Learn more about Caucasian Avars
- The Eurasian Avars were a nomadic people who established a state in the Danube River area in the early 6th century.
|Total population||757,100 |
|Regions with significant populations||Russia (primarily Dagestan)|
|Religion|| Sunni Islam <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Northeast Caucasian peoples</td>
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 Belokanskiy and Zakatal'skiy regions), Georgia (Kvareli Avars) and Turkey.
In 2002, the Avars, who assimilated some peoples speaking related languages, numbered about 800,000, of which 757,000 live in Russia and more than 700,000 in Dagestan. 32% of them live in the cities (2001 number).
The Avar language belongs to the Avar-Andi-Tsez subgroup of the Alarodian Northeast-Caucasian (or Nakh-Dagestani) 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% Avars living in Dagestan speak Russian as their second language.
According to the head of the Soviet archaeological-ethnographic expedition of 1945 - 1948, 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)<ref name="Tolstov">"Ancient Khwarezm" (Moscow 1948), Sergei Pavlovich Tolstov (1907-1976)</ref>. The earliest mention of the Avars in European History at their current location is from Priscus who declares 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<ref name="Priscus">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</ref>. It is not clear whether and in what way the contemporary Avars are related to these early Eurasian Avars of the Dark Ages. 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 Dagestani Highlands, where the Caucasian Avars now live. With the mediation of Sarosios in 567, the Gokturks requested Byzanteum to distinguish the Avars of Pannonia as "Pseudo-Avars" as opposed to the true Avars of the east who had come under the Gokturk hegemony<ref name="Sarosios">"Sixth Century Alania: between Byzantium, Sasanian Iran and the Turkic World" Agustí Alemany Vilamajo</ref>.
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, when it conflicted with 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 Khanate of Avaristan, a predominently 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.
The 15th century saw the decline of the Horde and the rise of the Kumyk shamkhalate at Tarki, with whom the Avars could not compete 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. Yet the Russian administration disappointed and embittered freedom-loving highlanders. The 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 the World War II, many Avars left the barren highlands for the fertile plains closer to the Caspian shore.
 Famous Avars