Annie Lee | Oct 21, 2022

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Lezghin (lezghiyar, lekier, ed. lezgi, lek) is a Dagestani people, one of the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus, historically living in southern Dagestan and northeastern Azerbaijan. They also compactly inhabit several villages in Turkey, where descendants of Muhajirs live.

They speak Lezghin, a member of the Nakh-Dagestani family of languages.

The overwhelming majority of Lezghin believers profess Sunni Islam. There are also a small number of Shiites.

In pre-revolutionary Russian Caucasian studies, researchers often erroneously referred to all the mountain peoples of Dagestan under the ethnonym "Lezgin".

Some ancient authors call Lezgins by the name "Leki", Georgian - "Lekebi", Arabic - "Lakz". Most medieval Arab authors compare al-Lakz (Leghov - Lekov) with the ancestors of modern Lezgins.

Nevertheless, all ancient and Arabic sources extend this ethnonym not only to the Lezgin, but to the entire population of Dagestan.

The term "Lezgi" is known in written sources since XII century, but this name was not self-name for separate Daghestani nation in the past, it was "completely alien to Daghestani highlanders" and originally Lezgins were called and (common for most Daghestani peoples ethnonym). In the Russian Empire and the Turks used the name "Lezghin" as a term for numerous mountain tribes inhabiting the Dagestan region and partially the southern slope of the Main Caucasus Range. This is explained by the fact that the term Lezgin ("legi", "leki", "lekzy", "lakzy", "lezgi") was originally the name of the peoples of southern Dagestan, but then was extended to other ethnic groups of Dagestan. It is believed that this is due to the fact that the Persian army during its expansion into Dagestan from the south always first encountered the Lezgins. The Russians also used this name separately in relation to the southern Daghestanians, while the northern Daghestanians (mostly Avars). In the 1920s, the ethnonym "Lezgins" was officially assigned to one of the mountain peoples of Dagestan, known since the second half of the XIX century under the name Kyurin. This is explained by the fact that Lezgins - the name of one tribe of Dagestan, namely Kura (that is Lezgins) was gradually extended to other Dagestani tribes. And the name Kyurintsy was introduced by Pyotr Uslar specifically for Lezgins in the second half of the XIX century. A. N. Maksimov wrote about it:

"In southeastern Dagestan and in the north of the Baku province live a relatively large tribe of Kyurin (conditional name given by Baron P. Uslar), who call themselves Lezgins and from which this name was transferred to all general Dagestani mountaineers.

P.K. Uslar writes that already in the 1860s the term "Lezgin" was used as the self-name of one of the Dagestani peoples:

The use of the ethnonym Lezghin was also mentioned in the 1931 Lesser Soviet Encyclopedia: "Lezghin, a name incorrectly attributed to all mountain peoples of Dagestan. The name Lezgin, in the more correct sense of the word, is Lezgin (Kyurin) group of Dagestan peoples, which includes Lezgins (Lezgins, or Kyurin, in the narrow sense of the word)".

М.  M. Ikhilov in particular wrote:

Historian Gadzhiev writes:

"As for the ethnonym Leqi (leqi), there are several opinions about their identification and localization: the leks are the peoples of Dagestan as a whole; they are the descendants of the modern Laks or Lezgins; the Georgian form "lek" (leki) and "leg" of Strabo "go back to the common Dagestani "Laki", and the name "leg" in ancient times "established for the Dagestani Laks as a settled ethnonym"; the term Lezgi was not the self-name of one of the Dagestani peoples in the past, and already from ancient times, for many centuries, was used as the common name for the Dagestani mountain peoples; the ethnonym Leki in the Georgian chronicle L. Mroveli "denotes a large part of the tribes of medieval Dagestan," and in general "Leki is the Georgian name for the peoples of Dagestan as a whole. Indeed, Leki (legi) is an ethnonym that carries the broadest meaning of those listed above. But the presence of a number of other ethnonyms didura, tavaspara, etc. indicates that the ethnonym leki can be extended to a significant (possibly large) territory of Dagestan, but not to the entire territory".

Д.  B. Butayev derived the ethnonym Lezgin from the Lak word "lakssa" - "high". V.F. Minorskii also believed that the term lakz "consists of lak

Although the Russians used "lezg-in" "to all inhabitants of Dagestan, but in local usage and in Arab geographers this term is applied only to the tribes of Southern Dagestan...".

Academician Marr wrote that the related name Lezgin "lek, mn. leki at Batsbiyev designates everyone, except the Tatars, in Dagestan and Zakatala district.

According to the BSE:

The name of all the peoples of Dagestan is a misnomer, widespread in Russian literature, from the name of one of the peoples, the Lezgi.

