While most villages develop skills like craft work or ceramic art, the small mountain village of Tsovkra (in Dagestan) developed an unusual art: rope walking. While skills vary according to age, all the villagers have one thing in common: everyone can walk on rope. They became known as “the Dagestani walkers”.
There are many myths about how tightrope walking appeared – one of them says that young lovers used a rope in order to cross to the neighboring mountain villages, sick of having to walk every day the long distances.
However, historians believe it developed in the XVI century when the ancient Silk Road was crossing the Caucasus, bringing with it different artists including professional rope walkers from around the world.
Once initiated, Tsovkra villagers joined the rope troupers and traveled all the way to China.
During the Soviet period, the Dagestani Walkers traveled all over the world and, as sign of recognition, they received the Soviet Union’s highest award for artists.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all means of funding were cut off, the shows ended and the people are now struggling to keep the tradition alive in a dire economy.
“The golden age was from the 1950’s through the 1970’s,” says local man Nukh Isayev. “The whole world knew about us then and we could sell out a circus in any European capital with our tightrope walking skills.”
Dagestan is the most diverse region in the Caucasus. with 8 different Caucasian natives and other ethnic groups living on its territory. Native Caucasians living in Dagestan belong to the Northeast Caucasian family. The Avars represent the largest ethnic group.
Dagestani youth dance group rehearsing for the Venice 2013 carnival