The Great Game: Kanhlengo Topic

Who are the kanhlengi?

The kanhlengi are an ancient people-group who lived for millenia on the North Coast of the Black Sea, east of Crimea. They evolved cultural practices including a taboo on same-age coupling, a hangul-style script, base 12 counting, a religion (Üaxikhsæ, the worship of Xæ), and their language, which is an isolate.

In the 1840s a series of catastrophic pogroms forced the kanhlengi from their ancestral home, and they are now a diaspora across the world. Some continue to follow Üaxikhsæ while others are Christians, or have other real-world faiths. The culture is pluralist, highly tolerant of sexualities and complex genders, but maintains a taboo against same-age marriage. The cuisine relies heavily on mushrooms and sheep-cheese products, and many diaspora kanhlengi work in the dairy industry.

Though until recently few kanhlengi spoke their own language, there is now a move to reclaim it as their birthright, and establish xixiximas (kanhlengo schools) where the language can be learned, though at the moment the romanization developed by kanhlengi intellectuals in Tirana, Albania in the late 19th century, rather than the traditional script, is most common. Attempts to return to the homeland and reestablish a presence there have been thwarted first by the antipathy of the USSR, and more recently by the continual tension between Ukraine and Russia.


A compound word from hseüto (sharp sheep cheese) and këpo (mushroom), hseükëpo (often anglicised to shoe-kepo on English-language menus) is the kanhlengo national dish. The recipe is as follows:


Üuü det

Üuü væüo

Üuü hseüto

Üuü këpo

Üuüëp kenip

Men üuüëp üugëüma

Üuüëp üæ kuptëru gëüo



Væüo ni hüisehüi ddëvæve:

Væüo. üugëüma ke kenip ni væü:

Këpo. væüo ke kuptëru gëüo gæ nise xix xive:

Vatidæ. üugëüma ke kenip ñi nise xix xive:

Det ni xëhlid:

Kufa mëkihlavi ñi mav keküæfxædda:

Ku ni hlesro:

(500g pasta, 500g nuts, 500g sharp cheese such as feta, 500g mushrooms, 40g garlic, 120g red onion, 40ml apple vinegar, a little cumin)

Soak the nuts in water overnight. Chop the nuts, red onion and garlic finely. Slowly cook the mushrooms and nuts in the apple vinegar in a pan; quickly fry the cumin, red onion and garlic in a frying pan; . Cook the pasta. Quickly mix all these great ingredients together; eat ravenously like a goat.


Though the kahlengi return to their native land only for hliñi, the holy, once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage back to the Prayer Rocks, the Nëfhsæs (land) has stamped its character on the language. It stretches from the Hüæüa-zazæhlo (Black Sea) all the way to the Hlëno (steppe, grasslands - the river valley of the Hsæsohlimo (Snake River; known now as the Hruz’kyi Yelanchyk River, in East Ukraine about 20 miles from the Russian border.) In the mouth of the Hsæsohlimo are the Kehsohs-ñeffihl (Prayer Rocks). To the west of the river is the Fisxiüo (forest).


There has been a concerted attempt to rename Kanhlengi placenames - however, the kanhlengi reality can be seen behind some of the present names. For example, Koñtohtvæ (literally 11 old villages) is the true origin of Khomutove; Vitëvæ (literally human village) is now known as Vitava; and the Kanhlengo capital, Këhlivkæ (approbative-high-city) lives on as the town of Kozlivka.


deküid is a family of keyed brass instruments. They play a large part in the cultural musical activities of the Kanhlengi. Most members of the diaspora still learn it throughout their childhood and likely own the smaller instrument of the family, the deküid üët.

deküid üët or occasionally called the deküid didd is the smaller of the two instruments. It consists of a conical looped tube with a trumpet-like mouthpiece and six wide tone holes near the end of the tube.

deküid kæthla is a larger and lower pitched variant.






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