• James Tam 谭炳昌

The Caucasus (1) — A Brief Intro 高加索掠影(1)-文明摇篮的面貌


A few months ago, I was still misspelling Caucasus as “Caucuses”. Now that I’ve visited Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia for 18 days, less travel time, I have learnt a few trivia about the Southern Caucasus, and formed some superficial impressions of my own.

老實說,幾個月前,我連高加索是哪個「索」字也搞不清。但花了18天時間參觀南高三國 -- 阿塞拜疆,亞美尼亞,格魯吉亞 --之後,除了知道了一點點他們的歷史文化和風土人情外,也對這歐亞要塞多了幾分模糊印象和片面看法。

Tsminda Sameba Church against Kazbegi 格魯吉亞著名的卡茲別吉風貌

The Caucasus is one of the earliest cradles of civilisation. Our ancestors supposedly walked out of Africa eons ago, and headed right into this cul-de-sac. Stopped by tall mountains to the north, the Black Sea to the west, and Caspian Sea to the East, they settled to get more civilised before dispersing. According to pundits, that’s why there are many different languages in this relatively small area. Being profoundly ignorant in, inter alia, anthropology and evolutionary linguistics, I’m baffled as to why the pioneering tribes didn’t get homogenised by time and conflicts instead. Anyways, that didn’t happen, and still isn’t happening.

Black Sea at Batumi 巴統的黑海

高加索地區是人類最早的文明搖籃之一。據說人類始祖在非洲學會了兩條腿走路後,某天拖男帶女朝北方闖蕩。到了高加索,被高山阻擋去路。兩旁有黑海和裡海,走回頭路又有失面子,便索性就地扎根,研究文明。專家說這是高加索地區孕育出很多不同語言的原因。我對人類學和語言學一無所知,所以覺得這個解釋很奇怪。為什麼一群被困的半猿人,會搞出很多語言而不是慢慢互相同化呢?不過我這外行人一聽就懂的話,專家們都要下崗了。

Border of Georgia and Azerbaijan 格魯吉亞與阿塞拜疆邊界

Kazbegi in Georgia 格魯吉亞的卡茲別吉峰

Caucasian history is ancient and colourful, but a bit misfortunate, somewhat melancholic if not exactly wretched. Their artefacts dated from millennia BCE, particularly metallic tools and auric ornaments, easily compare with contemporaries unearthed anywhere else in design and sophistication. But they are relatively little known.

高加索歷史悠久。在博物館陳列的古金器,不少有幾千年的歷史,相比其他文明古國出土的同期金器,有過之而無不及,可惜較少人知道。這裡的民族似乎老有些倒霉,給人的印象是頗為苦命;莫非這裡風水有問題,好看不中用 ?

Georgian Ancient Artefacts 格魯吉亞的古代金器

Ancient Manuscripts from Armenia 亞美尼亞的古代書籍

To the people trapped by the bewitching Caucasian landscapes, history must seems a drastic cycle repeating ad nauseam. Fatefully located at the crossroad of East and West, they have met, fought, and been ruled by all Who’s Who conquerors: Alexander the Pyromaniac, Romans, Turks, Arabs, Persians, Mongols, Russians (then Soviets), etc. After the USSR was smothered by Russia’s erratic dreams, the Caucasian nations became officially “independent”, and have since engaged in intermittent in-fighting. Their “independence” is constrained by quotation marks because these tiny nations remain in the crossfire of big boys. Independence under such circumstances is inevitably tenuous. Under different pretexts, they continue to live in the shadow of foreign overlords, and get pulled by the capricious tides of geopolitics. The same old pattern. Well, without endorsement by powerful bankers, not every country can chose to be serenely neutral like Switzerland.

對這批被困東西交匯點的人們來說,歷史猶如循環噩夢,周而復始,去而復來。幾千年來,稍有名堂的征服者都曾到此一游,搞作一番:由縱火狂亞歷山大,到羅馬帝國,奧斯曼帝國,阿拉伯人,土耳其人,波斯人,蒙古人,俄羅斯人,都曾到此指點江山。每次轉換統治者定必要犧牲人命,這點不在話下。

蘇聯在戈巴契夫的白日夢中窒息之後,高加索地區的幾個民族才興高采烈地相繼 「獨立」。但小國獨立,談何容易?在短短二十多年的獨立歷史中,除了為模糊的疆域和歷史宿怨互相打鬥之外,弱國無外交:身處東西交火線的高加索,永遠擺脫不了大哥們的博弈,注定被地緣政治牽連。其實小國哪個不想 「中立」?不過沒有銀行家背書,不是人人都可以發夢做瑞士的哦!

Sighnaghi Towers, Georgia 格魯吉亞的Sighnaghi城堡

Panorama of Georgian Capital Tbilisi 格魯吉亞首都第比利斯

Azerbaijani Capital Baku where the 1st European Game is taking place 正在舉行第一屆歐運會的阿塞拜疆首都巴庫

Lake Sevan in Armenia 亞美尼亞的塞凡湖

Dusk at Lake Sevan 塞凡湖暮色

But regardless of turbulent vicissitudes and precarious circumstances, the people here seem inextricably bound to their land. Perhaps they feel the spiritual contemplations and tenacious aspirations of their forebears reverberating in the stunning landscape, comforting them with the depth of time.

縱使飽受風霜的高加索滿懷悲情,前景不穩,但這裡成長的人,就算寄居異鄉,也不會背棄家鄉的命運漩渦。可能他們走遍天涯,也找不到高加索的魅力吧。她的奪魄崇山和險要峽谷,吸收了先人們幾千年來的冥想和鬥志,讓人覺得置身其中,有種任由風吹雨打也豪不動搖的力量。

Noraduz- the Stone Garden ancient cemetery in Armenia. Simply Awesome 亞美尼亞的古墳場 Noraduz

Vardzia cave monastery in Georgia 格魯吉亞的Vardzia 山洞修院

Traffic Jam in Rural Georgia 格魯吉亞鄉村堵車的原因

Concealed Selim Caravanserai on the Silk Road in Armenia, from the 14th C. Deals were made here in dozens of languages & news from faraway lands exchanged 亞美尼亞絲綢之路上的隱蔽旅館(14世紀) 來自不同地方不同語言的商旅就在這山洞般的“旅館”休息,交易,和交換消息

Beautiful rural Georgia 美麗的格魯吉亞農村

Link to next post: The Caucasus (2) - Religion

鏈接到 高加索掠影(2)-宗教

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