Avar people (Caucasus)
Portrait of a woman wearing festive Dagestani national clothing, by H. Mussayassul (artist and political emigrant), 1939
|approx. 1 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Northeast Caucasian peoples|
The Caucasian Avars (Avar: аварал, магIарулал, avaral (avars), maharulal (mountainers)) 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 spoken by the Caucasian Avars belongs to the family of Northeast Caucasian languages and is also known as Nakh–Dagestanian. Sunni Islam has been the prevailing religion of the Avars since the thirteenth century.
The earliest mention of the Avars in European history is by Priscus, who declared in 463 AD that 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. Around 630, Theophylact Simocatta wrote that the Avars had been initially composed of two nations, the Uar and the Hunnoi tribes. He wrote that: "...the Barsilt, the Onogurs/Unogurs and the Sabirs were struck with horror... and honoured the newcomers with brilliant gifts..." when the Avars first arrived in the Caucasus in 555 AD. The Caucasian Avars migrated to their present location from Khurasan, which was originally populated by the Alarodian Hurrians from Subartu (to the south of Transcaucasian Iberia). The Y-Chromosomal J Haplogroups typical of Avar men are still common today in the area of ancient Subartu. The Avar invasion of the Caucasus resulted in the establishment of an 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 "Pseudo-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 Göktürk hegemony. The modern Arab Encyclopaedia states that the Magyars originated in this area.
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, 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 Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh rose to power. The Avars could not compete with it and were incorporated by them.
From the 16th century onwards, the Persians and Ottomans started consolidating their authority over the entire Caucasus. Eastern Georgia, Dagestan, nowadays Azerbaijan, and Armenia would retain under Safavid Persian rule, while Western Georgia and Abkhazia would remain under Ottoman Turkish suzerainity. Although once briefly occupied by the Ottoman Turks, Dagestan and many of its Avar inhabitants stayed under Persian suzerainty for many centuries since their conquering in the 16th century. However, many ethnic groups in Dagestan, including many Avars, retained relatively high amounts of freedom and self-rule. After losing the Caucasus briefly in the early 18th century, following the disintegration of the Safavids and the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723), the Persians reeatablished full control over the Caucasus again in the early 18th century under Nadir Shah. During that same time, the Avars increased their prestige by routing an army of Nadir Shah at Andalal. In the wake of this triumph, Umma Khan of the Avars (who 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 following the Russian annexation of Georgia and the treaty of Georgievsk, but this only got confirmed after considerable Russian successes and the victory in the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), after which Persia would nominally lose Dagestan amongst other lost Caucasian territories it had to cede to Russia. Permanent switch from Persian to Russian rule over Avar inhabiting territories got concluded in the Treaty of Turkmenchay following the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828).
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 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.
The Avars are a Northern Caucasian people who speak Avar, a Caucasian language. The tribe is of an unknown origin. They were formerly known as the Turanian nomad people, which classified them as "Pseudo-Avars" in the opinion of the Turkish qaganate (Göktürks) in Europe.
The Avars inhabit most of the mountainous part of Dagestan as well as portions of the plains (Buynaksk, Khasav'yurt, Kizil'yurt and other regions). They also live in Chechnya, Kalmykia and other regions of the Russian state, as well as in Azerbaijan (mainly in the Balakan and Zakatala rayons, with a population of 50,900 in 1999  and 49,800 in 2009) and Georgia (Kvareli Avars with 1,996 people in 2002).
In 2002, the Avars, who have assimilated with ethnic groups speaking related languages, numbered about 1.04 million, of which 912,020 live in Russia (2010 census). Of those living in Russia, 850,011 are in Dagestan (2010 census), 32% of them in cities (2002).
In Turkey, the population census figures for the North Caucasian population are not given as they are considered as "ethnic Turks". According to Ataev B.M., according to A.M. Magomeddadaev's research, the Avarian population there should have been around 53,000 in 2005. The Avars call themselves "Awaral" (also "Ma'arulal").
