Introduction / History
The Avar of Azerbaijan belong to a much larger group of Avar. This larger group, which inhabits the Caucasus Mountain region, covers some fifteen distinct ethnic groups. Most of the Avar live in the mountains, plains, and foothills of Dagestan (a region in southwestern Russia).
The Avar of Azerbaijan live primarily in the northern Belokansky and Zakatal'sky districts. Originally from Daghestan, these Avar moved farther south in search of better pastures for their herds. They eventually formed free communities in Azerbaijan.
The Avar played an important role in Dagestan's history. During the third century B.C. fighting broke out between Iran and the people of the Caucasus region, which included the Avar. A powerful community formed in the mountain regions. The Avar rulers lived in Khunzakh, the region's capital, until 1834. Their ability to control the river valleys and central plateau area gave them dominion over the highland peoples.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Avar living in Dagestan are herdsmen rather than farmers. They exchange animal products for other necessary goods. Different types of animals are bred, depending on the area in which the Avar live. For example, those who live in the lowland areas generally have herds of livestock, while those in the high mountain regions raise large flocks of sheep. Meat and dairy products form the basis of the diet for those in the mountain regions, while those in the valleys live on vegetable and grain products.
The Avar are very devoted to traditional family values. The basic unit of their society is the village community, which is administered by the village assembly and a council of elders. Most villages are located on the mountain slopes, and the two or three story houses and fortress-like towers are made mostly of stone. In some houses, cattle are kept on the ground floor. The roof of one house often serves as the courtyard for another upper house.
Within Avar society, the division of labor remains distinct but does show some signs of change. The men do the heavier work, such as house building, plowing, threshing, transporting the harvest, and maintenance, while all domestic work is done by the women.
Girls generally marry at about fifteen years of age; and while the wishes of the parents play a basic role in the selection of the partners, personal preference is often considered. The formal right to divorce traditionally belonged to the husband, but now the marriage can be dissolved by either partner.
The traditional clothing of the Avar is similar to that of other European groups and includes a felt cloak and quilted coat. Women wear special headdresses called chikhtas. Today, especially in Azerbaijan, most people wear ordinary Western-style clothes.
The Avar language is composed of five main dialects that are not mutually intelligible. Several attempts have been made to compile an Avar script based first on Arabic, then Roman, and then Cyrillic. Today, there is a well-developed literature available in a literary language called Bolmata, which is based on the northern dialect.
What are their beliefs?
Sunni Islam has been the prevailing religion of the Avar since the thirteenth century. Two important holy places are located within their region. Also, there are many Islamic schools.
The mystic Sufi orders arrived in the area in the early 1800's, and today they are organized along patriarchal lines (lineage is traced through the males). These orders tended to reinforce the local customs and traditions.
What are their needs?
Between the fifth and twelfth centuries, Georgian Orthodox Christianity was introduced to the Avar. However, the influence of Islam was more lasting, and today the Avar are almost completely Muslim. Very few Christian resources are available in the Avar language, and few missionaries are currently working among them. Many quality laborers are needed to work among the Avar of Azerbaijan.
Prayer PointsView Avar in all countries.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is focusing on the Avar.
* Pray that evangelistic tools will soon be made available in the Avar language.
* Pray that God will create a hunger within the hearts of the Avar for the Gospel.
* Pray that God will increase the small number of Avar believers and use them mightily to reach their own people.
* Ask God to raise up a powerful army of intercessors to stand in the gap for the Avar.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Avar of Azerbaijan.