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Come to Agul to Make Life-Long Friends

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Stories about Dagestani hospitality can sometimes seem too pretentious. The picture is sometimes painted of locals always ready to receive unknown travelers seems too good to be true. But, in the mountains especially, this is in fact the case. In Dagestan, locals will help you on the road if you have car problems. They will invite you to come in for tea or lunch if they meet you along the road. And if necessary, they will be happy to prepare a bed for you. People here really know how to receive guests and they do it from the heart, not just from a sense of duty.

My whole life, I’ve breathed and lived the good of Dagestani hospitality, and yet it never ceases to surprise me how sincere people are in their desire to give warmth and comfort. Recently, some friends and I had a chance to experience the cordiality and hospitality of Dagestanis this summer, when we went hiking in the mountainous part of Southern Dagestan. The local people, Aguls, simply amazed us with how they received guests to their mountains.

Gadji from Duldug

There were five of us, and it was the second day of our hike. Everything was going according to plan as we made our way through the beautiful mountain scenery. After a long and difficult journey, we began to descend to the village of Duldug.  It was already quite dark, so we walked with flashlights on our phones as we entered the village. Suddenly I saw a local man (we would later learn his name–Gadji) walking from his home to some outbuildings. I got his attention, and asked if he could tell us where in this village we could spend the night.

The village of Duldug late in the evening

Looking at me with a smile, he replied: “With me!” Being tired from the road, his quick consent was most welcome, and so we went with him.

Following him, we entered his house. It turned out that his wife was not at home. She was on business in Derbent, so Gadji called his brother’s wife to cook dinner for us and prepare the beds. Before long we had delicious soup, tea, a variety of snacks and sweets in front of us. Once we were full, we took showers, used Gadji’s wi-fi and went to bed in comfort.

Taking cake by KAMAZ

The morning proved to be another exercise in local hospitality. This time in the form of giving our group a lift. The night before Gadji had helped us to order a cake from a neighboring village. It was the birthday of one girl in our group, and we wanted to surprise her. After breakfast three of us went to the neighboring village of Tpig to pick up the cake. We were driven there by a car we hailed as we walked along the road. As fate would have it, the driver turned out to be the cousin of the woman from whom we ordered the cake, and this greatly simplified our task. He called her and she had her son deliver the cake to us. After paying for the cake, a local grandfather offered to take us by to Gadji, but we ran out of gas part way there. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to again find a mountaineer ready to help. This time it was a local KAMAZ driver. KAMAZ is a former Soviet company known for building strong but lumbering transport and construction trucks. It was quite the sight—using a KAMAZ to transport a birthday cake. Eventually we got back to the village of Duldug, where we surprised our friend with the cake.

View of the Agul village of Goa

Afterwards, we said goodbye to our kind hosts, having previously left a 5000 rubles (about $75)in his closet, since most likely he would refuse this money if we gave it to him directly. With a feeling of deep gratitude to Gadzhi and his family, we continued down the road to a village with the unusual name of Goa.

Our group says goodbye to the Gadzhi family (third from the right)

Aslan from Fite

At the village of Goa, our group split up. Three in the group went back down the mountain by car. Paul and I trekked on by foot in the direction of the Tabasaran village of of Khursatil. Between Goa and Khursatil lies the Agul village Fite, about 7 kilometers from Goa.

The gorge along which the road to the village of Fite goes

As Paul and I started the journey the sky was already overcast. Raindrops had begun to fall. We had walked two kilometers when a car approached us from behind. The driver, a young local guy named Aslan, asked who we were and where we were going. We replied that we were hikers on our way to Khursatil. He offered to give us a ride to Fite, his native village, and to feed us lunch there. Thanking him for the offer, we politely refused him as we planned and wanted to take our entire way by foot.

Aslan disagreed with our plan. “I can’t leave you here,” he said, adding that the clouds had already thickened and heavy rain was coming soon. “You can leave us,” I said to him. “Just drive on and that’s it, the problem is solved.” But Aslan would not settle for leaving two travelers alone in the elements. After a little reflection, he came up with a solution. “Let me drive three hundred meters ahead of you and wait until you catch up. Then I’ll drive another three hundred meters ahead again. In this manner we will reach my village.” This option was good because it respected the interests of everyone – on the one hand, Aslan did not leave the travelers alone on the road. And on the other hand, we completed the route completely by foot.

Aslan has once again driven three hundred meters away and is waiting for us

That’s how it went. Aslan drove three hundred meters ahead and waited for us. As soon as Paul and I caught up with him, he would move up and wait for us again. Soon it began to rain. We were at an altitude of about 1900 meters, so it was a cold rain. As the gorge narrowed there was incredible beauty all around us. We were already soaked, but there was no thought of getting into the car. Eventually we reached the village of Fite. For the entire trek there, Aslan accompanied us, eventually leading us to his home.

Finally, we got to Fite

By this time, I was already internally resolved to the fact that we would not be able to continue our hike to Khursatil that same day. The weather was cloudy, and humid. Walking in such conditions in the mountains is not the most pleasant activity. Once at Aslan’s home, he gave Paul and me a separate room.

Agul bread

We changed out of our soaking wet clothes. Having dried out, we went to the kitchen and were invited to have lunch. On the table were traditional Dagestani dishes: flour halva, a delicious miracle, and hinkal which is boiled meat and dough. Aslan also treated us to a traditional Agul bread. After lunch, the weather had cleared up, and we decided to go for a walk around Fite.  After the rain shower, the landscape around the village was picturesque with various shades of green all around. The village itself also turned out to be very interesting and original. To find such a large village at an altitude of 2200 meters is a rarity.

After dinner, we talked a little and went to bed. We woke up at 5 in the morning and had set out by 7. We had a long hike to Khuchni.

This is the reception we were given in the village of Fite. It has become a special place for Paul and me. We have very vivid emotions and pleasant impressions associated with it.

You could even say that now we are Kunaks with Aslan. Kunak is a word particular to the Caucasus, meant to communicate deep friendship with all of the accompanying obligations of such. As a Dagestani myself, I am always ready to meet Aslan at my home village of Akhty. And I am ready to visit him again in Fite.

So, friends, come to Agul.  You may in fact gain a Kunak for yourself.

Paul and I say goodbye to Aslan.

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Exploring Ancient Fossil Records in Dagestan https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/exploring-ancient-fossil-records-in-dagestan/ Wed, 10 Nov 2021 03:14:06 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1601 The post Exploring Ancient Fossil Records in Dagestan appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Exploring Ancient Fossil Records in Dagestan

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Streams and rivers without number cut through the ravines of Dagestan’s sharp mountain peaks. Crouching down next to any one of them, Omar Hapisov can lift a rock from the riverbed and identify the geological layers of rock in the steep ridges above him. He’s been searching these rock layers since he was a boy, always in search of some unique fossil discovery.

