Completed projects

  • Documenting Dargwa languages in Daghestan – Shiri and Sanzhi

    Project leader:
    Prof. Dr. Diana Forker

    Project members:
    Prof. Dr. Rasul Mutalov
    Dr. Oleg Belyaev
    Dr. Iwona Kaliszewska

    Student assistants:
    André Müller
    Felix Anker
    Teresa Klemm

    Volkswagenstiftung (2012–2019)

    Project HomepageExternal link

    Final project reportpdf, 180 kb · de

    Project description:
    In this project, three linguists (Diana Forker, Rasul Mutalov and Oleg Belyaev) and one ethnographer (Iwona Kaliszewska) document and analyze Shiri and Sanzhi and the culture of the Shiri and Sanzhi people. Shiri and Sanzhi belong to two different Dargwa languages (East Caucasian), spoken in the central part of Daghestan in the Caucasus (Russian Federation). The languages are heavily endangered. We estimate that there are only about 200 Shiri families and about 50 Sanzhi families.

    In the linguistic documentation and analysis of Shiri and Sanzhi we pay special attention to those features that are unusual for the East Caucasian language family and of broader typological interest. Two of these features are person agreement, which is based on the person hierarchy and not determined by grammatical roles, and extraordinarily rich tense/aspect/mood and evidentiality paradigms.

    The project provides a detailed and in-depth documentation of Shiri and Sanzhi through the collection of texts from a wide range of genres. At the moment, Diana Forker is finalizing a comprehensive grammar of Sanzhi Dargwa and Oleg Belyaev is working on a grammar of Shiri Dargwa. Forker and Belyaev have also compiled electronic dictionaries of both languages that are available through the project website.

    Major publications

    Other materials

    • Sanzhi-English-Russian electronic dictionary with almost 5,500 entries, published with DICTIONARIA access onlineExternal link
    • Sanzhi corpus (analyzed, glossed, partially translated, around 44,000 tokens)
    • Diana Forker & Gadzhimuard Gadzhimuradov. 2017. Sanzhi tales and legends. With a Sanzhi-Russian and a Russian-Sanzhi dictionary. Makhachkala. [In Russian] download bookpdf, 18 mb · de
    • Iwona Kaliszewska (in collaboration with Agnieszka Krzyk and Iwa Kołodziejska). 2019. Plants from the village of Shiri, Dagestan. [In Russian] download bookpdf, 35 mb · de
  • CASCADE – Exploring the Security-Democracy Nexus in the Caucasus


    Project leader: 
    Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH), Paris
    Scientific coordination: Dr. Laure Delcour, FMSH

    Project members:
    Dr. Florian Mülfrid
    Weronika Zmiejewski, PhD student
    Tamar Khutsishvili, PhD student

    Student assistant:
    Annika Jooß

    EU FP7 "Security and Democracy in the Neighbourhood: The Case of the Caucasus

    Project description:
    The project will de-compartmentalize research on the Caucasus by exploring linkages between societal challenges, political developments and conflicts and investigating the interactions between the North and South Caucasus, as well as between the Caucasus and its wider neighborhood. On the basis of a strong comparative and interdisciplinary approach, CASCADE will seek to provide a more accurate understanding of how democracy and security are perceived, understood, experienced and exploited as political and social resources by Caucasus actors and other actors involved in the region. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork in the North and South Caucasus, including in the conflict areas and de facto States, CASCADE will generate a wealth of empirical data as well as new and important insights into security and democracy in the Caucasus. The project’s outcomes will also be largely policy-driven and CASCADE’s impact will be considerable in terms of shaping EU policy toward the Caucasus. The project will act as a knowledge hub to spur debate and bring together academic and policy communities from Europe and the Caucasus.

  • Transformations of Sacred Spaces, Pilgrimages and Conceptions of Hybridity in the Post-Soviet Caucasus


    Project leader: 
    Prof. Dr. Kevin Tuite

    Project member:
    Dr. Tsypylma Darieva

    Student assistent:
    Michael Stürmer

    Volkswagen Stiftung (01.02.2013–31.07.2016)

    Project description:
    The focus of the research project was the role played by sacred sites in the construction and maintenance of social networks, and their function as social nodes, where connections are negotiated, forged, enacted and reinforced; but also contested, ruptured and erased. The prominence of shrines and sacred places all over the Caucasus, including North and South, transcending the nominal religious boundaries of Christianity and Islam creates a social sphere of interrelated spaces. As a consequence, the investigation of regimes related to shrines such as offerings or pilgrimages may provide a corrective to a stereotypical image of the Caucasus as primarily a region of conflict.

    Based on anthropological and ethno-historical methods, the purpose of the project was to undertake a multi-sited long term investigation and comparative analysis of sacred sites - shrines, churches, mosques, graves, trees, springs, and other types of pilgrimage sites - in the contemporary North and South Caucasus. The six research teams cover different regions in the Caucasus and cooperate closely with local colleagues and experts. The geographical spectrum of selected sites covers both lowland and mountain areas in Armenia, Georgia, Russian Federation and Azerbaijan. Given the growing urbanization and migration process, we have included a set of sacred sites located in smaller and larger urban centers.

    Sacred spaces under investigation are defined as ziyara (Arabic for place of pilgrimage), pir (Persian synonym), salotsavi, xat'i (Georgian), matur, surb (Armenian) svyatie mesta, svyatilisha (Russian). A preliminary typology of sacred places divides them into the following types: 'Traditional' shrines, many of which are associated with medieval religious figures and missionaries venerated as saints in Islam and Christianity (Daghestan, Georgia, Armenia); shrines and natural places, landscapes and objects related to local heroes and events (health, death and regeneration rituals, national celebrities) in Georgia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Armenia, Daghestan; and newly emerged or re-established pilgrimage centers and holy places (shrines of 19-20th centuries Sufi sheikhs in Daghestan, oligarch churches and monuments in Armenia, sacred sites of diasporic importance).

    Not all sacred sites under study are shared by different confessions, in some areas like Daghestan and Armenia religious landscapes are more homogenous. In North-West Caucasus however sacred spaces are more mosaic and hybrid in terms of their confessional belonging. For example, the Choana-Church in Karachay-Cherkessia is shared by Russian-orthodox Ossetians, Pontic Greeks and Karachay Muslims.