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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Kumuks

The Kumuks live in the Republic of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and North-Ossetia.
The Kumuks are divided into three traditional groups: The northern Kumuks (Khasavyurt dialect), the central Kumuks (Buynaksk dialect) and the southern Kumuks (Kaytak dialect).
Language: Kumuk (3 main dialects + more), mutually intelligible with Azeri/Azerbaijanian
Religion: Sunni-muslims, a few Shia Muslims
Diaspora: Azerbaijan

The Kumuks probably originated from a mixing of the indigenous Caucasus peoples with Turkic-speaking people, that started with the 5th c. migrations of Turkic and Mongolian people heading west across the steppes of Central Asia. Between the 11th and 13th c., the Kumuks strengthened their sense of ethnic identity and moved into the lowlands of the steppes in the North Caucasus. Under the Mongol pressure in the two following centuries, they converted to Sunni Islam. During the 15th and 16th c., the Kumuks established their own political entity, the Shamkhalat of Tarki, and within a century, they controlled many Avars and Dargins. Many individuals of other groups (Chechens, Avars, Dargin, Nogay) also adopted Kumuk as a second language. During the 17th c., the Kumuk ethnic identity was further strengthened in the face of ethnic Russian expansion into the Central Asian steppes, and intensifying power struggles in the region. The Kumuks turned to the Safavid dynasty of Persia for help, and during that period, a number of Kumuks - especially urban workers - converted to Shia Islam.
When Peter the Great occupied Derbent in 1722 and defeated the Safavid dynasty, it was the beginning of the end for Kumuk independence. Some autonomy was retained until 1859, when the Russians finally crushed the Shamil rebellion, and permanently brought the various ethnic groups of Dagestan under Russian sovereignty. The Kumuk Shamkhalat was formally ended in 1867. The Shamil rebellion also produced a division among the Kumuks, as the northern Kumuks fought against the Russians, the central Kumuks sided with the Russians, while the southern Kumuks remained neutral.
During the revolution in 1917 and the ensuing Civil War, many urban Kumuks supported the Bolsheviks.

The rate of urbanisation is high among the Kumuks, but still, they have maintained a strong sense of ethnic identity. The vast majority of them use Kumuk as their first language, and Kumuk is actually also being adopted by large numbers of individuals of neighboring groups, especially Dargins and Avars.
In 1990, a number of Kumuks founded Tenglik, or the Kumuk People's Movement, led by Salav Aliyev. Together with Azerbaijanis, Balkars and Nogay, they started promoting Pan-Turkic values.


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