Tabasarans - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The economy is based on agriculture and horticulture (wheat, rye, millet, buckwheat, German wheat, maize, peas and beans, melons and other gourds) and also viticulture and animal husbandry. In the foothills heavy livestock (cows, bulls, steers) was kept in nearby pastures and stalls, whereas sheep were pastured in the more distant mountains and upper foothills. In the past the Tabasarans also cultivated madder, flax, and cotton. The main grain-raising zones are the flatlands and the foothills. Artificial irrigation is used. The main implements for plowing in the past were the light mountain plow in the highlands and a heavier type in the lowlands. With the technology accompanying the Soviet collectivized economy, new forms of cultivation were appropriated and the acreage devoted to horticulture and viticulture was increased.

Clothing. The traditional male attire was generic Caucasian: shirt, pants, quilted coat, cherkeska (collarless Circassian coat), felt cloak, sheepskin coat and cap, footwear of leather with cloth or felt gaiters, knitted woolen socks, soft leather shoes, and heelless slippers with wooden soles. As adornments men wore belts with buckles, pendants, disks, a dagger, and a cartridge belt. The traditional female attire consisted of a tuniclike dress, pantaloons, a headdress and kerchiefs, a belt with a silver buckle, a pendant on the breast made of silver coins, a pendant on the forehead, and an apron decorated with coins, rings, earrings, and bracelets. Adornment to the dress included silver clasps, pendants, coins, and small disks. Footwear consisted of leather Caucasian slippers and woolen socks with floral designs. Children's clothing was of the same type as that of adults. The traditional costume, almost supplanted by contemporary clothing, is partly maintained among the women as domestic attire—shirt, wide pantaloons, kerchiefs for the head, woolen socks, and some adornments. Light blue, green, and red are preferred colors for clothing. Old men still wear the traditional headgear, and the felt cloak is still part of the professional attire of shepherds.

Food. The basis of the traditional Tabasaran diet was grains, beans, wild herbs, meat, and milk. The basic daily dishes were dumplings ( khinkals ), with or without meat and with a dressing of sour milk with garlic and ground nuts. They also prepared pies stuffed with herbs; curds; rice boiled in milk; minced meat; stuffings of tripe, eggs, and milk; and pancakes. Meat was eaten roasted or boiled. They prepared ravioli, pilaf, and porridge (of grains and flour). Many dishes used poultry meat. Milk products included fresh and sour milk, curds, sour cream, butter, and cheese. Both leavened and unleavened breads were made. The Tabasarans ate vegetables, greens, fruits (both orchard-grown and wild), and sweets. The basic beverage was airan (made from buttermilk). Some mildly alcoholic beverages were known ( buza and ukhrag ). Festival dishes included halvah, mutton roasted on a spit, chicken pie, a dish made of dried sheep's feet ( quyir ), ground wheat, peas, and aluga (a porridge made of flour from oven-ripened wheat). The cuisine today is also distinguished by the variety of milk, meat, grain, and vegetable dishes and fruit and vegetable preserves (jams, pickles, compotes, marinades).

Industrial Arts. The traditional trades were rug weaving (the known centers were Khuchni, Arkit, Tinit, and Ersi); woodworking (the centers were Khurik, Khanat, and Juli); pottery (in Juli); weaving of wool, flax, and cotton; embroidery (of socks, for example); carving of wood and stone; smithing; wool preparation; felt making; and tanning. In the villages of Marega, Karchag, and Nichras, saltpeter and sulfur were extracted. Many Tabasarans worked as migrant laborers in the Derbent region. The following arts and crafts are still practiced: production of rugs (napped and unnapped), embroidery of socks, and fashioning wooden utensils. In Soviet times the artisans united into cooperative associations (factories, corporations).

Trade. The Tabasarans have internal and external trade relations that were established long ago. Trading operations were completed on fixed market ( bazar ) days in major settlements such as Khuchni, Khiv, Kondik, and Tinit. Livestock bazaars were held in the fall in Tinit, Tatil, and Rukel. Being the immediate neighbors of Derbent, the Tabasarans early on were drawn into external trade relations with other peoples of Daghestan, Transcaucasia, and the Near East. After the unification with Russia, trade with central Russia was established and, in some cases, strengthened. Trade was primarily by barter; a strictly established unit of exchange did not exist. The products of animal husbandry and agriculture, pottery, woodwork, rugs, wool, and fruits were traded. Madder also was part of the system of exchange.

Division of Labor. The division of labor in the family was gender-based. The heavy work (plowing, seeding, irrigation, the repair of agricultural equipment and of irrigation systems) was carried out by experienced men. Women worked in grain agriculture, harvesting, gardening, tending cattle, processing dairy products, weaving, knitting, and the like. Young people assisted the adults and did heavy work that did not require a great deal of skill. Children did what they could to help their parents. If, in the presence of their children, the parents did work inappropriate for someone of their advanced years, public opinion would censure the children.

Land Tenure. In traditional Tabasaran society, many forms of landownership—feudal, peasant-private, communal, and ecclesiastical—prevailed; the feudal pattern was formerly predominant. After the establishment of Soviet power and the nationalization of the land, all the peasants received land. Powerful collective and state farms were established. The collective-farm system made it possible to carry out improvements and convert empty expanses of land into fertile ones.

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