Народы Кавказа – Peoples of the Caucasus

Народы Кавказа – Peoples of the Caucasus

Этнические группы на Кавказе – Ethnic groups in the Caucasus

Абазэхэр – Abazin People

The Abazins or Abaza are an ethnic group of the Caucasus, closely related to the Abkhaz and Circassian (Adyghe) people. They live mostly in Turkey, Egypt, and in Karachay-Cherkessia and Stavropol Krai in the North Caucasus region of Russia.

The Abazins originally inhabited the Sadzen region in the western part of Abkhazia and migrated from Abkhazia to Abazinia in 14th and 15th centuries. They later migrated to other regions of the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Abazins speak the Abaza language, a Northwest Caucasian language closely related to Abkhaz and Circassian. There are two dialects of Abaza spoken in Karachay-Cherkessia: Ashkharua and Tapanta. The culture and traditions of Abazins are similar to those of the Circassians. On many old maps Abazin territory is marked as part of Circassia (Adygea).

Abazin language & culture links

Аҧсуа – Abkhazin People

Abkhazins or Abkhaz people are members of a Caucasian ethnic group, mainly living in Abkhazia, a region on the Black Sea coast. A large Abkhaz diaspora population resides in Turkey, the origins of which lie in the emigration from the Caucasus in the late 19th century known as muhajirism. Many Abkhaz also live in other parts of the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia and Ukraine.

The Abkhaz language belongs to the Northwest Caucasian languages group. Classical sources speak of several tribes dwelling in the region, but their exact identity and location remains controversial. The Abasgoi and Apsilai of the Graeco-Roman authors are considered as the predecessors of modern-day Abkhaz.

There are a few different varieties of the Abkhaz people. The Bzyb Abkhaz reside in the Bzyb River region. They have their own dialect. The Abzhui Abkhaz live in the Kodori River region. They also have a distinct dialect which the literary language is based upon. Finally, there is the Zamurzakan Abkhaz who reside in the southeast of Abkhazia.

Apsny.ru: Информационный сайт об Абхазии

Абхазская интернет-библиотека – Abkhaz internet library

Адыгэ – Adyghe People

Adyghe are Western Circassian people of the northern Caucasus, who speak the Adyghe language.

A common name for the Adyghe is Circassians, a name which is occasionally applied to Adyghe and Abaza from the North Caucasus.

The Adyghe people originate in the North Caucasus region, an area they are believed to have occupied as early as the Stone Age period, with traces of them dating back as far as 8000 BC. In about 4000 BC the Maykop culture flourished in the North Caucasus region and influenced all subsequent cultures in the North Caucasus region as well as other parts of the region that would become southern Russia. Archaeological findings, mainly of dolmens in North-West Caucasus region, indicate a megalithic culture in the region.

Адыгэ Хэку

Адыгэ Абаза Сайт

Adyghe Bible – Old & New Testament

Агъулар – Aghul People

Aghuls are a people in Dagestan, Russia. According to the 2010 census, there were 34,160 Aghuls in Russia.

The Aghul language belongs to the Lezgian language family, a group of the Northeast Caucasian family. Ethnically, the Aghuls are close to the Lezgins.

There are four groups of the Aghul people, who live in four different gorges: Aguldere, Kurakhdere, Khushandere, and Khpyukdere.

Агъул чIал – Aghul Language

Aghul Bible – Gospel of Luke

ГӀахьвалал – Akhvakh People

The Akhvakhs are one of the Andi–Dido peoples of Daghestan and have their own language. They call themselves Atluatii or Ashvado. Prior to 1930 Soviet ethnologists considered them to be a distinct ethnic group. Since that time they have often been classified as Avars.

The Akvakh live in the Akhvakhsky District of Dagestan between the Avar and Andi Rivers. In 1926 they numbered 3,683. The Akhvakhs are mainly Sunni Muslims. They face continued assimilation by the Avars. By the early 1990s it was estimated that about 8,000 people were Akhvakh, although this number includes those who have been fully assimilated as Avars but still recognize that they have Akhvakh ancestry.