Dagestanis are by nature concerned about the preservation of their culture and traditions. They hold tightly to the ways of their ancestors. But no one is reaching further back into Dagestani history than Omar. He has made it his life’s focus to search for, collect and share with others the fossil record of his native Dagestan.

The Ichthyosaurus is a dolphin-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period.

Sharks Teeth and Dinosaurs

By profession Omar – an Avar from the Levanshinsky region of Dagestan – is a beekeeper, a shepherd and a carpenter. But what he is passionate about is paleontology. “Nature has preserved for us what God created,” he said. “Our task is to love that nature and look closely in order to find the gifts left behind for us.”

In his self-constructed museum, he displays thousands of fossils that he and a small group of friends have found in their home region of Levanshinsky and from mountainous areas throughout Dagestan. To survey the shelves of Omar’s museum is to be taken deep into the history of Dagestan. Among the fossils are shark teeth, thousands of massive nautiluses, perfectly preserved fish, 4-foot-long sea turtle flippers, and even a nearly fully intact Ichthyosaurus – like a dolphin but dinosauric with big teeth – geologists say is from the early Jurassic period.

Dagestan is an exceptional terrain for paleontology, as the Tethys Sea that once covered much of Eurasia also covered Dagestan. Due to geological shifting in the subterranean plates, the Caucasus mountain range slowly rose from the area just west of what is now the Caspian Sea.

In the small area of Dagestan, which is about the size of the state of Tennessee, low foothills rise from the steppe climbing all the way to the highest peaks of central Dagestan in excess of 3000 meters. As this shifting occurred, layers of sediment were left behind that held fossil records from many different periods of geological development. According to Omar, there are few places in the world where so many different periods of geological history can be studied in such a concentrated geographic area.

Nature has preserved for us what God created

The entrance to Omar’s paleontology museum.

Omar’s Origin Story

Omar said that he has been collecting fossils since he was six or seven years old. “I ruined many shoes climbing the mountains around my village.” He would store his ancient treasures in his wardrobe, but his parents would often scold him for collecting what they called “too many rocks.”

Omar eventually gave up his childhood hobby but picked it up again when the internet finally reached the mountains about 15 years ago. He started to read about paleontological work in other parts of the world and found time to explore when he was tending his beehives in the hills outside of his village. “I began to realize my childhood dream with the appearance of the internet,” he said.

The internet gave him access to information about paleontology, and he devoured everything he could find on the subject. As Omar takes you on a guided tour of his museum, you wouldn’t know that he is self-taught. He handles information about geologic epochs, dates and Latin classifications with ease. Credentialed scientists from Moscow have confirmed the veracity and significance of Omar’s findings, and an entire journal published by professional Russian paleontologists is devoted to classifying Omar’s work. Scientists occasionally come to his small village to study the fossils he has collected, and he’s even building a small guest house next door to the museum to more suitably host them.

A nearly perfectly preserved fish fossil from the mountains of Dagestan

Omar found this 4-foot long ancient sea turtle flipper near his home in Dagestan

Something to Build On

Word about Omar’s museum has spread beyond the scientific community. Mini buses full of tourists stop to tour the museum, and these visits help Omar pay for his otherwise self-funded work. When asked why he invests so much time in his hobby, Omar’s desire to preserve the history of his country is clear.

“Money that I could spend on my kids or other things – for the sake of Dagestan, for the future history of Dagestan, I sacrifice on this [the museum],” he said. “What I have done is a foundation for others in the future to develop … may others take it further than I have.”

The key resting on top of this ancient Ammonite fossil shows the impressive size of these now extinct sea creatures. Ammonites are the most numerous species in Omar’s collection

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Village Above the Clouds https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/village-above-the-clouds/ Tue, 05 Oct 2021 19:31:02 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1547 The post Village Above the Clouds appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Village Above the Clouds

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Kurush, located in southern Dagestan, Russia, is the highest inhabited point in Europe. Its elevation is 2560 meters above sea level. Water boils here at 90 degrees Celsius. The air, however, is still comfortable for breathing.

Kurush is surrounded by four peaks higher than 4,000 meters and four peaks higher than 3800 meters. It’s located close to glaciers, so the temperature in the village is low. Sometimes you need to wear a jacket at noon in July.

Kurush is the southernmost inhabited location in Russia. It is situated further south than Rome, for example. Because of the altitude, however, the climate is cold in the winter and cool in the summer. Here the children are pictured in mid-May with sweaters and winter hats.

Mountians to Climb

The most important location for Russian alpinism is very near Kurush– Yerydag mountain, whose elevation is over 3900 meters. There is an annual alpinism festival at the base of this mountain, held every summer. The alpinists climb on the mountain for three days and sleep hanging by the rock.

Swipe images to the right to view more –>

The highest mountain of Dagestan, Bazardüzü is also near Kurush. It is also a popular alpinist spot but is not as difficult to climb. Beginner level alpinists can climb there.

Agricultural Border Zone

The border with Azerbaijan stretches along the mountains immediately across from, and in view of, Kurush. For centuries people in Kurush moved their sheep and cows to Azerbaijan to sell or to find winter pasture. But the fall of the USSR led to the establishment of a border between Russia and Azerbaijan, thus cutting off this traditional passage for Kurushi people.

Kurush is within Russian’s protected border zone. Both Russians and foreigners must get a special permission to enter the Kurush area. Russians coming to Kurush without permission will be fined. Foreigners will be deported.

Swipe images to the right to view more –>

Historically, Kurush was considered a center of livestock farming in Dagestan. A century ago up to 100,000 sheep grazed here under the watchful care of local shepherds. Today residents also have thousands of sheep, but the total number is much smaller. Still, people in Kurush make cheese of sheep milk and sell the animals for meat.

In 1952 the inhabitants of Kurush were resettled to the plains of Dagestan and formed a new village, called New Kurush, with a population of about 7000. Some years later part of these returned to their original village and resettled it. Presently there are about 600 inhabitants in the original Kurush.

Tourist Destination

 Kurush has become an important tourist destination in Dagestan. Because of its location above the clouds, Kurush is exotic even for other mountain dwelling Dagestanis. It’s surrounded by 8 giant mountains creating a picturesque landscape. That makes the environment of Kurush both beautiful and unusual, attracting many tourists every year.

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Preserving Culture Far from Home https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/preserving-culture-far-from-home/ Wed, 08 Sep 2021 02:28:02 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1491 The post Preserving Culture Far from Home appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Preserving Culture Far from Home

Written by with an Introduction by Corey Shepherd

Some eightplus years ago when I couldn’t speak Russian, Illias and I became friends on the strength of his English language skills and our shared curiosity of each other’s cultures. It was at his invitation that I first traveled to Dagestan and experienced North Caucasus hospitality. It was also with Illias that I was almost mauled by a pack of dogs, but that’s a different story.

Like many other North Caucasians, Illias grew up outside of his homeland and yet cares deeply about his native Lezgi language and culture. We asked Illias to share how he and his family have sought to preserve their culture and language while living in Moscow, far away from their Dagestani roots. 

