dagestani avars

*update below*

just a reminder that, while the boston bombers — the tsarnaev brothers — are chechen, they are also avars (on their mother’s side). not that that should make too much difference as far as the tsarnaevs being clannish, since the avars are clannish, too.

there are only ca. three million people in dagestan and yet there are several dozen ethnic groups there, one of which is the avars. and then the avars, in turn, are further subdivded in 15+ sub-ethnic groups (who knows which one mrs. tsarnaev comes from), which are further subdivided into tribes (tukkhums), clans (teips), extended families and so on. THIS is a clannish society.

from The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (2008) [pg. 10 – links added by me]:

The Chechens are now considered exemplary of the mountaineers’ historic resistance to Russian rule, but that repuation is only partly deserved. People who lived much higher in the mountains — the Svans and Khevsurs of northern Georgia, for example — were generally the most antipathetic to outsiders; their religious practices, infused with animist beliefs, set them farthest apart from their Christian and Muslim neighbors. The real engine of the highlander uprisings of the nineteenth century lay farther to the east, in Dagestan. The very name of the region — literally ‘the mountainous land’ — is evidence of its central geographical feature: mountains and plateaus cut by fast-flowing rivers. A congeries of distinct languages and customs has long been characteristic of the area, with social ties formed along lines of clans, extended families, and village groupings. The major ethnic groups — the Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, and Lezgins, among others, with none accounting for more than 30 percent of the population — today represent the dominant factions in Dagestan’s precarious balance of regional, ethnic, and clan interests.”
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we hear a similar message about the dagestanis (and also learn some more about the chechens) in The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (2010) [pgs. 72-73 – links added by me]:

“Research on the *wirds* and *teips* (clans and families) of the Chechens is difficult to collect and the findings generally frustrate the Western desire for order and clarity. But what this research has demonstrated by its inability to draw straight lines is that *there aren’t straight lines* and the Chechen and Dagestani (or Ingush, Kabard, and Balkarian among others) cultures are not vertical structures, or ‘power verticals’ to use the current Russian vernacular. The Muslim faith is a relatively flat hierarchy to begin with, but by looking at the mountaineer culture and its imposition of yet another layer of clan hierarchy on top of the religious one, it is easy to understand why the Caucasians have so much success at insurgent warfare. North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies. Because familial loyalty sometimes trumps religious authority, and because those same clan are often competing among themselves for status and hegemony, those societal ‘fractures’ were — and still are — exploited by the Russians….

“This particular characteristic of Caucasus culture is what gives it strength as an insurgency and yet ultimately keeps it weak when it comes time to make the final move toward independence.[24]”

“[24] Although Chechnya has been the primary focus of this book thus far, the Dagestanis have been as much a part of this conflict as anyone else. As of this writing, there are more attacks taking place in Dagestan than in Chechnya. The internal dynamics of Dagestan are even more fractured than Chechnya. Aside from the religious and family aspects, Dagestan is made up of more than 13 different ethnic groups — of which the Avars, Dargins, and Lezgins still comprise less than 60 percent of the population. In addition, there are Laks, Tabasarans, Rutuls, Aguls, Tsakhurs, Kumyks, Nogais, Azeris, Chechens, and Russians, and another 40 or so tiny groups numbering only about 200 total — and they all speak their own language — making Chechnya and its Vainakh cousin Ingushetia look downright homogenous.

clannishness is a strength. and at the same time, clannishness is a weakness.

and that quote about north caucasus social structures being perfect for basing insurgencies upon merits repeating:

“North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies.”

yup.
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dagestan is a mess, and the russians have had to invest heavily in security there. Russia’s Battle with Crime, Corruption and Terrorism (2008) [pgs. 163-165 – links added by me]:

“[T]he personnel strength of the law-enforcement and security task forces in Dagestan was amongst the highest nationwide. The Interior Ministry’s personnel in Dagestan totals 25,000, meaning there is one policeman for every 100 citizens — one of the highest concentrations of policemen in Russia. Dagestan is also the only Russian region that has a specialized department to fight religious extremism within the local branch of the Interior Ministry.