There are between one to two thousand people in Akhvakh-Dere, a village in the Zaqatala district of Azerbaijan, who speak a form of Akhvakh similar to the northern dialect.

Ашwалlи мицlи – Akhvakh language

Андал – KъӀваннал – Andi People

The Andis are one of the indigenous Daghestanian peoples of Russia and live in western Daghestan. Their neighbors to the northwest are the Chechens; to the southeast, the small ethnic groups speaking other Andian languages and the Avars. The principal area of settlement, Andia, is a vast valley bordered by the Andi ridge and its spurs. The snow-covered steep ridge forms the entire northern boundary and exercises a moderating influence on Andia’s climate by sheltering it from cold winds. In the past, access to Andia could be difficult: the roads linking it to the outside world were guarded on the south by the Mynin Tower and on the north by the fortress of Butsurkha. At present, however, all of the Andian villages are linked by automobile routes. The village of Andi was an important location during the campaign of the Battle of Dargo (1845) and at other times during the Murid War.

The Andi language (къIaваннаб мицци) belongs to the Andic subgroup of the Avar–Andic languages, itself a branch of the Northeast Caucasian language family. Linguists have described seven Andi dialects, which form two closely related dialect groups: Upper Andi and Lower Andi (Munib-Kvankhidatl). The speech of women and men are distinguished by certain phonetic, lexical, and stylistic features (noted in the village of Andi).

Андияр нах-дагъустандин чIалариз талукь тир анди чIаларин хилек квай анди чIалал рахазва. ЧIал кьве нугъатдиз пай хьана: вини анди нугъат ва агъа анди нугъат. Андийриз чпин хайи чалалай гъейри гьакIни авар, урус ва са кьадар чечен чIалар чизва. Кхьинар кирилл графикадалди ийизва.


The Andis

The Gospel of St. Luke in the Andi language

Аршишттиб – Archi People

The Archi people are an ethnic group who live in eight villages in Southern Daghestan, Russia. Archib is the parent village of these, because three months a year the whole community used to reassemble in Archi to engage in communal work. Their culture is one of the most distinct and best-preserved of all the cultures of Daghestan.

They have a total population of about 1,200 and speak their own language. Their habitat is about 2,000 meters above sea level in the Kara-Koisu basin of a range of the Caucasus.

The origin of the Archi people is unknown. Their name was first mentioned in the historical chronicles written by Muhammed Rafi from Shirvan in the 13th or 14th century. They were part of the Avar community Dursakh (or Rissib) and from time to time paid tribute to the Gazikumukh Khanate. They became subjects of the Russian Empire after Daghestan was annexed by Russia in 1813. According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary there were 802 Archis in Gazikumukh Okrug in 1886. Since 1899 they were part of the Gunib Okrug, Daghestan Oblast.


МагІарулал – Avar People

The Avars (магIарулал – mountaineers) constitute a Caucasian native ethnic group, the most predominant of several ethnic groups living in the Russian republic of Dagestan. The Avars reside in a region known as the North Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas. Alongside other ethnic groups in the North Caucasus region, the Caucasian Avars live in ancient villages located approximately 2,000 m above sea level.

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 script, 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.

МагІарул мацІ

Avar Bible – Genesis – Proverbs – New Testament

Багвалал – Bagvalal People

The Bagvalal (also called Bagulal, Kwantl Hekwa, Bagolal, Kwanadi, Bagulaltsy, Kvanadin, and Kvanadintsy) are an Avar–Andi–Dido people of Daghestan, speaking the Bagvalal language. Since the 1930s they have been largely classed as and assimilated by the Avars. Howevern there were still some people reported separately in the 2002 census.

