Lezgins – an important ethnic group in Azerbaijan

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(Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)

The Lezgins are one of the five main ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan. The population of Lezgins represents about 2% of the total population of Azerbaijan. Their religion is Islam and their language is Lezgi. Historically, the Lezgins inhabited the magnificent Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. Part of the ethnic group lives in Dagestan, in the Russian Federation and another across the border with Russia in the northeastern part of Azerbaijan; Qusar, Quba and Khachmaz. However, the western part of Azerbaijan in the Zaqatala and Balakan regions is also populated by many ethnic minorities, including the Lezgins. UNHCR states that the Lezgins represent 40% of the population of the Qusar and Khachmaz regions and that Greater Baku has 1.8% of Lezgin.

Qusar region. Urva village (Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)

Lezgis and language

Balakishiyeva Destegul, 82, has lived her whole life in the Urva, Qusar region. Despite the fact that she was studying in an Azerbaijani school, she does not remember the language. The local Lezgis speak in their native language, which is why the older generation can easily forget the national language.

Today, the main language is Azerbaijani or Russian. In Qusar, Lezgin is taught as a foreign language in schools. Lezgin’s textbooks come from Russia, and teachers complain that they are not suitable for contemporary teaching. These programs were implemented up to 20 years ago in the Qusar region. The Lezgi language was most popular for family life and communication in the majority Lezgi villages. Azerbaijani, as an official language, was considered important for communicating with Azerbaijani-speaking neighbors, for finding work and for participating in the republic as a whole.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUBDwzjWvc0

Despite the way the Lezgis receive their education in Azerbaijani or Russian, they tend to speak to each other in Lezgi. Subsequently, in most Lezgi families, the language of communication is Lezgi.

Most people said that while it is not necessary to speak Azerbaijani in order to be able to find work in their villages, Azerbaijani is necessary to work in other parts of the republic. Nevertheless, Russian is seen as less important than Lezgi or Azerbaijani. Russian was also considered less important for economic purposes, with the exception of younger and middle-aged men who traveled to Russia to find work. People found it difficult to estimate the percentage of men from their villages who went to work in Russia. The Lezgi language was most popular for family life and communication in the majority Lezgi villages. Azerbaijani, as an official language, was considered important for communicating with Azerbaijani-speaking neighbors, for finding work and for participating in the republic as a whole.

Mamed-Rasul, 90 years old, a Lezgi ethnic group, living in Urva, Qusar region (Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)

The oldest man in the village.

Mamed-Rasul, 90, is a Lezgi ethnic group who lives in the village of Urva and considers himself the oldest man in that village. Mamed-Rasul does not remember the Azerbaijani language because everyone in this village speaks Lezgi. Mamed-Rasul lives alone in his big house. His children live not far from him and come to visit him very often. Mamed does not want to leave his house because of his whole life, which he has spent in this house in the village of Urva.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03LHlobrLbQ

Most Lezgians marry within their own clans, and older women are very influential in such decisions. Lezgian women are famous throughout the Caucasus for their woven rugs and delicious bakeries. These fine rugs are easily recognizable by their geometric designs. Like all people in the world, their bread is considered the main staple food. One of the most famous types of bread is Khran Fu, which you can find on the table of every Lezgi.

The economy of this region is mainly based on food processing (meat, cheese, butter), leatherwork and textile production. Most households survive on remittances from family members sent from Russia; according to a journalist, the majority of the working population is in Russia. All family ethnic groups have strong marriage, family ties, and business relationships with Dagestan, Russia.

Women in the village meet once a week to cook bread and other national bakeries (Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)

Lezgi women are considered to be those who work hard. The attitude towards women has been quite contradictory throughout history. The woman was highly respected in the community, but at the same time has no rights in the family, even towards their own children. The man treated her like an inferior human, the main burden of domestic work fell on the woman’s shoulder: preparing clothes, eating food, handling all kinds of economic affairs, and more. Even today, the women of this region take care of all kinds of household chores. Despite the harsh weather conditions in this region, women have to go to the nearest lake to draw water. Since many people do not have the option of installing the water tank in the houses, women have to bring water 6-7 times a day.

By Lala Alieva

(Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)
(Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)
(Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)
(Lala Aliyeva / Chai-Khana)


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