Tribes and Dialects
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Population. The Dido peoples received separate mention only in the census of 1926, (the Hinukh were counted as Dido). In all subsequent censuses the Dido peoples have been counted as Avar. As a result of this no exact data exists for the Hinukh population. In the course of their work researchers have recorded the following data:
Anthropologically the Hinukh belong to the Caucasian type of the Balkano-Caucasian race, but they also exhibit some features of the Caspian type. The Ando-Dido habitation area is considered to be an imaginary border between the distribution areas of these two races.
The ethnic culture of the Hinukh is connected with that of the Dido and on a wider scale with that of Dagestan. Language is the only cultural element that differentiates the Hinukh from the other Andi-Dido peoples. In the Hinukh village and the surrounding Dido villages the influence of Georgian and Kakhetian culture is also apparent. These influences are expressed mainly in the architecture and have reached the Hinukh by way of the Tush or the Bats.
The origin of the Hinukh has been the cause of much academic debate and no consensus has ever been reached. In the 1960s and 70s the theory of territorial isolation held sway, however, this is not really applicable to the Andi-Koisu river basin -- this area, inhabited by various ethnic groups, has always been well known for its flourishing economy and close links between the different peoples. M. Aglarov suggests that the abundance of languages in the Ando-Dido area is due to a historically developed polystructural political system, in which the stability of the borders and the social arrangements of the small independent political and social units was a precondition for linguistic differentiation.
Religion. The Hinukh adhere to the Muslim (Sunnite) tradition. Islam began to spread through the mountains of Dagestan following the Arab invasion of the 8th century. From the 10th to 12th century the influence of Christianity, propagated with the approval of Georgian and Kakhetian rulers, increased. The official status of Islam was established by the military expeditions of Timur during the 14th century. By the 16th--17th centuries the position of Islam was so secure that the Dido area became a base for the further spread of the Muslim faith. During this period numerous religious wars were fought with the Christian mountain peoples (the Pshav, the Bats, the Tush). Paganism which best harmonizes with the mind of primitive peoples, adjusted to Islam and maintained its influence up to the present.
Historically the Hinukh village has always been closely linked in its development with the rest of the Andi-Dido region, and this area in turn has for centuries been under the control of the Avar rulers. According to Georgian records the southwestern part of the Dido area (probably including the Hinukh village) was under the protection of the Kakhetian rulers in the 10th--13th centuries. The Dido area has long been an object of interest for foreign conquerors. It has suffered the raids of Arab brigands, the invasions of the Mongol-Tatar hordes and of the Turkish and Persian armies. Records from the 17th century mention a Dido free community, including the Hinukh village. Hinukh society was governed by patriarchal feudal relations. On the one hand tribal relations were dominant in social spheres (community assembly, communal ownership of land, electable governing bodies etc.), on the other hand a feudal society was beginning to develop (the hierarchy of government, differentiation on the basis of property). However, a feudal system in its classical form was never allowed to develop in the Hinukh village because in 1806 the habitat of the Hinukh was incorporated into the Russian Empire. But it was not until the 1870s that the Russian administrative and judical system came into effect. The new central power pursued a colonial policy, the aims of which were far from being beneficial to the local life.
The economy of the Hinukhs was determined by their environment. The mountains, the climate, the shortage of cultivated land, and the existence of good alpine pastures all favoured seasonal livestock breeding. Sheep were the most common animals, but horses and cattle were employed as draught animals. The shortage of cultivated land was overcome, to a degree, by a system of terrace agriculture but even this failed to produce a sufficient crop and it was necessary to buy corn from the Avar villages on the plain. The Hinukh grew mainly rye and wheat, though in the 19th century potatoes also became popular. In the course of centuries a well functioning economic integration developed in the valley of the Andi-Koisu river.
With the advent of the 20th century nationalist and religious movements appeared in Hinukh society and rapidly gained popularity. The Ando-Dido nationalist movement should be equated with that of the whole of Dagestan, as there were no separatist tendencies in the area. During the period of political instability, 1917--20, the area on the Andi-Koisu river became one of the centres and strongholds of the nationalist movement in Dagestan. The patriotic mountain people had to resist several factions fighting for supremacy in the Caucasus. Denikin's troops and the Turks in 1918--19 were defeated, but in the autumn of 1920 the 11th army of the Bolsheviks succeeded in establishing the Soviet power in Dagestan. At first the new power was introduced only into the larger settlements while in the mountain regions the old order prevailed. The nationalist movement was crushed only by the deportations and repressions that later accompanied the process of collectivization.
Nowadays significant changes can be observed in the material and intellectual culture of the Hinukhs. In the 1950s and 1960s a European urban culture became widespread. This manifested itself in clothing, household appliances, buildings and in changed eating habits. To some extent old traditions and customs are still observed, but the minds of people are not attached to them any more. Soviet ways, long promoted by the central authorities, have surpassed traditional ways in popularity. As the former endogamic strictures that once regulated society have disappeared, the number of mixed marriages has increased. Migration to the plains and to the larger industrial centres has also risen. The Hinukh language, the only distinctive ethnic feature, has been replaced in social spheres by the Avar and the Dido languages.
These changes can be traced directly to the policy of sovietization: