August 30, 2015

1859 RUSSIA (Stavropol Krai) - Caucasians Dancing Lezginka in Pyatigorsk in 1936

The North Caucasus region is the part of Russia that slopes up towards the main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains, often considered the border between Europe and Asia. It is home to dozens of nationalities and languages, many of which have troubled relationships with their neighbours or with central governments in Moscow or Tbilisi. Nevertheless, all these nationalities have many things in common, especially regarding the traditions. The traditional costume over this region is so similar that it is not unusual to see the exact same photograph presented as being from different ethnicities in the region.

The most known part of the traditional male dress, popular in entire Caucasus, is chokha, a calf-length, wool coat, distinguishable by the bandoliers sewn across the breast and its tapered waist cut. Generally, the chokha outfit includes a belt holding a khanjali (an embossed dagger), a akhalukhi (a shirt worn underneath the chokha), masrebi (the bullets), black pants, tall leather boots, and a kabalakhi (a hood, separate from the robe) or a nabdis kudi (a tall fur hat). Chokha originated in mountainous sites of Georgia, though the word isn't in Georgian language but from Persian.

For women, the traditional costume is formed by an ankle or floor length dress with a fitted waist, often an overdress or bodice with a long peplum,  a breastpiece, and a veil, often supported by a headband or hat of some sort. Extra long and/or slit false sleeves are also common. The costume very much resembles the modern 'wedding dress' worn in the west, especially as it is often made in white or pastel colors, but it is a very old tradition in the caucuses, and perhaps originally inspired the modern western wedding dress, which does not have a very long history.

In this photo, made in Pyatigorsk (since 2010 the administrative center of the  North Caucasian Federal District of Russia) with the ocasion of the Horsemen Day, which took place on May 6, 1936 (in full Stalinist era - in background can be seen the portraits of Marx and Lenin). At the grand parade which preceded the feast, participated more than 1,500 horsemen, 1,400 athletes, and 600 cyclists representing Ossetia, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Terek and Don Cossacks, and even Gypsy kolkhoz "Work Romain."

In the image are pairs dancing Lezginka, a national dance of the many peoples in the Caucasus region. Lezginka can be a solo, couple or group dance. The man, imitating an eagle, dances in quick, concise steps; falling to his knees and leaping up quickly. The woman dances quietly, taking light, small steps, giving the appearance of her floating around the floor. When the dance is performed in pairs, the couples do not touch; the woman acknowledges the man, and dances discreetly about him.

About the stamps
The first three stamps are part of a series dedicated to Russian Kremlins, about which I wrote here. The last stamp is part of a definitive series about which I wrote here.

Chokha - Wikipedia
Caucasus Clothes - Caucasus Chamber of Commerce, Taipei
Georgia: Love Your Country, Love Your Chokha - Eurasianet
Costume of the Caucasian Region - Folk costumes blogspot
There was a holiday - The Horsemen Day (rus) -
Lezginka - Wikipedia

Sender: Lisa Krasnova
Sent from Moscow (Moscow / Russia), on 09.02.2015
Photo: Marc Markov Greenberg / 1936

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