The Bagvalal live in mountain villages in the Tsumadinsky District of Dagestan. The names of the Bagvalal villages are: Kvanada, Gimerso, Tlisi, Tlibisho, Khushtada, and Tlondada.

The Bagvalal language (Bagulal) is an Avar–Andic language spoken by the Bagvalals in southwestern Daghestan, Russia, along the right bank of the river Andi-Koisu and the surrounding hills, near the Georgian border. It is fairly similar to Tindi, its closest relative. The 2010 Russian census recorded 1,450 Bagvalal speakers.

The Bagulals

Бацби – Batsbi People

The Bats people (Georgian: ბაცი) or the Batsbi (ბაცბი) are a small Nakh-speaking community in the country of Georgia who are also known as the Ts’ova-Tush (წოვა-თუშები) after the Ts’ova Gorge in the historic Georgian province of Tusheti (known to them as “Tsovata”), where they are believed to have settled after migrating from the North Caucasus in the 16th century (see debate). The group should not be confused with the neighbouring Kists – also a Nakh-speaking people, migrants from Chechnya – who live in the nearby Pankisi Gorge.

Part of the community still retains its own Bats language, “batsbur mott”, which has adopted many Georgian loan-words and grammatical rules and is mutually unintelligible with the two other Nakh languages, Chechen and Ingush. As Prof. Joanna Nichols put it, ‘[the Batsbur] language is related to Chechen and Ingush roughly as Czech is related to Russian and Ukrainian [and the Batsbi] not belong to vai naakh nor their language to vai mott, though any speaker of Chechen or Ingush can immediately tell that the language is closely related and can understand some phrases of it. The Batsbi have not traditionally followed Vainakh customs or law, and they consider themselves Georgians.’ Batsbur language is unwritten and the Batsbi have used Georgian as a language of literacy and trade for centuries.

The renowned Georgian ethnographer Sergi Makalatia wrote in his study of Tusheti that “the Tsova-Tush speak their own language, which is related to Ingush and Kist. This language has, however, borrowed many words from Georgian; the Tsova-Tush speak it both at home and among each other. Everybody knows the Tsova language. It is shameful not to speak it. Children start speaking Tsova-Tush and learn Georgian later.”

Who are the Batsbi?

Бежта – Bezhta People

The Bezhta are an Andi–Dido people living in the Tsuntinsky region in southwestern Dagestan. In the 1930s along with the rest of the Andi-Dido peoples they were classified as Avars. However, some people identified themselves as Bezhta in the 2002 census of Russia. They speak the Bezhta language, but many of them also speak Avar, Russian or other Tsezic languages of their region.

The Bezhta (or Bezheta) language (бежкьалас миц), also known as Kapucha (from the name of a large village), belongs to the Tsezic group of the North Caucasian language family. It is spoken by about 6,200 people in southern Daghestan, Russia.

Bezhta can be divided into three dialects – Bezhta Proper, Tlyadal and Khocharkhotin – which are spoken in various villages in the region. Its closest linguistic relatives are Hunzib and Khwarshi. Bezhta is unwritten, but various attempts have been made to develop an official orthography for the language. The Bezhta people use Avar as the literary language. The first book ever printed in Bezhta was the Gospel of Luke.

Bezhta Bible – Proverbs – Gospel of Luke

Буйхалъида – Botlikh People

The Botlikh people are an Andi–Dido people of Dagestan. Until the 1930s they were considered a distinct people. Since that time they have been classified as Caucasian Avars and have faced a campaign to have them assimilate into that population.

The Botlikh are primarily Sunni Muslims. They numbered 3,354 people in 1926. They speak the Botlikh language, which belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family. According to the Russian Census (2002) only 16 people in Russia declared themselves as Botlikhs (none of them in Daghestan), and 90 people declared speaking the Botlikh language. The number of speakers is higher, about 5,500, according to a survey by Koryakov in 2006.