This is the story of one family – my family – and how we are trying to preserve our Lezgi culture and language.

The Challenge of Preserving Lezgi Culture

I was born in Moscow, where I have lived almost all of my life. My parents, however, were born in Dagestan in the Lezgi village of Akhty.

Many North Caucasians – including Dagestanis like myself live outside of the region both in and outside of Russia. In the North Caucasus they lived in monoethnic environments but now live in multicultural cities where the dominant languages and cultures are not native to them. This undoubtedly influences the preservation of their culture, especially that of their children.

Many of these displaced people look at this situation with great concern and work hard to preserve their cultural distinctives and pass their native tongue on to their children. What exactly does it look like to preserve minority cultures and languages when we leave monoethnic environments and move to large, diverse cities?  This is the story of one familymy family – and how we are trying to preserve our Lezgi culture and language.

Illias together with his grandfather in their home village of Axkhty

Summer Trips Home

Every year I try to visit Dagestan in the summer for at least one or two weeks. During this time I try to visit my relatives who are living in various places throughout Dagestan, but I spend the greatest amount of time in my parent’s home village of Akhty. This helps to maintain a spiritual connection with my own historical rootsto understand and know the cultural air that my people breathe.  It’s also a really pleasant experience to speak with everyone, everywhere, in my native tongue.

Coming home in the summer is a common practice among many Dagestanis. In fact, parents will often stay for a week or two; but when they return to work, they leave their children with relatives so that the kids can spend upwards of one to two months in the native culture.

Children live outside of the Caucasus typically in Russia – for the rest of the year. But the memories of summers in Dagestan are preserved in memories, leaving a positive impression that beckons them to his ancestors’ native land. Without these trips, it’s very difficult to impart to children a spiritual connection with theirnative culture.

Summer in the Caucasus is especially wonderful. Exotic fruits and berries grow there. The mountains are covered with luxurious shades of green. Everywhere one looks there is an alluring, lively view. This makes the region an ideal place, especially in the summer, for a child to truly enjoy childhood.

I have memories of my own summers spent helping to take care of my grandparents’ handful of farm animals;going on hikes; and swimming in clean, crisp mountain rivers. The most important element of these summers as a child, however, was spending time speaking in Lezgi and playing with other kids. All of these things helped me grow up, at least partially, right in the middle of my own native culture.

Local Ethnic Organizations

There is a rich cultural life for ethnic minorities in Moscow. Many non-profit organizations have been established that are charged with the task of coordinating the efforts of their own people interested in creating and developing various cultural-linguistic projects.  

I once worked at such an organization that was involved in publishing news, providing humanitarian help, promoting education, and defending legal rights for our Lezgi diaspora.  I did this work with energy and enthusiasm, as this organization was a true place of interest for young Lezgi people and for all who cared about the preservation of our culture.

Illias in the Mountains with Friends

Every year I try to visit Dagestan in the summer

Illias Hiking in the Mountains of Dagestan

Speaking One’s Native Language at Home

Growing up in our home – even in Moscowwe typically spoke in Lezgi with one another. This did not hurt our Russian language skills, and we are all native speakers of Russian.

Interestingly, this was not a requirement of our parents. I remember my mother wanting us to speak Russian more often so that we would not have problems at school, but everything has worked out.  We speak Russian fluently, and we haven’t forgotten Lezgi.

Surely these conversations at home in the native tongue are one of the most effective ways to preserve a minority language while living in a city and a culture of a different primary language.  But it’s not easy because children are probably speaking in Russian with everyone other than their nuclear family — at preschool, in grade school and playing with friends. 

 In fact, this immersion in the Russian language is essential for the child, because it remains the foundational means of communication in society. Therefore, parents have a difficult choice to make in terms of which language to prioritize at home. 

Cultural Events

At around 17 years old I began to attend cultural events held in Moscow by Lezgi organizations and activists. There were dance nights, holiday celebrations, concerts, culinary clubs, literature evenings, master classes, book presentations and many other similar gatherings. These events were offered so we could meet other Lezgis, so that we could experience various aspects of our culture that were difficult to experience when living outside the homeland, and so that we developed an appreciation for our native culture. It is not unusual for people to meet their future spouses at these types of events. 

Online Projects

Over time I became interested in online projects. I played an active role in two specific spheres: the creation of a Lezgi language section on Wikipedia and the translation of the popular Russian social media platform VKontakte into Lezgi. Both projects achieved a degree of success and are still in use today.

Many North Caucasian young people are using technology to promote the interests of their own ethnic groups.Culture-themed websites, phone apps, native language dictionaries and libraries are among the online projects being worked on by young people from the North Caucasus. All of these projects share the goal of helping others from their group gain access to information in their native tongue. 

the impulse remains strong to preserve something of what has been handed down to us

Conclusion

Among Lezgis there is a strong desire and demand for measures that help to preserve national identity through the study of our native language and culture. Foundational to the various projects and efforts I’ve described above is the understanding that the assimilation of minority groups into the dominant culture may be inevitable. 

But as I remember those summers in our native village of Akhty, and as I look around the dinner table at my closest family members, the impulse remains strong to preserve something of what has been handed down to us by generations that have gone before.    

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Dagestan’s Warrior Priest https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/dagestans-warrior-priest/ Fri, 23 Jul 2021 01:07:13 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1468 The post Dagestan’s Warrior Priest appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Dagestan’s Warrior Priest

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In the fall of 1832, a young solider suffered a bayonet wound to the chest and was nursed back to health by his wife in a mountain hideout. In later correspondence he would remember this time of his wife’s care as one of the happiest of his life. That is, until she asked him how he could stay and rest while his people sought his guidance. Not long after that exchange, the young solider would leave his mountain hideout and become Imam Shamil, the great warrior priest of the Caucasus who is famous for the 25-year resistance he led against the advancing Imperial Russian Army.    

Every culture develops folk heroes over time whose legends grow through generations to mythical proportion. Their lives are remarkable for some principle they held to, a feat they accomplished or character trait they personified. In Dagestan, Imam Shamil stands alone as the greatest of all folk heroes.

Shamil remains one of the most common names Dagestani parents give to their boys. The main street in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, is named after him. His face is often seen on T-shirts, car windows, the sides of large buildings, and hanging in living rooms and offices alike.  Dagestani historian Zurab Shovkrinsky says of him, “Shamil is the very personification of Dagestan.”

As a boy Shamil excelled academically, mastering Arabic and Islamic theology and jurisprudence.

Humble Beginnings

Shamil was born in 1797 to an Avar family in the rugged mountain village of Gimry in Dagestan.  His birth name, Ali, was eventually changed by his grandfather because the boy struggled with chronic sickness. Name changing – believed to scare away evil spirits – was a common practice of Dagestani mountaineers.

As a boy Shamil excelled academically, mastering Arabic and Islamic theology and jurisprudence. His learning and spirituality earned him the respect of his village elders but not of his peers. Their jealousy eventually led a group of them to ambush Shamil, beating and stabbing him. In Dagestan’s culture of bravery and honor, it would have been shameful for Shamil to retreat to his parents for help, so he crawled into the forest where shepherds nursed him back to health.    

Imam Shamil wearing the traditional “Cherkessk” coat together with kinjal (knife) and a white turban to signify his spiritual authority

A Growing Legend

After he recovered, Shamil devoted himself to both academic and physical pursuits. He eventually grew to 6 feet, 3 inches tall and was a talented horseman, swordsman and warrior. The aforementioned bayonet wound occurred in the midst of hand-to-hand combat with Russian Imperial soldiers. In Sabres of Paradise, one of these soldiers wrote of Shamil’s physical prowess after witnessing this particular clash:

“This man, who was very tall and powerfully built, stood quite still, as if giving us time to take aim. Then, suddenly, with the spring of a wild beast, he leapt clean over the heads of the very line of soldiers about to fire on him, and landing behind them, whirling his sword…he cut down three of them, but was bayoneted by the fourth, the steel plunging deep into his chest. His face still extraordinary in its immobility, he seized the bayonet, pulled it from out of his own flesh, cut down the man and, with another superhuman leap, cleared the wall and vanished into the darkness. We were left absolutely dumbfounded.”

Shamil was one of only two mountaineers to survive the battle. He soon became the new leader of the Caucasian resistance that defied the Russian Empire without any aid from foreign armies from 1834 to 1859.  The Russian Empire had recently defeated the Persian Army, the Ottoman Empire and the French under Napoleon. Its rule extended all the way to China. The London Times, which often wrote about Shamil, called him the greatest chieftain that ever lived and dubbed him “The Lion of Dagestan.”  To the south, the Persians adopted a saying that “it was only a foolish shah who would attack Dagestan.”

For Western readers to understand Imam Shamil’s status among Dagestanis, a comparison might be made to George Washington, who for the sake of freedom fought a more powerful foe; to Paul Bunyan for the legend of his superhuman strength; to Billy Graham for his trusted spiritual counsel; or to Martin Luther King Jr. for his quest to bring justice to a repressed people.  For Dagestanis, Imam Shamil is all of these rolled into one figure.

As such, he is much more than a military champion. As a scholar and priest, he became an ambassador of Islam among the mountain peoples of Dagestan and Chechnya. In fact, one important factor enabling his military success was his ability to unite otherwise rival tribes in Dagestan and Chechnya through their common hatred of infidel Russian invaders. In Islam, he found an ideology to support resistance against Russian imperialism. The sabers of Shamil’s men, said Lesley Blanch, became their “keys to paradise.”

The London Times, which often wrote about Shamil, called him the greatest chieftain that ever lived and dubbed him “The Lion of Dagestan.”

Drastic Measures

Folk legends often reach their culmination when the hero gives his own life for the cause for which he lived. Shamil is sometimes criticized because he did eventually surrender to Imperial Russia rather than fighting to the death. But there is a story from his life that captures his readiness to sacrifice himself for the principles he taught and spread. 

Nine years into his rule as the leader of the Caucasian resistance, the loss on the part of mountaineers was great and many were calling on Shamil to give up the bloody fight and surrender to the Russians. Shamil’s mother, Bahou Messadou, was among those who sought an end to the ongoing conflict. After one particular meeting with Bahou, Shamil retreated to the mosque to pray and seek the will of Allah.  After three days in the mosque, Shamil emerged with an edict from on high — 100 lashes to the person that advised him to surrender to the Russians.

The imam knew this meant his mother. She was bound and brought before a watching crowd to await her sentence.  Shamil took the whip in his own hand and began to deliver the blows.  After five lashes, Bahou lost consciousness and Shamil could not bear to continue. But he believed the decree was from Allah, and so he commanded one of his assistants to administer the remaining 95 lashes to him instead of his mother. The assistant was hesitant, but Shamil threatened death if the soldier did not obey.  Ninety-five lashes later, Imam Shamil staggered to his feet bloodied and near unconsciousness himself. In stammering words, he commanded that news of the event be spread among the community, warning the war-weary to continue on in the great cause to which they had vowed themselves — even to death.   

Shamil’s mother was not the only member of his family to get caught up in the painful realities of war. In 1839 Shamil agreed to temporarily give his seven-yearold son, Jamaladin, to the Russians as a sign of good faith in negotiations. Against the terms of the agreement, the Russians secretly sent Jamaladin to St Petersburg where he remained in Russian captivity for 10 years. Shamil was enraged, and his resolve to fight was transformed into the fanaticism of a father robbed of his firstborn son. Shamil regained his son only after he and his men kidnapped and held hostage Princess Anna. She was one of the largest landowners in Georgia at the time and a former lady in waiting to Empress of Russia Alexandra Fedorovna. The capture of Anna became salacious news across the empire and eventually led to the writing of several best-selling novels. 

To this day, Shamil remains a topic of fascination and disagreement among both Caucasian and Russian historians and writers.

The Legend Lives On

Shamil occupied a larger-than-life status among Russians despite his enemy status, and his character often made it into novels and musicals of the time.  To this day, he remains a topic of fascination and disagreement among both Caucasian and Russian historians and writers.  

When Imam Shamil finally surrendered in 1859, he was treated as a returning hero in Russia. His accommodations outside of Moscow – and eventually Kiev – were generous for anyone, but especially an enemy commander who had caused the death of so many Russian soldiers. From captivity Shamil wrote, “By the will of the Almighty, the Absolute Governor, I have fallen into the hands of unbelievers … the Great Emperor … has settled me here … in a tall spacious house with carpets and all the necessities.”

Dagestan is now solidly part of Russia, and a terrible war was fought to answer that question. The legacy of Shamil, however, lives on, calling Dagestanis to aspire to his ideals of fairness, love for his land and people, bravery and dignity.  

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Resurrecting a Balkar Culture Through Dance https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/resurrecting-a-balkar-culture-through-dance/ Fri, 09 Jul 2021 12:44:58 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1434 The post Resurrecting a Balkar Culture Through Dance appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Resurrecting a Balkar Culture Through Dance

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Dating back as early as the 11th century, the Balkar people related to one another based on conduct codes called adats. According to ancient Balkar adats, young men were forbidden from looking at young women at all, with one exception being when they would dance together at national holiday celebrations such has harvest season. At such a celebration called toy in Balkaryoung men were allowed to look at potential dance partners. Once a pair was dancing, any physical contact was forbidden except for when the young man could offer his hand to his dance partner as a sign of interest. At this point, his partner had options. If she curled her fist and only touched his palm with her knuckles, she had no interest.  A simple handshake meant she was neutral. But if she responded to the offer of his hand by interlocking her fingers in his, well, there was something.

