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ETHNONYMS: Khinalugh is the Azerbaijani name for the people and the village they inhabit. Their self-designations are: (1) Kätish, Kätsh khalk (the "people of Ketsh"); (2) Kättid (the "inhabitants of Ketsh"). "Ketsh" is the Khinalugh name for the village Khinalugh.


Identification and Location. The Khinalughs live in the remote village of Khinalugh (also called Khïnalïk) in the Kuba District of the Azerbaijan Republic. Located in a mountainous area more than 2,300 meters in elevation in the eastern spur of the Great Caucasus chain, above the river Kudial-chay, Khinalugh is surrounded by mountain peaks (including Shakhdag and Trfan) that separate it from neighboring villages inhabited by Azerbaijanis, Lezgins, and Kryz (a small ethnic community speaking a language of the Lezgin group). The climate in Khinalugh, in comparison with that in lowland villages, is by no means harsh: the winters are sunny and snow seldom falls.

Demography. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the population claiming Khinalugh nationality has been steadily decreasing as a result of their assimilation by the Azerbaijanis. The Khinalugh population was 2,300 in 1859 and 1,400 in 1926, of which only 105 described themselves as Khinalughs. The rest were listed in the census as "Turks" speaking Khinalugh as their native language. In addition, some Khinalughs considered themselves Azerbaijanis. Since that time the Khinalughs have not been counted separately in the Soviet censuses. In the early 1950s about 800 Khinalughs dwelt in the village; however, many others had resettled in villages in the lowland parts of the Kuba, Kutkashen, and Ismail regions of Azerbaijan.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Khinalugh language belongs to the Daghestanian Group of the Northeast Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) Language Family. Some linguists (e.g., R. M. Shaumian) associate it with the Lezgin Language Group; others (e.g., A. N. Genko) consider it to be closer to the Udi language; yet others (e.g., Yu. D. Desheriev) regard Khinalugh as a descendant of an ancient group of Caucasian languages, within which it occupies a distinct place. The language is not written; throughout the Soviet period the Khinalughs used the Azerbaijani language for writing and also for communication with their neighbors in Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan. Russian is taught in the schools from the first grade, but the only Khinalughs who know it well are those who have served in the army or gone elsewhere for work (especially to the petroleum plants in Baku).

History and Cultural Relations

The Khinalughs are descendants of one of the tribes of ancient Caucasian Albania, which, in the early Christian era, flourished in what is now northern Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan. It is believed that the population of Caucasian Albania spoke languages of the Northeast Caucasian Family, among them the precursors of the Udi, Lezgin, Khinalugh, Budukh, and Kryz languages. Earlier, Khinalugh was part of the Shemakha Khanate, of which Azerbaijanis formed the majority population. After incorporation in the Russian Empire in 1828, Khinalugh found itself in the Kuba Uezd (district) of Baku Province (Bakinskaia Guberniia).


Khinalugh, like many mountain settlements, is densely packed, with narrow sinuous streets and a terraced layout, in which the roof of one house serves as a courtyard for the house above.

