Introduction / History
The Darginian, or Dargwa as they call themselves, are a large ethnic group in Daghestan, formerly one of the autonomous Soviet republics in the northern Caucasus, but now a part of Russia. The Darginians have inhabited the foothill, mountain, and alpine zones on the western shore of the Caspian Sea for many centuries. During the Soviet era, some Darginians moved to the lowlands, where they became engaged in agriculture and industry.
The history of the Darginians is one of struggle, being constantly conquered over the course of centuries; first by the Huns, then by the Turks, the Mongols, the Persians, and in the 19th century, by the Russians. Suffering both social and colonial oppression, the Darginians were among the most active peoples to frequently protest in speeches and rebellions against Russian power.
What are their lives like?
Modern Darginians live in nuclear families, with two generations living under one roof. A set of families make up a tukhum, a group of related families who trace their descent through a common male ancestor. Marriage within the tukhum is common, and the ideal age of marriage is 17 for women and 25 for men.
Traditionally, the Darginians relied mostly on stock breeding as their livelihood, but today, agriculture is the main source of income. Living in such different zones as the foothills and mountain zones, the practices and techniques of cultivation vary between the lowland and the highland farmers.
The lowland farmers mainly produce wheat, whereas the highland farmers rely on barley, rye, maize, and legumes. Agricultural labor is done by men in the lowlands and by women in the highlands. The lowland farmers use metal plows on large fields; whereas, the highland farmers work with more primitive tools on smaller areas.
The Darginian staples are grain, dairy products, meat, vegetables, fruits, greens, and berries. During the Soviet rule, Russian and European dishes became more popular, and the use of canned and commercially prepared foods increased.
The most developed crafts of the Darginians are wool products, metal items, and wood works. Leather, pottery, and tapestries are also important products. The Darginians are especially known for their expertise in making weapons.
What are their beliefs?
Daghestan, along with the Chechen-Ingush Republic, is one of the strongest bastions of conservative Islam in the former Soviet Union. Since the 11th century, Islam has been the predominant religion of the Darginians. Despite past attempts by Soviet authorities to discourage religious practices by closing mosques and Islamic schools, and forbidding religious publications, the influence of Islam has remained strong and is even increasing. The countryside is scattered with tombs and shrines of Muslim holy men, which serve as destinations for pilgrimages and places of prayer.
The Islamic practices of the Darginians are strongly syncretic; that is, it is mixed with a substantial heritage of pre-Islamic traditional beliefs. The agricultural calendar, ceremonies, and household and family rites reflect many of these influences.
Before modern medical services were introduced in the late 19th century, Darginian medicine was a combination of folk and Eastern medicine, with the khakim, or folk healers, being relied upon for the curing of various sicknesses and diseases.
What are their needs?
With the increasing popularity of Islam and the growing power of Muslim politicians, thousands of mosques and hundreds of Islamic schools have been re-opened in the Muslim territories that are still part of the Russian Federation. The Darginians need to encounter Christians who will show them the love of Jesus in practical ways.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth willing workers to the Darginians of Russia.
* Pray that God will strengthen, encourage, and protect the very small number of Darginian believers.
* Ask God to raise faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Darginians.
* Pray that the Jesus film will be available to the Darginians.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Darginian church to the glory of His name!