UDINS. (A HISTORICAL-ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY)
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
, spoke their own language and remained a trace in history of their historical
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
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
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
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
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.
For Russian click here.
 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.