The Khinalugh house (ts'wa ) is built from unfinished stones and clay mortar, and is plastered in the interior. The house has two stories; cattle are kept on the lower floor (tsuga ) and the living quarters are on the upper floor (otag ). The otag includes a separate room for entertaining the husband's guests. The number of rooms in a traditional house varied according to the size and structure of the family. An extended family unit might have one large room of 40 square meters or more, or perhaps separate sleeping quarters for each of the married sons and his nuclear family. In either case, there was always a common room with hearth. The roof was flat and covered with a thick layer of packed earth; it was supported by wooden beams propped by one or more pillars (kheche ). The beams and pillars were decorated with carvings. In earlier times the floor was covered with clay; more recently this has been supplanted by wood floors, although in most respects the house has preserved its traditional form. Smallish holes in the walls once served as windows; some light was also admitted through the smoke hole (murog ) in the roof. Since the late nineteenth century well-to-do Khinalughs have built galleries (eyvan ) onto the upper floor, reached by an outside stone staircase. The inside walls contained niches for blankets, cushions, and clothing. Grain and flour were kept in large wooden coffers. The inhabitants slept on wide benches. The Khinalughs have traditionally sat on cushions on the floor, which was covered with thick felt and napless woolen carpets. In recent decades "European" furniture has been introduced: tables, chairs, beds, and so on. Nonetheless, the Khinalughs still prefer to sit on the floor and keep their modern furnishings in the guest room for show. The traditional Khinalugh home is heated by hearths of three types: the tunor (for baking unleavened bread); the bukhar (a fireplace set against the wall); and, in the courtyard, an open stone hearth (ojakh ) at which meals are prepared. The tunor and bukhar are inside the house. In winter, for additional heat, a wooden stool is placed over a hot brazier (kürsü ). The stool is then covered with carpets, under which the family members lay their legs to get warm. Since the 1950s metal stoves have been used in Khinalugh.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional Khinalugh economy was based on animal husbandry: primarily sheep, but also cows, oxen, horses, and mules. The summer alpine pastures were located around Khinalugh, and the winter pasturesalong with winter livestock shelters and dug-out dwellings for the shepherdswere at Müshkür in the lowlands of the Kuba District. The livestock remained in the mountains near Khinalugh from June to September, at which point they were driven to the lowlands. Several owners, usually relatives, would combine their sheep herds under the supervision of a person chosen from among the most respected villagers. He was responsible for the pasturing and maintenance of the livestock and their exploitation for products. Well-to-do owners hired workers to herd their stock; poorer peasants did the herding themselves. The animals provided an important part of the diet (cheese, butter, milk, meat), as well as wool for homespun cloth and multicolored stockings, some of which were traded. Uncolored wool was made into felt (keche ) to cover the dirt floors in homes. In Müshkür felt was traded to lowlanders in exchange for wheat. The Khinalughs also sold wool carpets woven by the womenfolk.

Agriculture played only a secondary role. The severe climate (a warm season of only three months) and lack of arable land were not conducive to the development of agriculture in Khinalugh. Barley and a local variety of bean were cultivated. Because of the insufficiency of the yield, wheat was obtained by trade in the lowland villages or by people going there to work at harvest time. On the less steep areas of the slopes around Khinalugh, terraced fields were plowed in which the villagers planted a mixture of winter rye (silk ) and wheat. This yielded a dark-colored flour of inferior quality. Spring barley (maqa ) was also planted, and a smaller amount of lentils. The fields were worked with wooden mountain plows (ïngaz ) pulled by yoked oxen; these plows broke the surface without overturning the soil. The crops were harvested in mid-August: the grain was reaped with sickles and bundled into sheaves. The grain and hay were transported by mountain sledges or packed onto horses; the absence of roads precluded the use of oxcarts. As elsewhere in the Caucasus, grain is threshed on a special threshing board, on the surface of which chips of flint are embedded. Up to the 1960s terrace agriculture without irrigation was the predominant form in Khinalugh. Garden farming of cabbage and potatoes (which had earlier been brought from Kuba) began in the 1930s. With the establishment of a Soviet sheep-raising farm (sovkhoz) in the 1960s, all private landholdings, which had been converted into pastures or gardens, were eliminated. The necessary supply of flour is now delivered to the village, and potatoes are also sold.