Avar is a collective term, Avar-Andi-Dido (Tsez) peoples, that is often used to describe probably more than fifteen distinct ethnic groups living in the foothills of the mountain slopes Russia's Dagestan Republic. They are often classified into the following subgroups:
Avars as Highlanders and armed people
"МагIарулал" Ma'arulal means "inhabitants of the top grounds, mountaineers", but another group of Avars is described as belonging to another category, "Хьиндалал" X'indalal (with a soft "χ"), namely, "inhabitants of plains (warm valleys) and gardeners". The name Avars has a narrower meaning for Avars, especially a national one connected with former statehood. "Avar" is a significant part of the word "Avaria" for the Khunzakh Khanate that formed approximately in the 12th century after the disintegration of the local Sаrir ("The Throne") empire. From the middle of the 19th century this territory was the Avarian District of the Daghestanian area. Now it is Khunzakhsky District (χunzaχ in a literary Avar language or χwnzaa in a local dialect) of Dagestan.
The modern literary language of Avars (Awar mac'), both in olden times and today, is known among Avars as the language of "boʔ" (bolmac'). The Avarian word "bo" "army, armed people", according to reconstructions, was originally *ʔωar in the proto-Avarian language ("ʔ" is here a glottal stop).
Name "Avars" in connection with problem of Avars "extérieur"
At the same time, in modern Avarian there are three words retaining their ancient basis of "awar": awarag "the envoy, prophet, messiah", awara "obstacle, opposition" (awara habize is "to make an obstacle, to resist") and awari "pommel of a saddle". There is also an Avarian river – "Awar ʕωr" (in Avarian) and "Avar koysu" in Russian.
All three listed words are to be found in ancient lexicons of the Iranian languages: Parthian "apar" Pahlavi/Middle-Pers. abar/aβar = "up, on, over" and "higher, superior" (also abraz "acclivity"); abarag/aβarag "superior", abargar/aβargar "god, divinity", abarmanig/aβarmanig "noble"; apar amatan "to surpass", apar kardan/apar handaχtan "to attack".
At the same time, according to the morphology and grammatic rules of the Middle-Persian language, Aβarag "superior" can also be translated as "Aβarian", "Khurasanian", "Parthian" as seen, for example, in a Middle-Persian word, Eranag – "Iranian".
The term "Avar" was known in the 10th century. According to Persian author Ibn Rustah a so-called governor of Sarir, the first authentic mention of a population of Daghestanian Highlanders under the name "Avars" belongs to Yohann de Galonifontibus, who wrote in 1404 that in the Caucasus there live "Circassians, Leks, Yasses, Alans, Avars, Kazikumukhs". "According to V.Minorsky, in Zafer, (written in 1424), Daghestanian Avars are called the Auhar. Abbas Kuli-Aga-Bakikhanov in his book Gulistan-i Iram (1841) based on the chronicle "Derbend-name" wrote that the "inhabitants of vicinities of Agran have been moved here from Khurasan. A residence of this emir also was Agran". The editor of this book, an academician of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, Z.M. Buniyatov, confirms that the district of Agran corresponds to the Caucasian Avaria. This word "Agran" is now unknown to modern Avars, but according to the Altiranisches Wörterbuch of Christian Bartholomae, aγra means erste, oberste; Anfang, Spitze (first, upper, beginning, tip) and aγra'va vom Obersten, von der Oberseite stammend (from the top, coming from the upper side).
Th. Nöldeke, H. Hübschmann, R.N. Frye, A. Christensen and K. Enoki always identify the Aparshahr / Abarshahr / Abharshahr or Abrashahr with Khurasan or "Nishapur". The Khurasan (χwarasan) in Iranian studies known as "rise of Sun", Parthian apar, middle-pers/pahlavi abar/aβar "up, on, over" and parthian/middle-pers. šahr is old Iran. χšaθra "empire, power, the sovereign house". In summary, Aparšahr/Aβaršahr is very similar to the German word Oberland. According to H. W. Haussig, Aβaršahr means Reich der Abar (kingdom of the Abar) and should be sought in the south-western territory of the Western Turkish Empire.
