The Tsakhur of Azerbaijan
Of the total 20,000 Tsakhur, roughly two- thirds (14,300) live in northern Azerbaijan. There, they enjoy a mild climate, fertile soil, and good communications. The remaining 5,700 live in the southwestern part of Daghestan, a harsh, mountainous area with limited communications. The Tsakhur call themselves Iiqhy, but are generally known by the name of their largest village, Tsakhur. From 1979 to 1989, their population grew by 48.8%.
Originally, the Tsakhur lived in Daghestan, but during the thirteenth century, some of them moved north into Azerbaijan. Throughout the years, they have fought for independence from the Turks and Persians. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, they looked to Russia for help and became part of the Russian Empire. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Tsakhur in Daghestan were exiled to Azerbaijan, but returned to their homeland nine years later. However, others chose to remain in Azerbaijan.
What are their lives like?
Traditionally, the Tsakhur of Azerbaijan were farmers, growing maize, barleycorn, wheat, rice, and millet. They also raised cattle, sheep, and domestic fowl. Their income was supplemented through gardening, producing silk, and growing tobacco. In Soviet times, the economy continued to develop, due to new technology.
The traditional Tsakhur diet consisted of meat, milk products, and grain, supplemented by fruits and vegetables. Alcoholic drinks and tea were added in the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, many traditional dishes are still prepared, and techniques for preserving fruits and vegetables and for making jams and pickles have improved.
The Tsakhur traditionally wove textiles from wool combined with silk threads. Other traditional crafts included the making of rugs, the knitting of woolen socks and footwear, and working in wood, leather, and metal. In Soviet times, knitting and rug making were maintained as crafts.
The Tsakhur formerly belonged to tukhums, or family clusters with common male ancestors. Even though the importance of tukhums is less today, it is still undesirable to marry a person from a less honored family. Young Tsakhur choose their own marriage partners but still rely on the help of matchmakers. Weddings last two to five days and involve all relatives and villagers. The Tsakhur live in nuclear families, which consist of the father, the mother, and their unmarried children.
In the 1930's, a Latin-based alphabet was introduced to the Tsakhur. However, this script was abandoned some years later, and the Tsakhur language was not used for writing for the remainder of the Soviet period. Azerbaijani has always served as the language of instruction, and today, most Tsakhur are fluent in it. Recently, the decision has been made to make Tsakhur a written language again.
What are their beliefs?
The Tsakhur are almost 100% Muslim. In the thirteenth century, the city of Tsakhur was one of the main centers of Islam in southern Daghestan. The mosques were the centers of religious life and were erected on the central square of the village. Mullahs (Muslim priests) served in the mosques and carried out various rituals. However, some ceremonies were related to pre-Islamic customs. These included performing the "rites of spring" (lighting bonfires and jumping through them), collecting of flowers, evoking the rain, and performing certain wedding rituals. Traces of animism were also preserved: belief in the special power of stones, trees, fire, water, and spirits. In case of sickness or disease, the Tsakhur traditionally sought the aid of local healers, diviners and sorcerers; used magic; and went on pilgrimages to holy places. Today, modern medicine is used, along with healing arts.
What are their needs?
The Tsakhur are in desperate need of a viable Christian witness among them. The overwhelming majority of them have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Prayer is the key to breaking down the strongholds that keep the Tsakhur in darkness.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to call missionaries to Azerbaijan to work among the Tsakhur.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Tsakhur.
- Pray that the Tsakhur will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Tsakhur towards the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to strengthen, protect, and embolden the few Tsakhur believers.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tsakhur bound.
- Ask God to raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Tsakhur.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Tsakhur by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Tsakhur
- Country: Azerbaijan
- Their language: Tsakhury (Mikik)
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 4
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 700 (5%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 13,600 (95%)
- Country: Azerbaijan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 6
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.