Udis - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Up to the 1930s the base of the Udi economy was agriculture (wheat, barley, rice, millet) and viticulture (long-stem vines). Animal husbandry was not as significant, but each household had its cattle, a few sheep, and poultry (chickens, turkeys). In Vartashen many engaged in silk production and the spinning of silk thread, for which a silk-spinning shop was constructed at that village. Orchards are maintained in Udi villages (pears, apples, plums, cherries, and apricots) along with vegetable gardens (cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, beans). The Udis in Georgia preserve the tradition of raising maize and barley, viticulture (short-stem vines), and sericulture. The cocoons are turned over to the government, which processes them at the silk factory in Telavi (eastern Georgia). Upon their arrival in Georgia the Udis engaged in rice production, but this turned out to be unprofitable in their new surroundings and was discontinued.

Clothing. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Udis wore apparel similar to that of Karabagh Armenians. The undergarments consisted of a shirt ( gurat ) and trousers; the overgarments were, for men, a chokha (frock) and an arkhalug (shirt). The chokha had a low neckline, and was worn over the tightly buttoned high-collared arkhalug. Across the breast of the chokha was affixed a row of cartridge holders. Originally these served to hold spare ammunition, but subsequently they took on a merely decorative function. The arkhalug was cinched with a leather belt decorated with silver adornments. Crude raw-leather shoes were worn with knitted stockings; the well-to-do had footwear of softened leather. The male headdress was a conical sheep's-wool papakha. Women's apparel included wide, long trousers, an even wider skirt, above which was worn a knee-length arkhalug gathered at the waist, with long sleeves (slit open their entire length). The woman's arkhalug was worn with a wide silver belt with a heavy buckle; less wealthy women wore a belt ( kushtuk ) made of fabric. Below the arkhalug hung an apron that could be tied up almost to the armpits. On feast days the well-to-do wore short-sleeved velvet coats adorned with fur and leather shoes with low heels. The Udi woman's headdress was a complex affair, formed from several kerchiefs, held with a silver chain across the forehead, to which silver coins were attached; strips of fabric were tied on by the temples, adorned as well with coins. Married women covered the lower part of their face with a kerchief ( yashmag ). In the nineteenth century it was common for girls and boys to daub henna on their hands as a sort of cosmetic. The fabrics used to make Udi garments were homespun calico, velvet, and silk; girls and young women wore bright hues (especially red), whereas elderly women and men preferred darker shades. In the 1920s Western urban apparel began to supplant traditional Udi dress, with some exceptions. Men continued to wear tunics, riding breeches, and peaked caps; women always wore kerchiefs on their heads, but the wide silver kushtuk was reserved as festival apparel. Elderly men would wear the chokha and papakha and for a long time women continued to conceal the lower part of their faces, usually with a kerchief. Most of these dress styles have disappeared by now, in favor of Western apparel.

Food. Udi cuisine is based on agricultural products such as bread, beans, rice, walnuts, fruits, berries, vegetables, and greens. Bread ( shum ) is made from wheat flour ( urum ) and baked in a tome. Pilaf is an important component of the diet, and several varieties are eaten. Chainakhup is prepared from rice, beans ( pakhla ), raisins, persimmons, and chestnuts; the pilaf pakhlimkhup consists of rice and beans with walnuts. Rice is also eaten with sour milk. Roasted and cooked chestnuts are popular; the Udis produce them for sale to buyers from Baku and Tbilisi. Walnuts and walnut oil are important components of the cuisine. Many dishes consist of vegetables (pumpkin, cabbage, eggplant); cucumbers and tomatoes were pickled. Beans are also part of the Udi diet: aside from being used in pilaf dishes, they are eaten fried with butter and eggs, made into porridge or soup, or wrapped in cabbage leaves. The diet is supplemented by wild greens, fruits, and berries (along with raspberries, cornel berries, and blackberries from the gardens). A soup is prepared from nettles and sorrels, or they may be stuffed into khinkals (dough pouches, which are then boiled); sorrels are also eaten raw. Among the dairy foods are fermented milk, cream, sour cream, and butter. Eggs are made into omelettes. Meat is not part of the everyday diet, being reserved for holidays and festivals; it is obligatory when entertaining guests. A soup (similar to Georgian chikhirtma ) is made from chicken bouillon, egg yolks, wine vinegar, and herbs. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with meat. Beef, mutton, chicken, and turkey may be served in a variety of ways (cooked, roasted, or as shish kebab). Roosters, which are specially fed with boiled millet, are stuffed with rice and roasted in the fireplace. Chicken or turkey meat may be added to pilaf. Among the seafood dishes are salmon, lobster, lamprey, and stellate sturgeon ( sevruga ) cut into pieces and roasted on a spit. Lampreys traditionally were brought in by camel caravans from Evalkha, Azerbaijan, where they are fished from the Kura River. Lamprey fat is used as fuel in oil lamps. Honey ( uchch' ) is used in making halvah. Beverages are produced from berries and herbs and vodka from grapes ( t'ul ), pears, apples, cornel berries, and mulberries. Those Udis who settled in Georgia have adopted Georgian dishes, such as khach'ap'uri (cheese bread) and satsivi (chicken or turkey with walnut sauce).

Industrial Arts. In the workshops in Azerbaijan Udis manufacture tiles and clay vessels. Some of the inhabitants of Oktomberi (Georgia) work as seasonal laborers. Some Udis hire out as migrant construction workers in neighboring regions of Caucasia.

Trade. The Udis traditionally traded in tiles, bricks, earthenware, chestnuts, walnuts, rice, wheat, and cheese.

Division of Labor. Historically, labor was apportioned according to gender and age. Men worked in agriculture, animal husbandry, construction, the manufacture of tiles and bricks, and woodworking. Women were responsible for housekeeping and child rearing; in addition they tended to gardens and orchards and to the production of silk, rice, and dairy products.

Land Tenure. Both private and communal landownership was known. Arable land and rice fields, pastures, and forests were communal property. Gardens and orchards were privately owned. Communal land was, as a rule, divided among households before sowing began by a person specially appointed for that role by the community. With collectivization in the 1930s came the system of kolkhozy, which appropriated arable land, pastures, and forests. Collective farmers retained ownership of small individual plots.

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