“Information about the number of security officers in the republic is not publically available, but judging by media reports about anti-terrorist and anti-extremist activities in Dagestan, one can presume that the local branch of the FSB is well equipped in terms of manpower and resources. Local agents are reinforced by investigative teams sent on missions from other regional branches of the FSB. The republic is also home to four military brigades and several untis of the Federal Border Guard Service, which are stationed at the borders with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the south and southwest of the republic….

“Dagestani law-enforcement officers are overwhelmingly recruited locally and are active participants in power struggles among local clans and ethnic groups. This circumstance may be a contributing factor in perpetuating the assassination campaign, as the strongest political players in Dagestan may not be interested in pursuing a consolidated campgaign against the attackers, but would prefer to exploit the assassinations for their own political benefit….”

this part might be relevant to the boston bombing:

“In September 1999, Dagestan became the first Russian region to enacts its own law designed to fight religious and other forms of extremism. The republic’s parliament passed the law, entitled ‘On Countering Wahhabism and Other Extremist Activity,’ shortly after Islamist militants led by Shamil Basayev invaded Dagestan from the territory of the then independent Chechnya….

“Dagestan’s anti-extremism law provided a pretext for massive crackdowns by the republic’s law-enforcement agencies on practicing Muslims, and these routinely ended with extortion and abuses. The law also allowed police to detain individuals on such charges as possession of ‘extremist’ literature. These and other actions by the authorities have obstructed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly in Dagestan.

“As attacks against government targets rose, law-enforcement gradually widened the scop of its crackdown to target Muslims who preached individually. This move backfired, with dozens of abused young Muslim men joining anti-goverment insurgent groups or creating their own….”

finally:

“[T]he right of citizens to equal access to the civil service cannot be realized in Dagestan, since existing legislation and tacit agreements among the republic’s elite have put control of state jobs firmly in the hands of local clans and even failed to ensure rotation of the representatives of ethnic groups in these posts as had been required by the previous version of Dagestan’s Constitution.

“These legal provisions served to keep several clans — dominating all three branches of power — at the helm in Dagestan, and these groups have a deep vested interest in preserving the status quo.”

clannishness is a weakness.
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dagestanis marry their cousins more regularly than chechens (chechens really do not, except perhaps for maternal third cousins). i’m not sure if this includes the avars or not. further research is required.

from Potentials of Disorder: Explaining Conflict and Stability in the Caucasus (2003) [pg. 120]:

“Evidence of the deep differences between Dagestanis and Chechens in the organisation of life is that among Dagestanis it is permissible and even encouraged for cousins to marry, whereas Chechens are still categorically opposed to marriages even with the same *teip*, i.e. between relatives through the father’s line, the unity of which can be traced deep into antiquity, over the distance of ten-fifteen generations; there cannot be marital relations as they are still considered ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.”

and from Cultures of the World: Dagestan [pgs. 70=71]:

“In most ethnic groups, people married inside their clan and, very often, they married their cousins….

“These traditions have gradually begun to change. More and more often, young people find partners of their own choosing, and marrying within one’s own ethnic group or clan has become less of a social or economic imperative. Although some people still prefer to subscribe to this once traditional pattern, inter-ethnic marriages are common in the republic’s cities. While Dagestani women usually marry men from other Dagestani ethnic groups, Dagestani men more and more often marry Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian women.”
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update: stealin’ this from anatoly — a tweet from the younger tsarnaev brother (notice the hashtags):

jahar tweet
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for more on the avars see One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups, pg. 67+.

see also: Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region

previously: those clannish chechens and random notes: 04/22/13

(note: comments do not require an email. avar guy.)

random notes: 04/22/13

the tsarnaev brothers’ mother is an avar from dagestan, not a chechen (their father is chechen [or is he? see below]):

“Hunt for Boston Clues Reveals Tanged Caucasus Web”

“… The brothers’ mother, Zubeidat, is an ethnic Avar, the predominant ethnic group in Dagestan, their father told The Wall Street Journal. Dagestan itself is inhabited by dozens of ethnicities and is home to mushrooming Salafist groups preaching the implementation of Sharia law in the republic.

“Having an Avar for a mother makes the brothers only half Chechen, but the fact that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan are still being labeled as fully Chechen in the international media only highlights how difficult it can be to get through the ethnic complexity of the North Caucasus. …”

not that knowing that someone is an avar makes anything clearer, since there are over a dozen (13? 15?) sub-ethnic groups amongst the avar of dagestan (no, i don’t understand any of it either!).

see also: Boston Marathon Bombings: Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Home
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the avars (and other peoples of dagestan) are clannish, too — from Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan [pgs. 1-3]:

“With its mountainous terrain making travel and communication difficult, Daghestan is still largely tribal and, unlike in most other parts of Russia, the population (2,576,531 in 2002) is rapidly growing. Despite over a century of Tsarist control followed by seventy years of repressive Soviet rule, there are still 32 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own language, and Avar is the most widely spoken with about 700,000 speakers. With so many indigenous ethnic groups, Daghestan is unquestionably the most complex of the Caucasian republics.

“In the lowlands can be found Turkic nomads: Kumyks, Noghays, and a few displaced Turkomans. In the northern highlands are the Avars, the Andis, Karatas, Chamalals, Bagwalals, Akhwakhs, Botlikhs, Godoberis, and Tindis. Still in the high valleys but going south toward the Georgian border are the Tsez (Dido), Gionukhs, Hunzibs, Khwarshis, and Bezhitas (Kapuchis). South of the Avar are the Laks, Dargwas, Kubachis, and Khaidaqs, all forming a related group of peoples. In one high village, standing apart from them, are the Archies, whose links lie further south with the so-called Lezgian peoples: the Aghuls, Tabasarans, and Rutuls. A few of the Lezgis and most of the Tsakhurs spill over into Azerbaijan in the south. Other Daghesantis who are restricted to northern Azerbaijan are the Kryz in one mountain village and three coastal ones, Buduks (one mountain village), Udis (two mountain villages), and Khinalugs (one mountain village). There is also a group called ‘Mountain Jews’ (Givrij or Dagchifut) who speak an Iranian language in Daghestan. They are sometimes called ‘Tats,’ but are not to be confused with the Muslim Tats further south on the Aspheron peninsula of Azerbaijan. In addition there are a few Daghestani Cossacks who are strongly assimilaed to indigenous patterns.

“Colarusso (1997) who compiled the above list, stresses that all thirty-two

“‘are distinct peoples, however small they may be, with their own languages, customs, costumes, arts, and architectures. Many are further subdivided by tribes, clans, and bloodlines. Conversely, most will traditionally form larger units for self-defence when threatened. This is particularly true of the smaller peoples of Daghestan. In ethnographic, social, and political terms the Caucasus is like a minature continent.’

“To give some idea of the problems caused by the linguistic mix, despite the fact that Dargi and Avar are spoken by people living side by side with each other they are in fact mutually incomprehensible languages (see Chenciner et al, 1997, p.9). Multilingualism is therefore virtually universal. Nearly everyone speaks Russian in addition to their own language, and many have some command of several neighbouring languages too….

Most of the ethnic groups ‘are subdivided into *tukhums*, or extended family clans, which traditionally did not intermarry and often fought long blood feuds. The *tukhum* managed the village affairs and laws. Today, the *tukhum* still functions as a unit, but to greatly varying degrees among different ethnic groups of the mountain land…. In the villages of Daghestan, the clans have their own tea houses in which their members gather.”

sounds familiar.
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i tried to find out which teip (clan) [tайп] the tsarnaev family belongs to, but didn’t have any luck. not being able to read either russian or chechen didn’t make the project any easier!

i did, however, find out what village and region in chechnya the father’s family is originally from:

“Boston accusations shock brothers’ Kyrgyz hometown”

“…their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya….”

here is chiri-yurt [Чири-Юрт], which is in the shalinsky district of the chechen republic. according to the russian wikipedia page for chiri-yurt [google translation]:

In 1944, after the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush, and the elimination of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic village of Chiri-Yurt was renamed Nadreche and populated by immigrants from neighboring Dagestan.[8] After the restoration of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, locality returned the former name of Chiri-Yurt.”

so … wait. does that mean that the chiri-yurtians (and, therefore, the tsarnaevs) are actually dagestanis and not chechens? i’m so confused….

also, an interesting tidbit from that haaretz article. recall that the tsarnaevs had been refugees in tokmok, kyrgyzstan:

“In Tokmok, the Tsarnaev clan alone inhabited a whole street before most of them moved back to their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya in the 1960s, residents said.”
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finally, some neat towers from chechnya! these aren’t tower houses built to protect clans during blood feuds. instead these are a part of some larger fortress (built 800-900 years ago? in the 800-900s?) guarding the argun gorge which is near chiri-yurt. i thought they were cool!:

Башни_в_Чечне
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previously: those clannish chechens

(note: comments do not require an email. avarian wolf symbol. woof!)

those clannish chechens

*update below*

of course the chechens are clannish. the entire caucasus region is clannish (via ed west)! via a tweet from mark weiner (links added by me):

“Russia: War Destroyed Chechnya’s Clan Structure (Part 1)”

“Moscow, 4 January 2002 (RFE/RL) — The Chechens of Russia’s North Caucasus region are a tight-knit society based on extended families, or clans, guided by a council of elders. These clans, which traditionally lived together in a single village, are called ‘taips.’ During Stalin’s infamous deportation of Chechens to Central Asia — and even now, as war and social unrest have forced thousands of Chechens to leave their home villages and scatter throughout the republic or abandon the region altogether — the links remain strong between members of a single taip.

“There are more than 150 taips in Chechnya, each with its own traditions and council of elders….

“Traditionally, taip members can recall the name of their original ancestor from whom the clan originates. They can also recite the names and details about the lives and deaths — often on the battlefield — of at least seven generations of male ancestors.

“Ian Chesnov is an anthropology professor at Russia’s State Humanitarian University in Moscow. He spent several years in Chechnya studying cultural traits. Chesnov says that according to Caucasus tradition, a member of a taip is never abandoned in time of trouble. To the contrary, a taip acts as a kind of family network that makes sure all members have the support they need….

“The taip forms the core of Chechen society — and, many Chechens believe, predetermines the characteristics and personalities of its members. The perceived link between clan and character type is so strong that taips are considered a key aspect of the region’s political life as well….

Chechnya’s taips fall into nine distinct ‘tukums,’ or tribes. Legend holds that all Chechens descend from an original family of nine brothers, a belief represented by the Chechen symbol, which depicts a wolf encircled by nine stars. Batuev describes the tukums’ function:

“‘The taips are organized in nine tukums. A tukum is a political-military union meant to function in cases of [outside] threats or aggression. [The tukums] used to unify all the [Chechen] nation and the taips.'”

A tukum has no leader and is composed of a loose group of clans who share a common ancestry….
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so, do the chechens inbreed/mate closely? according to the working theory around here, they ought to if they’re clannish (and they are). we should also be able to guess that the chechens have a history of inbreeding/close mating since they live in the mountains, and mountainous populations seem to have a tendency to inbreed (see also here) — like the auvergnats, for example.

from Mission in Chechnya (2002) [pg. 80] regarding some rules of the teips:

