Napolskikh V. Udmurt Akaška ~ Bessermian Akajaška and the Late Medieval Ethnic History of the Lower Kama Region
The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
Izhevsk, Russian Federation
ABSTRACT. The name of the South-Western (Trans-Vyatka) Udmurt spring ritual timed to the Easter, akaška, and that of the Bessermian cycle of rituals marking the beginning of spring agricultural work, akajaška, are borrowings from Chuvash aka jaški, ‘plough soup’, which was the name of a Chuvash rite of the end of sowing. Looking into the distribution of variants of the Udmurt word akaška, which for different Udmurt groups can designate different rites of spring calendar cycle, and that of the calque of the same term, Udmurt geršyd (lit. ‘plough soup’), along with analyzing the terminology of the rituals under discussion in Udmurt, Chuvash, and Tatar languages in the context of ethnic history of the region allows us to reconstruct the genesis of this ritual complex. Having developed under the Muslim influence, the Chuvash term aka jaški and the spring ritual complex were borrowed by the ancestors of Bessermians on the right banks of the lower Vyatka River in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and were brought by them to the north, to the Cheptsa River basin, while in the south they were adopted into the culture of South-Western Udmurts and transferred into the cycle of protective detour rites formed under the Russian Christian influence and timed to the Easter. This scenario undoubtedly demonstrates that at least until the end of the fifteenth century the lower Vyatka Region was probably populated by Muslim people speaking Chuvash language and possessing the main features of the Chuvash ethnic culture. Apparently this population is mentioned in the Russian documents of the sixteenth century as Chuvasha. Later these Chuvash groups became part of Kryashen and Kazan Tatars.
KEYWORDS: ethnography, calendar rites, ethnic history, etymology, Udmurts, Bessermians, Chuvash, lower Kama Region
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