Ethnologically, the Botlikhs are close to the Avars. Their intellectual and material cultures share many common features and differences are evident only in details. For instance, the head-dress of the Botlikh women has a slightly different shape than that of the Avars. The only cultural element clearly differentiating the Botlikhs from the Avars is their language which was formed in political and territorial isolation from the Proto-Avar tribes.

Народы России – Ботлихцы

Будуубер – Будугъар – Budukh People

The Budukhs are an ethnic group primarily from the mountainous village of Buduq in northwestern Azerbaijan.

The Budukh language (Будад мез) is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch.

The Budukhs

The Sociolinguistic Situation of the Budukh in Azerbaijan

Чамалади – ЧӀамалал – Chamalal People

The Chamalals are an indigenous people of Dagestan, Russia living in a few villages in the Tsumadinsky District on the left bank of the Andi-Koisu river. They have their own language, Chamalal, and primarily follow Sunni Islam, which reached the Chamalal people around the 8th or 9th century. There are about 5,000 ethnic Chamalals (1999, Kubrik). They are culturally similar to the Avars.

The Chamalal language is an Andic language of the Northeast Caucasian language family spoken in southwestern Daghestan, Russia by approximately 5000 ethnic Chamalals. It has three quite distinct dialects, Gadyri, Gakvari, and Gigatl.

The Chamalals

Нохчий – Chechen People

Chechens (Chechen: Нохчий; Old Chechen: Нахчой) are a Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples originating in the North Caucasus region of Eastern Europe. They refer to themselves as Vainakhs (which means “our people” in Chechen) or Nokhchiy. Chechen and Ingush peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh. The majority of Chechens today live in the Chechen Republic, a subdivision of the Russian Federation.

The isolated terrain of the Caucasus mountains and the strategic value outsiders have placed on the areas settled by Chechens has contributed much to the Chechen community ethos and helped shape its fiercely independent national character. Chechen society has traditionally been egalitarian and organized around many autonomous local clans, called teips.

The main language of the Chechen people is Chechen. Chechen belongs to the family of Nakh languages (Northeast Caucasian languages). Literary Chechen is based on the central lowland dialect. Other related languages include Ingush, which has speakers in the neighbouring Ingushetia, and Batsbi, which is the language of the people in the adjoining part of Georgia. At various times in their history, Chechens used Georgian, Arabic and Latin alphabets; as of 2008, the official one is now the Cyrillic script of Russia.

Нохчалла – Chechen language lessons

Chechen Bible – New Testament

Дарган – Dargan (Dargwa) People

The Dargwa or Dargan people (Dargwa: дарганти, Russian: даргинцы) constitute a Caucasian native ethnic group originating in the North Caucasus, and who make up the second largest ethnic group in the Russian republic of Daghestan. They speak the Dargwa language. The ethnic group comprises, however, all speakers of the Dargin languages; Dargwa is simply the standard variety.

The Dargans have lived in their present day location for many centuries. They formed the state of Kaitag in the Middle Ages and Renaissance until Russian conquest. Today, the Dargans are the third most powerful group in Daghestan, and the second most populous.

The Dargwa or Dargan language is spoken by the Dargan people in the Russian republic of Daghestan. It is the literary and main dialect of the dialect continuum constituting the Dargan languages. The four other languages in this dialect continuum (Kajtak, Kubachi, Itsari, and Chirag) are often considered variants of Dargwa. Ethnologue lists these under Dargwa, but recognizes that these may be different languages.

Дарган мез – Dargan language study in Russian

Dargan Bible – Gospel of Matthew – Gospel of Luke

ГӀалгlай – Ingush People

The Ingush (ГIалгIай) are a Caucasian native ethnic group of the North Caucasus, mostly inhabiting the Russian republic of Ingushetia. The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak the Ingush language. Despite popular misconceptions, Ingush is not mutually intelligible with Chechen, though they are closely related. The Ingush and Chechen peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh.

