Tribes and Dialects
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Administratively the village of Budukh belongs to the Konahkent District of Azerbaijan, but the Budukhs also live in the villages of Gunei-Budad, Dali-Kaya-Heshlag, Kara-Gez (the Konahkent District), Ag-yaze, Kara-Dagie, Läzgi-Digäh and Dovmal (the Hachkhass District) villages. The villages of Budukh, Khinalug and Kryz are situated in the most inaccessible areas of the Caucasus, at a height of 2,000 metres. In winter the villages are cut off from the plain settlements for several months at a time. In addition to the Kryz and the Khinalugs, the Budukhs associate closely with the Azerbaijanis and the Lesgis.
Population. The Budukhs were counted as a separate nation only in the census of 1926, and they since then have been counted as Azerbaijanis. The following data is collected from academic publications:
Anthropologically the Budukhs are of the Caspian type of the Balkano-Caspian race. They are characterized by a comparatively strong pigmentation, narrow faces and a thick growth of hair.
Religion. The Budukhs are Muslims (Sunnite). Islam was introduced to their area in the 8th century by the Arabs. The supremacy of Islam was further consolidated by the military campaigns of the Mongols and Tatars in the 13th--14th centuries. Ancient pagan beliefs and customs were adjusted in accord with Islam and, to this day, they still play an important role in Budukh society and in the way of thinking of the Budukhs.
Opinions on the origins of the Budukhs vary. It is generally agreed that the Budukh originate from the Proto-Lesgian tribes, but on the reasons for linguistic differentiation and the time the split occurred, opinions differ. There are three theories on the genesis of the Budukh language: territorial isolation, endogamy within the society, and the political polystructure. The problem is compounded by the lack of any written records previous to the 8th century. According to I. Gerber, in the 18th century the influence of Azerbaijani culture was very strong in Budukh society. By the beginning of the 19th century, any Lesgian cultural elements had been completely replaced by those of Azerbaijani origin, and as a result the population was bilingual.
History. The present territory of the Budukh was once a part of the state of Shirvan (Shemakha), formed in the middle of the 9th century. It is not known precisely when the Budukhs moved to their present territory, but it is known that it happened before the 17th century. The first mention of an independent political unit of the Budukh, the Budukh free community, comes from this time. It was incumbent on the Budukh to serve the Shirvan Shah in a military capacity, but in return the Budukhs were free of tributes and taxes. The Shah's representative in the Budukh community was the bek. The community was ruled by a council (dzhamat), which elected executive and judical bodies. However, the growing importance of private property exerted a corrupting influence and the elective institutions gradually became hereditary. At the beginning of the 18th century the Budukhs were involved in a religious war which had broken out in Shirvan. In 1711 the Sunnites (the Lezgians, the Avars, the Budukhs, the Kryz, and others) took up arms against the Shiites (the Azerbaijanis, the Kurds). However, the religious aspect of the feuding was redirected, resulting in a rebellion against the central authority and led by bek Hadzhi-Daudi. Turkey (the Sunnite) and Persia (the Shiite) also became involved in the conflict. At the end of the 18th century the Budukh villages were included in the Khuba Khanate, which in its turn was united with the Russian Empire in 1806. Both central authorities imposed their taxes. In 1840--1850 the Budukhs came under the influence of the Muridist movement led by Shamil. In the 1870s the tsarist regime took root in the region and initiated land reforms. The further introduction of a new administration marked the beginnings of a colonial policy, characterized by a complete indifference for the welfare of the native peoples.
The economic activities of the Budukhs were determined by the harsh environment of their mountainous region. The abundance of good pastureland made it particularly profitable to rear sheep and, to a smaller extent, cattle. Agriculture was of much less importance, with only barley and rye grown in any quantity. There was a shortage of cultivated land, and due to the primitive technology and techniques employed, yields were poor. It was necessary that supplementary grain be bought in the villages of the lower mountains or plains. The Budukhs cultivated close trading links with the peoples of north Azerbaijan and south Dagestan (the Tsakhurs, the Lezgians, the Rutuls, the Azerbaijanis). Animal produce (felt, cheese, oil) was bartered by the Budukhs for grain, fruit, textiles and household utensils. Migrant work was not popular in the Budukh society.
Around the turn of the century several religious movements with nationalist overtones became active in Azerbaijan. The aim of these movements was the separation of the Caucasus and Azerbaijan from Russia. At the same time, led by the Party of Equality (Mussavat), formed in 1911, the notion of Pan-Islamism was also gaining ground. The Party of Equality was politically aligned with the ruling circles of the Turkish Empire.
The Budukhs, however, did not strive for independence, and their activities were limited to joining the all-Azerbaijani movements. The supporters of Bolshevism were concentrated in the larger towns and industrial centres. During World War I both the separatists and Pan-Islamists grew in strength and their antagonism climaxed in an armed struggle in 1917--20. The Bolsheviks were victorious. The nationalist forces, exhausted by fighting the White Guard, and by internal strife, were easily defeated. In the mountains of north Azerbaijan, including the Shahdag language areas, nationalist groups survived up until the advent of collectivization, at which point they were liquidated by the Soviet authorities. After World War II the central authorities used more subtle measures to establish order, turning their attention to altering the way of thinking of the Budukhs.
The educational system and cultural policy ill-fittingly applied to the Budukhs was one typical of a totalitarian state, and totally failed to accommodate any ethnic or religious peculiarities. The Budukhs were unable to receive an education in their native language, and all teaching was done in Azerbaijani.
The Soviet central authority forcibly changed the traditional social and economic life of the Budukhs, it stifled the natural development of the people, and instead offered something alien and incomprehensible. The undermining of Islam has been so complete that most of the old traditions are vanishing. A gulf has been created between the old generation and the young, the latter who gladly embrace the more recent Soviet customs and celebrations. In the last decades these celebrations have usually been accompanied by excessive consumption of alcohol.
The Budukh society has been further weakened by the loss of its traditional endogamous standards; the old structures of the community have disintegrated (kinship, families) and the number of mixed marriages has increased. As the territorial isolation of the Budukh has decreased people have started to migrate to the plains. In the 1960s there was even a plan to resettle the whole Budukh village, but the point was met with opposition from the older generation and was abandoned.