“4. Absolute marriage prohibition between members of one clan. This was the oldest rule. What caused such a prohibition? If those who are going to marry are in the same clan, they will not have numerous and healthy descendants — this is confirmed by the elders whose observation and life experience testified how negative the influence of close marriage was upon the descendants. The others assured them that the violation of exogamy would bring dangerous illness to those who were going to marry. Marriage prohibition inside a clan is not the consequence of a legislative act. Still, up to now the Chechens try to stick to this principle. Some clans taht took the way of exogamy violation (e.g. tsada khroevstsi) were shunned by the other clans. Why? Because a female relative of the father’s line is considered a sister of any member of the given clan. A blood relationship links with the Chechen people are so strong that they go through seven or eight generations. ‘Close’ or even ‘concerned’ relatives in the father’s line were not given the right either for marriage or for blood feud among themselves. Close relatives of the mother’s line, however, had the right for marriage and blood feud. It should be mentioned that the marriage inside the mother’s line for the first, second and the third generations was not recommended.

and from The Chechens: A Handbook (2005) [pg. 91]:

“Exogamy and endogamy

“To ensure the good health of their offspring, a prerequisite in the harsh mountainous environment, the Chechens tabooed not only close-relative marriage on both sides, but also interdicted association with any blood relative, which included all members of a clan. This meant that a man was constrained to seek his marriage partner from outside the clan, but from within the tribe: *taips* were strictly exogamous, whereas *tukhums* were endogamous entities. These traditional values are still adhered to even among city dwellers. Sources are not unanimous as to the prescribed degree of consanguineous removedness between potential marriage partners. It could be that there is no uniform rule espoused by all *tukhums*. However, at least three generations is the span of disconnectedness commonly agreed upon. Some *taips* of ‘foreign’ origin do not proscribe close kin marriages, this custom hinting at non-Caucasian or Daghestani origin.”

and from Ethnography and Folklore of the Georgia-Chechnya Border: Images, Customs, Myths & Folk Tales of the Peripheries (2008) [pg. 240]:

“Marriages within it are forbidden. The Kists and Ingush maintain this tradition strictly, though in Chechnya this tradition has changed under the influence of Islam. Previously, marriage to one’s third cousin was forbidden; now it is welcomed.

some mixed messages there, but the gist of it i think is:

– no marriage within the patrlineal clan — the teip
– you should, however, marry within the bigger tribe — the tukkhum
– you can marry maternal relatives, but probably not closer than third cousins — this cousin marriage ban is probably a holdover from when the chechens were christian [pg. 256]. in fact, third cousin marriages might even be preferred (this reminds me of the greeks).

all of this sounds almost exactly like the marriage systems amongst some of the populations in the balkans, especially amongst the albanians — i.e. avoiding paternal cousin marriage but allowing maternal (distant) cousin marriage. a bit of exogamy, but also a bit of endogamy.

size also matters. the smaller your population size, the smaller the gene pool is going to be and, so, the closer the mating ultimately — which is what matters here (i think).

there are 1,206,551 chechens in chechnya as of 2010 — let’s call it 1.2M. there are somewhere between 130 and 300 teips (patrlineal clans) in chechnya — let’s call it 215 (that’s right in the middle). that gives us ca. 5,580 individuals per teip.

there are nine tukkhums (the larger tribes) in chechnya. if we assume that there is the same number of teips in each tukkhum (which might not be the case), then that’s ca. 23-24 teips per tukkhum. 5,580 x 24 = 133,920 individuals in a tukkhum. how many of reproductive age (i never know this)? one quarter? one third? if it’s one quarter, you wind up with ca. 16,700 women you are allowed to marry if you’re a chechen guy. compare that to the millions you could marry in the u.s. — if you’re american.

so chechens are close breeders. they’re a small population that marries within an even smaller tribe and may even prefer maternal third cousin marriage.

it’s no wonder, then, that they still engage in blood feuds (just like the albanians). you’d half expect them to build tower houses for protection during clan disputes like the albanians or the maniots.

oh, wait.
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see also: Inside the deadly Russian region the Tsnarnaev family used to call home @foreign policy and Chechen asabiya and the Borat Brothers from steve sailer. *update* – and see also One Blessing Of Outbreeding from roissy.

previously: where do clans come from? and balkan endogamy and more on albanians

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