Kubachins - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The religion of the Kubachins is Sunni Islam, which they accepted toward the end of the thirteenth century. Evidence from medieval authors (e.g., Masudi, tenth century A.D. ) and local legends testifies to the spread of Christianity to a certain degree (and, before that, of Zoroastrianism) among the Kubachins before the advent of Islam. Despite the supremacy of Islam, the Kubachins retain residues of ancient pagan beliefs; these are manifested in rituals for invoking the sun and the rain, reverence for sacred trees, cults of the eagle and various animals, magical rituals for curing from the evil eye, and the wearing of amulets and talismans of diverse sorts.

Religious Practitioners. The religious leaders were the mullahs and Quranic judges. Sometimes a mullah would fulfill the function of a Quranic judge. Until the Revolution their jurisdiction included the examination and judgment of civil cases and cases involving religious matters (marriage, divorce, division of property, wills and testaments, supervision of ecclesiastical laws, and so forth).

Ceremonies. The Kubachins celebrate the Islamic holidays of Uraza-bairam, Kubam-bairam, New Year (lunar), and the Day of Spring. The deeply traditional mass festival of "Going to the Waters to Avoid the Evil Eye" is celebrated annually at the beginning of May and accompanied by processions, music, dances, rejoicing, and the picking of flowers. A series of ceremonies related to the survival of the cult of fertility, the ritual of games with wooden eggs, the Holiday of the Flowers, and so forth, concludes the cycle of the Union of Unmarried Men.

Arts. Kubachi folk art is represented by industrial crafts and also by choreography, music, and folklore. Members of the Men's Club performed intricate ritual dances to the accompaniment of music—the drum and zuma (clarinet) —during the cycle of the installation of the Union of Unmarried Men and at weddings. Kubachi folklore, typologically close to the folklore of the Dargins, has its distinctive aspects, related to the basic productive activities: crafting arms and jewelry.


Medicine. The folk medicine of the Kubachins of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was based on methods of healing that had been developed over the centuries, together with sorcery. Its greatest effectiveness was in the healing of wounds, broken bones, and dislocations. Wild nuts and berries were widely used in folk medicine. Local healers were familiar with the medical treatises of Oriental countries written in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, which were copied and translated into their native language. Sorcery was based on magical techniques and ceremonies involving spells and incantations; it was used to cure people and animals affected by the the evil eye. Today a district hosital with qualified doctors and other medical personnel is operating in Kubachi. Among the better-known Kubachi physicians is Prof. I. A. Shamov, laureate of the State Prize of the USSR and Prorector of the Daghestan Medical Institute.


Death and Afterlife. Death is perceived as predestined by the will of Allah. The Kubachins believe in the oneness of God, a life after death, a day of judgment, the immortality of the soul, angels, hell, and heaven, and they revere the prophet Mohammed. Funeral rituals are carried out in Islamic form. Forty days after the death requiem prayers are read on the grave of the deceased. Lavish memorial services are conducted on that day and after a year has passed.

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