Kurds - Settlements

Their difficult historical fortunes notwithstanding, the Kurds of the former Soviet Union have staunchly preserved their traditional customs, a material and intellectual culture having common roots with that of the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. This is manifested in economic and cultural forms, the typology of settlements and habitations, national costume, carpet making, cuisine, the observance of religious rituals, and folklore.

Among the Kurds of Armenia, patronymic and kin-tribal settlements existed up to the 1930s and 1940s, which attests to the long retention of traditional family structures. The majority of Azerbaijani Kurds seem not to have retained a memory of their clan and tribal backgrounds; this is reflected in the settlement patterns of Kurdish villages in Azerbaijan. A village was usually founded near a spring. Public buildings did not exist in the villages. Some Muslim villages had a religious school ( mekteb ); among the Yezidis, the children of well-off parents studied at the homes of the sheikhs. Kurdish villages had no mosques for Muslim Kurds or prayer houses for Yezidi Kurds. In Azerbaijan the Kurds prayed in the Azerbaijani mosques; in Armenia, where Yezidi Kurds predominated, the religious functions of the village were celebrated in the house of the sheikh. The villages had no markets or market squares; Kurds went to Armenian or Azerbaijani villages to buy or sell produce and the products of home industry. Kurdish graveyards were located near the village. Kurds in Armenia had patronymic graveyards; those in Azerbaijan had nonpatronymic graveyards alongside Azerbaijano-Kurdish graveyards. In the 1920s to the 1930s the Kurdish village gradually changed. In the republics of Transcaucasia new villages began to be created for those who had adopted a sedentary form of life. The Soviet state rendered material assistance to Kurdish peasants in the construction of new settlements. In the major Kurdish towns, particularly in Armenia, new dwellings, farms, and mills were erected. The new towns had sociocultural and economic centers with village soviets, schools, and reading rooms. The results of this process were especially evident in the Kurdish villages of Armenia in the 1950s to the 1980s.

The change in the external appearance of the Transcaucasian Kurdish villages is connected with a change in the way of life and the dwelling place. Until the beginning of the twentieth century the basic types of habitation were the tent ( kon, chadïr, reshmal ) for the nomadic and seminomadic population, and the winter dwelling ( mal, khani ), an underground or half-underground mud hut for the seminomadic and sedentary population. The Kurdish homestead was a single, horizontally oriented complex consisting of an underground or half-underground hut, stable, sheepfold, and storeroom (in some parts of Azerbaijan, the oreintation was vertical). The main construction material was unfinished brick, unpolished stone, or sometimes tufa (in Armenia). Houses in the plains had flat roofs, those in the mountains cupola-shaped roofs with an aperture ( kolek ) in the ceiling for light and smoke. The ceiling beams rested on wooden columns ( stun ). A hearth ( tandur ) in the earthen floor was used to heat the home, bake bread, prepare food, and enact ritual ceremonies. The hearth has a sacred place in the life of the Kurds.

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