The Caucasian historians B. Aliev and M. Umakhanov write:

Over time, as a result of expanding information about the peoples of Dagestan, closer acquaintance with them, the name Lezgin remained only for the Lezgins themselves, the historical bearers of the name.

The Lezgins traditionally live in the south of Dagestan (Russia) and in the north of Azerbaijan, being the second largest population in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In Dagestan they inhabit Akhtyn, Derbent, Dokuzparin, Tabasaran, Kurakh, Magaramkent, Suleyman-Stal and Khiva districts, and also live in Rutul and Khasavyurt districts. And in all major cities of the Republic of Dagestan, especially in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk and Derbent.

In Azerbaijan Lezgi population is mainly concentrated in Kusar (79.6 thousand, 2009 census), Kuba (9.0 thousand, 2009 census), Khachmas (24.7 thousand, 2009 census), Gabala (16.0 thousand, 2009 census), Ismailli (8.1 thousand, 2009 census), Oguz (4.8 thousand, 2009 census), and Sheki (4.8 thousand, 2009 census), The 2009 census has been conducted in the districts of Gabala (16,000, 2009 census), Ismailli (8,100, 2009 census), Oguz (4,800, 2009 census), Sheki (6,200, 2009 census) and Kakh (0,300) and in all major cities - especially Baku (24,900, 2009 census). According to experts of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Anthropology of the Dagestan Science Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "in Azerbaijan the number of Lezgins is significantly higher (about 350,000 people). This discrepancy is explained by the fact that many Lezgins, who live in Azerbaijan, are recorded as Azerbaijanis (often forcedly). In the online directory "Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Sixteenth Edition" estimates the number of Lezgin speakers in Azerbaijan at 178,000 with reference to the 1999 census. The 1993 US Justice Department report "Azerbaijan: Status of Armenians, Russians, Jews and other minorities" says that there is an unofficial estimation of the number of Lezgin people in Azerbaijan equal to 800 000 people. The Lezgin people are probably the largest North Caucasian people, whose area of settlement after the collapse of the USSR was divided by the state border (between Russia and Azerbaijan) almost in half, both territorially and numerically.

Russian ethnographer V. Tishkov believes that an important factor in increasing the number of Lezgins in Daghestan was the flow of "refugees" from neighboring Azerbaijan, caused by Azerbaijan's low economic level, complete indifference to the sphere of social support, chauvinistic state policy, which leads to bureaucratic assimilation of Lezgins (simply put, they are simply recorded as "Azerbaijanis"), combined with rampant corruption of officials, the misery of the Karabakh war, occupation of lands and expulsion from them up to 1 million Azeryans.

Already in 1891, according to estimates for the territory of Kura district of Dagestan region, which preceded the All-Russian census of 1897, there were about 55 thousand Kurains (i. e. Lezgins). However, the results of the First All-Russian census of 1897 gave detailed information about the number of people who spoke Kyurin (questions about ethnicity, ethnos, nationality, etc. The concept "dialect", as it appears in the census data, is usually interpreted by modern scholars in modern terms as "native language" or "primary language spoken by the interviewee"; speakers of the Kura dialect are usually identified as Lezghins) and their settlement across the territory of the Russian Empire:

The proportion of Lezgins by districts and cities in Russia (indicate municipalities where the share of Lezgins in the population exceeds 5%):

According to sources, beginning in the first half of the 13th century, the area inhabited by peoples of the Lezghin language group of the Nakh-Daghestan language family was known as Lezghistan. The sources of that period refer to the rulers of the mountains as "Emirs of Lezghistan.

In the 16th-17th centuries, the Ottoman sultans and Shahs of Persia repeatedly tried to subjugate the Lezgins (including the Rutuls), seeking to use these militant tribes in their own interests, especially in the fight against Christian Georgia.

In the XVI-XVII centuries, unions of rural communities, "free societies" of Lezgins (Akhty-para, Kurakh-dere, Alty-para, Dokuz-para, Tagirjal) were formed.

At the beginning of the 18th century, anti-Iranian uprisings of the Lezghins and other peoples of Dagestan and Azerbaijan began in the Eastern Transcaucasia. Under the leadership of Haji-Davud of Mushkur (1721-1728), the rebels seized the territory of Shirvan with its capital in Shemakha.

Later, Persia for a time managed to restore its power throughout the entire territory of Eastern Transcaucasia, but after the death of Nadir Shah, the state he created disintegrated into a number of small khanates.

