A chokha[lower-alpha 1] also known as the cherkeska is a woolencoat with a high neck that is part of the traditional male dress of peoples of the Caucasus. It was in wide use among Abazins, Abkhazians, Azerbaijanis, Balkars, Chechens, Circassians, Georgians, Ingush, Karachais, Nogais, Ossetians, the peoples of Dagestan, as well as Terek and Kuban Cossacks who adopted it from the aforementioned peoples.
The word chokha is of Persian origin meaning ‘outfit made of textile’. Russians and Ukrainians called it a cherkeska (meaning ‘of/from Circassia’) because when they arrived in the Caucasus they saw it for the first time being worn by Circassians. Later the Kuban Cossacks adopted it as part of their costume. In Circassian languages, the chokha is known as shwakh-tsia which means ‘covers the horseman’, or simply tsia, meaning ‘from fabric’, and fasha, which means ‘fits you’, and among Georgians the clothing is also known as talavari.
The chokha was in wide use among Georgians and other inhabitants of the Caucasus from 9th until the early 20th century, when it declined during the Soviet Era. Nowadays, chokha is no longer in use but continues to still be worn for ceremonial and festive occasions. In Georgia it is used as a symbol of national pride, and is frequently worn by Georgian men at weddings and official functions. Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered high-ranking Georgian officials working abroad to present themselves in national costumes, including the chokha, at official meetings.
On June 9, 2020, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation in Georgia recognized Chokha wearing tradition as a part of Intangible cultural heritage of Georgia.
Aside from the general Caucasian chokha which is worn by many ethnicities in the Caucasus and also by the Kuban Cossacks, there are four types of chokhas that are used primarily among Georgians: the Kartl-Kakheti chokha (Kartli and Kakheti are eastern Georgian provinces), the Khevsur chokha (mainly in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti province of Georgia), the Adjarian chokha (mainly found in western Georgian provinces such as Adjara and Guria, previously also in Lazona), and the general Caucasian chokha.
In Georgia, special decorations, in addition to the chokha, were adopted by the Order of Chokhosani, who represented an elite cadre of generals, war heroes and famous poets.
This is the most widely used type of chokha in Caucasus, it has black leather belts decorated with silver pieces. It is usually a longer version of the Kartl-kakheti Chokha. The general Caucasian chokha were sewn not only from gray and black fabric, but also from red, blue, green, golden yellow, purple and brown. Generally, the chokha outfit includes a khanjali dagger, a beshmet worn under the chokha, gazyrs (bullet/charge holders), and a bashlyk (a hood, separate from the robe) or a papakha (a tall fur hat).