Kurds in Russia: where they live, religion, population, ethnic roots and history of appearance

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Kurds in Russia: where they live, religion, population, ethnic roots and history of appearance
Kurds in Russia: where they live, religion, population, ethnic roots and history of appearance

Kurds in Russia make up a historically significant part of the diaspora. They are closely connected with communities in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 2010, the census recorded a total of 63,818 ethnic Kurds living in Russia.


How many Kurds

At the beginning of the 19th century, the main goal of the Russian Empire was to ensure the neutrality of the Kurds in the wars against Persia and the Ottoman state. At the beginning of the 19th century, they settled in Transcaucasia. At this time, the territory was already included in the Russian Federation.

In the 20th century, the Kurds were persecuted and exterminated by the Turks and Persians, and this led to the fact that they moved to the Russian Transcaucasus. In 1804-1813, and then in 1826-1828, when the Russian Empire and the Persian Empire were at war, the authorities allowed these people to settle on the territory of the Russian Federation and Armenia. It was only during the Crimean War and the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) that Kurds began to move en masse. According to the 1897 census, 99,900 representatives of this ethnic group lived in the Russian Empire.


It turns out that the diaspora lives not only inRussia, the Kurds are also in their historical region, which today is divided between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The population is estimated at 35 million.

So, how many Kurds are there in Russia? A CIA handbook put the numbers at 12 million in Turkey, six in Iran, five to six in Iraq, and less than two in Syria. These all values ​​add up to almost 28 million in Kurdistan and surrounding areas. About 60 thousand people live in Russia today. Recent emigration has created a diaspora of about 1.5 million people, about half of which are in Germany. The question of how many Kurds live in Russia is quite relevant. Unfortunately, the number is decreasing every year.

A special case is the Kurdish population in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, displaced there mainly during the Russian Empire, which underwent independent development for more than a century, and independently developed an ethnic identity. The population of this group was estimated at 0.4 million in 1990.

The cooperation of the Kurds in the Russian Federation with the population of Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIS was widely covered by the Western media. Less well known, however, is the fact that Russia's relations with various groups date back nearly two centuries.

Spread across the mountainous borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the Kurds number about 30 million. Although they are united in the struggle for civil and political rights, they include various tribal affiliations and speakin different dialects. Most Kurds are Muslims (mostly Sunnis, but also Shiites). Some are adherents of the Yezidi faith, a religion that shares common elements with Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism.

Russia's southern expansion (from the 18th century) in search of secure borders and natural resources brought it into contact with various Kurdish tribes. Since then, Moscow has maintained a relationship with expansion both inside and outside. This story is an important part of Russia's relationship with the Middle East and highlights its unique position between Europe and Asia. Below are the 10 most significant moments in Russian-Kurdish relations from Pushkin to the Peshmerga.

The Poet and the Peacock

Kurdish culture

The Russian conquest of the Caucasus led to the emergence of several new ethnic groups in the tsarist state. There were many Yezidis among them - these are also the famous Kurds of Russia, who are called "peacock", thanks to Melek Taus. The angel bird is one of the central figures in their faith. While escorting the Russian military in the Turkish campaign of 1829, the poet Pushkin encountered a group of Yezidis in the army.

“About three hundred families live at the foot of Mount Ararat,” wrote Alexander Sergeevich in his “Journey to Arzrum”. They recognized the power of the Russian sovereign. From the Yezidi leader Hassan Agha, a tall monster, a man in a red tunic and black cap, Pushkin learned about the peculiarities of their faith. After exchanging this good news with the curious Yezidis, the poet was relieved to find that they were far from being the devil-worshippers they claimed to be.many.

Founder of Kurdish Science

The famous Russian Armenian writer Khachatur Abovyan made a huge contribution to the development of the ethnic group. He is the founder of Kurdistics. Educated in Derpt (modern Tartu, Estonia), at the invitation of Friedrich Parrot, he was the first Armenian author to write in his native ethnic language. Although Abovyan is a major national figure, his views were universal. Many famous Kurds in Russia were personally acquainted with the scientist.

Abovyan quickly became a "true friend" of the Yezidis. He wrote extensively about their lives and customs, although he erroneously claimed that their faith was a heretical offshoot of the Armenian Church. In 1844, the Hasanli Yazid leader Timur Agha was invited by Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, the new governor of Russian Transcaucasia, to a banquet with the leaders of the Kurdish and Turkish tribes in Tiflis. Returning to his community with a gift from Vorontsov, the leader arranged a feast and invited Abovyan to attend.

Red Kurdistan


After the Sovietization of the Caucasus, the Soviet authorities began to define national borders in accordance with the policy. In 1923, the Kurds of Azerbaijan, squeezed between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, received from Baku their own region with a center in Lachin. Officially known as Kurdistan County, it was not formally autonomous and the government of Soviet Azerbaijan did little to promote culture.