Into what was first the territory of Khurasan (including the area of Gorgan), a tribe of Aparnak (parthians) moved from Dakhistan/Dahistan (part of modern Turkmenistan). Here they entered into a confederation of Dahai tribes, the "barbars" and "enemies of Aryans" in Avestan texts, according to Christian Bartholomae. On the border to Khurasan Iranian Sassanides a strong wall, named the "Great Wall of Gorgan" or the "Red snake", was built to protect Iran from invasions of so-called White Huns – Khionites (X'iiaona and Xyôn in Zoroastrian Texts). Later another wave of so-called White Huns – Hepthalites could obtain control over Khurasan and keep it for a long time, during which the Avars were forced out of Merv and attacked the Sabirs to establish their own kingdom of Sarir. According to Richard Helli: "By such reasoning, the Ephthalites are thought to have originated at Hsi-mo-ta-lo (southwest of Badakhshan and near the Hindu Kush), which tantalizingly, stands for Himtala, "snow plain", which may be the Sanskritized form of Hephthal. In 484 the Hephthalite chief Akhshunwar led his army to attack the Sassanian King Peroz (459–484), who was defeated and killed in Khurasan. After the victory, the Hephthalite empire extended to Merv and Herat.
As is known, some Hions concluded a peace treaty with Iran and the two became allies. Iran used the Hyaona/Hion tribe in their struggle against Byzantium. Thus, Hephthalites really lived in the Khurasan/Khorasan area. According to the Chinese classic Liang chih-kung-t'u, 滑 (pinyin: hua) was the name the Hephthalites used for themselves, and that is probably a Chinese transfer of a similar sounding word, war/Uar.
Mehmed Tezcan writes that according to a Chinese record, the Hephthalites descended from a Ruan Ruan tribe called Hua in the Qeshi region (Turfan area). This tribe came to Tokharistan and soon settled also in eastern regions of Khorasan at the beginning of the 5th century. About the same time, the name Avars/Awards appears in the sources. Again, in his well-known Atlas of China, A. Herrmann shows the eastern regions of Khorasan, Tokharistan, etc. as the dominions of Afu/Hua/Awards/Hephthalites between ca. 440 and 500 A.D., relying on the identification Hua = Uar = Awar.
The German scholar Karl Menges considered Eurasian Avars to be one of the ancient Mongol peoples, who "were the first to use the title ga gan (later qān, ḵān) for their supreme ruler." Further listing ancient Mongol-speaking peoples, he obviously has in view Caucasian Avars when he mentions the "traces of a Mongol residue in Daghestan". Supporters of the so-called old Turanian nomad horde "infiltrate" point of view (with various clauses) include the following scholars: Josef Marquart, Omeljan Pritsak, Vladimir Minorsky, Vladimir Baileys, Harald Haarmann, Murad Magomedov, Alikber Alikberov, and Timur Aytberov.
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.
The most prominent figures in Avar history were Umma Khan Avarian, 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 Halil-Beg Mussayassul, whose drawings were shown at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Kamil Aliev (a distant cousin of Musayasul) who is noted for his ornamental carpet work.
The World War II submarine commander and hero of the Soviet Union Magomet Gadzhiyev was an Avar.
Mansur Isaev is an ethnic Avar judoka from Russia. He won gold in the finals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the class 73 kg.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is an Avar mixed martial artist and two-time Combat Sambo World Champion currently fighting in the lightweight division for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As of April 2014, he has an undefeated MMA record of 22–0.
Gadzhimurat Kamalov, 11 February 1965 – 15 December 2011, was an investigative journalist well known for reporting on corruption in the Dagestan area. He was shot dead in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He was an ethnic Avar born in the village of Sogratl, which is in the Gunibsky District of Dagestan, Russia.
The famous Avarian archeologist Dr. Murad Magomedov speaks about ancient nomad migration waves of Iranians, Turks and Protomongols to the Caspian-Daghestanian area. 2005. Attention! This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. From archives of Moussaev_M.Z. (http:www.svoboda.org).
Famous in Daghestan and the Daghestanian diaspora in Turkey, the Avarian poet Adallo Ali (also known as Adallo Aliev) speaks about the Avar language, poetry and literature. 2007. Attention! The files are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. Attribution: Awarenstuermer at ru.wikipedia
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