The Ingush came under Russian rule in 1810, but during World War II they were falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and the entire population was deported to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. They were rehabilitated in the 1950s, after the death of Joseph Stalin, and allowed to return home in 1957, though by that time western Ingush lands had been ceded to North Ossetia.

The Ingush possess a varied culture of traditions, legends, epics, tales, songs, proverbs, and sayings. Music, songs and dance are particularly highly regarded. Popular musical instruments include the dachick-panderr (a kind of balalaika), kekhat ponder (accordion, generally played by girls), mirz ponder (a three-stringed violin), zurna (a type of oboe), tambourine, and drums.

Ingush language lessons

Ingush Bible – Ruth – Esther – Jonah – Gospel of Luke

Къэбэрдейхэр – Kabardian People

Kabardians or Kabardian people (Adyghe: Къэбэртайхэр-адыгэ; Kabardian: Къэбэрдейхэр‎) are terms referring to a people of the northern Caucasus more commonly known by the plural term Kabardin (or Kebertei as they term themselves). Originally they (with the Besleney) tribe comprised the semi-nomadic eastern branch of what was once the Adyghe tribal fellowship. The Kabardin still consider themselves as a tribe of Adyghe. They speak Kabardian, a North West Caucasian language that represents the easternmost extension of the Circassian language group.

There is an approach among the Circassians in Circassia from different tribes to use only the name Circassians (Adyghe) in Census 2010 in Russia; to reflect and revive the unity of the Adyghe Nation (Adyghes in Republic of Adyghea, Kabardians in Kabardino-Balkaria, Cherkess (Adyghe: Шэрджэс or Šărdžăs) in Karachay–Cherkessia, and the Shapsugs in the southern part of Krasnodar Krai, plus small Adyghe groups in Stavropol Krai and North Ossetia. This approach is widely supported in the Caucasus and among the Circassians in Diaspora.

Kabardian language lessons

Kabardian Bible – Ruth – Jonah – Luke

Кеттитурдур – Khinalug People

The Khinalugs (Кеттитурдур) are an indigenous people of Azerbaijan and speak the Khinalug language, a Northeast Caucasian language. The Khinalugs are indigenous to the Quba District and have been named after their main village, Khinalug. It is one of the peoples that have traditionally been called Shahdagh (together with Budukh people and Kryts people).

The Khinalug language is a Northeast Caucasian language and holds a special place in this family. Some researchers consider this language to be a member of Lezgic languages, while others believe that it forms its own independent branch within the Northeast Caucasian language family.

As the Khinalug language is spoken only in one settlement, it has no dialects. But some phonetic differences noticed in the speech of the upper, middle and lower parts of the settlement. It is an unwritten language. But in 1991 “ХӀикмаьти чаьлаьнг” in Khinalug was published in Baku. It has been taught in the primary schools in 1993-1999, but later was discontinued. The reason is believed to be parents’ great interest in good reading and writing abilities of their children in the Azeri language.

The Khinalugs

Лак – Lak People

The Lak people are an indigenous people of Dagestan in the North Caucasus, Russia. They speak the Lak language. Laks historically live in Lakskiy and Kulinskiy District of Dagestan. This ethnocultural area is known as Lakia. There are about 180,000 ethnic Laks.

The word “Lak” is the self-designation of Lak people as in Lak expressions: “zhu Lak buru” — we are Lak; “zhu Lakral khalq buru” — we are Lak people; “Laktal” — Laks; “Lakssa” — Lakian, Laks, Lak man; “Lakkuchu” — Lakian man; “Lakku maz” — Lakian language; “Lakkuy” — Lakia; “Lakral kanu” — Lak place; “Lakral rayon” — Lak district; “Lakral bilayat” — Lak country; “Lakral pachchahlug” — Lak state. Laks use the name “Lak” as their ethnonym and placename.