Clothing. Traditional Khinalugh apparel resembled that of the Azerbaijanis, consisting of an undershirt, trousers, and outer clothing. For men this would included a chokha (frock), an arkhalug (shirt), outer cloth trousers, a sheepskin coat, the Caucasian woolen hat (papakha ), and rawhide boots (charïkh ) worn with woolen gaiters and knit stockings (jorab ). A Khinalugh woman would wear a wide dress with gathers; an apron tied high on the waist, almost at the armpits; wide long trousers; shoes similar to the men's charïkh; and jorab stockings. The woman's headdress was made of several small kerchiefs, tied on in a particular way. There were five layers of clothing: the small white lechek, then a red ketwa, over which three kalagays (silk, then wool) were worn. In winter women wore a sheepskin coat (kholu ) with the fur on the inside, and wealthier individuals sometimes added a velvet overcoat. The kholu reached to the knees and had short sleeves. Older women had a somewhat different wardrobe: a short arkhalug and long narrow trousers, all of red color. The clothing was primarily made from homespun fabrics, although materials such as calico, silk, satin, and velvet could be purchased. At the present time urban wear is preferred. Elderly women continue to wear the traditional costume, and Caucasian headgear (papakha and kerchiefs) and stockings are still in use.

Food. The basis of the Khinalugh cuisine is breadgenerally made from barley flour, less often from wheat purchased in the lowlandscheese, curds, milk (usually fermented), eggs, beans, and rice (also purchased in the lowlands). Mutton is served on feast days or when entertaining guests. Thursday evenings (the eve of the day of worship) a rice and bean pilaf is prepared. The beans (a local variety) are boiled for a long time and the water is repeatedly poured off to subdue their bitter taste. Barley flour is ground with hand mills and used to make porridge. Since the 1940s the Khinalughs have planted potatoes, which they serve with meat. The traditional beverages are sherbet (honey in water) and tea steeped from wild alpine herbs. Since the 1930s black tea, which has become very popular among the Khinalughs, has been available through trade. Like the Azerbaijanis, the Khinalughs drink tea before dining. Wine is only drunk by those who have lived in cities. Nowadays wine might be enjoyed by men attending a wedding, but they will not drink it if elderly men are present. Khinalughs continue to prepare their traditional dishes, and the quantity of food available has increased. Pilaf is now made from regular beans, and bread and porridge from wheat flour. Bread is still baked as it was before: thin flat cakes (ükha pïshä ) are baked in the fireplace on thin metal sheets, and thick flat cakes (bzo pïshä ) are baked in the tunor. In recent decades many Azerbaijani dishes have been adopteddolma; pilaf with meat, raisins, and persimmons; meat dumplings; and soup with yogurt, rice, and herbs. Shish kebab is served more frequently than before. As in the past, fragrant wild herbs are gathered, dried, and used throughout the year to flavor dishes, including such newly introduced foods as borscht and potatoes.

Industrial Arts. Most of the production of traditional Khinalugh cottage industry was intended for local consumption, with a portion for sale to lowlanders. Woolen cloth (shal ), used for clothing and gaiters, was woven on horizontal looms. Only men worked at the looms. Up to the 1930s the majority of weavers were still men; at present this practice has died out. Previously the women knitted woolen stockings, wove carpets on vertical looms, and fulled felt. They made cord from goat's wool, which was used to bind hay for winter. All traditional forms of female industry are practiced to the present day.

Trade. Despite the geographic isolation of their village and the earlier lack of roads passable by wheeled vehicles, the Khinalughs have maintained continuous economic contact with other regions of Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan. They brought a variety of products down to the lowlands on pack horses: cheese, melted butter, wool, and woolen products; they also drove sheep to market. In Kuba, Shemakha, Baku, Akhtï, Ispik (near Kuba), and Lagich, they obtained materials such as copper and ceramic vessels, cloth, wheat, fruit, grapes, and potatoes. Only a few Khinalughs have gone to work in the petroleum plants for five to six years to earn money for the bride-price (kalïm ), after which they returned home. Until the 1930s there were migrant laborers from the Kutkashen and Kuba regions who came to Khinalugh to help with the harvest. Tinsmiths from Daghestan selling copper utensils came frequently up through the 1940s; since then copper vessels have all but disappeared and today they visit at most once a year.

