Tightrope walkers from Dagestan: let's see where it has started

Judging by the crumbling houses, the settlement has seen better days. But it is still alive, and on holidays many people from the surrounding villages make sure to get together.

Judging by the crumbling houses, the settlement has seen better days. But it is still alive, and on holidays many people from the surrounding villages make sure to get together.

Ivan Dementievsky
Dagestan is famous for its tightrope walkers - they perform in circuses and acrobatic shows all over the world. Even the legends say that art of tightrope walking started from Dagestan, precisely from the village of Tsovkra-1.

The village of Tsovkra-1 can be reached by car from Makhachkala (Dagestan, 1800 km from Moscow). The journey there can take up to three hours, first along the asphalt, then up a mountain serpentine.
The village is located at an altitude of around 2000 meters above sea level. Towering around the aul [Central Asian settlement] are beautiful mountains. As you stroll around the environs, some truly awe-inspiring views open up. On your way, be sure to make the acquaintance of the local tightrope walkers, for it was here that the story of this daring activity begins.
How and when tightrope walking first appeared in the village is not entirely clear — even the indigenous people and the director of the local tightrope walking school cannot put their finger on it, but all agree that it happened more than 200 years ago.
Dagestani tightrope walkers are renowed the world over; they participate in various shows, circuses, and all kinds of demonstrations. It is said that tightrope walking was first practised as an art back in Soviet times, springing up in several Dagestani auls all at once.
Tightrope walking was once very popular here. Age was no barrier — the very young and the very old alike all took to the highwire. But times have changed, and now many residents of the village leave for other parts of Dagestan, many settling in Makhachkala. It can no longer be said that the entire population of the village is able to walk the tightrope.
Quite a few young people go to a special school for tightrope walking, but until the mid 1990s it was either a separate lesson or in lieu of physical education. Many children learned how to do it, and old-timers remember how there wouldn't be a spare inch on the rope.
The most talented were wooed by circus troupes. And if the parents agreed, their sons' and daughters' lives would be turned upside down: tours, rehearsals, and for some worldwide fame.
Now the mountain aul is dying out, and the art itself is struggling. Nevertheless, rope balancers still exist, and on holidays the event always draws a crowd of eager spectators.
There are no inns or hostels in the mountain aul, but guests can always find a homestay. It is quite in the order of things here in hospitable Dagestan, where the locals will even argue amongst themselves over who gets the guest.
Judging by the crumbling houses, the settlement has seen better days. But it is still alive, and on holidays many people from the surrounding villages make sure to get together.

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