The Kuba Lezgins were part of the Kuba Khanate; the Kura Lezgins were part of the Kurakh Union, later the Kura Khanate, formed in 1812 in southern Dagestan under Russian protectorate. In 1864, the Kura Khanate was transformed into the Kura district. Lezgins-Samurians were included in the Samur district in 1839. The main part of the Lezgin-Kubinsk people was included in the Kuba district of the Baku province.

In 1930, Sheikh Mohammed Efendi Shtulsky organized a revolt against Soviet power, which was suppressed after a few months.

In the 20th century attempts were made to create the republic of Lezghistan (independent or as an autonomy). In 2012, the Lezgins were admitted to the UNPO, and in 2014 to the Federalist Union of European National Minorities.

The Lezghin language belongs to the Lezghin subgroup of the Nakh-Daghestan group of the North Caucasus family of languages. Russian and Azerbaijani languages are widespread among Lezghins (most Lezghins are bilingual and trilingual). Lezgin language is divided into 3 dialects: Kura, Samur and Kuba. Kura dialect includes Gyunei, Yarka and Kurakh dialects; Samur dialect includes Dokuzparin transitional dialect and Akhty dialect. In addition, there are separate dialects: Kurush, Giliyar, Fiyi and Gelhen.

In 1905, to facilitate Russification of the people, the tsarist government attempted to create a Lezgi script on the basis developed by Baron P.K. Uslar, which in the same year published "History of the eight prophets mentioned in the Koran", and in 1911 the "Qurin alphabet", but the attempt was unsuccessful. The Latin alphabet was introduced in 1928, and a new alphabet based on Cyrillic in 1938. The Guenean dialect of the Kura dialect was the basis of the literary Lezgi language.

Lezghin believers profess Sunni Islam of Shafiite mazkhab, while a minority professes Hanafi mazkhab. The exception is the inhabitants of the village of Miskindzha in Dokuzparin district of Dagestan Republic, who are Shiites (Jafarite mazkhab).

The people belong to the Caucasian race (Caucasian type with an admixture of the Caspian subtype).

According to genetic research by B. B. Yunusbaev, Lezgins are carriers of the following haplogroups:

According to Dr. O. Balanovsky's data from a study of 81 probands (published in 2011), Lezgins are carriers of the following haplogroups:

In song folklore, the central place belongs to lyrical songs of dancing character with bright instrumental sections; the instrumental music itself is saturated with melismatics. Folk art is also represented by dances, among which, in particular, the famous "lezginka," common among the peoples of the Caucasus. There is a quieter male dance - zarb maqam, as well as slow, smooth dances akhty-chai, perizat khanum, useinel, and bakhtavar.

The first Lezghin theater emerged in 1906 in the village of Akhty. In 1935, the State Lezghin musical-drama theater named after S. Stalsky was established on the basis of a semi-professional company. In 1998 the State Lezghin theater was opened in Azerbaijan, located in Kusary.


The basis of traditional food is vegetable (grains, beans) and meat and milk. Bread made of unleavened and sour dough baked in traditional bread ovens - khare. Lezgin fine bread is popular in the cities of Dagestan. In addition to bread, various pies (afarar) stuffed with edible herbs, meat, cottage cheese, and tskӏan were and are most popular today. Khinkal, soup with meat, and milk and dairy products occupied a significant place in the ration. The most widespread drink was tӏach, a mildly sour beverage made of sprouted wheat grains. The ritual food was gitI (boiled together wheat and corn grains and dried lamb's legs), isitqa (halva made of wheat flour), khashil (flour porridge).

Lezgin costume

The traditional clothing of the Lezghin was similar to that of other Dagestani peoples: men wore a shirt, trousers, beshmet, khokeska, and hats, and in cold weather a bashlyk and a sheepskin coat, which had variations. Women wore a dress shirt, colored trousers, beshmet, chukhta, and headscarves of many shapes and colors. Men's and women's silver belts, head and breast adornments, bracelets, and rings were widespread. Children's clothes did not differ from those worn by adults - they were a scaled-down copy of them.

Dance Art

Lezghinka - Lezghin solo male and pair dance, widespread among many peoples of the Caucasus.

The dance uses two images. The man moves in the image of an "eagle," alternating slow and fast tempo. The most difficult to perform and spectacular movements are the dance movements of the man, when he stands on his toes, spreading his arms in different directions. The woman moves in the image of a "swan," mesmerizing with graceful posture and smooth hand movements. The woman increases the tempo of her dance after the man. It is no coincidence that this dance, common among all Caucasian peoples, was named according to the ancient totem of Lezgins: the word lek (Lezg. Lek) means "eagle".