Division of Labor. As elsewhere there was a division of labor according to age and gender. Men were entrusted with animal husbandry, agriculture, construction, and weaving; women were responsible for housework, the care of children and the aged, carpet making, and the production of felt and stockings.

Land Tenure. The feudal system of land ownership never existed in Khinalugh. Pastures were the common property of the village community (jamaat ), whereas arable fields and hay meadows belonged to individual homesteads. The summer pastures were apportioned according to the neighborhoods (see "Kinship Groups") in Khinalugh; winter pastures belonged to the community and were apportioned by its administration. Other lands were leased in common by a group of homesteads. After collectivization in the 1930s all land became the property of the collective farms.


Kinship Groups. The Khinalugh community divided into four major kinship groups or clans: the Malïkla, Gämk'i, K'ämk'i, and Gadakkhi, which earlier formed the basis of neighborhoods within the settlement. These neighborhoods were originally organized strictly on a kinship basis. Each clan had its particular pir (shrine), cemetery, and council of elders. The clan exercised the right to take in newcomers. At the beginning of the twentieth century the community apportioned the summer pastures by neighborhoods, which once corresponded to the clan groupings (mekhelle ). In the course of time the neighborhoods have grown and been divided into smaller groups (kebele ). The kinship groups Nishani, Mameydarar, and Kkharyagdin split off from the Gämk'i; the Jampashali from the K'ämk'i; and the Yalqavan and Mirigi from the Gadakkhi. Each of these groups consists of people related to a greater or lesser degree, tracing their descent from a single mythical or real ancestor. In the nineteenth century, before the kebele groupings came into being, their function as economic and ideological entities was performed by the extended family, the members of which were blood relatives. The extended family had the right to admit outsiders into its midst.

Kinship Terminology. The Khinalugh terms for near kin are similar to those of other Lezgin peoples (Lezgins, Budukhs, Kryzes): bïy (father), dädä or jä (mother), tstsa or tssa (brother), rïtsï (sister), she or shi (son), rishe or rishel (daughter)from rishi (girl), aba (grandfather), äzhä (grandmother), khïdïal (grandson or granddaughter), ts'nas (brideyoung wife of son or brother), legeld (husband), and mïsïsts' (husband's brother). Some kin terms have been borrowed from Azerbaijani: ämä (paternal unclealso used by children to address any older man) and khola (maternal uncle).

Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Khinalugh community was strictly endogamous, with marriage between cousins preferred. In earlier times, betrothals were arranged between very young children, practically in the cradle. Before the Soviet Revolution the marriageable age was 14 to 15 for girls and 20 to 21 for boys. Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the relatives of the couple; abductions and elopements were rare. The girl and boy themselves were not asked for their consent. If older relatives took a liking to a girl, they would place a scarf on her, as a way of announcing their claim to her. The negotiations for marriage were undertaken by the suitor's father's brother and a more distant senior relative, who went to the young woman's home. Her mother's consent was considered decisive. (Should the mother refuse, the suitor might try to abduct the woman from her homewith or without the woman's consent.)

Once agreement had been reached between the two families, the betrothal would take place a few days later. The young man's relatives (among whom the paternal uncle had to be present) went to the young woman's home, bearing gifts for her: clothing, two or three pieces of soap, sweets (halvah, raisins, or, more recently, candy). The gifts were carried on five or six wooden trays. They also brought three rams, which became the property of the bride's father. The fiancée received a ring of plain metal from the groom-to-be. On each festival day between the betrothal and the wedding, the young man's relatives would go to the fiancée's home, bringing gifts from him: pilaf, sweets, and clothing. During this period as well, respected senior members of the groom-to-be's family visited their counterparts in the young woman's household to negotiate the bride-price. This was paid in livestock (sheep), rice, and, far more rarely, money. In the 1930s a typical bride-price included twenty rams and a sack of sugar. Some Khinalugh suitors would work in the Baku oilfields for several years to earn the necessary sum to pay the bride-price. The young man could not visit the woman's family prior to the wedding and took measures to avoid encounters with her and her parents. The young woman, once engaged, had to cover the lower part of her face with a kerchief. During this time she was busy preparing her dowry, largely consisting of woolen goods made by her own hands: five or six carpets, up to fifteen khurjins (carrying sacks for fruit and other objects), fifty to sixty pairs of knit stockings, one large sack and several smaller ones, a soft suitcase (mafrash ), and men's gaiters (white and black). The dowry also included up to 60 meters of homespun woolen cloth, prepared by weavers at the family's expense, and numerous other items, including silk thread, goat's-wool cord, copper utensils, colored curtains, cushions, and bed linens. From purchased silk the bride-to-be sewed small pouches and purses to be given as gifts to her husband's relatives.

