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The Akhvakhs

The AkhvakhsThe Akhvakhs are also known as the Ashvado (self-name), the Sadyk'ilidu, and the Giakh'valal. They live in Russia (4 thousand persons) and Azerbaijan (2 thousand persons). A total number is about 6.5 thousands people. The Akhvakhs belong to the Andian nations. They are indigenous population of the Western Daghestan.

The Akhvakh language has two dialects: northern and southern, the latter includes the Tsekobsky and the Tlynubsky dialects. Russian, Avarian, Azerbaijan and Kumyk languages are also common. Writing in the Avarian language is based on the Russian writing. Religion is the Islam of the Sunni kind.

The Akhvakhs presumably have descended from inhabitants of various areas of Avaria, mainly from the Khunzakh Avarians. Northern Akhvakhs have formed the Akhvakh union of communities, the Tsunta-Akhvakh. Southern Akhvakhs have formed the Ratlu-Akh-vakh. Approximately from the XVII century the Ratlubs, the Tsekobs and the Tlynubs became part of the Gidatlin union of communities. From the XV century the Akhvakhs were fighting with the Khunzakhs, the Gidatlins and the Tiidals for the independence. From the XV century the Islam dominanted among the Akhvakhs.

After Daghestan joined Russia in 1813 the Akhvakhs participated in the struggle for liberation of the Daghestan and the Chechen nations. In 1921 they became part of the Daghestan АSSR, from 1991 - the Republic of Daghestan. In the first half of XVIII century the part of Akhvakhs settled in the Zakatal area of Azerbaijan. Another part settled on the Kumyk flatness during the Soviet period.

Traditional occupations are a cattle breeding and a partly irrigated agriculture (barley, wheat, oats, corn and a potato; legumes, onions, garlic, tobacco). Processing of a sheepskin, timber and stone, manufacture of leather and blacksmith's work are common crafts. Nowadays a field husbandry, gardening, vegetable growing are well developed on the Kumyk flatness.

The Akhvakhs were organized in communities of the warriors - cattlemen and farmers (Jamaat). The small family prevailed, there were various forms of the undivided families. In a family life the Akhvakhs follow the customs of interdictions and avoidance. The Akhvakhs keep traditions of family ceremonialism, respect of the elders, the Tukhum solidarity and hospitality.

The Akhvakhs traditional clothes are of Daghestanian type. Men wear: trousers, a shirt, beshmet, a Circassian coat, a felt jacket, a felt coat, various sheepskin coats and hats, footwear from leather and felts. They usually have a shaved head, moustaches and a beard. Women wear: a dress-shirt, trousers, a cap, scarves, shawls. They have same footwear as men do. The Akhvakhs` traditional food is a bread and meat-and-milk. The common dishes are: fresh and sour bread, khinkaly, porridges, meat and dairy soups and pies.

The Akhvakhs celebrate a calendar and Muslim holidays. Proverbs, sayings, riddles, parables, lullabies etc. are in the Avarian and the Akhvakh languages. The Akhvakhs have the national agricultural calendar and folk medicine. The traditional beliefs connected with the cults of a land, a sky, stars, a fire, a thunder, a lightning, mountaintops, a forest, groves and ideas about malicious and kind spirits still remain.

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