OK, so you hip film-oriented folks already know about the amazing movies of Andrei Tarkovsky. (If you like them as much as I do, you may be interested in a couple of web sites that do a good job of presenting information and ideas about his work.) If you’re in the New York area, you probably know about the retrospective going on at the Walter Reade (and I suggest getting a membership, so you can go as often as you like for half the price). You may even know that the director was the son of the poet Arsenii Tarkovsky (Russian link; I apologize to non-Russophones, but—shamefully—there does not appear to be an English-language site that discusses this peer of Akhmadulina and Voznesensky, if not of Brodsky, other than as the father of the director).
But I’ll bet you didn’t know (unless you’re Avva, who knows all sorts of obscure things) that he was the direct descendant of the shamkhals of Tarki, feudal rulers of the Turkic Kumyk people who dominated a big chunk of the eastern Caucasus from the sixteenth century until the Russians conquered them in the early nineteenth. (Tarki, or Tarkou, was a fortress town near what is now Makhachkala in Dagestan; the adjectival form in Russian is tarkovskiy.) When Yo’av Karny, author of the delightful and informative book Highlanders (well reviewed here) asked a current Kumyk leader if Tarkovsky could have been the leader of a revived shamkhalate, he laughed and said “Sure, why not?”
Update. It turns out that’s complete bullshit. See my follow-up. Oh well, it was a good story.

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