The wedding took place over two or three days. At this time the groom stayed at the home of his maternal uncle. Starting at noon of the first day, guests were entertained there. They brought gifts of cloth, shirts, and tobacco pouches; there was dancing and music. The bride meanwhile went to the home of her maternal uncle. There, in the evening, the groom's father officially presented the bride-price. The bride, riding a horse led by her uncle or brother, was then escorted from her uncle's home to that of the groom. She was accompanied by her and her husband's brothers and her friends. Traditionally the bride was covered by a large red woolen cloth, and her face was veiled by several small red kerchiefs. She was greeted at the threshold of the groom's home by his mother, who gave her honey or sugar to eat and wished her a happy life. The groom's father or brother thereupon slaughtered a ram, across which the bride stepped, after which she had to tread upon a copper tray placed on the threshold. The bride was led to a special room where she remained standing for two or more hours. The groom's father brought presents to her, after which she might sit down on a cushion. She was accompanied by her close friends (only women were allowed in this room). Meanwhile the male guests were served pilaf in another room. During this time the groom remained in the home of his maternal uncle, and only at midnight was he escorted home by his friends to be with his bride. The next morning he left again. Throughout the wedding there was much dancing, wrestling matches accompanied by the music of the zuma (a clarinetlike instrument), and horse racing. The winner of the horse race received a tray of sweets and a ram.

On the third day the bride went to her husband's parents, the mother-in-law lifted the veil from her face, and the young woman was put to work in the household. Relatives and neighbors were entertained throughout the day. After a month the bride went with a jug to fetch water, this being her first opportunity to leave the house after her marriage. Upon her return she was given a tray of sweets, and sugar was sprinkled over her. Two or three months later her parents invited her and her husband to pay a visit.

For a period of time after her arrival in her husband's home, the bride practiced various avoidance customs: for as long as two to three years she did not speak to her father-in-law (that period has now been reduced to a year); likewise she did not speak to her husband's brother or paternal uncle (for two to three months at present). She refrained from speaking to her mother-in-law for three to four days. Khinalugh women did not wear the Islamic veil, although married women of all ages covered the lower part of their faces with a kerchief (yashmag ).

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit was the nuclear family, although extended families were present up into the nineteenth century. It was not rare for four or five brothers, each with his nuclear family, to live under the same roof. Each married son has his own room in addition to the large common room with hearth (tonur ). The home occupied by an extended family was called tsoy and the head of the family tsoychïkhidu. The father, or in his absence the elder son, served as head of the household, and as such oversaw the domestic economy and apportioned the property in case the family split up. Everyone shared in the work. One part of the household (a son and his nuclear family) would drive the livestock out to the summer pastures. Another son and his family would do so the following year. All produce was considered common property.

Socialization. Both mother and father participated in the raising of children. At age 5 or 6 children began to share in the work: girls learned domestic tasks, sewing, and knitting; boys learned to work with livestock and to ride horses. Moral instruction and the teaching of local traditions concerning family and social life were equally important.