According to the 1926 census, there were about 70 thousand Kurds in Russia, although most of them spokeAzerbaijani and Tatar as their mother tongue. The uyezd was abolished in 1929, along with other Azerbaijani territories, but was partially re-established in 1930 as a Kurdistan region before being subdivided into districts. In the following decades, the Kurds of this region were assimilated into the Azerbaijani population, while other communities were deported to Central Asia under Stalin in 1937.

First Kurdish film

Dawn (1926) was filmed in the Soviet Union by the Armenian film studio Armenkino. The film is about a young Kurdish Yezidi girl and her love for Shepherd Saido on the eve of the Russian Revolution. Unfortunately for Zarya, they have to fight for their love against the dissolute bek (local nobility), the corrupt tsarist Russian bureaucracy, and the social patriarchy. The film was directed by Hamo Bek-Nazaryan, who worked during the era of the Soviet New Economic Policy (NEP), in which such an avant-garde director as Sergei Eisenstein grew up. Bek-Nazaryan praised the battleship Potemkin (1925), released a year earlier.

Bek-Nazaryan looked up to Eisenstein. He saw how Sergei used in one of his films not only actors, but also people who had not previously been associated with theater or cinema, but whose images corresponded to his artistic vision. Therefore, Bek-Nazaryan did the same in Zorya. The film remains a classic of Kurdish cinema.

Republic of Mahabad

The Second World War

In 1941, wartime British and Soviet allies invaded Iran to secure critical linessupplies. The leader Reza Shah, who harbored sympathies for the Axis powers, was deposed and his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was placed on the throne. Iran remained occupied throughout the war: the USSR occupied the northern half of the country, while Britain occupied the southern half.

At the end of the battle, Moscow refused to leave its zone of influence and began sponsoring breakaway republics in Iranian Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. The latter was founded by Mahabad in 1946. Kazi Mohammed was its president, and Mustafa Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish rebels from Iraq, was its minister of war. The euphoria of this republic was short-lived. Stalin withdrew his support after Moscow received oil concessions from the West. Subsequently, the Republic of Mahabad was defeated by Tehran.

Kurdish rebel in exile

After Tehran captured Mahabad, Mustafa Barzani and his followers fled north across the Aras River into Soviet Transcaucasia in June 1947. There they studied, and Barzani learned Russian fluently. Initially hosted by Soviet Azerbaijan, the leader was at odds with Jafar Baghirov, a close ally of Lavrenty Beria, who tried to control the minister and his followers. They were transferred by Moscow to Soviet Uzbekistan in 1948. However, the group did not escape the wrath of Bagirov and was scattered throughout the Soviet Union.

Reunited in 1951, their situation improved significantly after the death of Stalin and Beria in 1953. Barzani met with Nikita Khrushchev, who was reportedly impressed with the Kurdish leader, and sent him to the Military Academynamed after Frunze. Appreciating Moscow's help, Barzani returned to Iraq in 1958. The capital still maintains good relations with the leader's family, including the son of Massoud, the former president of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdish culture in the Soviet Union

Faith of the Kurds

USSR played a vital role in preserving the people. In the pursuit of mass literacy, Kurds and Yezidis in Soviet Armenia learned their language in three alphabets: first Armenian, then Latin, and finally Cyrillic. Armenia has become a major center for publications in this language, including the newspaper Riya Taze (New Path) and several children's books. The first Kurdish novel written by the Soviet Yezidi writer Ereb Shamilov was published in Yerevan in 1935.

Broadcasts in this language on the radio began in 1955 and had a great influence on the ethnic group outside the USSR. Kurds in neighboring countries, especially Turkey, embraced the Soviet broadcasts and were happy to hear their native language, which was brutally suppressed elsewhere. Radio broadcasts were crucial to the development of ethnic identity, and the Soviet Union's socialist message resonated strongly with many Kurds. The diaspora also proudly served the USSR in World War II.

Kurds and Yezidis in post-Soviet states

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the ethnic component of the region was divided among the newly independent countries of Eurasia. Today the Kurds in Russia are Muslim and mostly concentrated in the North Caucasus, especially in Krasnodar Krai. In Georgia they are concentrated inTbilisi. And post-Soviet Central Asia also has a significant Kurdish population.

The Yazidis are the largest ethnic minority in Armenia and are located in different provinces, in particular, in Armavir, Aragatsotn and Ararat. Many fought alongside the Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Divided by identity, some post-Soviet Yezidis see themselves as a subgroup of Kurds, while others see their people as a distinct ethnic group. The largest Yazidi temple in the world is currently under construction in Armenia. This nation also has representation in Georgia, the parliaments of the countries accepted refugees fleeing ISIL persecution.

