Tindi (small)


Isolation. The highways that feed into the great cities are themselves fed by lesser byways, they in turn by paths and tracks that eventually find terminus in places that are literally ends of the earth.

Moriz von Dechy (1851-1917), Hungarian-born mountaineer and explorer, followed some of these lesser tracks in several expeditions through the Caucasus mountains of extreme southeastern Europe. He took this photograph of the village of Tindi, Dagestan, in the 1890s.

The people of this village descend from Avar tribes that settled the general area in the 4th and 5th century AD. Plentiful rainfall supports an agricultural economy based on husbanded animals, goats and sheep, and irrigated terrace farming.

Off the beaten path, these people speak their own language, named Tindi after their main settlement, the subject of von Dechy's photograph. "Tindi", however, is not a word in their language; rather it is the place name used by lowland Avars in the Avar language. Tindis call their village Idari. Their language is Idarab mitstsi, "language of the Idar village". There is no written Tindi. Avar is used when writing is required – any local sign proclaiming the existence of Idari would read "Tindi". An estimated 5,000 people speak Tindi.

Tiny, isolated, a very end of the earth, Tindi has ridden the ebb and flow of regional domination. In their turn Arabs, Mongols, the Ottoman empire, imperial and then soviet Russia have nominally controlled the area. Islam is the dominant religion and mystic Sufi sects are common in Dagestan. There is some Christian influence in Tindi coming from Georgia to the west where Christianity dates back to the 4th century.

friday, 17 nov 2006