available on VHS with simultaneous subtitles in Russian and English. Much worth seeing as an introduction to the village as it was at the dawn of its Soviet period. (The music is a much later addition, but never mind.)

Apparently most of the customs the film depicts were real at the time, though Ushguli has modernized somewhat since then and some of the events depicted were acted out. One thing which hasn't changed at all, however, is the lack of local salt. In the film, cows are showing licking each other's mouths in desperation, and also slurping up just-deposited human urine, all for its salt. These scenes of mine are the current vogue among goats: find an abandoned building, and lick its walls every evening for the precious substance.

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