The Lak language (лакку маз) is a Northeast Caucasian language forming its own branch within this family. It is the language of the Lak people from the Russian autonomous republic of Dagestan, where it is one of six standardized languages. It is spoken by about 157,000 people.

Народы России – Лакцы

Lak Bible – Gospel of Luke

Лезгияр – Lezgi People

The Lezgi people are an ethnic group living predominantly in southern Dagestan and northeastern Azerbaijan and who speak the Lezgi language.

Modern-day Lezgins speak a Northeast Caucasian language that has been spoken in the region before the introduction of Indo-European languages. They are closely related, both culturally and linguistically, to the Aghuls of southern Dagestan and, somewhat more distantly, to the Tsakhurs, Rutuls, and Tabasarans (the northern neighbors of the Lezgins). Also related, albeit more distantly, are the numerically small Jek, Kryts, Shahdagh, Budukh, and Khinalug peoples of northern Azerbaijan. These groups, together with the Lezgins, form the Samur branch of the indigenous Lezgic peoples.

Prior to the Russian Revolution, the Lezgins did not have a common self-designation as an ethnic group. They referred to themselves by village, region, religion, clan, or free society. Before the revolution, the Lezgins were called “Kyurintsy”, “Akhtintsy”, or “Lezgintsy” by the Russians. The ethnonym “Lezgin” itself is quite problematic. Prior to the Soviet period, the term “Lezgin” was used in different contexts. At times, it referred only to the people known today as Lezgins. At others, it referred variously to all of the peoples of southern Daghestan (Lezgin, Aghul, Rutul, Tabasaran, and Tsakhur); all of the peoples of southern Daghestan and northern Azerbaijan (Kryts Jek, Khinalug, Budukh, Shahdagh); all Nakh-Daghestani peoples; or all of the indigenous Muslim peoples of the Northeast Caucasian peoples (Caucasian Avars, Dargwa, Laks, Chechens, and Ingush). In reading pre-Revolutionary works, one must be aware of these different possible meanings and the scope of the ethnonym “Lezgin”.

Lezgi Culture, Language and People

Мыхабыр – Rutul People

Rutuls are an ethnic group in Daghestan and some parts of Azerbaijan. According to the 2010 Russian Census, there were 35,240 Rutuls in Russia. In 1989 Soviet Census in Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan SSR then) there were 336 Rutuls. The Rutul language is a member of the Northeast Caucasian language family; its speakers often have a good command of Azeri and Russian, as Rutul was not a written language until 1990. The Rutul culture is close to that of the Tsakhur and other peoples who inhabit the basin of the upper reaches of the Samur River. Most of the Rutuls are engaged in cattle breeding, farming, and gardening.

The term Rutul was first used in the 15th century to designate Lezgic-speaking people in what is now southern Dagestan and Azerbaijan’s Shaki Rayon. It has been in official use since after 1917. Rutul was not a written language until the writing system for it (based on Cyrillic) was developed in 1990. Speakers are often bilingual or multilingual, having a good command of the Azeri, Lezgin and/or Russian languages. There are 8 dialects and 2 subdialects of Rutul. The literary version of the language remains in the process of development. In the Rutul-populated regions of southern Russia, Rutul is taught in primary schools (grades 1 to 4).

Among the languages of the Lezgic group, Tsakhur appears to be the closest relative of Rutul. Other than these two, there are seven more languages in the Lezgic group, namely: Lezgian, Tabasaran, Aghul, Budukh, Kryts, Udi and Archi.

МЫХАIБИШДЫ – Rutul online news

The Rutuls

Rutul Bible – The Gospel of Luke

Табасаранар – Tabasaran People

The Tabasarans are an ethnic group who live mostly in Dagestan, Russia. Their population in Russia is about 200,000. They speak the Tabasaran language.

Tabasaran is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. It is spoken by the Tabasaran people in southern part of the Russian Republic of Dagestan. There are two main dialects: North (Khanag) and South Tabasaran. It has a literary language based on the Southern dialect, one of the official languages of Dagestan.

