Tabasaran Travel Guide

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Rasim Kasimov

The most ancient region inhabitants are Dagestan mountaineers. Much later (in the Middle Ages) appear Turkis and the most recent settlers are Russian. The Dagestan mountaineers represent the nationalities group, retained the languages, as well as the life and cultural features from the extreme antiquity times. Undoubtedly, they are in the distant relationship with the other Caucasus mountaineers, as well as with the ancient Transcaucasian peoples viz the Georgians and Armenians.

Persia has supplanted Romans from here and exerted the large political and cultural influence on Dagestan. Then (VIII century) the arabs gain and domination age who have brought in Dagestan the Islam religion occurs. Mountainous Dagestan, due to the difficult relief availability and inhabitant militancy, always made the country actually independent, though disintegrated to the separate parts fallen sometimes under the adjacent states political influence. Northern low-lying and part of the northern foothills and seaside lowland were the south of the Russia nomadic peoples displacement arena. Alans and Khazars power, and later the Mongols and Tatars one was distributed here. In the early Middle Ages the Kumuks ancestors have organized the agricultural settlement here.

Later, during Tatar displacement from Asia in Europe Nogaies have appeared. Seaside lowland southern region and the adjacent foothills mostly were included into the Forward Asia powerful states structure, and Derbent served as the front fortress for the nomads defence. There was the significant settlement in the Derbent place from the extreme antiquity. The famous Derbent fortness and the walls constructed from the sea up to mountains, closing pass at the seaside lowland, were constructed by the Sassanids age Persians (V-VI century). Later it were subjected to the destructions and reorganizations. Contrary to the many Dagestan opinion, Islam brought by the arabs, not at once has taken roots and was distributed here. The mountaineers remained the ancient languages so far remained the faiths and customs with the great persistence. Apparently these faiths were related with the astral cult and had the remote origin from the ancient Mesopotamy civilization, from which, probably, the material and spiritual culture traditions, in particular, the dwellings, the agriculture arts with irrigation, the crafts character were remained. The paganism with the astral cult signs was long peculiar the maintainers. The zoroastrizm (Zoroastr religion based at the astral cult also) descended from the Sassanids Persia had great influence in Daghestan. The christianity also penetrated here from Transcaucasia, since the early Middle ages and had the significant distribution, apparently, down to XV century. Thus, during the number of the centuries Dagestan represented the complicated and variegated picture at the religious ideas penetrated here and the political influences. The Arabian writers - geographers of the X century A.D give such informations about Dagestan at that time. In the arabs hands were Derbent only and the locks, nearest to it. There was Moslem possessor in Tabasaran, the Derbent emir sister's son .
The adjacent Kaitag prince executed the ceremonies and holidays of three religions (according to Ibn - Rosta). He was Moslem, but in his country Islam was not widespread according to other author (Masudy). Kumik (Kumukh) is indicated to north from here, where the christians lived, and inaccessible Zirekhgeran (Cubachy), where there were three religions. The christian princedom Sarir was even futher. Acciording to Ibn - Rosta there the christians are the one fortness inhabitants only, and their subjects are the pagans, its prince title is Avar. Apparently, this fortness is Khunzakh, and country is Avary. Semender with the large vineyards, 3 mosques, the christian churches and synagogues is mentioned also. Semender prince has Judaic religion and is the Khazar khan relative. On the all basis, Semender was in Tarky - Petrovodsk region. For the first time Lezghin name (Lakz) for the Daghestan mountaineers (according to Masudy) occur at the arabs. After the arabs in Dagestan are Mongols and Turkis as the conquerors. In XIII-XIV centuries the Northern and Seaside lowlands on the south up to Derbent belonged the Gold Horde. During Timur campaign (1395) for the first time Kaitag and Kumukh are mentioned (in the modern form). Kaitag was Tochtamush's acres, there were many christians in it, and Islam was not widespread. Kazikumukhs (Lakies) are considered as the Islam pioneers in Dagestan During Timur's invasion they acted against him together with living to the north Ashkudja tribes (Akusha). Timur reproached them, that they being Islam pioneers are with the pagans. It is visible from these data, that Islam has become to receive distribution only towards the close of the XIV century. During Timur's campaign description are mentioned also Tarky and Zirekhgerany (Cubachy). The last have brought hauberk to Timur. Sultan Akhmed - Khan prince (utsmy) is known for Kiatag in XIV century. Apparently, he has constructed Madjalis, where the people was going at the councils. He has made adat's code (usual right) for the kadies's management. This code represents the large interest. The Dagestan patrimonial life with the blood vengeance, "ishkil", "kanly" etc. customs, remained in mountains so far is legalized in it. Kazikumukh's princes or shamkhals distributed the authority to northeast up to the sea. They had the residence in Kumukh in summe, and in Buinak in winter in XVI century. Sivap Shamkhal has died in Buinak in 1578, the sons have divided its acres. Shamkhals weakened, and Kazikumukh has disappeared from them. By the way, the "Dagestan" name to our region for the first time is applied in XIV century. In XVII and XVIII centuries Dagestan represented a few independent khanates and the patrimonial unions which were as affected by two powerful hostile neighbours viz Russia from north and Persia from the south. Avar khans subordinated to themselves the large Dagestan large part and even temporarily the adjacent Transcaucasia parts were put forward especially in XVIII century. Russian Empire began the Dagestan gain under Petr I early in XVIII century. Primarily Russia has consolidate from the north, then on the Seaside lowland and in Transcaucasia.

In XIX century Russian were waged the persistent and continuous war against the Dagestan mountaineers, which with the unusual bravery and heroism struggled for the freedom and independence. The struggle age with Russian tsarism, in particular in XVIII - XIX centuries, were the extreme Islam amplification time, penetrating the all Dagestan life, as the national struggle has contacted to religious enthusiasm and the spiritual leaders - imams (Kazi -Magomet, Shamil) were the national heroes at the same time. In this age Islam played in Dagestan's life the same role, that during its origin, at the separated Arabian tribes association in one high-power nationality. Despite of the Islam force, the legislation(shariat), practiced by it, could not destroy the Daghestan patrimonial life customs (adats) and should be adjusted to it. Divided by the difficult to traverse mountains, speaking in the different languages and adverbs, having a lot of the life features, the mountain tribes were persistently aimed to remain not only the general independence, but also the kins's (tukhums's) independence. The patrimonial life reservation promoted both the nature condition, and the ancient economic way of the population. After Shamil conquest and Dagestan reconciliation (1860), the Dagestan area with the special "military - national" management and number of privileges leaving to the population (in particular, release from the conscription, sanction to carry the weapon, tax privileges) was organized by Russian tsarism. The adats support policy with the purpose to loosen Shariat and Islam influence, as joining mountain tribes against Russia was conducted for the best solidifying of Russian authority.

Actually, the patrimonial life has ramained the many antiquity survivals (the blood vengeance etc.), any more answering to the modern living conditions. Shariat just also tried to soften these the adats acute forms and to transfer them in the laws more approaching for the people life.

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September 11, 2006 change by giorgio

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