The Tindi of Dagestan

This Google Map shows the traditional mountain villages or auls of the Tindi highland people of Dagestan in Russia, the chief of which is the eponymous aul Tindi. These auls are mapped using green pins.

The Tindi are an autochthonous north Caucasus people and may well have inhabited their mountain auls for two thousand years. Formerly animist and probably later Christian, they converted to Islam and now are Sunni Muslims by confession. They speak their own eponymous Tindi language domestically (and Avar and Russian outside the home and the community environment). The population has always been small and isolated but now is threatened by assimilation into the surrounding Avar population of Dagestan.

In 1944, part of the Tindi population was displaced to the Vedeno raion in Chechnya. There is also a diaspora in northern Dagestan to the NE of the town of Khasavyurt. These communities away from the highland heartland are shown with blue pins on the map.


The Shahdaghs of Azerbaijan

This Google Map shows the Shahdagh (Şahdağ) peoples of the north Caucasus, in what is today Azerbaijan.

There are four ethnic groups under the umbrella of the generic term Shahdagh, each of which has its own language.

The colour code used on the map is as follows:

Buduq (Budukh): green markers
Cek (Dzhek): red markers
Xinaliq (Khinalug): purple markers
Yergüc (Yerguj): blue markers

The regular pins on the map show the original native highland settlements. The circles show the diaspora settlements, which are mainly although not entirely in the lowlands and largely the result of Soviet era displacement.


The Digor Ossetians

This Google Map focuses on the Digors, Ossetians speaking the Digor (as opposed to the dominant Iron) language of North Ossetia. Under the influence of their western neighbours the Kabardians, many Digors converted, from either their traditional animist religion or from Eastern Orthodoxy, to Sunni Islam. It was this conversion which led to their oppression. The expansion of the Russian Empire into the Caucasus and the ensuing Caucasian War culminated in many Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus being ethnically cleansed and fleeing to the Ottoman Empire as muhajirs (emigrants, refugees) in the 1860s. Digor Ossetians were among them. During and immediately after WW2 (known to the Russians as the Great Patriotic War), Digors were one ethnos among many deported en masse by the Soviets to Kazakhstan. The majority, albeit not all, of the groups deported from the North Caucasus were Muslim (exceptions included the Black Sea Greeks).

The map shows past and present settlements of the Digors, both in North Ossetia (blue pins) and in Turkey (red pins). I should stress that the settlements shown in Turkey are believed to be Digor (rather than Iron) Ossetians, as it was the Digors rather than the Irons who converted to Sunni Islam and therefore were minded to seek refuge in or emigrate to Sunni Turkey in the 1860s. However, it is possible that some of the Ossetian communities in Turkey shown on the Google Map were in fact settled by Iron converts to Islam among the muhajirs from the North Caucasus; therefore, caveat emptor.

In the Digors’ traditional North Ossetian homeland, former settlements abandoned and destroyed are shown by the circular blue markers with the white x. In the pin texts, these are described as villages but most were very small settlements and some were inhabited by a single extended family.

The exact location of the abandoned settlements is not always clear. In some cases, satellite imagery shows clearly the outline of buildings (surviving stonework etc), presumably of villages abandoned in the C20th. In other cases, there is no immediately obvious trace at the available map coordinates, while in others the current sateliite imagery (as at January 2018) does not permit any inspection due to thick cloud cover.

Please note that the map excludes the cities to which Digors have moved as economic migrants – for example, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia and Ankara, Istanbul and Sivas in Turkey. Digors also reside in diaspora in, for example, Kazakhstan (descendants of the deportees who have not returned) and Syria.





Upper Balkaria

If you zoom in to Verkhnyaya Balkariya using satellite imagery on Google Maps or Bing, you notice, like a palimpsest, the history of past settlement around the modern planned town with its regular and rectilinear grid-like layout. As at the time of writing (January 2018), the Microsoft satellite imagery used by Bing is clearer than Google’s as it was taken in good light. Below are screenshots showing five of the vanished villages and hamlets of Upper Balkaria.











The accompanying Google Map shows the main villages (blue pins) and various hamlets and neighbourhoods (grey pins) of this part of the Cherek river valley in Upper Balkaria. Until Nov-Dec 1942, these were entirely populated by Balkars, a Turkic and Muslim people of the north Caucasus. At that date, these Balkar villages were razed and the population decimated – men, women and children were brutally killed by the Red Army on the orders of the NKVD. As you can see from the images above, the villages were completely destroyed and only a ruined archaeology remains.

In March 1944 the balance of the inhabitants of Upper Balkaria, together with all other Balkarians (37,103 in total, according to NKVD head Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria’s official report), was deported en masse to Central Asia (mostly the Kazakh and Kyrghyz Soviet Socialist Republics). There they remained in exile until a decree of March 1957 permitted the survivors to return to their homeland.

According to the 2010 census, Balkars make up  12.7% of the population of the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (being outnumbered by the indigenous Kabarday, who comprise 57%, but also by ethnic Russians, who make up 22%).


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 (rather than Sunni Muslims). Over time, they started to assimilate into the Azerbaijani population and speak Azerbaijani 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 Azerbaijani-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 Azerbaijani 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.



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.