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 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 Hunzibs of Dagestan & Georgia

This Google Map shows the distribution of Hunzib settlement in the Caucasus. The Hunzibs are ethnically Avar and Sunni Muslim highlanders. They have their own Hunzib language, although the number of speakers is under 5,000 and quite possibly under 2,500.

The heartland of the Hunzib people is in Dagestan, in the cluster of three villages, shown in blue, near Tlyadal: Garbutl, Gunzib and Nakhada. There were or are smaller settlements in this vicinity, either hamlets or neighbourhoods of the main villages (small as they themselves are) also occupied by Hunzibs: these are Gelo, Khelada, Novaya Nakhada, Novo Garbutl, Rodor, and Todor. It is possible that one or two of these are alternative names for one of the main villages, just as Gunzib, or parts of it, seems to have been known as Darbal or Darbali and/or Rodol at one time (or perhaps in a different tongue).

There is no letter “h” in Russian; it is replaced by “g”. Dagestan, as part of the Russian Federation, officially uses the Russian language and hence Hunzib (the ethnos) is identical with Gunzib (the village).

Hunzibs live additionally in two large villages in the Kizilyurt district of north-eastern Dagestan (marked with purple pins on the map). These places were not settled by Hunzibs until the C20th, possibly as a result of disruption and displacement during Soviet times.

The three villages in Georgia, marked with red pins, are home to numbers of Avars including Hunzibs – the village of Saruso is a majority Hunzib settlement. These places are shown on the map under their official Georgian names followed by their Avar/Hunzib names – for example, Saruso is the Georgian and Khaladukh the Hunzib name.

 

The Mountain Jews of Dagestan

This Google Map showing the Mountain Jews of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia is a companion to an earlier map showing the Mountain Jewish settlements in Azerbaijan. For the long 19th century and beyond, both Dagestan and Azerbaijan were part of Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union (and of course, Dagestan still is a part of Russia), meaning that the border between them was of little significance.

Karchag is often described as a Mountain Jewish village in the vicinity of Quba in Azerbaijan but lies over the (modern) border in Dagestan.

Many of the Mountain Jewish (Juhurim) mountain villages or auls have now been abandoned, but most which were extant during the latter years of the C19th have been positively identified and marked on the map. A pin on the map does not imply an extant Jewish community.

The list below shows the Mountain Jewish villages of Dagestan recorded in the compendious Сборник сведений о кавказских горцах (or: Collection of Information on the Caucasus Highlanders) volume 3, published in Tbilisi (then Tiflis) in 1870. Chapter 3 within this volume is on the subject of the Mountain Jews and section V of this chapter is in the form of a statistical table giving the names of Mountain Jewish communities and their size (expressed as “smokes”, i.e. hearths – that is to say, households) plus the number of rabbis, synagogues and schools. To calculate the approximate population of a village, one might multiply the hearths by, say, 5, so therefore, for example, Tarki may have had a population of 250, Derbent of 1,000, and Magalis of 500 souls.

 

Russian name in 1870 Name on map hearths rabbis synagogues schools
Tarki Tarki 50 1 1 1
Buinaki   15 1 1 1
Karabudakhkent Karabudakhkent 18 1 1 1
Durgeli Dorgeli 25 1 1 1
Dzhengutay Dzhengutay 6 0 0 0
Temir-Khan-Shura Buynaksk 35 2 1 1
Chir-Yurt Kizilyurt 10 0 0 0
Derbent Derbent 200 1 2 7
Khoshmanzil Khoshmenzil 21 1 1 1
Aglabi Aglobi 6 0 0 0
Nyugdi-Myushkur Nyugdi 68 1 1 2
Rukel Rukel 30 0 1 0
Mugatir Mugarty 29 1 1 1
Maraga Maraga 16 1 1 1
Kheli-Penzhdi Kheli + Penzhdi 18 1 1 1
Gemeidi Gimeydi 22 1 1 1
Madzhalis Madzhalis (Majalis) 100 1 1 2
Yangikent Yangikent 116 2 2 2
Mamrach Sovetskoye 82 1 1 1
Khandzhal-Kala Novyy Usur 30 1 1 1
Arag Ashaga Yarak 87 1 1 2
Karchag Karchag 25 1 1 1
Imam-Kuli-Kent Imam-Kuli-Kent 11 0 0 0
Dzherakh Dzhara 20 1 1 1
Khasav-Yurt Khasavyurt 40 2 2 2
Andreevok Endirey 23 1 1 1
Kostek Kostek 37 1 1 1
Kazi-Yurt Kaziyurt 1 0 0 0
Aksay, or Tashkichu Aksay 81 2 1 2

 

The location of some known Mountain Jewish communities – such as Buinaki (which is not Buynaksk and was possibly a neighbourhood or outlying village of Makhachkala now swallowed up by the city) – has not yet been established.

The Mountain Jewish population of Dagestan, like that of Azerbaijan, is now much reduced, by emigration within Russia and beyond to Israel and North America.