The Kurds of Red Kurdistan & Nakhichevan

The Google Map shows (with red pins) some of the more notable places in which Kurds lived during the short-lived “Red Kurdistan” of 1923-1929 and, of course, both long before and after. The Kurds of this area, approximating to the Lachin corridor and its extensions north and south, were notable for being Shiites. Over time, they started to assimilate into the Azeri population and speak Azeri rather than Kurmanji (only 8.3% of Kurds were recorded as Kurmanji speakers at the time of the Soviet census of 1926).

Most of the Kurdish communities became unfortunate collateral damage during the Azeri-Armenian conflict of the early 1990s and many of the villages were completely destroyed by the Armenians – only the shells of buildings can be seen in satellite imagery. The local Kurds were internally displaced to Baku, Ağcabädi and elsewhere within Azerbaijan.

The map also shows (with green pins) the smaller number of Kurdish communities in the Azeri exclave of Nakhichevan.

 

The Terek Kumyks

The Google Map shows the main locations of the Terek Kumyks in modern times.

Settlements in Chechnya are shown with green pins, those in Ingushetia are marked with red pins, and those in North Osseta-Alania with blue pins.

Germenchuk and Shali, in Chechnya, which lie away from the Terek river, are thought to be two of the sources of the Terek settlements. A few hundred Kumyks still reside in the town of Shali but Germenchuk now has an entirely Chechen population.

Kumyk place names are shown in brackets after the official (modern) Russian place names. For example, Predgornoye is known to Kumyks as Borasuv-otar.

 

The Udi

The Google Map shows the distribution of the Udi, an ancient relict ethnos of the Caucasus, the survivors of the formerly great Caucasian Albanian people.

Today, this Christian people is found primarily in two large villages in Azerbaijan (Nic and Oğuz, known until 1991 as Vartashen) and one small settlement in Georgia (Zinobiani). There are smaller numbers of Udi in a few other villages in Azerbaijan (and of course in its capital Baku) but most have assimilated or left the country for Armenia and, more especially, Russia. Most of the settlements in Azerbaijan marked with blue pins on the map therefore effectively show former rather than extant Udi communities.

As mentioned, there are numbers of Udi in diaspora dispersed across both cities and villages in southern Russia (shown with grey pins on the map) and elsewhere across Russia (not marked on the map).

Finally, there are also about 200 Udi refugees from Oğuz in a handful of villages in Armenia; these are marked with red pins.

 

 

The Tsakhur of Dagestan & Azerbaijan

The Google Map shows the main areas of settlement of the Tsakhurs. The Tsakhur are a northern Caucasian people or ethnos with their own Tsakhur language (one of the Lezgic family of languages in the NE Caucasus). The Tsakhurs will, of course, additionally speak the majority language, such as Azerbaijani or Russian, where they live. They profess Sunni Islam.

The Tsakhur territory was centred originally on a highland valley (that of the river Samur) in what is now the SW of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia. This is shown on the map by the line of 13 auls marked with blue pins. However, there was an expansion of territory over the mountains, extending it into what is now Azerbaijan, in the C15th – shown with green pins. The two capitals, as it were, were respectively Tsakhur aul itself in Dagestan, and İlisu village in Azerbaijan.

Place names on the Google Map are given in a standardised transliteration from the Russian for Dagestan, and in a modified Azerbaijani (using an ä instead of a schwa) for those in Azerbaijan. In some cases, alternative spellings or names are given in brackets.

One interesting place is Baş Suvagil, on the banks of the Qaraçay, which was flooded repeatedly, leading its inhabitants to establish a new Yeni Suvagil at a safer spot down on the plains. Satellite imagery suggests that people have again settled the site of Baş Suvagil.

The map also shows more recent dispersal by the Tsakhurs to the big cities of Dagestan and to a belt of Soviet era farming villages in the NE of the Republic.

 

 

Armenians in Uzbekistan

This Google Map shows the main Armenian communities in C20th Uzbekistan. Some of these, such as those in the old Silk Road trading centres, are long-standing, although until the late C19th they were very modest in scale (probably under 250 individuals each).

It is likely that Armenians, who are thought to number over 45,000 across the country, are also resident in many other towns in Uzbekistan not shown on the map.

The only two functioning Armenian Apostolic churches are those in the big cities of Samarkand and Tashkent. The Soviets in Central Asia were militant atheists and the other known Armenian churches were closed by the authorities during the 1920s and 1930s. It is likely that the largest Uzbek Armenian communities outside Samarkand and Tashkent will apply to raise places of worship in the next few years with the resurgence of interest in Armenian culture and the Church.

The local Armenians speak Russian and Uzbek. The longest-settled families speak Uzbek as opposed to Armenian and are well assimilated into Uzbek society. More recent immigrants from, for example, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Azerbaijan, are likely to have Armenian as their mother tongue.

 

The Mamkhegh of Adygea

The Google Map shows only a little of the history of the Mamkhegh. The Mamkhegh are a Circassian people and specifically one of the 12 Adyghe tribes, with their own eponymous dialect. They are Sunni Muslim.

