Introduction / History
The Andi, or Qwannab, as they refer to themselves, are one of the many indigenous peoples of the former USSR. They live in western Daghestan, with the Chechen as their closest neighbors to the northwest. The Andi language, also called Andi, is a Northeast Caucasian language consisting of seven dialects. Each of the dialects has its own distinguishing phonetic features.
Numbering only about 10,000, the Andi are strongly dominated by the Avar, a larger people group located farther south. The Avar control the main communication and trade routes for Daghestan's mountainous regions and central plateau areas.
Until the 1930's, the Andi were officially considered a distinct ethnic group with their own language. However, during the 1930's, the Andi, like many other small people groups in the North Caucasus region, have been classified by the Soviet government as part of the Avar.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Andi have farms where they raise livestock. They are also well known for working with gold and other metals. About half the Andi have immigrated to Daghestan's lowlands, where they have taken jobs on collective (community) farms or in factories.
The Andi wear typical European styles. The traditional woman's costume, however, is quite unique. The most notable part of this costume is the chukhtu, an embroidered headdress in the form of a half-moon, with the ends pointing downward. The chukhtu was worn regularly until the 1930's; now it is only worn for ceremonial occasions.
The traditional Andi settlements consisted of tightly packed buildings located on mountain ridges. Each village had a territory that was reserved for its own use. The boundaries around the villages were clearly marked and respected. Each village was divided into quarters, with a central square and a mosque that was used for religious services every Friday.
The homes of well-to-do Andi are typically built with separate guest rooms. The interior of a traditional home includes a central column and a large fireplace decorated with clay ornaments. Domestic utensils are stored on shelves and niches on the walls.
The Andi traditionally married at the age of 15 or older. Marriages were monogamous (one husband, one wife), although polygamy (having more than one spouse) was permitted. "Matchmakers" mediated the wedding arrangements, but no bride-price had to be paid. Wedding ceremonies could last up to three days and were sometimes accompanied by horse-racing competitions.
What are their beliefs?
The Andi adopted Islam in the 1300's. There are indications that the Muslim faith replaced some sort of Christianity that had been mixed with ancient religious beliefs.
With the growing popularity of Islam in the Russian Federation, Muslim influence is increasing among the Andi. Thousands of mosques and hundreds of Islamic schools have re-opened in Russia's Muslim regions. Today, practically all of the Andi are Shafiite Muslims.
Prior to their conversion to Islam, the Andi regularly visited a cultic center on the peak of one of the mountains. This cult declined after the spread of Islam, but did not entirely disappear. Even now, in times of summer drought, men and women ascend the mountain to perform rainmaking rituals.
Even today, the spiritual life of the Andi includes various elements of superstition. According to popular belief, each person has an invisible doppelgänger (a ghostly counterpart of a living person). The Andi believe that the events in people's lives are thought to be a repetition of what has happened to their doubles.
What are their needs?
They have not yet been focused on by any missions agencies, and no Christian broadcasts are currently being aired in their language. Prayer is the first step toward reaching the Andi with the Gospel of Christ.
* Ask the Lord to supernaturally call Christians who will go to live and work among the Andi of Russia.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Andi so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will increase the very small number of Andi believers.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Andi church to the glory of His name!