Nur-Muhammad

Meet Nur-Muhammad

This peek into the traditional culture of the Balkar people was one of many insights Nur-Muhammad shared when we sat down with him between dance lessons recently. Nur-Muhammad is an accomplished Balkar dancer and is passionate to see dance become a means to resurrect a Balkar culture that was largely lost through the political upheaval of the last 100 years. He is well-suited for the cultural reclamation happening among many North Caucasus peoples like the Balkar.  He was born into the wild 1990’s of the newly formed Russia when a new space for self-expression and ethnic self-determination was being carved out.  Now he’s an accomplished professional dancer working for the local government’s ensemble and managing his own private dance school where he teaches traditional North Caucasian dances to a new generation of Balkar young people.

By the time Nur-Muhammad was a teenager, YouTube videos of young, hip North Caucasians dancing the Lezginka in the streets of Moscow were beginning to attract positive attention on social media. Lezginka is a general term among North Caucasians for a dance that every ethnic group has put their own twist on. In the traditional Lezginka, a man and a woman move around a circle together never touching and often never making eye contact.  The man plays the role of a proud, aggressive eagle preening before his partner — leaping high; landing on his knees; head up; and pulsing his arms and legs with sharp, quick movements. The woman imitating a swanglides around the circle gracefully with smooth, elegant movements, regarding her partner but never losing a sense of disinterest toward him.

never touching and often never making eye contact

A children’s ensemble for Nur-Muhammad’s private dance school performs the traditional Lezginka.

Bringing Balkar traditional dances back to life

According to Nur-Muhammad, traditional Caucasian dances often involve an element of competition between the man and woman. Without ever making contact, the man will try to guide the woman to the edge of the circle, suggesting that she is tired and cannot keep pace with him any longer. Men always expend more energy in these dances. If the woman acquiesces and leaves the circle, she is deferring, conceding defeat and honoring his skill and stamina as a dancer. If she refuses to leave – instead gliding back to the middlethis will eventually force him to resign, his energy spent. In this case, she wins. In another scenario, the two work their way around the circle, again imitating eagle and swan, but the man is challenged to remove a scarf from his partner’s shoulders without ever touching her.

There was a time when everything Balkar was forbidden. Resurrecting these traditional dances connects the Balkar people with their forgotten past and brings cultural traditions to life.  Nur-Muhammad notes that at weddings it is now the young people who know how to dance the traditional dances of their people; not their parents. The older generation grew up in the Soviet Union, which downplayed ethnic differences sought to conform everyone into the ideal of the Soviet man.   Resurrecting elements of traditional culture has become very popular among the younger generation.  In Nur-Muhammad’s home city of Nalchick, large crowds of young people gather by the hundreds in the town square twice a week to dance the traditional dances of their people. 

Nur-Muhammad dancing

Nur-Muhammad directing the children’s ensemble

Dancing with purpose

Nur-Muhammad’s ensemble travels internationally to various festivals throughout Europe and parts of Central Asia. At these festivals, they interact with other dance troops from all over the world. Nur-Muhammad favors Argentinean dance styles and finds some similarities between their styles and the style of North Caucasus dancers. He also takes ensembles from his private school to festivals throughout Russia and even internationally.  His passion is to teach as many people as he can to dance the dances of his people so that these rich elements of his culture will never be lost again.

 

As we talked Nur-Muhammad glanced at his watch.  Another dance lesson was about to start. I asked him what he wanted to leave our readers with, and his words were fitting. “Every people group is beautiful in its own way.  It’s important to preserve their unique nature and particularities” he said. God made us different on purpose, and that enriches life.  I want to use dance to prevent the Balkar culture from being lost again.”

Nur-Muhammad with some of his young mentees

God made us different on purpose, and that enriches life.

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The Boxer – Magomed “Maga” Abdusalamov https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/the-boxer-magomed-maga-abdusalamov/ Mon, 07 Jun 2021 05:01:22 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1387 The post The Boxer – Magomed “Maga” Abdusalamov appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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The Boxer – Magomed “Maga” Abdusalamov

Written by Anastasia Rasulova,

Eto Kavkaz

This article was originally published at Eto Kavkaz in September 2017.

Eta Kavkaz aims are similar to those of East of Elbrus: telling the stories of the people, culture and history of the Caucasus.   They just do it all in Russian.   Our partnership with them will allow more access to the richness of the North Caucasus to our Western, English-speaking audience.

The state of New York will pay $22 million to Russian boxer Magomed “Maga” Abdusalamov, who was confined to a wheelchair after a title fight in the fall of 2013. Abdusalamov’s family accused the state of negligence and unprofessionalism, arguing that the boxer’s health could have been preserved if the fight had been stopped and medical assistance had been provided on time.

What follows is the story of Magomed’s wife, Bakanay Abducalamova, who has cared for her husband from the moment of his tragic accident.

My father pointed Maga out to me at one point, and I thought, “He’s a looker.”

I fell in love with him right away’

Maga and I had a typical Dagestani version of dating, which was through our parents. We lived on neighboring streets, but I didn’t know him. At some point Maga saw me and was interested. Per our customs, our fathers talked. Both were inclined to agree that we marry. My father pointed Maga out to me at one point, and I thought, “He’s a looker.” Then Maga’s parents came to us with the ring. A wedding day was immediately decided upon – September 18, 2004. I was studying to be an economist, but after the wedding I switched to correspondence courses. Maga said, “Don’t even bring your diploma home — you won’t work. Only I can be your boss.” That was fine with me. I wanted to be near my husband all the time. What fun Maga and I had at home! We played tag and hide-and-seek. We would shoot each other with water from squirt bottles. We danced. Once we had children, we would sometimes leave the house at nine in the evening and just walk through shopping centers or drive around town. Of course we argued at times, but we were happy. I fell in love with him right away, and he with me. For three years after the wedding, I never left the house alone – not even for bread. Maga was very protective. If we were walking down the street together and someone looked at me, he might shout out, “What are you looking at my wife for?” Sometimes I think I loved him too much. You can’t love too much. But I had such a wild love and also a rabid jealousy. If I had ever seen him with another woman, I would have been ready to eat her. We just found each other; we had the perfect match. I believe in fate. Maga was my destiny. We lived happily for nine years.

I had such a wild love and also a rabid jealousy
Maga and Bakanay in Makhachkala before his injury (from the archive of Bakanay Abducalamova)
Maga was a championship level boxer (from the archive of Bakanay Abducalamova)

No one expected this to happen to Maga

We lived in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Maga was an amateur boxer. I was afraid for him, of course. I attended three of his fights, and each time I was ready to run into the ring myself and fight for my husband. When he moved to professional sports, we already had two daughters and it became more difficult for me to let him go into the ring. When he fought in the U.S., he would travel alone and was there for two months at a time. I felt like I was dying when he was there. He was bored without us there, so in 2011 we moved to Los Angeles and then to Miami to live together. I don’t think about that day very often. I do not want to. I think about our days before the fight. No one expected this to happen to Maga. So many wins. My Maga is such a big guy – 6 feet 9 inches tall, a mountain of a man. If help had been provided in time, the consequences would not have been so severe. There would have been an injury, but it could have been treated. He was so young – only 32.

