Village In The Sky: Visiting A Lezgin Family (Part 3)

The final part of the travelling to Kurush.

Village In The Sky: Visiting A Lezgin Family (Part 3)

A Lezgin family in Kurush invited me to stay overnight, and we enjoyed a trditional Caucasian meal.

When I came back, Efendi’s family greeted me with a feast. Under the yellow light, we gathered around a low table and sat on a carpet. The big iron plate was filled with Dagestan's traditional dish, Khinkal (Хинкал). Khinkal consists of pieces of unleavened dough made from wheat or corn flour, cooked in broth or water. It’s served on the table with boiled beef or lamb and garlic sauce, mixed with sour cream, kefir, or tomato. The taste was wild, rustic, and delicious, .

Efendi was about twenty-eight years old. He was tall, dark-skinned, with a beard, and his eyes were like burning torches. He is a devout Muslim and strictly observes the precepts during Ramadan. That was his first meal at that day.

- When I told my Russian friends that I was coming to Dagestan, they said I was crazy, I told him.

- They look down on us and say we are terrorists and treat us as second-class citizens, he replied.

The Caucasus-Russian conflicts began with the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the eighteenth century. The location of Caucasus was decisive. It lied between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and choked Europe's throat to the Middle East and Central Asia. In modern times, the Caucasus was constantly pulled by three powers, including Russia, Ottoman Turkey and Persia. After a century of resistance, the Caucasus fell into Russia's hands in the second half of the nineteenth century, but armed resistance never stopped. Even in the Soviet Union, the situation in the Caucasus was not completely stable. At the time of Dissolution of the Soviet Union, the conflicts among Caucasian nations broke out, and terrorist organizations also started to grow here. The two Chechen wars became a nightmare for the Russians. After the war, the rebels in Chechnya launched a series of bloody terrorist attacks in Russia. The mountainous areas of Dagestan have long been the hideout of terrorists. The terrorist attacks still happened until a few years ago. Even though the local situation has cooled a lot in recent years, years of conflict have made the Russians  fear of Dagestan.

Terrorists and separatists may be annihilated, but it is not easy to let go of the hatred among nations.

Most of the time, they don't think we are Russians, but when Khabib Nurmagomedov became famous all over the world, they turned out to call him “hero of Russia”. - Efendi looked unhappy, and his tone was obviously a bit higher.

The next morning, the Efendi's family went to work in a field on a mountain not far away. In mid-May, it is time to plant potatoes. It is the only crop that can grow in this badland.

I followed the path up the mountains. Shepherds were met some times. Some lambs that were left behind stopped on the road and yelled. In spite of the bright sunshine, the strong winds on the mountain made me shiver. Several huge rocks lay on the mountainside. I stopped there to rest. This trail stretched all the way up to the Shalbuzdag mountain (гора Шалбуздаг), which is a sacred place for Muslims in the Caucasus. The locals believe that the Prophet Sulayman (Сулейман) in the Quran, also known as King Solomon in the Bible, was buried on the summit of Shalbuzdag. In summer, there would be an endless stream of Muslim pilgrims and mountaineers to climb to the top. In the south, there were Mt. Bazardyuzyu (Базардюзю), Lagdan (Рагдан), and Charundag (Чарундаг ) The shapes of these mountains were strikingly similar. They line up to the west like a row of soldiers. These mountains are in the East of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, defending Russia's southern territories, and were used to be the front lines against Persia. Their peaks were covered with thick white snow, which was dazzling in the sun. In the east was the thrilling Yarudag Peak. Some snow was still left on its steep cliffs. From this perspective, the entire mountain peak looked like a shining rock crown.

All of a sudden, about eight steeds from nowhere came past me, and disappeared without a trace within ten seconds, as if they rushed from the sky, strayed into the world for ten seconds, and then ran back to the sky.

I echoed Lermontov's verse in my heart:

"Caucasus! Distant country!

Home of simple Freedom"

(Кавказ! далекая страна! Жилище вольности простой!)

Text by
Po Hsien Liu