The Chokha (Georgian: ჩოხა, ტალავარი, chokha, t’alavari; Abkhaz: акәымжәы, akʷymzhʷy; Adyghe: цые, tsiya; Persian: چوغا, Czugha; Armenian: չոխա, chokha; Azerbaijani: çuxa; Chechen: чокхиб, chokhib; Kabardian: цей, tsei; Lezgian: чуха, chukha; Ossetian: цухъхъа, cuqqa; Russian: черкеска, cherkeska) is a woollen coat with a high neck that is part of the traditional male dress of the peoples of the Caucasus.
History and Revival of Chokha
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has ordered high-ranking Georgian officials working abroad to present themselves in national costumes, including the chokha, at official meetings.
Types of Chokha
Caucasian Chokha originated in Caucasus in the mountainous areas of Georgia, although the word “Chokha” isn’t of Georgian language but Persian origin. Originally, in Georgia, the garment was referred to as Talavari, but later on, after the Persian invasions, Persians started to call Georgian national dress Chokha (meaning “outfit made of fabric”). Russians called it “Cherkeska” (meaning Circassian dress), and the Cossacks adopted it as their national costume. In Circassian language, the Chokha is known as “Shwakh-Tsia”” which means “covers the horseman” or simply “Tsia” which means “from fabric” and “Fasha” which means “Fits you”.
In Georgia, the Black chokha was reserved for the “Order of Chokhosani” who represented an elite composed of great generals, war heroes and famous poets. Chokha is sewn of thick fabric and flares out at the bottom. In some parts of the Caucasus there are also female chokhas.
The Khevsur chokha was worn in the Khevsureti province of Georgia in the Greater Caucasus mountains. The Khevsur chokha is considered to be the closest to the medieval version of chokha. It is mostly short with trapezoid shapes. The front side of the chokha has rich decorations and slits on the sides, which extend to the waist. The Khevsur chokha has rich decorations made up of crosses and icons.
The Kartl-Kakheti chokha is longer than the Khevsur chokha and has triangle-like shapes on the chest exposing the inner cloth called arkhalukhi. It tends to have bandoliers on both sides of the chest, spaces filled with bullet-like decorations called Masri. The bottom sides usually had slits on the sides and people wore them without belts. The Kartli-Kakheti chokha has long sleeves and is usually black, dark red or blue.
General Caucasian Chokha
The general Caucasian chokha shares similarities with the Kartl-Kakheti version. In most cases different decorations are used to fill the bullet spaces. In the Russian language, chokha is called cherkeska and this type of chokha has black leather belts decorated with silver pieces. It was usually a longer version of the Kartl-kakheti Chokha.
The general Caucasian chokha is usually made of black, grey, white, blue, red or brown fabric. Among Azeris, it is considered part of the traditional outfit for the performers of mugham, an Azeri folk music genre. A person’s age defined the colour of the chokha he would wear.
Generally, the chokha outfit includes a khanjali (the sword), the akhalukhi (a shirt worn underneath the chokha), the masrebi (the bullets), and the kabalakhi (a hood, separate from the robe) or nabdis kudi (a tall fur hat).