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The Nogays

The NogaysThe Nogays live in territories of Dagestan (28 thousand people), the Chechen Republic (6,9 thousand people) and Stavropolsky Krai.

The self-designation nogai (noghai) derives from the name of one man. Nogay, grandson to Genghis Khan, was an outstanding chieftain and, although he did not possess the khan's title, the real leader of the Golden Horde. He was the ruler of the Nogay Horde west of the Danube, the domain of his nomadic subjects. Nogay was killed either in the year 1294 or, according to other sources, 1300, but his name remained, denoting the vagrant people in the steppes by the sea of Azov. In the earlier Russian texts the Nogays were referred to as the North Caucasian Tatars.

The Nogays live as scattered linguistic enclaves forming no single ethnic or administrative unit. There existed a sizable group in the Nogay Steppes but in 1957 they were divided against their will between three administrative units: the Dagestan Autonomous SSR, the Chechenian-Ingush Autonomous SSR and the Stavropolsky Krai. Administrative policy of this nature has further accelerated the tendency towards cultural decline and loss of national identity among the Nogays. At present the largest number of Nogays live in North Caucasia, having moved there from the Moldova/Roumania border and the Astrakhan area. In North Caucasia they have settled down in a) the Karachayevo-Cherkess Autonomous region, b) the Karamurzin and Kangly villages of the Kochubeyevsk and Mineralnye Vody Regions and in the Neftekumsk and Achikulak Districts of the Stavropol Area, c) the northern Dagestan: Nogay and Kizlyar Regions of the Dagestan Autonomous SSR and the Shelovsk District of the Chechenian-Ingush Autonomous SSR. Another minor group of the Nogays lives in Tatarskaya Slobodka near the town of Novocherkassk. The Astrakhan and Crimean Nogays, as well as a number of the Dagestan Nogays (the Khasav-Yurt and the Baba-Yurt) are at present undergoing linguistic assimilation with the local population.

The Nogay language belongs to the Kipchak or Northwestern Group of the Turkic languages, comprising with Kara-Kalpak and Kazakh the Kipchak-Nogay subgroup. Nogay is one of the less-studied Turkic languages. According to N. Baskakov, the Nogay language divides into three dialects: a) the Kara-Nogay (Turkic kara -- 'black') dialect, spoken in the Nogay District in Dagestan, on the lower reaches of the River Kuma and in the area between the Lower Kuma and Lower Terek in North Dagestan, b) the Nogay Proper spoken in the Achikulak and Neftekumsk Districts of the Stavropol Area, (the speakers of these two dialects together make up the so-called Steppe Nogay Group), c) the Aknogay dialect (Turkic ak -- 'white': Turkic peoples have commonly divided their tribes into black and white, 'black' meaning 'northern' and 'white' 'western') by the River Kuban and its tributaries in Karachayevo-Cherkess and in the Kangly village of the Mineralnye Vody District (13,200 speakers). The Kara-Nogay and Nogay Proper dialects are comparatively close linguistically while the Aknogay dialect stands somewhat apart. Dialectal differences are the result of a long geographical separation. Contact with neighbouring ethnic groups has also had an influence on the development of dialects. The Kara-Nogay have always interacted with Russians and Armenians, and the Kuban Nogay, that is, the Aknogay, with Russians, Cherkess, Abazians and Karachay. Countless contacts have left their deep impression on the language and culture of the Kuban Nogay.

In the Astrakhan Region, on the lower reaches of the Volga there live some 30,000 people of Nogay origin, falling into four ethnic groups: the Yurt (the Privolzhsk District), the Kundrovets (the village of Tuluganovka), the Karagash (Krasnoyarsk and neighbouring districts) and the Utar-Alabugaty (the areas adjoining the Kalmyk Autonomous SSR). The ancestors of the Yurts, Kundrovets and Utar-Alabugaty who came originally from the Great Nogay Horde, moved to the environs of Astrakhan in the early 17th century to avoid the Kalmyks. The Karagash who settled here in the late 18th century had come from the Small Nogay Horde by the Kuban. Yurt connections with their North-Caucasian kinsfolk were severed in the middle of the 17th century, and with the Karagash a century later. The cultural and linguistic impact of the Mid-Volga (Kazan and Mishar) Tatars has been strong upon the Yurts, somewhat weaker upon the Karagash. In the years 1931-1943 the Narimanovsk District comprised the Tatar-Nogay National Territory. In the 1939 census most of the Nogays were registered as Tatars. Since the early 1970s the desire for ethnic self-preservation has strengthened, especially among the Karagas. One of the reasons for this has been the deterioration of the environment. In the 1989 census some thousands of the Lower-Volga Nogays (mainly the Karagash) registered as Nogays.

No attention has been paid to modernizing the Nogay villages. Roads, where they exist, are primitive; communications even more so. It is not unusual that because of impassable roads in spring and autumn village children miss school for weeks at a time. In many villages water-supplies are deficient. The result is that the Nogay have begun to leave their historical areas of residence for Stavropol, the Moscow region, in the north, for Astrakhan and Khabarovsk.

Before their migration to North Caucasia the countless Nogay tribes led a nomadic life. The different tribes were brought together by shared political and economic interests. In North Caucasia the tribes began to lose their former structure and mix with one another. The Kara-Nogays continued as nomads until the establishment of Soviet power. The Kuban Nogays became settled much earlier, in the late 18th century, along the Greater and Smaller Zelenchuk Rivers and the Lower Uruk and Laba. The nomadic way of life has left a conspicuous mark on Nogay economies and culture. The methods of livestock husbandry are similar to that of the Kazakh and other Central Asian peoples. Throughout the centuries horsebreeding has been of great importance - horses were used for transport in the vast steppes, battles were fought by cavalry, horse-milk was drunk and horsemeat was served as food. Horses were sold annually to Moscow. After settling, agriculture rose to prime importance among the Kuban Nogays.

On Nogay farms, both collective and private, livestock breeding is the chief occupation, agriculture being only auxiliary, camel-breeding once flourished but it was completely eradicated in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the end of World War II, canals have been built to irrigate the land, however, in recent years the total area of pastureland possessed by the Nogays has diminished. This is due to the fact that the neighbouring Georgians, Avars, Dargwas and Lakks drive their cattle across Nogay pastures. Also, in the Stavropol Area large plots of arable land have been ented to Koreans.

Traditional food - meat-and-milk, meat and fish dishes: besbarmak with noodles), kuvyrdak (fried meat with an onion), shish kebab, pelmenis, etc.
Drinks: nogay tea, yoghurt, koumiss, etc.

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