Rutul. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952

Road along the Samur between the villages of Rutul and Luchek

Aerial view of the village of Rutul. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952

“Rutul has more clan-based tokhum communities than mere neighbourhoods, but it is believed here that all neighbours once used to be tokhums. Even today many tokhums are close-knit communities. For example, the members of the Takhmezov (Takhmezer) tokhum numbering ten households live en bloc in the Karkh neighbourhood, with nine households next door to each other and only one somewhat further away. Until recently those who did not settle next to their kith and kin were looked down on.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 142 (in Russian)

View of the minaret and dome of the Juma Mosque founded as early as the middle ages, rebuilt in the 18th century and restored in 1994 with the villagers’ donations. The minaret is fitted out with loudspeakers for the whole of Rutul to hear the azan (invitation to prayer).

“Standing out in the village is a tall stone masonryof a former mosque with a four-sided minaret. It is toppedby a large white stone very much like that in the villageof Khryug. Elderly people say that those two stones once caused a deadly war between the two villages.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 79 (in Russian)

According to a legend recorded by L.I. Lavrov, a white stone was first placed on the Rutul minaret, only to be stolen by Khryug dwellers and subsequently recovered by the original owners. Following a number of reiterations, a war broke out. Finally, a certain righteous man secretly dressed a second stone and placed it on the minaret lacking a finial. The hostility between the villages wore off. White stones are venerated objects in many regions of the Caucasus. In Southern Dagestan they were used in marking the boundaries of public domains, placed on the edges of sown fields to ward off the evil eye and put on the graves on the assumption that they “bless the deceased”. This tradition survived during the Soviet period and into the present day.

Building of the Juma Mosque in the centre of Rutul. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970s

Building of the Juma Mosque in the centre of Rutul. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1970s

“Standing out in the village is a tall stone masonryof a former mosque with a four-sided minaret. It is toppedby a large white stone very much like that in the villageof Khryug. Elderly people say that those two stones once caused a deadly war between the two villages.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 79 (in Russian)

According to a legend recorded by L.I. Lavrov, a white stone was first placed on the Rutul minaret, only to be stolen by Khryug dwellers and subsequently recovered by the original owners. Following a number of reiterations, a war broke out. Finally, a certain righteous man secretly dressed a second stone and placed it on the minaret lacking a finial. The hostility between the villages wore off. White stones are venerated objects in many regions of the Caucasus. In Southern Dagestan they were used in marking the boundaries of public domains, placed on the edges of sown fields to ward off the evil eye and put on the graves on the assumption that they “bless the deceased”. This tradition survived during the Soviet period and into the present day.

Wedding Procession “On the wedding day, the beat of the drum sounds near the bridegroom’s house. Then a group of people with the same drum goes beyond the village limits to meet the guests invited from other villages. Dancing starts in the bridegroom’s house. Then the crowd moves on to the bride’s house, women carrying on their heads dishes with millets and dresses given as gifts. The procession enters the bride’s house, but she does not stand up to those who entered and does not follow them in order to join the groom until all members of her tokhum without exception have given their consent.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 141 (in Russian)
Group of boys. The village of Ikhrek. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

The village of Rutul

Traditionally, hand-made dolls were hung on houses under construction. They attracted attention and warded off the evil eye. To this end, stuffed toys are now hung on the walls of unfinished houses.

“It is also noteworthy that Rutul women, unlike their Tsakhur counterparts, do not wear aprons.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 142 (in Russian)

Female residents of the village of Shinaz. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

“It is also noteworthy that Rutul women, unlike their Tsakhur counterparts, do not wear aprons.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 142 (in Russian)

Female residents of the village of Shinaz. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

Girl posing against the wall of a building with samples of socks which are drawn over special blocks to give them the right shape after laundry. The village of Shinaz. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

Most of the Dagestanians used to wear monochrome socks and jurab stockings in the past, whereas the peoples of Southern and South-Western Dagestan, including Lezgins, Tsakhurs and Rutuls, mostly favoured variegated knitted socks. A taste for them subsequently spread to the whole of Dagestan.

Girl carrying hay. The village of Shinaz. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

“It is his [i.e. man’s] duty to plough and sow the field, while his wife is supposed to harvest; she will carry half of the crop on her shoulders, the other half to be carried by a donkey.”

D.I. Svechin. Essay on Population, Customs and Traditions of Dagestanis // Notes of the Caucasian Department of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society. 1853. Book 2. P. 63 (in Russian)
Bread baking stoves are normally installed in separate outbuildings. Not every family has one, so Naida goes to her in-laws to bake bread and pies. She is helped by her sister.

During the 20th century, the number of children in families gradually declined. Early on, a family with eight to ten children was a common thing. Today it is normal to have two or three children.


Family of the teacher Urujali Islamov. The village of Luchek. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

During the 20th century, the number of children in families gradually declined. Early on, a family with eight to ten children was a common thing. Today it is normal to have two or three children.

Family of the teacher Urujali Islamov. The village of Luchek. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952. Rutuls

Although practically each Dagestanian family owns a motor car, and sometimes a lorry. Donkeys are still used for transporting heavy loads, just as in the days of old.

Road to the village of Borch, Rutul District. 1952 A donkey on a mountain path, a family’s indispensable helper: it will pass where motor vehicles are powerless.

Shepherd (chaban) with a shepherd bag. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Monument to Zaku Mirzabekov. The village of Shinaz. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952

Born in the Rutul village of Shinaz, Zaku Mirzabekov was killed when participating in the suppression of the 1930 Khnov uprising. Dwellers of several mountain villages (Khnov, Borch, Fiy, and Gdym) rose against the Soviet power, formation of collective farms and antireligious policy. Similar disturbances took place concurrently in Northern Azerbaijan. The Khnov uprising was suppressed, followed by court proceedings and repressions, exile and relocations. Khnov, with its Rutul population, was put under the jurisdiction of the Akhty District. In the latter half of the 20th century, Zaku Mirzabekov was considered a hero on the one hand, therefore the school and the collective farm in Shinaz were named after him, and in the 1970s his bust was erected. On the other hand, the communist party organs preferred to hush up the history of uprisings against the Soviet power. Today, many Shinaz dwellers still think of him with respect while some of the Khnov people take it hard, for they believe that he opposed his own compatriots. Curiously enough, the Mirzabekov monument was designed in the tradition of holy places.

View of the village of Luchek. Rutul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1952

Flat earthen roofs used to be pressed with massive stone rollers after rain. This kind of roof is hardly ever used today in the construction of dwelling houses.