The modern Udins, having called themselves "Udi", descendants of ancient Utiis — one of 26 Albanian tribes, each of them occupying a definite historical region in Azerbaijan[1] , spoke their own language and remained a trace in history of their historical morherland.

The Udins relate to ancestors of the modern Azerbaijanian Turkic-speaking people and are known only in their history and on their native land. The Udinian language is reckoned among the Caucasian family of languages and like the Udins themselves, has nothing in common with the Armenian language: neither from the historical and ethnical point of view nor by culture or somehow else.

The first reliable information about the Udins has appeared 2.500 years ago. The ancient authors like Herodot (Vc. B. C.), Strabon (Ic. B. C.), Ptholeme (He. A. D.), the Roman author Plini the Eldest (Ic. A. D.) wrote about them. The most detafiled reports about the Udins and other Albann tribes are contained in the book "History of Albans" by the indigenous author Moses the Utii (VHIc.) who was an Udin by birth.

The Udins (Utiis) occupied in the past the historical region Uti, which included lands between the Caspian Sea and the Main Caucasus ridge: on the left bank and on the right bank of Kura, up to the river of Alazan.

The Udine were among the creators of the Albanian Kingdom (IIc. B. C. — VIIc. A. D.) which included the Northern Azerbaijan (the Caucasian Albania), the Southern Dagestan (including Derbend) adjoining lands of Georgia (Kakheti/Ereti) and Zangezur (now a part of Armenia). Some experts believe that the official language of the Albanian Kingdom was the Old Udinian language. Since the official religion of the state became Christianity in the next century there had apperared the Albanian alphabet, the Bible and other original and foreign literature in translation. Albanian writers and his­torians, jurists and poets, rhetoricians and philosop­hers became well known. Now we know such works as "Aguen Canons" (Vc. A. D.), "History of Albans" by Moses the Utii (VIIIc.), "Weeping for the Grand Duke Gardman Javanshir's Death" - an elegy by Davdak (VIIIc.), "The Albanian Chronicle" and "The Code of Law" by Mhitar Gosh (XIIc.), "History" by Kirakos Gandzak (XIIIc.), "Canons" by David Gandzak (XIIIc.). Albanian epigraphical monuments are also well known in Azerbaijan and Dagestan.

Afer the Arabian conquest of Azerbaijan in the VIIc. the most part of the indigenous population, including the Udins, adopted Islam. But another part of them kept adherence to their former belief and that is why they became included, as the Arabian Caliph had willed it, into the Armenian Gregorian Church. Though the Albanian Catholicos and his office kept functioning the process of de - ethnization and armenization of the Udins-Christians began.

As a result on the territory of the Highland Karabakh they had entirely lost their own language and culture and transformed into the confessional Armenians. On the territory of Kutkashen-Vartashen (now Gabala-Oguz) the Udins could retain their originality and mother tongue up to our days though they were subject to the Armenian Church's influence, unlike the parf of them who migrated from Vartashen to Georgia and adopted Orthodoxy. It was the year of 1836 that became a culmination in the destiny of the Udins - Christians, when the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian govern­ment decreed to liquidate the altar and the office of the Albanian Catholicos.

During the process of the century-old formation of the Azerbaijanian people, particularly after the spreading of Islam and one of the Turkic languages in Azerbaijan, the autochthonal tribes had merged to become one ethnos, i. e. the Azerbaijani. But the Udins-Christians have preserved themselves up to now as a small ethnos with its own language, material and spiritual culture. In the XIXth century, as it was earlier, they were known only in Azerbaijan, where they lived in compact mass in the villages of Nidge and Vartashen, Vardanly and Mirzabeily, Sultan-Nukha and Kirzan, Jourlu and Malykh, Engikend and some others. Having preserved their own distinctive features the Udins-Christians were none the less subject to the great influence of the Azerbaijanian Muslim Turkic-speaking people: in language and in mode of life, in culture and traditions, in clothes and rites, in food and customs.

The most reliable data on the number of the Udins dates from the last third of the XIXth century: in 1880 there were 10 thousand of them in the Russian Empire. At the end of the century there were 8 thousand of them in all, 5 thousand of them living in Nidge and 3 thousand more in Vartashen, i. e. all of the Udins lived in Azerbaijan. In 1910 their number was fixed to be 5.900. According to the general census of the population in 1897 there were 4 thousand of them, in 1926-2.500, in 1959-3.700, in 1979-7 thousand. Such a large difference in numbers in years is most likely explained by the fact that the Udins as well as other small ethnoses were registered not in accordance with the ethnical belonging but by other parameters: a) depending on the aim pursued by the authorities or an advance of the de-ethnization policy; b) either by a confessional belonging or by a residence, by a language dominated in either locality or by the one announced as a native tongue; c) either by a language of education or by one of intercourse. Such "customs" characterized any general census of the population both the Russian and the All-Union ones, as well as "the national policy" in individual republics of the USSR: by such a way the number of a dominated nation was overstated. Nevertheless following such "customs" was a result of simplification in national construction as well as a consequence of the great-power method of approach to small ethnoses both in the centre and in localities

