Tabasaran in Turkmenistan

Photo Source:  Anonymous 
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People Name: Tabasaran
Country: Turkmenistan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 600
World Population: 154,300
Primary Language: Tabasaran
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Caucasus
Affinity Bloc: Eurasian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Tabasarans are a small ethnic group originating in Russia’s western Daghestan region in the Caucasus Mountains. Most still live in that region of Russia, but a small number live in Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Tabasaran people are often considered "the most hospitable of all Dagestani people." This claim might be argued by other Dagestani cultures, because once you are inside any Dagestani village culture hospitality functions at an amazingly high level. But for this new family, living among the Tabasarans as new 'friends of the Tabasaran people,' the Tabasaran assertion was hard to argue with in the midst of experiencing the remarkable and truly pleasant features of hospitality in the Tabasaran culture. Other salient features of ancient Tabasaran culture were also evident: respect to the elderly, mutual aid in daily life through the seven-generation 'tookhoom' structure, local artisanry such as carpet-making and Tabasaran music, the 'godekan'—the male collective decision-making body at the center of each village, societal care for the sick and the poor, and warm responsiveness to all weddings and funerals. Not all was easy, however, in Tabasaran culture. Male drunkenness has reached alarmingly high levels since the introduction of Russian vodka in the late 1800s. Lack of historical sources of grace, either in the culture or in Islam (which came to Tabasaran in the 8th Century), results in a noticeable harshness at many levels of society—both in the home and in the school. Fear and shame are widely felt as controlling forces of traditional conformity. Cycles of vengeance and violence beset the region, along with fierce power struggles—capped by the omnipresent corrupt bribery demands, emanating from those in power. This striking combination of factors yields the following observation, "The Tabasaran culture, like other mountain Dagestani cultures, has many outstanding cultural historical strengths; but also a tragic deficit of grace, forgiveness and agape love. Due to this redemptive deficit, in recent years even many of the historic strengths have been getting progressively dimmer due to the devastating effects of sin." But, for the Tabasarans, new hope is springing forth. In 1997 the first Tabasaran-speaking person came to Jesus. This was followed by dozens more in the decade following, both in village regions and in urban regions of Dagestan. There are now more than 100 Tabasaran believers—including in some regions outside of Dagestan. The New Testament has been published in Tabasaran (2010), and translation work is underway in the Old Testament. Two thrilling Tabasaran Christian music recordings, in authentic Tabasaran style, have also widely circulated through the culture. In the midst of the fierce Muslim tensions of Dagestan, loving relationships—coupled with widespread prayer—hold the hope for further redemptive impact into the Tabasaran world.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Tabasaran people are Sunni Muslims who believe that the One, Supreme God, Allah, spoke through his prophet, Mohammed, and taught mankind how to live a righteous life through the Koran and the Hadith. To live a righteous life, you must utter the Shahada (a statement of faith), pray five times a day facing Mecca, fast from sunup to sundown during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca if you have the means. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, slandering, and making idols. They gather for corporate prayer on Friday afternoons at a mosque, their place of worship. The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. In most of the Muslim world, people depend on the spirit world for their daily needs since they regard Allah as too distant. Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well we live in our daily lives. For that reason, they must appease the spirits. The often use charms and amulets to help them with spiritual forces.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Tabasaran believers to shine as bright lights in the midst of the Tabasaran world. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in the lives of many Tabasarans in Turkmenistan who have already heard the gospel—that they will have courage to respond. Pray for accurate work on the remainder of the Tabasaran Bible translation. Pray for men and women of peace in each one of the Tabasaran towns/villages, to be keys to welcoming the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit into each Tabasaran community in the years ahead.

Text Source:   Joshua Project