Kurds – Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Islam spread among the Kurds in the seventh and eighth centuries. Many Muslim rites and beliefs coexisted with pre-Islamic cults associated with lakes, stones, graves, trees, fire, and an ancestor cult. Among the Muslim Kurds reverance toward pirs (holy places) was widespread. Three types of these were distinguished. The first—stone mounds, formed by the casting of stones at places considered sacred—were revered primarily by the nomadic Kurds. Part of the mound was frequently covered by pieces of fabric hung on bushes or saplings by women. The Kurds believed that these pirs would save them from misfortune. The second type, created by sedentary Kurds, was associated with the graves of saints and the cult of the ancestors. On certain days the villagers brought offerings, usually baked bread and sweets, to these graves. The third kind reflected the cults of trees, stones, and water; these cults had devotees among both the sedentary and nomadic population.
The beliefs and rites of the Yezidi Kurds are strictly clandestine; no one who is not born a Yezidi can have access to them. The Yezidis recognize the existence of two principles—a good one, embodied in God, and an evil one, embodied in Malek-Tauz (represented as a peacock). They have cults associated with fire, the moon, trees, water, stones, and the sun. Malek-Tauz is depicted in the form of a bird standing on a high bronze or brass pedestal ( senjag or sanjaq ). The founder of the sect of the Yezidis was Sheikh Adi, who lived in northern Mesopotamia (Iraq) in the twelfth century. His temple is located 70 kilometers from the city of Mosul. The Yezidis have their own sacred books, written in the thirteenth century: the Kitabe Jilva (Book of the Revelation) contains the essence of Yezidi dogma, and the Maskhafe Resh (Black Book) sets forth the legend of Yezid, son of Moawiya, and the various rites and customs.
Arts. The Kurdish nation is justifiably proud of its extremely rich oral literature—poems, tales, songs, proverbs, and legends, many of which have achieved popularity among other peoples (Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Persians, Turks, Arabs, and Assyrians). Kurdish folklore extols the moral beliefs of the people: reverence for elders (particularly women), hospitality, courage, valor, and the love of freedom. Among the most widespread Kurdish epics are “Mam i Zin,” “Dïmdïm,” and “Zambilfrosh.” The creation of Kurdish alphabets led to the flowering of a written literature. Soviet Kurdish literature draws on the progressive traditions of an extremely rich folklore. Literature arose among the Soviet Kurds in the 1930s, particularly among the Kurds of Armenia. Kurdish writers (Vazire Nadri, Otare Sharo, Jardoe Genjo, and others) gave their people numerous creations (in verse and prose) telling of the tragic fate of the Kurdish nomads before the Soviet Revolution, of their life and traditions, and of popular education (especially among women). In the war years Kurdish literature focused on patriotic subjects, such as the destiny of the Kurds in the struggle with fascism. Soviet Kurdish literature continued to thrive in the postwar period. The works of poets and prose writers are permeated with themes about the homeland and the struggle of nations for peace (Jardoe Asad, Usve Bako, Kachakhe Murad, Miroe Asad, Mikaele Rashid, Karlene Chachan, Ferike Usv, etc.). Soviet Kurdish writers have been particularly concerned about the lives of their kin in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria; about their courageous struggle for an independent Kurdistan (“the land of the Kurds”); and about the national-territorial rights of the many millions of Kurdish people.
Kurdish writers, forming a section of the Armenian writers’ union, are giving their people a large number of literary works on national themes: family life, hospitality, courage, fortitude, and so on. In addition to literature in their language, the Kurds have a newspaper, Pia Taxe (The New Road), that first appeared in Erevan in 1928. Kurdish scholars are active in many areas, especially the study of Kurdish language, literature, and history within the Armenian Academy of Sciences. The Kurdish Cultural Center was formed in Moscow in 1989 for the further development of the culture of the Kurds. The center first published the newspaper Golos Kurda (The Kurdish Voice) in Russian and is also preparing publications on the language, literature, history, and ethnography of the Kurdish people.