Sociopolitical Organization

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century Khinalugh and the nearby Kryz and Azerbaijani villages formed a local community that was part of the Shemakha, and later the Kuba khanates; with the incorporation of Azerbaijan into the Russian Empire in the 1820s, Khinalug became part of the Kuba District of Baku Province. The chief institution of local government was the council of household chiefs (earlier it consisted of all adult males in Khinalugh). The council selected an elder (ketkhuda ), two assistants, and a judge. The village government and the clergy oversaw the administration of various civil, criminal, and matrimonial proceedings, according to traditional (adat ) and Islamic (Sharia) law. The population of Khinalugh consists entirely of free peasants. At the time of the Shemakha Khanate they did not pay any sort of tax or provide services. The only obligation of the residents of Khinalugh was military service in the khan's army. Subsequently, up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, Khinalugh was obligated to pay a tax in kind for each household (barley, melted butter, sheep, cheese). As part of the Russian Empire, Khinalugh paid a monetary tax and performed other services (e.g., the maintenance of the Kuba post road).

Mutual assistance was common within the community, for example, in the construction of a house. There was also the custom of sworn brotherhood (ergardash )

Conflict. In cases of murder the guilty party, at the command of the village elder, donned a white shroud and went to the home of the victim for reconciliation. At the victim's house he bowed, kissed the hands of the senior men, then, attended by the mullah, the killer went to the grave of the victim in the cemetery and knelt upon it. The mullah read a prayer. The village elder set the blood-price, which the killer's family paid to that of the victim. The recompense for the killing of a man was thirty to forty rams and ten beehives. Traditional law made no provision for recompense for the killing of a woman, and a blood feud was likely to result.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Khinalughs are Sunni Muslims. They observe the custom of worshiping at pirs (the grave sites of holy people believed to have lived in Khinalugh in the distant past); among these are Jabarbabe pir, Pirajomerd pir, and Shikhshalbarazbabe pir. Alongside traditional Moslem holidays the Khinalughs have retained many pre-Islamic observances: rituals for bringing rain and sunshine, and a fire cult. There were various popular beliefs, including the following: during heavy rainfall young people made dolls of boards (guzhul ), which they dressed in women's clothing and carried throughout the village while singing an Azerbaijani-language song to the effect that "tomorrow the sun will shine." The villagers gave them gifts of eggs and sweets.

Arts. Industrial arts include the ornamentation of carpets and the carving of designs in wood. Little has been preserved of Khinalugh folklore. There are proverbs in the Khinalugh language, but songs are sung in Azerbaijani, and the dances and music are likewise Azerbaijanian.

Medicine. Because of the absence of professional medical care, there was a high rate of mortality among the Khinalughs in pre-Revolutionary times, especially for women in childbirth. Herbal medicine was practiced, and births were assisted by midwives.

Death and Afterlife. Burials are performed according to Muslim practice and usually take place on the day of death. The body is wrapped in a shroud and carried to the cemetery on a stretcher by men, with the women following at some distance (women did not enter the cemetery). The relatives give assistance to the family of the deceased in the form of food (rice, sugar) and money. During the three days after death the villagers come by the home of the bereaved family to offer condolences. Seven days after burial women gather in the home of the deceased to mournthese are residents of the village specially invited for this purpose. Visitors to the home are served pilaf if the deceased was of advanced age, only tea if he or she was young. The funeral banquet on the day of burial is not a large affair, and only those participating in the burial are invited. The principal funeral banquet is held on the third day after burial. The relatives go to the cemetery, bringing sweets to set on the grave. There is also a memorial on the first Thursday after death, at which relatives and fellow villagers are present. Subsequent memorials are held on the seventh and fifty-second day and the anniversary. Mourning attire is worn by all women of the village for three to seven days and for a longer period by relatives. Men let their beards grow out, and women wear black kerchiefs.


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NATALIA G. VOLKOVA (Translated by Kevin Tuite)