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Caucasian Avars: Wikis


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Wolf symbol of Avars Caucasus.PNG
Flag of the Avars
Total population
approx. 1 million
Regions with significant populations
Russia: 814,500 (2002[1]),
primarily Dagestan: 750,000

Azerbaijan: 50,900 (1999[2])
Georgia: -




Sunni Islam[3]

Related ethnic groups

Northeast Caucasian peoples

Avars or Caucasian Avars are a modern people of Caucasus, mainly of Dagestan, in which they are the predominant group. The Caucasian Avar language belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family (also known as Nakh-Dagestanian).

They populate most of the mountain part of Dagestan, and partly also plains (Buynakskiy, Khasav'yurtovskiy and other regions). They also live in Chechnya, Kalmykia and other subjects of Russia, as well as Azerbaijan (mainly, the Balakan and Zakatala rayons - 42,100 (1999[2]) and Georgia (Kvareli Avars - 2,500).[citation needed]

In 2002, the Avars, who assimilated some peoples speaking related languages, numbered about 1,04 million, of which 814,500 live in Russia[1], of which more than 750,000 in Dagestan. 32% of them live in the cities (2002 number).[citation needed].



Old Avarian cross with Avarian inscription in the old Georgian alphabet.

The Avar language belongs to the Avar-Andi-Tsez subgroup of the Alarodian Northeast Caucasian (or Nakh-Dagestanian) language family. The writing is based on the Cyrillic alphabet, which replaced the Arabic script used before 1927 and the Latin script used between 1927 and 1938. More than 60% of the Avars living in Dagestan speak Russian as their second language.


The earliest mention of the Avars in European history at their current location is from Priscus, who declared that in 463 AD a mixed Saragur, Urog and Unogur embassy asked Byzantium for an alliance, having been dislodged by Sabirs in 461 due to the Avars' drive towards the west[4]. According to the head of the Soviet archaeological-ethnographic expedition of 1945 - 1948, these Caucasian Avars migrated to their present location from Khwarezm, which was originally populated by the Alarodian Hurrians from Subartu (which was to the south of Transcaucasian Iberia)[5]. The Y-Chromosomal J Haplogroups typical for Avar men are still common today in the area of ancient Subartu. According to Omeljan Pritsak and some other scholars, this Avar invasion of the Caucasus resulted in the establishment of the Avar ruling dynasty in Sarir, a Christian state in the Dagestani Highlands, where the Caucasian Avars now live. It is not clear whether or in what way these Avars are related to the early European Avars of the Dark Ages, but it is known that with the mediation of Sarosios in 567, the Göktürks requested Byzantium to distinguish the Avars of Pannonia as "Pseudo-Avars" as opposed to the true Avars of the east who had come under the Göktürk hegemony[6]. The modern Arab Encyclopaedia states that the Magyars originated in this area. The Y-Chromosomal J Haplogroups has a significant frequency among Székely Hungarians, who are regarded as the purest descendants of the Kavars who settled in Transylvania. The Gokturks might have had a different reason for granting the ethnicon to their subjects in the North-East Caucasus while objecting to their Central European relatives' associating themselves with that illustrious name.

Old Avarian popular symbols in stone and felt depicting Eden's rivers

During the Khazar wars against the Caliphate in the 7th century, the Avars sided with Khazaria. Surakat is mentioned as their Khagan around 729/30 AD, followed by Andunik-Nutsal at the time of Abu Muslima, then Dugry-Nutsal. Sarir suffered a partial eclipse after the Arabs gained the upper hand, but managed to reassert its influence in the region in the 9th century. It confronted the weakened Khazars and conducted a friendly policy towards the neighbouring Christian states of Georgia and Alania.

In the early 12th century, Sarir disintegrated, only to be succeeded by the Avar Khanate, a predominantly Muslim polity. The only extant monument of Sarir architecture is a 10th-century church at the village of Datuna. The Mongol invasions seem not to have affected the Avar territory and the alliance with the Golden Horde enabled the Avar khans to increase their prosperity.

In the 15th century the Horde declined, and the Kumyk shamkhalate at Tarki rose. The Avars could not compete with it until the 18th century, when they increased their prestige by routing the army of Nadir Shah at Andalal. In the wake of this triumph, Umma Khan of the Avars (reigned 1774–1801) managed to exact tribute from most states of the Caucasus, including Shirvan and Georgia.

Two years after Umma Khan's death in 1801, the khanate voluntarily submitted to Russian authority. The Russian administration disappointed and embittered the freedom-loving highlanders. The Russians' institution of heavy taxation, coupled with the expropriation of estates and the construction of fortresses, electrified the Avar population into rising under the aegis of the radical Muslim Imamate of Dagestan, led by Ghazi Mohammed (1828–32), Gamzat-bek (1832–34) and Shamil (1834–59).

This Caucasian War raged until 1864, when the Avarian Khanate was abolished and the Avarian District was instituted instead. One portion of the Avars refused to collaborate with Russians and migrated to Turkey, where their descendants live to this day. Although the population was decimated through war and emigration, the Avars retained their position as the dominant ethnic group in Dagestan during the Soviet period. After World War II, many Avars left the barren highlands for the fertile plains closer to the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Famous Avars

The most prominent figures in Avar history were Umma Khan, Hadji Murat, and Imam Shamil. The most celebrated poet writing in the Avar language was Rasul Gamzatov (1923–2003). In Azerbaijan, there was an ethnic Avar Member of the Parliament (MP), Ali Antsukhskiy (elected in 1995, who was killed in 1996.

Famous Avar artists include Khalil-bek Musayasul, whose drawings were shown at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art[7], and Kamil Aliev (a distant cousin of Musayasul[citation needed]) who is noted for his ornamental carpet work[8].

A famous sportsman of Avar origin is a former WBO heavyweight champion Sultan Ibragimov.

The World War II submarine commander and hero of the Soviet Union Magomet Gadzhiyev was an Avar.


  1. ^ a b Russian 2002 census
  2. ^ a b Devlet İstatistik Komitesi, Azərbaycan Milli Elmlər Akademiyası İqtisadiyyat İnstitutu
  3. ^ An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires, By James Stuart Olson, Lee Brigance Pappas, Nicholas Charles Pappas, pg. 58
  4. ^ Priscus. Excerpta de legationibus. Ed. S. de Boor. Berolini, 1903, p. 586
    Also mentioned in the Syrian compilation of Church Historian Zacharias Rhetor bishop of Mytilene
  5. ^ "Ancient Khwarezm" (Moscow 1948), Sergei Pavlovich Tolstov (1907-1976)
  6. ^ "Sixth Century Alania: between Byzantium, Sasanian Iran and the Turkic World" Agustí Alemany Vilamajo
  7. ^, see page 13
  8. ^ Azerbaijan National Library retrieved May 11, 2007

See also



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