Khinalughs - Orientation

Identification and Location. The Khinalughs live in the remote village of Khinalugh (also called Khïnalïk) in the Kuba District of the Azerbaijan Republic. Located in a mountainous area more than 2,300 meters in elevation in the eastern spur of the Great Caucasus chain, above the river Kudial-chay, Khinalugh is surrounded by mountain peaks (including Shakhdag and Trfan) that separate it from neighboring villages inhabited by Azerbaijanis, Lezgins, and Kryz (a small ethnic community speaking a language of the Lezgin group). The climate in Khinalugh, in comparison with that in lowland villages, is by no means harsh: the winters are sunny and snow seldom falls.

Demography. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the population claiming Khinalugh nationality has been steadily decreasing as a result of their assimilation by the Azerbaijanis. The Khinalugh population was 2,300 in 1859 and 1,400 in 1926, of which only 105 described themselves as Khinalughs. The rest were listed in the census as "Turks" speaking Khinalugh as their native language. In addition, some Khinalughs considered themselves Azerbaijanis. Since that time the Khinalughs have not been counted separately in the Soviet censuses. In the early 1950s about 800 Khinalughs dwelt in the village; however, many others had resettled in villages in the lowland parts of the Kuba, Kutkashen, and Ismail regions of Azerbaijan.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Khinalugh language belongs to the Daghestanian Group of the Northeast Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) Language Family. Some linguists (e.g., R. M. Shaumian) associate it with the Lezgin Language Group; others (e.g., A. N. Genko) consider it to be closer to the Udi language; yet others (e.g., Yu. D. Desheriev) regard Khinalugh as a descendant of an ancient group of Caucasian languages, within which it occupies a distinct place. The language is not written; throughout the Soviet period the Khinalughs used the Azerbaijani language for writing and also for communication with their neighbors in Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan. Russian is taught in the schools from the first grade, but the only Khinalughs who know it well are those who have served in the army or gone elsewhere for work (especially to the petroleum plants in Baku).

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