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The Didos

The DidosThe self-designation of the Dido is tsez. In the other Caucasian languages they are known as tsunti, Didos live in Russia (7 th. p.). Both designations derive from the words denoting an eagle (in Dido tsez, in Andi tsun, in Akhvakh tsul). The name dido which is more frequently used in academic literature, has come from the Georgian language. There is no clear explanation for the self-designation. The Dido language belongs to the northwestern group of Dagestan languages (Avar-Ando-Dido), and has a high degree of inner differentiation (five dialects: the Kidero, Shaitl, Asakh, Shapikh and Sagada).

Anthropologically the Didos are of the Caucasian type of the Balkano-Caucasian race, with some observable characteristics of the Caspian type: the mountain region of Dagestan forms the borderline between these two anthropological types. In the case of the Caucasian type there is a predominance of people with fair skin, light eyes and an abundant growth of hair.

The cultural development of the Didos follows the general characteristics of Dagestan culture. The only cultural element that differentiates them from the other Ando-Dido ethnic groups is the language, all other components vary only in details. However, the Georgian and Kakhetian influences on the culture of the Didos are stronger than those of any other Dagestan ethnic group.

The origin of the Didos has been a matter of academic dispute for a number of years and there are several hypotheses and no common consent. In the 1960s and 1970s there were attempts to explain the ethnic variety of Dagestan through its traditional territorial isolation. However, in the case of the Ando-Dido this explanation does not fit. In the river basin of the Andi-Koisu, there is no isolation between the neighbouring ethnic groups. In the 1980s M. Aglarov suggested that the ethnic variety of this region is a result of a polystructural political system, which, because of its small independent political units (free community, association of communities), stable society and fixed borders, favoured linguistic factionalizing.

The Didos are Muslims (Sunnite). Alongside Islam, brought into Dagestan in the 8th century by Arabs, during the 9th--11th centuries Christianity began to spread supported by the rulers of Georgia and Kakhetia. Military campaigns led by Timur (the end of the 16th century) helped to counter Christianity's spread and advance Islam considerably. By the 17th century Islam had become the official religion. Previous to both Islam and Christianity the Didos had held pagan beliefs. Elements of pagan customs have survived to the present day.

Dido society was structured as a patriarchal-feudal society where life was directed by adat (common law) and shariah (Islamic law). In spite of the differences in individual wealth, the classical forms of feudalism did not develop in Dido society. The assembly of a community (rukken) led by a council of elders (dzhamat) constituted the highest authority in the community. Executive and court organs were elected.
In 1806 the Dido territories were united with Russia through the central authority started to influence local life only in the 1870s following administrative reform. As a result of this there was growth in the local economy (the development of monetary relations, connections between the Dagestan and Russian markets).

The economy of the Didos was determined by their environment. The abundance of pastureland, and conversely the shortage of arable land, meant that seasonal liThe Didosvestock rearing was the most profitable occupation. The Didos reared mainly sheep, and to a lesser extent, cattle and horses. Although the use of terrace fields increased the yield of the available land, still, some grain had to be bought from the lowland villages. In the course of centuries the Ando-Dido peoples living in the Andi-Koisu basin developed a well functioning system of economic integration.

Traditional clothes are of Dagestan type, men: shirt, trousers, Circassian coat, felt cloak, sheepskin fur coats, knitted woolen boots; footwear from tannery leather, boxcalf, felts, etc. They shaved the head, had moustaches and beard. Lady's wear: tunic dresses - shirts, trousers, woolen and silk scarfs, shawles, the same footwear as men's. About the first decades 20 in. Female ornaments from silver: earings, rings, bracelets, etc.

Traditional food is flour and meat-and-milk. Vestiges of cults of the ground, sky, stars, fire, mountains, rivers, woods, springs are still kept.

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