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 Paganisme et christianisme en Tchétchénie

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MessageSujet: Paganisme et christianisme en Tchétchénie   Jeu 27 Oct - 11:21

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The history of Islam in Chechnya

Paganism and Christianity in Chechnya


At different times forefathers, forebears and ancestors of Chechens and Ingushes (Veinakhs, Nakhs) had different religious beliefs. Apparently, male and female names Khalad, Anu, Ashura, Alalu, Ashtati, Nanna, Diki, Kibela, Nuba-dit, Aruba and Kuzhukh date back to early paganism, the times of Hurri-Urartu states. Between 3000 and 1000 B.C. the names were used to call various gods. As a rule, every natural phenomenon or heavenly body had ts own god. Depending on the nature of the wish offerings were made to this or that god, be it the god of sun, rain, war, love or fertility.

Religious traditions are the most lasting ones in the culture of an ethnic group. They stay on even after conversion to another faith. In the Chechen community you can still hear vows such as “Tsu dashochu malkhor” (Swear by golden sun), “Tsu lyattor” (Swear by earth), “Tsu byapkor” (Swear by bread). People pronouncing vows of this kind will be deeply hurt if they are told that by doing so they depart from Islam and commit a grave sin.

The pagan and Christian past of ancestors and forefathers of Chechens and Ingushes is reflected in legends, folklore, ancient and medieval cultural monuments and archaeological discoveries. The Assinovsky gorge is known to have three Christian temples (Tkhaba-Yerda, Albi-Yerda and Targimsky). Similar temples and churches, according to legends, were also in other parts of the mountain chain but Tkhaba-Yerda was the biggest, occupying more than 100 square meters. Rich Christian burial places were discovered under the church’s floor and by its walls. The temple, experts say, was built no later than the 10th century A.D. by Georgian architects, who wanted it to be the biggest church in Central Caucasus. According to researchers (M.B.Muzhukhoev. The Spread of Christianity among Veinakhs), Tkhaba-Yerda Temple was erected on the site of a heathen temple devoted to “Tkhaba” deity. Today the name is etymologized on the basis of Nakh languages and is compared to the ancient pagan deity “Tkhya”.The process of christianizing Chechens and Ingushes got further development during the reign of the Georgian Tsarina Tamara. Indications of that were the appearance of two new churches around Tkhaba-Yerda.

Evidence of the Christian past of Chechens and Ingushes is seen not only in churches, burial places and folk legends. In many areas Christian crosses have been discovered. The Chechen name for the cross – “Zhaar” – is similar to the Georgian “Dzhavari”, which testifies to Christianity penetrating the North Caucasus through Georgia. There are a lot of written monuments of the Christian period, such as handwritten psalm-books, where the Georgian alphabet was used. In addition, Chechens still use notions borrowed from the Georgian Christian calendar to denote some days of the week. All that is evidence of the time (10th-13th centuries), when Georgia actively spread the “new” religion among mountaineers of the Caucasus.

Another confirmation of christianization of Veinakhs living in the mountains is psalm-books discovered on the territory of Chechen-Ingush Republic. One of the psalm-books, kept in Tkhaba-Yerda Temple, was discovered in the late 19th century. Another manuscript of this kind was discovered in Mago-Yerda sanctuary in the mountain part of Ingushetia in the early 20th century.

The influence of Christianity is felt through a number of words borrowed by Veinakh languages from Georgian Orthodox religious terminology: Cross – “Dzhavavar”, Hell – “Dzhozhakhati”, Paradise – “Yalsamani”. In addition, names for days of the week, such as Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, were borrowed from Georgian too. Apparently, that took place when Christianity came to the territory of Chechen-Ingush Republic. There is an assumption that the names of Adam, Haron and Hava (Eve) made their way into the Veinakh society under the influence of the religion.

During the christianization of the region local masters built sanctuaries in honour of local saints (for one, Tamysh-Yerda, which bears some of the features of St.George). Their design carries a clear imprint of the influence of Christian architecture.

But traditional pagan beliefs were never abandoned completely. The bulk of mountaineers were slow to pick up the ideas of Christian Church. Besides, the spreading of Christian dogma from Georgia was short-lived. In the 13th century Tatar hordes struck a crushing blow on Georgia. The missionary activity of Georgian church among Caucasian mountaineers was temporarily suspended. The newly-built churches were left to the mercy of fate. The Tatar invasion had a negative effect on other peoples of the Caucasus, including Chechens and Ingushes. Locked in difficult of access mountain gorges, they found themselves cut off from flat country and the whole of the outside world and were doomed to hard labour in the mountains in overcrowded conditions. The Chechens and Ingushes were thrown back in their historical development. It was then that they returned to the former pre-Christian beliefs, which lived on and were historically relevant.

