The Avar Khanate (Avar: Awarazul Nutsallhi; Russian: Аварское ханство), also known as Khundzia was a long-lived Muslim state, which controlled mountainous parts of Dagestan (in the North Caucasus) from the early 13th century to the 19th century.
|Early 13th century–1864|
|Early 13th century|
Between the 5th and 12th centuries, Georgian Orthodox Christianity was introduced to the Avar valleys. Following the fall of the Christian kingdom of Sarir in the early 12th century and later weakening of neighbouring Georgians by the Mongol invasions, who made their first appearance in the Caucasus with approximately 20,000 warriors led by Subutai and Jebe terminated further Christian Georgian presence in this area. In fact, numerous traces of Christianity (crosses, chapels) are found within the Avar territory and it is now assumed that Christianity, penetrating from Georgia, survived among the Avars down to the 14th-15th centuries.
After ravaging Georgia, the Mongols cut across the Caucasus Mountains during the winter to get around the Derbent Pass. Although the Avars had pledged their support to Muhammad II of Khwarezm (reigned 1200-1220) in his struggle against the Mongols, there is no documentation for the Mongol invasion of the Avar lands. As historical clues are so scarce, it is probably fruitless to speculate whether the Avars were the agents of the Mongol influence in the Caucasus and whether they were entrusted with the task of levying tribute for the khan, as modern historian Murad Magomedov suggests.
The Golden Horde overran the region in 1241, but by the 14th century newly established Avar Khanate managed to maintain independence from the Mongols. The rise of the Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh following the disintegration of the Golden Horde in the 15th century was at once a symptom and a cause of the khans' diminished influence during the 15th and 16th centuries. The khanate was a loosely structured state, sometimes forced to seek the Tsar's protection against its powerful enemies, while many mountainous communities (djamaats) obtained a considerable degree of autonomy from the khan. In the 16th century the region was the center of a fierce struggle for control by the Ottomans and the Safavids. Under Turkish influence, in the 17th century the majority of the Avar tribes adopted Islam. The consolidation of Islam in Avaristan in the 18th century resulted in a series of religious wars against the Georgian states, these sporadic forays are also known as Lekianoba in Georgian historiography. The references to these raids appear in the Epic poetry of Avars; the names of rulers who lead the most devastating attacks, Umma-Khan, Nursal-Bek, and Mallachi, are mentioned in Georgian sources.
In the 18th century, the steady weakening of the Shamkhals fostered the ambitions of the Avar khans, whose greatest coup was the defeat of the 100,000-strong army of Nader Shah in September 1741 during his conquest of Dagestan. In the wake of this success, Avar sovereigns managed to expand their territory at the expense of free communities in Dagestan and Chechnya. The reign of Umma-Khan (from 1775 to 1801) marked the zenith of the Avar ascendancy in the Caucasus. Potentates who paid tribute to Umma-Khan included the rulers of Shaki, Quba, and Shirvan.
Within two years after Umma-Khan's death, 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 Muslim Imamate, led by Ghazi Mohammed (1828–32), Gamzat-bek (1832–34) and Imam Shamil (1834–59). This Caucasian War raged until 1864, when the Avar Khanate was abolished and the Avar District was instituted instead.
- History of Dagestan, vol. 1–4. Moscow, 1967–69.
- V. Minorsky, "A History of Sharvan and Darband in the 10th-11th Centuries", Pub: W. Heffer & sons ltd. Cambridge, 1958
- "Akhzakov, Alikhadji. Dagestanskiĭ filial Akademii nauk SSSR, In-t istorii, i︠a︡zyka, i literatury im. G. T︠S︡adasy, 1968, p. 37". Missing or empty
- "Macharadze, Valerian. Posol'stvo Teĭmuraza II V Rossii͡u, 1960. p. 152". Missing or empty