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The Lezgians (Lezgian: лезгияр, , Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

: лезгины) are an ethnic group living predominantly in southern Dagestan
The Republic of Dagestan is a federal subject of Russia, located in the North Caucasus region. Its capital and the largest city is Makhachkala, located at the center of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea...

 and northeastern Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 and who speak the Lezgian language.

Historical concept

While ancient Greek historians, including Herodotus, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder, referred to Legoi people who inhabited Caucasian Albania
Caucasian Albania
Albania is a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of...

, Arab historians of 9-10th centuries mention the kingdom of Lakz in present-day southern Dagestan. Al Masoudi referred to inhabitants of this area as Lakzams (Lezgins), who defended Shirvan
Shirvanshah also spelled as Shīrwān Shāh or Sharwān Shāh, was the title in mediaeval Islamic times of an Arab in Ethnos but speedily Persianized dynasty within their culturally Persian environment. The Shirvanshah established a native state in Shirvan...

 against invaders from the north.

Modern times

Prior to the Russian Revolution, "Lezgin" was a term applied to all ethnic groups inhabiting the present-day Russian Republic of Dagestan.

In the 19th century, the term was used more broadly for all ethnic groups speaking non-Nakh Northeast Caucasian languages
Northeast Caucasian languages
The Northeast Caucasian languages constitute a language family spoken in the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, northern Azerbaijan, and in northeastern Georgia, as well as in diaspora populations in Russia, Turkey, and the Middle East...

, including Caucasian Avars
Caucasian Avars
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 ....

, Laks, and many others (although the Vainakh peoples, who were Northeast Caucasian language speakers were referred to as "Circassians").

Today, the Lezgins are predominately Sunni Muslims, with a Shi'a minority living in Miskindja village in Daghestan.

Lezgins live mainly in Azerbaijan and in the Russian Federation (Dagestan). The total population is believed to be around 700,000, with 412,000 living in Russian Federation.
In the republic of Azerbaijan, the government census counts 178,000. However, Lezgin national organizations mention 600,000 to 900,000, the disparity being that many Lezgins claim Azeri nationality to escape job and education discrimination in Azerbaijan. Despite the assimulationist policy of the Azeri government, the Lezgin population is undoubtedly greater than it appears.

Lezgins also live in Central Asia.

Situation in Azerbaijan

According to Thomas de Waal:

External links