Avars - Settlements



Avar settlements (Koroda, Urada, Mekhelta, and so forth) consisted in essence of a single complex building, about which the architects wrote that "the concept of separate ownership, of the integrity and unity of a building is not seen here; an entire quarter—perhaps even the whole aul (mountain village)—may consist of a single building, in the sense of an unbroken, continuous structure" (Baklanov 1924, 258). Another scholar wrote: "Nowhere as in Avaria does the density of houses reach such concentration, where the streets and thoroughfares run like tunnels, sometimes at two levels below the houses, and the densely-packed houses form one great, indivisible amalgamation" (Movchan 1972, 130). The compactness of building was dictated by the necessities of agricultural economy and of defense. A settlement would consist of several quarters, each of which also had its places for public gathering (godekan) and worship. The division into quarters was also administrative: participation in communal work and the election of commune leaders was organized by quarters. The houses were most often built in tiers, which is why the settlements had a terraced form. In many settlements the agricultural and livestock accommodations were placed around the edge of the village as separate quarters. In the alpine zones the settlements were not so large (thirty to fifty houses) and rather free in their layout. The traditional dwelling had several floors, a quadrangular shape, and a flat roof; the lower floors were used for economic purposes, and deep-set porches faced south. Since the 1960s the traditional form of the settlements has tended toward this spread-out, "free" type, and the flat roofs of the houses have been replaced by slanting ones made of slate and iron. In some places towerlike houses were preserved until the middle of the twentieth century.

In architecture the Gidatlin Valley was significantly set off by a local culture of fortresslike living complexes with hall-like quarters (up to 80 square meters of space for each room). A central pillar ( tlolbol hubi, "the pillar of kinship") was carved in the form of a mighty oak with its top shaped like the crown of the tree. The pillar was adorned with carved ornaments and solar symbols and was revered as holy. In front of the pillar was situated the open hearth, where a fire was always burning. The layout and adornment of the interior of the home symbolized the might and longevity of clan values. The hall-like living quarters of Gidatl were preserved until the 1860s. There were other local architectural styles as well in Avaria (e.g., the places of worship). Construction materials were stone and wood. The contemporary settlement and its dwellings are convenient, but from the architectural point of view they manifest an evident degradation in the culture of spatial organization.


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