Tribes and Dialects
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The Didos live in Dagestan, on the upper reaches of the Andi-Koisu river. The largest villages (Kidero, Gudatl, Azilta, Shaitl, Kituri, Asakh, Retlob, Shapikh, Hupri, Sagada, Mitluda and Tsibari) are situated in the Tsunta District of Dagestan. Some families have settled in the lowland villages of Dagestan.
Information on the Dido population is incomplete and vague. Only the census of 1926 recorded the Dido as a separate people. In all other cases they have been recorded as Avars. The following data is collected from academic literature and the accounts of expeditions.
The figures show that the population has doubled, a situation unique amongst all other cases of Ando-Dido peoples. It may be that the 1926 census data is not complete. On the other hand, the rise in the Dido population could have been caused by the assimilation of some smaller ethnic groups belonging to the Dido group of languages.
Anthropologically the Didos are of the Caucasian type of the Balkano-Caucasian race, with some observable characteristics of the Caspian type: the mountain region of Dagestan forms the borderline between these two anthropological types. In the case of the Caucasian type there is a predominance of people with fair skin, light eyes and an abundant growth of hair.
The cultural development of the Didos follows the general characteristics of Dagestan culture. The only cultural element that differentiates them from the other Ando-Dido ethnic groups is the language, all other components vary only in details. However, the Georgian and Kakhetian influences on the culture of the Didos are stronger than those of any other Dagestan ethnic group.
The origin of the Didos has been a matter of academic dispute for a number of years and there are several hypotheses and no common consent. In the 1960s and 1970s there were attempts to explain the ethnic variety of Dagestan through its traditional territorial isolation. However, in the case of the Ando-Dido this explanation does not fit. In the river basin of the Andi-Koisu, there is no isolation between the neighbouring ethnic groups. In the 1980s M. Aglarov suggested that the ethnic variety of this region is a result of a polystructural political system, which, because of its small independent political units (free community, association of communities), stable society and fixed borders, favoured linguistic factionalizing.
Religion. The Didos are Muslims (Sunnite). Alongside Islam, brought into Dagestan in the 8th century by Arabs, during the 9th--11th centuries Christianity began to spread supported by the rulers of Georgia and Kakhetia. Military campaigns led by Timur (the end of the 16th century) helped to counter Christianity's spread and advance Islam considerably. By the 17th century Islam had become the official religion. Previous to both Islam and Christianity the Didos had held pagan beliefs. Elements of pagan customs have survived to the present day.
History. The territory of the Dido was, for the most part, ruled by the Avar (Serir) rulers. According to some Georgian sources the southwestern part of this territory was also a part of Georgia and Kakhetia previous to the 11th century. The first records of an independent Dido political unit, a free community, that was nominally dependent on the Avar Khanate, date from the 15th century. Close economic and political ties connected the Dido with other Ando-Dido communities and they also enjoyed good relations with the Tush and Bats living in Kakhetia. The consolidation of Islam in the 18th century resulted in a series of religious wars with the Christians of Georgia.
Dido society was structured as a patriarchal-feudal society where life was directed by adat (common law) and shariah (Islamic law). In spite of the differences in individual wealth, the classical forms of feudalism did not develop in Dido society. The assembly of a community (rukken) led by a council of elders (dzhamat) constituted the highest authority in the community. Executive and court organs were elected.
In 1806 the Dido territories were united with Russia through the central authority started to influence local life only in the 1870s following administrative reform. As a result of this there was growth in the local economy (the development of monetary relations, connections between the Dagestan and Russian markets).
The economy of the Didos was determined by their environment. The abundance of pastureland, and conversely the shortage of arable land, meant that seasonal livestock rearing was the most profitable occupation. The Didos reared mainly sheep, and to a lesser extent, cattle and horses. Although the use of terrace fields increased the yield of the available land, still, some grain had to be bought from the lowland villages. In the course of centuries the Ando-Dido peoples living in the Andi-Koisu basin developed a well functioning system of economic integration.
Early in the 20th century the Dido became caught up in several nationalist and religious movements. Concurrently the notions of Dagestan separatism and Pan-Islam were spreading throughout the region. The Dido themselves had no separatist intentions. At the height of political instability, 1917--20, the mountains of Dagestan became a stronghold of the Dagestan nationalist movement. For four years the Didos fought for the independence of Dagestan. In 1920 they were finally defeated by the Bolshevist forces. With the help of the Red Army, Soviet power was established in Dagestan. At first the new power was evident only in towns and larger villages; in the mountains the old ways of life continued. A national resistance movement remained active until the 1930s, instigating two uprisings (the first in the autumn of 1920 and the second in the spring of 1930). The nationalist movement was finally and efficiently liquidated during the process of collectivization that occurred in the mid-1930s. Following World War II the suppression of the mountain people continued albeit by more subtle means. Brute force was no longer applied, instead the offices of suppression were the Soviet educational system and Soviet cultural policy.
The anti-nationalist policy of the Soviet power found expression in the following activities:
As a result of this consciously destructive policy, the mother tongue of the Dido retreated and was replaced by the language of the Avar. The elements of Dagestan culture in Dido society are weakening. A European style has become widespread in clothing, household appliances, technology and architecture. Younger generations are losing contact with the old ethnic culture and traditions. Soviet customs are gaining in popularity. The number of mixed marriages has increased, and more people have begun to migrate to the plains and industrial centres.