The epic of Lezgi folklore is the heroic epos "Sharvili", which, as the collectors of this literary monument believe, belongs to the XI-XII centuries. The epos has survived only in prose and verse excerpts. Yetim Emin, a 19th-century poet, was the classic of Lezghian literature. Among the prominent representatives of that period can also be distinguished Molla Nuri, Hpej Kurban, Sayfulla of Kurakh, Haji of Akhty and others. Ashug poet Suleiman Stalsky, dubbed by M. Gorky as "Homer of the XX century", began his work at the beginning of the XX century. The poet raised Lezgi folklore to the level of literature, enriching it with viable traditional forms.

Housing Culture

The main type of settlement among the Lezgins is the village ("khur"). As for the social grouping of the Lezgin village, it is divided into quarters. Large territorial kinship settlements (one block - one tukhum) were widespread. Each village had a mosque and a village square - kim, where villagers (men's part) gathered for a village meeting to solve the most important issues of the village's social life.

In 1933, the USSR issued an ethnographic series of postage stamps entitled "The Peoples of the USSR. Several stamps are devoted to the peoples of the Caucasus, including one - the Lezgins.


  1. Lezgins
  2. Лезгины
  3. ^ Koter, Marek; Heffner, Krystian; Sobczyński, Marek (2003). The Role of Ethnic Minorities in Border Regions: Forms of their composition, problems of development and political rights. ISBN 9788371261749. Retrieved 18 December 2014. Although the Lezgin are Sunni Muslims, there is a strong Shiite minority.
  4. ^ Friedrich, Paul (1994). Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia, China. G.K. Hall. p. 243. ISBN 978-0816118106. Given the strong Azerbaijani influence on them, however, there is a sizable Shiite minority among the Lezgins
  5. ^ Cole, Jeffrey E. (2016). Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 237. ISBN 978-1598843033. The Lezgins are Muslims; the great majority are Sunni of the Shafi'i rite, with small numbers of Lezgins living near or inside Azerbaijan being Shiite.
  6. ^ Гаджиев, Владилен Гадисович (1979). Сочинение И. Гербера "Описание стран и народов между Астраханью и рекою Курой находящихся" как исторический источник по истории народов Кавказа (in Russian). Наука.
  7. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lesghians" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 489.
  8. 1 2 3 Гаджиев Г. А., Ризаханова М. Ш. Лезгины // Народы Дагестана / Отв. ред. С. А. Арутюнов, А. И. Османов, Г. А. Сергеева. — М.: Наука, 2002. — С. 377. ISBN 5-02-008808-0
  9. состав населения по оценкам PEOPLE GROUP (неопр.). Дата обращения: 13 июля 2020. Архивировано 16 июля 2020 года.
  10. состав населения по оценкам PEOPLE GROUP (неопр.). Дата обращения: 13 июля 2020. Архивировано 13 июля 2020 года.
  11. Национальный состав населения Украины по оценкам Joshuaproject (неопр.). Дата обращения: 31 января 2018. Архивировано 1 февраля 2018 года.
  12. Национальный состав населения Турции по оценкам Joshuaproject (неопр.). Дата обращения: 8 апреля 2016. Архивировано 22 апреля 2020 года.
  13. Minahan, σ. 1084. "Lezgin national organizations estimate the actual Lezgin population in Azerbaijan at between 600,000 and 900,000, much higher than the official estimates. The disparity arises from the number of ethnic Lezgins registered as ethnic Azeris during the soviet period and continue to claim Azeri nationality to escape job and education discrimination in Azerbaijan."
  14. «The Role of Ethnic Minorities in Border Regions: Forms of their composition, problems of development and political rights» (en inglés). Consultado el 6 de octubre de 2020. «Although the Lezgin are Sunni Muslims, there is a strong Shiite minority. »
  15. Friedrich, Paul (1994). Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia, China (en inglés). G.K. Hall. p. 243. ISBN 978-0816118106. Consultado el 6 de octubre de 2020. «Given the strong Azerbaijani influence on them, however, there is a sizable Shiite minority among the Lezgins ».
  16. Cole, Jeffrey E. (2016). Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia (en inglés). ABC-CLIO. p. 237. ISBN 978-1598843033. «The Lezgins are Muslims; the great majority are Sunni of the Shafi'i rite, with small numbers of Lezgins living near or inside Azerbaijan being Shiite. »
  17. Cornell, Svante (2016). Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus (en inglés). Routledge. p. 259. ISBN 978-1135796693. «Whereas officially the number of Lezgins registered as such in Azerbaijan is around 380,000, the Lezgins claim (...) ».
  18. AZERBAIJAN DAILY DIGEST Eurasianet.com (en inglés)

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