“Paganism” came to life again in the mountains of Chechen-Ingush Republic. Temples were rebuilt and Christian symbols acquired a difference meaning.Another reason for the departure from Christianity was perseverance of pagan beliefs and ancient deities in the people’s minds. Testifying to that are sanctuaries in honour of patron gods, erected, which is very important, during the intensive spread of Christianity in the 12th-13th centuries. Pagan deities remained all-powerful. The pantheon of medieval deities fell into tribal deities, honoured by all (Dela, Tusholi, Myatzil, Sieli, Yerdy, Molyz-Yerdy etc.), district deities (a group of villages Tkhaba-Yerdy, Dzorakh-Deala, Gurmet-Tsuu, Itaz-Yerdy, Dolge etc.), village deities (Erdzeli, Tumgoi-Yerdy, Morch-Sieli, Beini-Sieli, Mago-Yerdy etc.) and family deities(Dik-Sieli, Ausha-Sieli, Amgali-Yerdy, Tamyzh-Yerdy etc.)

The supreme deity of the Veinakh pantheon was Dela. This is indicated by the secondary role of the other “tribal” deities, which is reflected in prayers, and preservation of the supremacy of the deity following the adoption of Islam (the name of Dela in prayers in Chechen is identified with Allah).

People of the Dzheirakhsky gorge, whose main occupation was cattle-breeding, worshipped the deity called Gal-Yerda. Significantly, the latest known prayers to Gal-Yerda that have survived to this day, have a clear social aspect. They words as following: “He who hates hard labour for our daily bread, let him never prevail over us. God Almighty! Save us from bowing to the one made of flesh and bones, like us, and don’t let us further than Your right hand with our prayers…”

In the Late Middle Ages, as the feudal system was introduced, the role of priests increased.Chechens and Ingushes deemed their priests as intermediaries between the deities and people. A priest was wrapped up in an halo of sacredness and sanctity and was clad in white clothing. During a prayer the priest was the first to address the deity blessing the offerings. The priest alone could enter the sanctuary freely, the others could only do that on his permission. The priest was the one to go to in lean years or in case of illness, for he could advise on what to do to keep trouble at bay. Quite often a universal way to achieve that was to make an offering.

Chechen and Ingush priests were knowledgeable enough, for, unlike working people, they had a lot of time to accumulate extensive knowledge by observation and generalization. It was not for nothing that priests were revered as clairvoyants. They foretold the harvest, weather, the start of various farming activities and they practiced medicine. Chechen and Ingush priests were responsible for maintaining social stability and settling the issues concerning civil law. They also protected sanctuaries’ property, such as church plate, cattle, meadows and arable lands. According to ethnographic materials, priests themselves never cultivated meadows and arable lands. For this purpose they used the labour of community members, who teamed up to take turns to work the fields that fed the priests. What remained of the crops was reserved for church holidays and consumed collectively. Priests also existed at the expense of considerable offerings from the believers and had a permanent influx of gems, which they kept in special caches, discovered in many sanctuaries later on.

The ultimate decline of Christian religion among Veinakhs and their return to the cult of ancient deities, which had never been forgotten even in the days of the spread of the new religion, are reflected in the change of architectural design of local sanctuaries. In the 13th and 14th centuries the sanctuaries were nearly as big as temples but in the subsequent years they became smaller and their interiour grew simpler. Hence, the Christian religion, which came to the territory of Chechen-Ingush Republic from Georgia in the 12th and 13th centuries, failed to win widespread popularity among the people. Chechen and Ingush burial rites were different too in the Middle Ages. Archaeological findings indicate that the deceased was put into a vault provided with everyday items necessary for the next world. The items in question included weapons, for a sorceress – items of worship etc. If the deceased was a man, they brought his horse and put the end of the bridle into his hand, apparently, for the two of them to stay together. The funeral was followed by a spendthrift wake. The second wake, known as “bed” wake, was held so that the deceased could get up from bed in the other world. The wake ended with race, shooting and fancy riding contests. Wakes were held on the second and third year too. It was believed that during the wake the food went to the deceased or his soul, which, as a result of such caring treatment, would be unable to do harm to the living. Dread of the dead in vaults and ancestor worship were of such significance that a vow or oath were deemed the most effective. After harvest-time they organized a harvest dinner, a treat for dead relatives. The holiday was a family affair. As the food was sent to the other world, the host was saying prayers, judging by which Chechens and Ingushes saw afterlife as continuation of earthly life with all its hardships and joys.

A special place among Veinakh religious monuments belongs to stone symbols carved on the walls of towers, vaults, sanctuaries and even latest mosques and to all sorts of marks on clothes and household utensils. The characters open up a fascinating and practically unknown world of Chechen and Ingush sacred symbols spanning the period from the Bronze Age to the Late Middle Ages. They depict human hands – an ancient symbol of strength, power and skills, crosses inside circles and intricate rosettes and spirals symbolizing the sun and heavenly bodies in their perpetual movement across the sky. And among other frequently met characters is swastika, one of the most ancient and widespread symbols of eternal fire and purification, and sketchy figures of people and wile and domestic animals carved on stone.
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MessageSujet: Re: Paganisme et christianisme en Tchétchénie   Jeu 27 Oct - 11:21

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MessageSujet: Re: Paganisme et christianisme en Tchétchénie   Jeu 27 Oct - 15:47

Les Européens de l'Est ont maintenu un lien bien plus fort, plus vivant avec leur passé païen que ceux de l'Ouest.
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MessageSujet: Re: Paganisme et christianisme en Tchétchénie   Aujourd'hui à 20:39

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