Syrian Kurds and Russia against ISIS

Kurds in Russia

After Turkey shot down a Sukhoi-24 aircraft over the Turkish-Syrian border, Moscow strengthened its relations with representatives of these communities in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. She maintained these ties even as relations with Ankara improved. Allies of both Washington and Moscow, the Syrian Kurds have managed to unite the two powers against ISIS.

However, as the Syrian Civil War draws to a close, new questions have arisen regarding the post-war world. Damascus announced its readiness to transfer power to the Syrian Kurds through political autonomy. However, they preferred a federal system for Syria based on direct democratic representation. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for the convening of an all-Syrian peace congress with all ethnic and religious groups.

Russia andindependence referendum

On September 25, 2017, the Kurds of Iraq held a meeting on political sovereignty from Baghdad, which was supported by 92.3% of the population. The result prompted an angry response from the central government, assisted by Turkey and Iran. Tensions culminated in Baghdad's capture of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. At this point, many of Russia's we althy Kurds who had businesses in the area were in an unstable position.

Moscow was restrained in its reaction to the referendum. While she respected the national aspirations of the Kurds, she also encouraged dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad. Notably, Russia was the only major power that did not call on the Iraqi diasporas to cancel the referendum. In addition to Moscow's historic ties to the Barzani clan, it is a major sponsor of Kurdish gas and oil deals. Russia stressed that cooperation in the energy sector remains unchanged. On October 18, Rosneft signed an agreement with Iraqi Kurdistan, reaffirming its commitment to the region.

Self designation today

Most Kurds, according to various sources from 10 to 12 million, live in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia were cut off for a significant period of time, and their development in Russia and then in the Soviet Union was somewhat different. In this light, it is rather difficult to give an answer to the question of where the Kurds live in Russia, they can be considered an independent ethnic group. It is also worth mentioning that such a name is officially used only in the former countries of the USSR, inIn Turkey they are called Turkish highlanders, and in Iran they are called Persian.

I wonder if Kurds live in Russia, where else do they live? In Transcaucasia, they live in enclaves, among the main population. In Armenia, in the Aparan, Talin and Echmiadzin regions and in settlements in eight other regions. In Azerbaijan, mainly in the west, in the regions of Laki, Kelbajar, Kubatly and Zangelan. In Georgia, the Kurds settled in the cities and in the eastern part. Some live in the republics of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Their oldest habitat is in the south of Turkmenistan along the Iranian border, many of them also live in Ashgabat, in the city and region of Mary. Thus, Kurds live anywhere in Russia.

Mode of existence

Nomadic or semi-nomadic life was the norm until the establishment of Soviet power in 1920. Each tribe had its own grazing paths: in the spring to the mountain ranges, in the fall again down. The famous Kurds of Russia, in those days, were excellent shepherds.

The land was cultivated in the valleys and the plains. At times, some Kurds gave up their nomadic life and settled in villages as farmers. Usually the pastures belonged to the state and the people had to pay rent. Often the lands were in long-term private lease, for example, in the hands of Russian generals, who also collected the land tax. The archaic tribal system and way of life was preserved the longest by the nomads, who ardently supported the old customs. The Yezidis were especially conservative. Nomadic shepherds kept the Kurdish tent in a black cover for a long time. In winter and inIn permanent settlements, farmers lived, like other ethnic groups, in traditional dugouts or even in caves dug into the mountain slopes. A little later, low clay and stone houses were built, in which the premises were under the same roof as a cowshed and a stable. It was common for Kurds not to have a walled-up yard. They also did not have gardens, as the Yazidi faith forbade the cultivation of vegetables.

Now Kurds live in settlements. Some distinguishing features still remain. In the Ararat valley, Kurdish houses differ from the buildings of local residents in the absence of a terrace and a wine press. An unusual feature of modern women is their exclusive attachment to the national costume in the Caucasus, as well as in Central Asia. The clothes of Muslims and Yezidis are somewhat different. Kurdish women love bright, contrasting colors, while the white shirt is a Yazidi trademark. Men abandoned traditional clothing in the middle of the 20th century. And also the faith of the Kurds in Russia influences the traditions. It is difficult to say what they have, since a lot depends on the territory of residence.


Number of Kurds

Status varies by location. The nationalist movement is strongest in Russia, where the Kurds have always been protected.

The problems of the diaspora were relevant in Georgia as well; and cultural activities were aimed at ending the isolation of the Yezidis. In 1926, a cultural and educational society was opened in Batumi. In Azerbaijan, the nationalists managed to create Kurdistan in 1920, and inIn 1930, he covered five pastures.

Today, relations between the Kurds and Russia remain friendly.

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