Their historic villages were situated to the south of the town of Maykop. The approximate sites of the 12 largest of these are shown with blue question marks on the map. The exact sites are not certain but the distribution and spatial inter-relationship of them on the map is reasonably correct – or, at least, it follows the rough sketch map drawn up by local ethnographer Aleksandr Nikolayevich Dyachkov-Tarasov in 1901. Dyachkov-Tarasov uses the traditional Circassian and Caucasian word “aul” for each village and shows the borders of the Mamkhegh territory stretching south of Maykop in a dewdrop shape between Dagestanskaya and Abadzekhskaya villages on the rivers Kurdzhips and Belaya respectively.

These native villages were depopulated towards the end of the Caucasian War, circa 1862-63. At that time, most Mamkheghs, along with other Muslim Circassians, were deported from the Russian to the Ottoman Empire – presumably, their descendants live somewhere in Anatolia now. Those Mamkhegs who remained within Adygea were settled in the new eponymous village of Mamkheg and the other villages shown in yellow on the map.

 

The Archi of Dagestan

This Google Map shows the traditional villages of the Archi ethnos or people in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia.

The Archintsy, who are Sunni Muslim, speak their own Archi language (a peripheral branch of the Lezgic group of Caucasian languages) and self-identify (apparently mistakenly, given their language) as Avars.

The Archi are usually described in internet sources as occupying eight villages, although all the accounts, at least in the English and Russian languages, then proceed to name a maxmum of seven. Only seven villages are visible on satellite imagery, including that of Bing Maps (which is often superior to Google Maps and its derivatives for the mountainous Caucasus region). The identity of the eighth village is unknown; it is neither Chitab nor Shalib, which are situate to the N and NE respectively of the Archi villages, and there are no evident settlements to the S. Only seven are marked on this Google Map therefore. Possibly the eighth village was very small and has been abandoned.

 

The Khvarshi of Dagestan

This Google Map shows the distribution of another minority ethnos or people of the Caucasus, namely that of the Khvarshi (or Khwarshi) of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia.

The seven historic villages of the Khvarshi are shown with green pins on the map. The Khvarshi speak their own eponymous Khvarshi language and profess the Sunni form of Islam.

In 1944, the community was deported en masse from their traditional villages to Ritlyab (in Dagestan) and Vedeno (in Chechnya), places shown with grey pins on the map.

After the Great Patriotic War, many Khvarshi returned to their native villages in the highlands. Others remained where they were or moved on to the five settlements in northern Dagestan shown with blue pins on the map, where they remain till today.

 

The Armenians of Krasnodar krai (the Kuban)

The Google Map shows places of Armenian settlement in the Krasnodar krai, or region, of Russia, also known historically as the Kuban.

The history of Armenian settlement in this region of southern Russia is both old and complex, with multiple layers of immigration. These date from the Middle Ages (with the so-called Cherkesogai or Circassian Armenians), through to C19th Hemşin/Hemshin migrants from Anatolia (both Christian and Muslim converts), to 1915 Genocide survivors and late C20th refugees from Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Georgia and even from Central Asia. For over 500 hundred years, the Krasnodar or Kuban region has been a safe haven for Armenians.

Over 60 cities, towns and villages with a significant Armenian presence are plotted on the map. However, there are many small towns and villages with a modest or minority Armenian population not marked on this map; it does not purport to be fully comprehensive and complete.

Churches are shown (indicated by a cross) only when known to exist and positively identified. This does not mean to say that other settlements do not have places of worship. As mentioned above, a proportion of the Hemshin Armenians are adherents of Islam rather than Christians.

 

The Kists of Georgia

This Google Map shows the heartland of the Kist people in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. The Kisti are ethnic Chechens and speak the Kistian dialect of Chechen (as well as, these days, Georgian).

They migrated to the Pankisi valley from Chechnya in the mid-C19th, probably to avoid pressure to convert to Islam. At that time, they professed their own Vainakh faith, which contained syncretic beliefs with pre-monotheistic roots and an admixture of Christianity. The location of a pre-Christian Anatori Jvari shrine sacred to the Kists is shown, with a blue pin, on the map.

Kist villages are shown with green pins on the map. A high proportion of the Kists of the village of Birkiani are Christian. At Jokolo, there is a church dedicated to St George and there was formerly a chapel in Omalo. Kists attend the annual Alaverdobi harvest festival at the Georgian Orthodox monastery of Alaverdi each September. Those Kists who have left the Pankisi valley and settled in Georgian towns such as Telavi tend to assimilate as Georgian Orthodox Christians.

For the most part, however, today the Kists are Sunni Muslim, albeit with an unorthodox colouring. The Kists’ main place of worship is the Sunni mosque in Duisi. There are three other modern mosques, constructed from 1996-2001 with outside finance. Duisi also has a shariat court. In these circumstances, it is likely that there will be tensions within the Kist community between those wanting to apply a strict interpretation of Islam and those with syncretic leanings or who are Christian.