Kasumkent, a village in the valley, the administrative centre of Dagestan’s Suleyman-Stalsky District, is situated in the foothills, in the valley of the Chiragchai and Kurakh Rivers, on a route important for Southern Dagestan, going deep into the “mountain country” to the Kurakh and Agul Districts. Kasumkent is an informal capital of the entire region. In 1886, its population totalled 600 as against 12,000 today.

“According to legend, Kasumkent had been founded by the Lezgin Kasum even before the Arabs came to Dagestan. The village consisted of five ‘neighbourhoods’. They have been recently joined by a sixth ‘neighbourhood’ populated by dwellers of the former Alikent village.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 155 (in Russian)

At the market: a woman selling a cotton kanap-rukh palace rug she has made. The village of Kasumkent.

Kasumkent District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Woman grinding grain on mill-stones.

The village of Kasumkent. Kasumkent District. Dagestan Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgin

Suleyman Stalsky (1869–1937), a Lezginian ashugh, i.e. bard and balladeer, the father figure of Lezginian and Dagestanian poetry, who wrote in Lezgic and Azerbaijani.

A leading Russian writer Maxim Gorky described him as the Homer of the 20th century.

Part of the Suleyman Stalsky House Museum. Standing on the porch is his granddaughter.

The village of Ashaga-Stal. Kasumkent District. Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Market traders used to display carpets for sale by hanging them on a stone wall, whereas striped napless cotton kanap-rukh rugs were spread out on the ground. The traders would sit next to their goods.

Carpet bazar (market). The village of Kasumkent. Kasumkent District. Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962

Almost all of Dagestan’s villages have wrestling or martial arts specialized sports clubs, therefore practically all male residents have had an experience of the sports floor. Most of the boys attend wrestling practice sessions during a year or two. It is only the achievers, however, who go on practicing thereafter.

It is believed that wrestling not only makes boys stronger, but allows them to cultivate their willpower and form the manly character. Moreover, parents believe that “the gym” alone is capable of guarding their sons from evil influence.

Judo coach Ramazan Kurbanov (left) and a friend of his, schoolteacher Nadir Tagirov with family. Lezgins

Nadir Tagirov has taught the Russian Language and Russian Literature in the Lezginian village of Ikra since 1985. He is a USSR weightlifting master.

“Most of the village houses are built from sun-dried earth-brick. They are chiefly two-storeyed structures with an open gallery on the upper floor. The gallery rests on wooden pillars. The houses are devoid of arches.”

L.I. Lavrov. The Ethnography of the Caucasus. L., 1982. P. 155 (in Russian)

Courtyard of an old house. The village of Kasumkent. Kasumkent District. Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. 1962. Lezgins

Memorial stone. South Dagestan. 1953

Cemetery. Suleyman-Stalsky District

Cemetery. Suleyman-Stalsky District

Memorial stone. South Dagestan. 1953