On November 2, 2013, in New York, Magomed Abdusalamov met with Cuban Mike Perez — both undefeated. In the first round, Maga suffered a broken left cheekbone but boxed all 10 rounds before losing by unanimous decision. A few hours later, he was admitted to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage. Doctors had to put the boxer in an artificial coma to avoid brain damage; but a few days later, Abdusalamov suffered a stroke. Eventually doctors removed a blood clot from the brain as well as part of the skull in order to reduce the swelling. Maga spent 10 months in an American clinic, where his wife Bakanay took care of him every day. The boxer was left confined to a wheelchair, the right side of his body paralyzed.

Maga and Bakanay after his injury (from the archive of Bakanay Abducalamova)

I drowned like a bull

After the surgery, I visited Maga in the hospital every day to help with his exercises and massages. The only food I ate was hamburgers and coffee from Starbucks. I did not take care of myself. I “drowned like a bull” as they would say in Dagestan. I forgot myself. I forgot my children. I thought that if he died, I would die after him because I couldn’t live without him. I was so alone — he was like air for me. I started having health problems and the doctors said if I didn’t stop lifting Maga, my legs would give out and I would end up like him. Some people advised me to leave Maga at a rehabilitation center for a while so that I could rest. I’m very tired. I’ve been taking sedatives for the last year. But I don’t want to leave him in the hospital. I know families where the other half cannot stand the serious illness of the spouse and leaves. I don’t blame them — it’s really very hard. No one can stop me from leaving. I don’t care what people say – I won’t leave Maga. This is the man I loved as a husband, as a man. He’s like a child to me now. And I can’t leave him; I can’t even go to bed separately. This is my man, and I will always be with him to the last.
I won’t leave Maga. This is the man I loved as a husband, as a man. He’s like a child to me now. And I can’t leave him

The husband should look like a statesman

My rule is that no matter what, my husband must look like a statesman. I shave him nearly every day. I bathe him every morning. All of his clothes are carefully selected, the colors are combined with each other appropriately. If a small spot appears during lunch, they are immediately put in the laundry. If a person is ill, it does not mean that he should be untidy. Now I have an assistant. In the beginning, I did everything myself. And some people look and think, “Oh, what’s hard in her life? So well-groomed, dressed, she probably has 500 nurses.” When I first read such comments, I said to my husband, “Magash, imagine. People think that I do not care for you, that it’s all just for the photo.” I call him Magash, and he calls me baby and princess. He tells me that people are just jealous that “you are mine.”
Bakanay’s love for he husband has remained through all of their difficulties (from the archive of Bakanay Abducalamova)
Maga and Bakanay together with their three daughters (from the archive of Bakanay Abducalamova)

This is a different person

Sometimes I say to Maga, “Maybe you need to be frightened somehow so that you jump up. What if thieves suddenly come into our house? What will you do?” He doesn’t think anything is wrong. He thinks like a child. From the very beginning, the doctors told me not to wait for my husband. “He will be different,” they said. I didn’t understand. Well, he won’t box anymore; he won’t run anymore, I thought. So what? But now I understand – yes, this is a different person. I show Maga our old videos and tell him that this is the person I love the most, and I hug the phone. And he laughs. “Here I am,” he says. But I miss him so much. Now happiness for me is my children. Our daughters are 11, eight and four. Of course they ask what happened to their dad. The older one, I think, already understands everything. She doesn’t talk about it. The middle daughter still believes that her dad can recover – you have to believe in miracles. My daughters don’t see my tears – I don’t show them. They are used to their mother always dancing and smiling. It’s just…if it’s not like that, what’s the other way? I’ve always been an optimist. I do not like quarrels and insults. I love to be loved. I often have this state of love for everything. I have so much of this feeling that our nurse says that I love love. I want to embrace the whole world and tell people, “Love each other.”
Do I believe in miracles? Yes and no. Not as much as before

I keep hoping

Am I satisfied with the result of the trial? I would be happy if my Maga was restored to health. Many women want to be the leader of the family. But it’s so hard to carry everything; to think for him. How I need the old Maga of mine to tell me what to do and what not to do. I wake up thinking about how I can make my children happy — where to live, where to go to school. I don’t know if we will return to Russia. We’ll see what God will lead us to do. I would like to live with my Maga and our children somewhere in a village, where my only problem would be to decide what to cook that day. I was so happy before. I got up in the morning, did the cleaning, prepared food, played with the children, and in the evening we all went out together for a walk. I knew that tomorrow Maga would provide for us — that we would have money for clothes and so on. Now I don’t know. There will be money, but there will be no happiness. At night when everyone is asleep, I go to Instagram. It’s so nice to look at other married couples. At first it was hurtful because I also had all this – my husband once carried me in his arms. Now I’m just happy for someone else’s love. Do I believe in miracles? Yes and no. Not as much as before. At first, I really believed and hoped that after what happened, only good things would happen. But then two years later my brother died in a car accident. I support my parents. They still cannot come to their senses after the death of their son. I call them from across the ocean and try to find words. No matter how hard it is for me, I try to calm them down and lift their spirits. And, of course, I dream. I want to believe in good things and continue to hope.

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Wonders of the Steppe https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/wonders-of-the-steppe/ Mon, 24 May 2021 08:03:00 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/?p=1322 The post Wonders of the Steppe appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Wonders of the Steppe

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Just before the Volga – Europe’s longest river breaks apart into a thousand tributaries and discharges into the Caspian Sea, it flows past two of Russia’s most unusual geographic phenomen: Bogdo Mountain and its salt lake neighbor, Baskunchak. Both are natural marvels found on UNESCO’s list of biosphere reserves and steeped in ancient legends.

Lake Baskunchak

Surrounded by a near-desert climate, the surface of Lake Baskunchak rests at 68 feet below sea level. Eighty percent of Russia’s salt is extracted from it, and it is said to have an inexhaustible store of the valuable mineral due to the saltine streams that flow into it. In fact, as early as the eighth century, salt was being extracted from the lake, exported along the Silk Road, and sold in both Europe and Asia.

Tourists travel to the lake in search of the healing qualities of mineral clay found below the salty surface and at the edges of the lake. They also enjoy swimming in water so dense with salt that it is impossible to drown. The water literally pushes the swimmer up to the surface. In other places on the lake, the salt is even denser, allowing the traveler to actually walk on the surface. But the raw salt is sharp, making it painful for bare feet.

as early as the eighth century, salt was being extracted from the lake, exported along the Silk Road, and sold in both Europe and Asia.

