in Russian — https://miaban.ru/info/armenia/udiny-6-11-2020/
Researcher of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Dr. Ph. in History (Caucasian Studie)
UDIS. BRIEF REFERENCE
Tramslation from Russian by Miaban.ru.
Udis – Udi people, self-name is «udi».
Udis live compactly in the northern part of the modern Republic of Azerbaijan (on the left bank of the Kura river) — in the village of Nidzh Kutkashensky (now Gabala) region and in the regional center Vartashen (now Oguz), as well as in Georgia, in the village of Zinobiani (formerly Oktomberi), Kvarelsky region (these are immigrants from Vartashen, from where part of the Udi-Diophysites fled to Georgia in 1922). Udis also live dispersedly in Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, etc. Their total number is about 10,000. The anthroponymics of the Udis (first names, surnames, patronymics), followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church (hereinafter referred to as the AAC), until recently was mostly identical to the Armenian one. The Udi language belongs to the Lezgin group of the Nakh-Dagestan family of North Caucasian languages. It has two dialects — Nidzh and Vartashen (Vartashen-Octomberian). The degree of their discrepancy does not hinder mutual understanding.
In the 1990s a Georgian-Albanian (Caucasian Albania is meant) palimpsest was discovered in the monastery of St. Catherine on the Sinai Peninsula by an expedition of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia, headed by a Caucasian scholar Zaza Aleksidze. After its deciphering by European linguists on the basis of the Udi language (2008), the opinion was finally established in historical science that from ancient times to the developed Middle Ages, the Udis can be considered the dominant people (at first — a tribe) of the Caucasian Albanian kingdom with capitals in the cities of Kabala and Shaki.
An analysis of multilingual ancient and medieval sources shows that the process of the Udi ethno-consolidation among the multi-tribal Lezgi-speaking meta-ethnic group of Caucasian Albanians of the early Middle Ages ended in the western half of the left bank of the Kura river approximately in the 9th century, during the era of the weakening of the Arab Caliphate. This part of the left-bank Caucasian Albania in the indicated period (by the 9th-10th centuries) also began to be called the «Country of the Udis» (like the historian Iovannes Draskhanakerttsi), and the ethnonym «Udi» became the self-name (endoethnonym) of the ethno-consolidated Albanians-Christians on the left bank of the Kura river. Undoubtedly, the Udi people should be recognized as the direct heir to the culture of the Lezgin-speaking tribes of proper Albania (on the left bank of the Kura), of which, according to the ancient geographer Strabo, there were 26.
For the Udi people, who have always been brotherly to Armenian people, the Christian religion has become an ethnic marker. Christianity in Caucasian Albania was officially adopted under the Albanian king Vachagan I the Brave, the founder of the Arshakid dynasty of a still multi-tribal country on the left bank of the Kura river with its capital in Kabal (Kapalak), who was baptized in Armenia by Grigor the Illuminator in 315. He also received from Grigor the first bishop his country Thomas /Θωμά/. At the same time, the Albanian Church was formed, which was in canonical unity with the Armenian Apostolic Church and in some dependence on it: the AAC had the status of “the first among equals” in relation to the Albanian Church (and until the beginning of the 7th century — to the Iberian Church). Like the AAC, the Albanian Church did not recognize the IV Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, confessing pre-Chalcedonian (Apostolic) Christianity. The first bishops of Albania sat in the capital of the kingdom of Kabal, and after 462 the Catholicos of Albania settled in the city of Chor (Derbent), which was the first center of the Albania-Aran marzpanate (governorship) created by the Sassanids. In the 6th century the residence of the Catholicoi, who since 552 bore the title of «Catholicos of Albania, Lifinia and Chora», was moved from Chor to the new capital of the region, the city of Partav. It was already located on the ethnically Armenian right bank of the Kura (after the 9th century, the right bank monasteries in Berdakur, Khamshi, Charek and Gandzak also became residences). The right-bank Armenian provinces of Utik and Artsakh, also called the Eastern regions of Armenia, were incorporated by the Sassanids into the Albanian marzpanate after 428, when the Shahanshah of Iran Bahram V Gur abolished the kingdom of the Armenian Arshakids and created the marzpanate of Armenia, annexing its outlying provinces to the neighboring marzpanate. After the Armenian dioceses of Utik and Artsakh entered the jurisdiction of the Albanian Church, the Albanian and Armenian languages were used as the official languages of worship and written communication. But the Albanian script, created by the Armenian archimandrite Mesrop Mashtots and the Albanian priest Beniamin at the beginning of the 5th century (after the creation of the Armenian alphabet and in parallel with the creation of the Georgian script), ceased to be used several centuries later, and Armenian language remained the only written-literary language for the entire Christian population of the former Albanian region, and for the ethno-consolidated Udis on the left bank of the Kura.
The primates of the Albanian Church were ordained by Armenian Catholicoi, who from the 7th century bore the title of patriarch. At the end of the 14th century Albanian Catholicos settled in the Gandzasar monastery in central Artsakh — Khachen, and the Albanian Catholicosate also began to be called Gandzasar. In the XV century the anti-throne Catholicosate arose and functioned for more than 100 years in the left-bank (i.e., probably Udi) Chalet (from the end of the 17th to the 19th century, another anti-throne Catholicosate functioned in the north of Khachen, in the Yeritsmankants Monastery — of Three Youths). The Gandzasar Catholicosate continued to traditionally bear the name «Albanian», but it had no ethnic content and was purely anachronistic. The Catholicosate itself actually functioned as the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, just as the Catholicosates of Akhtamar and Cilicia functioned. Despite the inextricable cultural and linguistic link between the northern and southern parts of the Albanian region and the church dioceses, the displacement of the ethnically proper Albanian-Udi population to the right-bank ethnically Armenian regions was minimal. In the middle of the 18th century, tens of thousands of Udis on the left bank of the Kura (about 50 villages) were forcibly converted to Islam and forever lost their national identity.
