An unusual burial custom has survived for centuries in one spot in the Caucasus. From JAMnews.

An unusual sight awaits the few visitors who reach Zargava, if they know where to look. This highland village in northeastern Azerbaijan may be the only place in the country where families bury their loved ones in the back yard rather than in a common cemetery. Although village officials deny the practice, and try to discourage journalists from coming here, reporters from JAMnews saw the cemeteries and found several residents willing to talk about the custom. Each holds just a few graves, mostly recent – such as the resting place of a young man who was killed in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war. The burial plots are surrounded by wire fences or stone walls. Wealthy families buy plots of land specifically to bury their dead, one village resident says.

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No one seems to know for sure how this custom arose. The sheer difficulty of reaching the village must have something to do with it. Zargava lacks running water and gas; there is a mosque, but no mullah has served here for a long time. “Some sources indicate that the tradition of family cemeteries in Zargava dates back to the 13th century,” ethnographer Sevinj Mammadova says. “Most likely, the reason is the remoteness of the village, its inaccessibility, its isolated existence from other settlements for centuries.”

This is a synopsis of the complete story by Sevgi Ismailbeyli published by the Caucasus news site JAMnews with the support of the Russian Language News Exchange.

Photo and video by JAMnews.