Tabasaran is an ergative language. The verb system is relatively simple; verbs agree with the subject in number, person and (in North Tabasaran) class. North Tabasaran has two noun classes (also dubbed with the term “grammatical gender”), whereas Southern Tabasaran has none (i.e. one fewer than North Tabasaran, because no noun classes means that all nouns belong to the same class).

Мой Табасаран – My Tabasaran

Tabassaran Bible – New Testament

Йыхбы – Tsakhur People

The Tsakhur people are an ethnic group of northern Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan. They number about 45,000 and call themselves Yiqby, but are generally known by the name Tsakhur, which derives from the name of a Daghestani village, where they make up the majority.

Originally the Tsakhurs lived in Daghestan, but during the 13th century, some of them moved into Azerbaijan. Throughout the years, they have fought for independence from the Turks and the Persians. In the beginning of the 19th century, they looked to Russia for help and became part of the Russian empire. In the middle of the 19th century the Tsakhurs of Daghestan were exiled to Azerbaijan, but returned to their homeland nine years later. However, others chose to remain in Azerbaijan.

Tsakhur belongs to the Lezgic group of the Northeast Caucasian language family. The Tsakhurs call their language цӀаӀхна миз (C’aiχna miz). Although Tsakhur is endangered in communities in closest contact with Azerbaijani, it is vigorous in other communities, gaining prominence in the region, seen in the growth of interest in learning Tsakhur in school and a growing body of Tsakhur-learning materials.

The Tsakhurs

Tsakhur Bible – Proverbs

ЦӀунтӀал – Tsez (Dido) People

The Tsez (also known as the Dido) are an indigenous people of the North Caucasus. Their unwritten language, also called Tsez (цезйас мец) or Dido, belongs to the Northeast Caucasian group with some 15,354 speakers. For demographic purposes, today they are classified with the Avars with whom the Tsez share a religion, Sunni Islam, and some cultural traits. They are centered at the Tsunta district of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. The term “Dido” is sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to the Tsez as well as the Bezhtas, Hinukhs, Khwarshis and Hunzibs, which are also categorized as Avar subgroups. According to the 2002 Russian census, there were 15,256 self-identified Tsez in Russia (15,176 in their homeland), notated as an “Avar subgroup”, though the real number is probably slightly greater.

Tsez lacks a literary tradition and is poorly represented in written form. Avar and Russian are used as literary languages locally, even in schools. However, attempts have been made to develop a stable orthography for the Tsez language as well as its relatives, mainly for the purpose of recording traditional folklore; thus, a Cyrillic script based on that of Avar is often used. Fluency of Avar is usually higher among men than women, and the younger people tend to be more fluent in Russian than in Tsez, which is probably due to the lack of education in and about the language. Tsez is not taught in school and instead Avar is taught for the first five years and Russian afterwards.

The vocabulary shows many traces of influences of Avar, Georgian, Arabic and Russian, mainly through loanwords and, in the case of Russian, even in grammar and style. There are also loanwords of Turkic origin. These factors may eventually lead to the decline of use of the Tsez language, as it is more and more replaced by Avar and Russian, partly due to loss of traditional culture among the people and the adoption of a Western clothing, technology and architecture.

The Didos (or Tsez)

Уди – Udi People

The Udis are an ancient (maybe the most ancient, in fact) native people of the Caucasus. Currently, they live in Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and many other countries. The total number is about 10,000 people. They speak the Udi language. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian languages depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

The Udi language is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. The two primary dialects are Nij (Nidzh) and Vartashen. The people today also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, and Georgian. The Udi are commonly bilingual, and less frequently trilingual, depending on residence and work. Many use Udi only in daily life, but for official purposes, the Udi use the language of the country in which they reside, such as Azerbaijani or Russian.

Our Father in Udi

The Udi Language

The Udis


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