The Albanian Catholicosate, centered on the right bank of the Kura river, formally existed until December 1815, when the Armenian Catholicos Efrem Dzoragehtsi, with the consent of the Russian authorities, transformed it into the Aluan-Gandzasar Metropolitanate of the AAC (Echmiadzin throne), in order to increase the political weight of the Armenian Church against the background of the confrontation between the Russian Empire and Persia for domination in the South Caucasus region. On March 11, 1836, Emperor Nicholas I signed a special “Statute on the Armenian Gregorian Church”, according to which, instead of the Aluan Metropolitanate, two AAC dioceses were formed — Karabakh (on the right bank of the Kura) and Shemakha (on the left bank).
A significant part of the Udi believers until recently (1988-1990) were parishioners of the AAC. As at the beginning of the 20th century also immediately after the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in the Azerbaijani SSR at the end of the 19th century, along with a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, also began an exodus of the indigenous Udi population. And this was a clear example in the action of the vaunted «tolerance» and «multiculturalism» of Azerbaijan. If in the 18th century there were about 100,000 ethnic Udis in their historical homeland in more than 50 villages, then at the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before the massacre of 1918-1920, there were about 10,000 Udis, and by 1926 there were already only 2.445. If at the end of the 1980s the number of Udis in Azerbaijan was 6,120, then according to the official statistics of the 1990s, it dropped sharply to 3,800. In the city of Vartashen, the number of Udis fell from 3,000 in 1988 to 74 in 2009.
In the context of the Karabakh conflict, the activity of the AAC in Azerbaijan is impossible, and those few Udis followers of the AAC who still remain there (mainly in the village of Nidzh) found themselves in a virtual “vacuum” on the issue of religion. At the same time, the country’s leadership shamelessly uses Udis in a propaganda war against Armenia and Artsakh, presenting them in the eyes of the world community as the only «owner» of the historical and cultural heritage of both Albania proper and the Eastern regions of Armenia — Utik and Artsakh, as well as allegedly as «victims of Armenian intrigues». The process of establishing the so-called «Udi Church» was also launched, which, in turn, became a prologue to the restoration of the «Albanian Church of Azerbaijan». The Azerbaijani leadership believes that as a full-fledged «legal successor» of the Albanian Church, the «Udi Church» project has the right to declare its claims to all the property of the latter: it is not only church property, books and churches in Artsakh and Utik, but also the «Jerusalem inheritance» and even monuments in Western Armenia (for example, the Church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar Island in modern Turkey). At the same time, the Udis are forced to mercilessly erase the inscriptions on the walls of their churches, which were naturally written in Armenian. Thus, the Udi people, brotherly to the Armenians, in the 21st century became a hostage of the alarming historical situation that had developed for him.
The “Udi Church” is viewed as an important instrument of anti-Armenian propaganda and falsification of the region’s history. Supervision of this strategically important matter was, at one time, entrusted to the former head of the presidential administration of Azerbaijan, academician Ramiz Mehdiyev, to the deputy of the Milli Majlis and director of the Institute of History Yagub Mahmudov, to the member of the Academy of Sciences Farida Mammadova, to the state adviser on interethnic issues, multiculturalism and religion Kamal Abdullayev, to the head of the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism Azad Mammadov, to the Chairman of the State Committee for work with religious organizations Mubariz Gurbanli and others. Some active figures of the Udi community of the republic were involved in the implementation of this project, including the chairman of the «Albano-Udi Christian Community of Azerbaijan» Robert Mobiyan (Mobili) and others, who saw in this project a hope to solve at least some of the acute problems facing the Udi community. The first effective step taken to «re-create the Albanian Church of Azerbaijan» was the state registration of the Albano-Udi Christian community on April 10, 2003, with branches operating in cities Nidzh and Oghuz. Many Udi leaders in Azerbaijan and in the diaspora, to one degree or another, are politically engaged and involved in an active anti-Armenian propaganda campaign. They periodically participate in various symposiums held on the initiative and with the funding of the leadership of Azerbaijan, forcedly promoting the spread of misinformation about the ancient history and the Karabakh conflict, discrediting the Armenian people.
Among the Udi intelligentsia, there are many who are deeply concerned about the future and true security of the Udis who still live in their historical homeland. From the bitter experience of the beginning and the end of the 20th century, they well understand that the Udis are not on the path with the leadership of Azerbaijan, for which they are just a bargaining chip, and as soon as Azerbaijan does not need them in the context of the Karabakh confrontation, they will again turn into a defenseless target. For the Udis, the main goal is self-preservation on the remaining piece of their once vast historical homeland — in the village of Nidzh, for the leadership of Azerbaijan the main goal is the absorption of Artsakh and the construction of an ethnically monolithic Turkic and religiously Muslim country where there can be no place for either Armenians or Udis, nor other Christian or non-Christian indigenous peoples of this country.
November 6, 2020
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