From this sharpness the lake may have derived its name. In Turkish, “bash” means “head”, and “kuncha,” means “dog.” According to legend, long ago the water level was low, tempting a hurried traveler to risk a shortcut by crossing the lake with his horse and dog. But an unexpected storm fell upon the travelers. The horse, protected by its metal shoes, had time to finish the trek across. The dog, with feet injured from the prickly salt floor, was not so fortunate. He laid down, unable to continue. Eventually the water rose, and he died. The salt properties of the lake, however, preserved his body; and to this day, locals say, his head floats to the surface where it can be seen by the passersby.

Lake Baskunchack with Bogdo in the distance

Bogdo Mountain

Rising unexpectedly from unbroken flatness around it, Bogdo is just a few kilometers to the west and south of Baskunchak. It is also home to unique geographic features and ancient legends. Standing at a mere 500 feet high, Bogdo would likely be considered a hill in most parts of the world. However, it is the highest point of the Astrakhan region, and its red slopes do rise majestically from the surrounding steppe. A complex cave system surrounds the mountain, going through and under Bogdo. Thirty caves have been discovered – the longest measuring nearly one mile in length – and colorful salt deposits give the inside of many of the caves a natural beauty. Researchers assume many yet-to-be discovered caves remain in the area. More than 200 bird species make the Bogdo-Baskunchak region their home during a portion of their seasonal migrations. Nineteen of these avian are endangered. Endangered saiga antelope herds, with their unusual snouts, also migrate through the area every year.

Whispering Prayers

Strong winds have created pockets in the walls of Bogdo over time, which can produce a musical, whispering sound when a strong wind comes through. Nearby Buddhists believe that this whispering is the sound of a far-away monk’s prayers. It’s these same Buddhists, mostly from the nearby region of Kalmykia, that tell the most well-known legend of Bogdo, which means “holy mountain.” According to ancient lore, the Kalmyk people ached for the mountains of their ancestral homeland in Mongolia and beseeched the Buddha to send them such a mountain. The Buddha heard their cry, pitied them, and commanded two priests to carry a mountain from Mongolia to Kalmykia. The priests did as the Buddha commanded, carrying Bogdo across Siberia, only to get within sight of the Volga, tire, and begin to complain. As a result of their petulance, the Buddha struck them down in the Astrakhan steppe and they were crushed by the weight of Bogdo. The mountain’s red tint is said to come from the blood of the murmuring priests.

Air Pockets in Bogdo Mountain

the Kalmyk people ached for the mountains of their ancestral homeland in Mongolia and beseeched the Buddha to send them such a mountain.

Saiga in the Astrakhan Steppe

Unlike travelers described in the ancient legends of Bogdo and Baskunchak, today’s visitors need not risk bloodshed. They are encouraged, therefore, to visit the region, explore its unique geographical wonders, and write their own legends of these little-known spaces east of Elbrus.

Bogdo Mountain

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Чудеса Cтепи https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/%d1%87%d1%83%d0%b4%d0%b5%d1%81%d0%b0-c%d1%82%d0%b5%d0%bf%d0%b8/ Sun, 23 May 2021 16:46:10 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/%d1%87%d1%83%d0%b4%d0%b5%d1%81%d0%b0-c%d1%82%d0%b5%d0%bf%d0%b8/ The post Чудеса Cтепи appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Чудеса Cтепи

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Just before the Volga – Europe’s longest river breaks apart into a thousand tributaries and discharges into the Caspian Sea, it flows past two of Russia’s most unusual geographic phenomen: Bogdo Mountain and its salt lake neighbor, Baskunchak. Both are natural marvels found on UNESCO’s list of biosphere reserves and steeped in ancient legends.

Озеро Баскунчак

Располагаясь в зоне полупустынного климата, поверхность озера Баскунчак находится на уровне 68 фут ниже уровня моря. Именно здесь добывается восемьдесят процентов соли в России. Считается, что это озеро заключает в себе неисчерпаемый запас ценного минерала благодаря соляным потокам, стекающим в озеро. Уже в восьмом веке добываемая здесь соль экспортировалась по Шёлковому Пути и продавалась в Европе и Азии.

Туристы отправляются на озеро в поисках целебных свойств богатой минералами глины, добываемой под соляной поверхностью и по краям озера. Они также любят плавать в воде, столь насыщенной солью, что в ней невозможно утонуть. Вода буквально выталкивает пловца на поверхность. В других частях озера концентрация соли ещё выше, что позволяет отдыхающему практически ходить по поверхности. Но сырая соль остра и может причинить боль босым ногам.

уже в восьмом веке добываемая здесь соль экспортировалась по Шёлковому Пути и продавалась в Европе и Азии.

От этой остроты озеро, возможно, и получило свое название. По-тюркски “баш” означает “голова”, а “кунча” – “собака”.” Согласно легенде, давным-давно уровень воды был низким, что соблазнило торопливого путешественника рискнуть срезать путь, пересекая озеро со своей лошадью и собакой. Но внезапно на путников обрушилась буря. Лошадь, будучи подкованной, сумела вовремя пересечь озеро. Собака же, с ногами, израненными колючим соляным покровом дна озера, была не столь удачлива. Не в состоянии дальше двигаться, она легла. В итоге уровень воды снова поднялся, и она умерла. Соль, однако, сохранила её тело; и по сей день, говорят местные жители, её голова всплывает на поверхность, где ее могут видеть прохожие.

Озеро Баскунчак с Богдо вдалеке

Гора Богдо

Неожиданно поднявшийся из непрерывной равнины вокруг, Богдо находится всего в нескольких километрах к юго-западу от Баскунчака. С ним также связаны уникальные географические особенности и древние легенды. Имея высоту всего лишь в 500 фут, в большинстве мест Богдо, вероятно, считался бы просто холмом. Однако, это самая высокая точка Астраханской области, и её красные склоны величественно возвышаются над окружающей степью. Гору окружает сложная система пещер, проходящих через и под Богдо. Было исследовано тридцать таких пещер – самая длинная из них имеет длину около одной мили, а красочные отложения соли во внутренней части многих пещер создают природную красоту. Исследователи предполагают, что в этом районе сохранилось ещё много неизведанных пещер. Более 200 видов птиц во время своих сезонных миграций находят гнездовья в Богдо-Баскунчакской зоне. Девятнадцать из них находятся под угрозой вымирания. Исчезающие стада сайгаков с необычными мордочками также ежегодно мигрируют через этот район.

Шепчущие Молитвы

Сильные ветра со временем создали своеобразные выемки в стенах Богдо, которые могут производить музыкальный, шепчущий звук, когда сильный ветер проходит через них. Живущие по соседству буддисты верят, что этот шепот есть ни что иное, как звук молитвы далёкого монаха. Это именно те буддисты, в основном из соседней Калмыкии, которые рассказывают самую известную легенду о Богдо, что означает “священная гора”. Согласно древним преданиям, калмыки тосковали по горам своей прародины в Монголии и умоляли Будду послать им такую гору. Будда услышал их плач, пожалел их и приказал двум священникам перенести гору из Монголии в Калмыкию. Жрецы сделали, как велел Будда, протащив Богдо через всю Сибирь, но только они оказались в пределах видимости Волги, как устали и начали жаловаться. В результате их раздражительности Будда сбил их с ног в астраханской степи, и они были раздавлены тяжестью Богдо. Говорят, что красный оттенок горы происходит как раз от крови ропщущих жрецов.