By 1989 there were 8.652 of the Udins in all. In Azerbaijan there were 6.125 of them. in Russia - 1.102, in Georgia - 793 (though according to official data) - in Kazakhstan - 366, in Ukraine - 109, in Uzbekistan- 46, in Turkmenistan - 32, in Tadzhikistan - 31, in Moldavia - 16, in Byelorussia - 15, in Latvia - 15, in Kirgizia - 2. All of them came from Azerbaijan, and it is here where the overwhelming majority of the Udins have resided until now. There are several reasons for that: 1) they belong to the indigenous ethnoses of the land; 2) it is here where their historical motherland and roots are; 3) there is nowhere more in the world not only the Udinian community but also a compact settling of this small ethnos; that is why the Udins cannot join anyone else in a new place neither from the point of view of a language and a way of life, nor from the point of view of culture and ethnopsychology; 4) in Azerbaijan they were less than other small ethnoses subject to de-ethnization and assimilation.

Now the Udins live in compact mass in the village of Nidge (4.465 persons), and a few of them in Oguz (100 persons). As for other villages they left them in this century owing to different circumstances of both peaceful and non-peaceful nature.

The main part of the Udins in Nidge and Oguz are peasants-cultivators. There are also workers employed at local enterprises, school teachers, local authority workers among them. In Nidge there are 131 teachers, 2 physicians, 12 workers of culture, 10 educators in kindergartens who are the Udins by birth. We haven't got such statistical data concerning Oguz and Baku though we know the names of scientists and higher educational institution instruc­tors working in the capital of the Azerbaijan Republic who came from the Udish villages; the Udins work also in Russia, Tadzhikistan and Georgia.

In Nidge there are 2 kindergartens for 150 children, a hospital and 4 libraries with the book stock comprising 29.500 books in Azerbaijani and Russian, a palace of culture and 3 cinema clubs, 2 sport clubs and a house for everyday repairs and other services, 2 bath-houses and 2 post offices, an automatic telephone station for 700 telephone numbers and 5 dining-rooms, 5 schools and as many again shops.

All of the Udins master Azerbaijani, some of them know also Russian. Instruction is given in both of these languages. Azerbaijani exerted great influence upon the Udinian lexics, and in its turn it was influenced by the Udinian language. The distinctive features in culture and everyday life of the Udins apply to the sphere of the traditional working activity connected with cultivation, they were kept also in ceremonial rites and customs, in food and clothes.

In 1992 The President of the Azerbaijan Republic issued the decree "On the defence of rights and freedoms, the state support to development of languages and culture of national minorities, not numerous peoples and ethnical groups living in the Azerbaijan Republic". That is the first state document of the kind in the post-Soviet period of being of former Soviet republics. It needs to be noted as well that living in particular academic institute for study of national relations has recently been created. Among departments of the institute there is also a subdivision for study of small ethnoses living in the republic. The Consultative Council was especially created in the apparatus of the Azerbaijan Republic President. Every ethnical community living in the republic has got its own public organizations engaged in all the cultural and educational problems of their ethnoses who are more than 20 in number in Azerbaijan (it means small ethnoses living in compact mass).

The public organization for the Udins named "Orayin" ("Spring") is preoccupied with all the problems ensuing from the above-mentioned decree of the Azerbaijan Republic President: it promotes the preservation and the development of the mother tongue and its originality; it prepares for publication and publishes literature and school supplies; it populatizes history and culture of the Udins as a component of those of the Azerbaijani; it maintains contacts with the Udins living beyond the borders of their historical motherland as well as with the Udinian public organization "Spring" in Sverdlovsk which its own newspaper under the same name in Russian dealing with questions of the past and the present of this small ethnos. In Azerbaijan school supplies in the Udinian language have been prepared which is taught at primary classes of schools in Nidge for its native indigenes; collections of the Udinian folklore as well as stories by the sole at the present time Udinian writer Yasha Udin living in Saratov will also be published.

Much is made for preservation of the Udins, one of the oldest ethnoses-autochthon in Azerbaijan who have kept up to our days themselves and one of the ancient local languages, spiritual and material culture of the people being among the oldest inhabitants in the Transcaucasia and the Caucasus on the whole. They have kept for our contemporaries and genera­tions to come a fraction of the past of the Azerbaijanian ethnos constituting an irreplaceable part of the mankind.

Proceeding from the above-stated we suggest on the base of the village of Nidge to create a museum in the open air as it is customary in the civilized world; to reconstruct one of the local temples of the Albanian period so that the Udins-Christians could perform their religious requirements. In this connec­tion it should be raised a question on nullifying from the very outset the decision taken by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government to liquidate the Albanian Catholicosate. It would allow to revive the Albanian independent church dating from the IVth century.


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[1] Historical Azerbaijan, regardless of the modern state borders, is meant. That is more than 320 thousand square km inhabited by 30 m of the Azerbaijani. After the conquest of Azerbaijan and its partition between Russia and Iran in the beginning of the XIXth c. there had appeared two Azerbaijans: the Northern one - as a part of Russia and the Southern one as a part of Iran, with all ensuing consequences both for the country and its indigenous population.

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