“Kurakh, the district centre, sits on a mountain slope. The vegetation is poor, the weather is often foggy and rainy. The village is divided into seven ‘neighbourhoods’, each having had a mosque of its own in the past. The houses, almost all of them two-storeyed, are made of stone.”

“Prior to the foundation of Kurakh, legend has it, the ancestors of its present-day dwellers lived in the village of Giyar which was situated yet higher on the next mountain, where house foundations can still be seen. Giyar knew neither khans, nor beys. One of Giyar’s military leaders was a Mukail, of peasant extraction. At that time, Giyar often fought against the people of Derbent, Tabasaran, Akhty and Iran. Some of Kurakh dwellers are onsidered to be descendants of Akhty people taken prisoner. In the first half of the 18th century, when Giyar was demolished by Nader Shah, its people abandoned their smouldering ruins, built a new village on the site of the Giyar graveyard, and called it Kurakh.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 156 (in Russian)
Жители села Курах. Курахский район. ДАССР. 1962. Лезгины

“Both ewes and goats are milked from behind. Having drawn a little milk, the shepherd passes the sheep to the next shepherd who milks her dry. Six shepherds strip 680 sheep within approximately two hours. Having drawn a whole pale of milk apiece, shepherds have a ten-minute rest. The milk is poured into a vat. To set milk for cheese they use a specifically prepared ferment [illegible – auth.] which contains the milk whey from the caseated milk, some soaked heat grains and red pepper. About a liter of such ferment goes into a 200 or 300 litre vat. Milk is caseated within half an hour. The caseated mass is brought to the collective farm storehouse where the whey is separated, and the remaining mass is placed under a press and salted. This kind of cheese is stored in a vat containing salted whey. The cheese is ready within two days.”

A.P. Soboleva. Account of a Journey to the Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. Archive of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. F. 2. Op. 1. D. 1439. L. 8 (in Russian)

Sleds in the street of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

The village of Kurakh. Lezgins Giulizar Ibragimovna has been working at the local school for many years. She has four children. All live with their families. One of the daughters lives in another village, the other – in Makhachkala. Sons went off in search of job to Siberia some time ago: the older one even now lives in Surgut, the younger son has recently come back to Dagestan.

The village of Gelkhen. Lezgins

Women using shovels for puddling clay for earth bricks. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Earth bricks are laid in pyramids for drying. They were used extensively for building dwelling houses in mountain villages in the 1960s. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Women engaged in household chores on the roof of a dwelling house. Stepped fields can be seen in the background. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

The village of Gelkhen. Lezgins

The village of Gelkhen. Lezgins

Women engaged in household chores on the roof of a dwelling house. Stepped fields can be seen in the background. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

The village of Gelkhen

Stones with carvings were often built into house walls. They may carry an inscription in Arabic (usually a prayer), Lezgic or Russian (owner information or construction date). Geometrical ornaments, images of people and animals can also be found.

Woman walking on the road with a pale and pitcher for water. She wears a traditional sleeveless jacket, a loose dress with gathers and sleeves with narrow cuffs, and a chukht, a baggy headgear covering her hair. The cut is traditional, but the print modern. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962

Село Гельхен. Лезгины

Family walking along the road. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Family walking along the road. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

The village of Khpej. Lezgins

After the earthquake of 1966, most of the Khpej population moved to the valley, to the village of Beliji in the Derbent District of Dagestan.

Whereas the men’s meeting place (godekan) is strictly localized in space, any bench near the house can become a “female godekan”.

Neighbours get together to listen to the latest news, keep an eye on what is going on in the neighbourhood and discuss prospective fiancees for their sons.

Youngstes from the village of Tpig. Agul District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1969. Aguls

The village of Khpyuk.

Aguls This elderly inhabitant of Khpyuk used to work as a teacher, carrying out instruction in all subjects, from mathematics to sports and fundaments of health and safety.

He is retired now, living with his son whose business is sheep breeding. This is evidenced by drying sheep carcasses and by intimidating shepherd sheepdogs in the courtyard.

Family of a collective farm shepherd: his father, wife and four children. The men wear sheepskin papakha hats and modern clothes. The woman has on typical Lezginian clothes: a dark dress and a head shawl. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District.

Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Elderly woman with granddaughters. The woman wears a dark dress, typical of the 1960s, a padded sleeveless jacket and a shawl which she adjusts, drawing it over her traditional chukht headgear. Girls wear kerchiefs and cotton dresses.

The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Agul village of Usug is proud of its inhabitants, from the 19th century clergy to the 20th century Heroes of Socialist Labour. However, few households have remained in the village; the local school employs only twelve teachers.

School at the village of Usug. Aguls

In the village school, children sit at the same desks at which their parents sat in their day.

The village of Khverej. Aguls

In mountain villages, the roof of one house often serves as courtyard for another.

The village of Khverej. Aguls

The majority of women use every spare minute for knitting socks and footies.

They are worn at home, taken to the market for sale, but mostly sold to middlemen who drive round the districts.

The village of Khverej. Aguls

Hadji. A band on the sheepskin hat is evidence of the fact that the wearer has made a hadj, i.e. a pilgrimage to Mecca. Curiously enough, in the 19th century, many mukhajirs, forced Muslim immigrants, left the Caucasus on the pretext of a hadj, actually moving to the Ottoman Empire.

Dagestan Oblast. Late 19th – early 20th century. Lezgins

The village of Khverej. Aguls

The village of Khverej. Aguls

Hadji. A band on the sheepskin hat is evidence of the fact that the wearer has made a hadj, i.e. a pilgrimage to Mecca. Curiously enough, in the 19th century, many mukhajirs, forced Muslim immigrants, left the Caucasus on the pretext of a hadj, actually moving to the Ottoman Empire.

Dagestan Oblast. Late 19th – early 20th century. Lezgins

Ox-drawn aroba cart. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1953

The village of Khverej

The village of Khverej

Ox-drawn aroba cart. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1953

Bee garden. Dagestan Oblast. Late 19th – early 20th century

Bee farming was quite widespread 19th century. It was generally a subsidiary industry satisfying family needs, with very few people selling honey. Beehives were of diverse shapes and sizes, woven and clayed. For recovering honey from beehives, bees could be stun by blowing up a small charge of gunpowder, pouring cold water on the beehives, or fumigating them with puff-ball mushroom vapours. As a result, half the bees could be killed.

Bee garden. The village of Khverej

Bee garden. The village of Khverej

Bee farming was quite widespread 19th century. It was generally a subsidiary industry satisfying family needs, with very few people selling honey. Beehives were of diverse shapes and sizes, woven and clayed. For recovering honey from beehives, bees could be stun by blowing up a small charge of gunpowder, pouring cold water on the beehives, or fumigating them with puff-ball mushroom vapours. As a result, half the bees could be killed.

Bee garden. Dagestan Oblast. Late 19th – early 20th century

View of the graveyard. The village of Khverej

Pir, a holy place, is as a rule a place where a saint, a righteous person or a hero was buried. A small tomb is erected over the grave. A typical Dagestanian Pir has a cone-shaped finial.

“When in 1811 the Tsar’s troops approached Kurakh, its inhabitants led by Khan Surkhai II engaged in a battle with them on the site of the present-day cemetery. The Tsar’s troops went around the villagers and, having surrounded them, made them lay down their arms. Only eighty people offering resistance on the neighbouring mountain refused to surrender, attacked the enemies with daggers and were killed. A domed tomb has been erected on the site.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P 157 (in Russian)
Pir. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962
Monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The village of Gelkhen. Although the Soviet power protested against the veneration of holy places, monuments to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War typologically resemble traditional Pirs.

Types of Pirs. Kurakh District

Kurakh used to have several Pirs. One of them, legend has it, was founded exactly where during a bloody
battle for Kurakh fell a village defender’s severed head voicing the azan (invitation to prayer).

Types of Pirs. Kurakh District

Kurakh used to have several Pirs. One of them, legend has it, was founded exactly where during a bloody
battle for Kurakh fell a village defender’s severed head voicing the azan (invitation to prayer).

Pir. The village of Kurakh. Kurakh District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962

Monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The village of Gelkhen. Although the Soviet power protested against the veneration of holy places, monuments to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War typologically resemble traditional Pirs.