выемки в горах Богдо

и умоляли Будду послать им такую гору.

Сайгак в Астраханской степи

В отличие от путешественников, описанных в древних легендах о Богдо и Баскунчаке, сегодняшним гостям не придётся рисковать кровопролитием. Поэтому им рекомендуется посетить это место, исследовать его уникальные географические чудеса и написать свои собственные легенды об этих малоизвестных местах к востоку от Эльбруса.

Гора Богдо

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Чудеса Cтепи https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/%d1%87%d1%83%d0%b4%d0%b5%d1%81%d0%b0-c%d1%82%d0%b5%d0%bf%d0%b8/ Sun, 23 May 2021 16:46:04 +0000 https://eastofelbrus.com/articles/%d1%87%d1%83%d0%b4%d0%b5%d1%81%d0%b0-c%d1%82%d0%b5%d0%bf%d0%b8/ The post Чудеса Cтепи appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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Чудеса Cтепи

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Just before the Volga – Europe’s longest river breaks apart into a thousand tributaries and discharges into the Caspian Sea, it flows past two of Russia’s most unusual geographic phenomen: Bogdo Mountain and its salt lake neighbor, Baskunchak. Both are natural marvels found on UNESCO’s list of biosphere reserves and steeped in ancient legends.

Озеро Баскунчак

Располагаясь в зоне полупустынного климата, поверхность озера Баскунчак находится на уровне 68 фут ниже уровня моря. Именно здесь добывается восемьдесят процентов соли в России. Считается, что это озеро заключает в себе неисчерпаемый запас ценного минерала благодаря соляным потокам, стекающим в озеро. Уже в восьмом веке добываемая здесь соль экспортировалась по Шёлковому Пути и продавалась в Европе и Азии.

Туристы отправляются на озеро в поисках целебных свойств богатой минералами глины, добываемой под соляной поверхностью и по краям озера. Они также любят плавать в воде, столь насыщенной солью, что в ней невозможно утонуть. Вода буквально выталкивает пловца на поверхность. В других частях озера концентрация соли ещё выше, что позволяет отдыхающему практически ходить по поверхности. Но сырая соль остра и может причинить боль босым ногам.

уже в восьмом веке добываемая здесь соль экспортировалась по Шёлковому Пути и продавалась в Европе и Азии.

От этой остроты озеро, возможно, и получило свое название. По-тюркски “баш” означает “голова”, а “кунча” – “собака”.” Согласно легенде, давным-давно уровень воды был низким, что соблазнило торопливого путешественника рискнуть срезать путь, пересекая озеро со своей лошадью и собакой. Но внезапно на путников обрушилась буря. Лошадь, будучи подкованной, сумела вовремя пересечь озеро. Собака же, с ногами, израненными колючим соляным покровом дна озера, была не столь удачлива. Не в состоянии дальше двигаться, она легла. В итоге уровень воды снова поднялся, и она умерла. Соль, однако, сохранила её тело; и по сей день, говорят местные жители, её голова всплывает на поверхность, где ее могут видеть прохожие.

Озеро Баскунчак с Богдо вдалеке

Гора Богдо

Неожиданно поднявшийся из непрерывной равнины вокруг, Богдо находится всего в нескольких километрах к юго-западу от Баскунчака. С ним также связаны уникальные географические особенности и древние легенды. Имея высоту всего лишь в 500 фут, в большинстве мест Богдо, вероятно, считался бы просто холмом. Однако, это самая высокая точка Астраханской области, и её красные склоны величественно возвышаются над окружающей степью. Гору окружает сложная система пещер, проходящих через и под Богдо. Было исследовано тридцать таких пещер – самая длинная из них имеет длину около одной мили, а красочные отложения соли во внутренней части многих пещер создают природную красоту. Исследователи предполагают, что в этом районе сохранилось ещё много неизведанных пещер. Более 200 видов птиц во время своих сезонных миграций находят гнездовья в Богдо-Баскунчакской зоне. Девятнадцать из них находятся под угрозой вымирания. Исчезающие стада сайгаков с необычными мордочками также ежегодно мигрируют через этот район.

Шепчущие Молитвы

Сильные ветра со временем создали своеобразные выемки в стенах Богдо, которые могут производить музыкальный, шепчущий звук, когда сильный ветер проходит через них. Живущие по соседству буддисты верят, что этот шепот есть ни что иное, как звук молитвы далёкого монаха. Это именно те буддисты, в основном из соседней Калмыкии, которые рассказывают самую известную легенду о Богдо, что означает “священная гора”. Согласно древним преданиям, калмыки тосковали по горам своей прародины в Монголии и умоляли Будду послать им такую гору. Будда услышал их плач, пожалел их и приказал двум священникам перенести гору из Монголии в Калмыкию. Жрецы сделали, как велел Будда, протащив Богдо через всю Сибирь, но только они оказались в пределах видимости Волги, как устали и начали жаловаться. В результате их раздражительности Будда сбил их с ног в астраханской степи, и они были раздавлены тяжестью Богдо. Говорят, что красный оттенок горы происходит как раз от крови ропщущих жрецов.

выемки в горах Богдо

и умоляли Будду послать им такую гору.

Сайгак в Астраханской степи

В отличие от путешественников, описанных в древних легендах о Богдо и Баскунчаке, сегодняшним гостям не придётся рисковать кровопролитием. Поэтому им рекомендуется посетить это место, исследовать его уникальные географические чудеса и написать свои собственные легенды об этих малоизвестных местах к востоку от Эльбруса.

Гора Богдо

Written by

Ещё Статьи

Ещё Статьи

Come to Agul to Make Life-Long Friends

Stories about Dagestani hospitality can sometimes seem too pretentious. The picture is sometimes painted of locals always ready to receive unknown travelers seems too good to be true. But, in the mountains especially, this is in fact the case. In Dagestan, locals will...

read more

Exploring Ancient Fossil Records in Dagestan

Streams and rivers without number cut through the ravines of Dagestan’s sharp mountain peaks. Crouching down next to any one of them, Omar Hapisov can lift a rock from the riverbed and identify the geological layers of rock in the steep ridges above him. He’s been...

read more

Village Above the Clouds

Kurush, located in southern Dagestan, Russia, is the highest inhabited point in Europe. Its elevation is 2560 meters above sea level. Water boils here at 90 degrees Celsius. The air, however, is still comfortable for breathing.Kurush is surrounded by four peaks higher...

read more

The post Чудеса Cтепи appeared first on East of Elbrus.

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