Udi people

The Udis (self-name Udi or Uti) are a native people of the Caucasus. Currently, they live in Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and many other countries. The total number is about 10,000 people. They speak the Udi language. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian languages depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

Total population
c. 100,000
Regions with significant populations
Udi, Azerbaijani, and Russian
Church of Caucasian Albania, Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Lezgins, Tabasarans, Tsakhurs, and other Northeast Caucasian peoples


The Udi are considered to be the descendants of the people of Caucasian Albania. According to the classical authors, the Udi inhabited the area of the eastern Caucasus along the coast of the Caspian Sea, in a territory extending to the Kura River in the north, as well as the ancient province of Utik. Today, most Udis belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church while others are still trying to restore the Church of Caucasian Albania. Centuries of life in the Armenian, Iranian, and Turkish spheres influenced their culture, as is expressed in Udi folk traditions and the material culture.[5]

The Udi are first mentioned in Herodotus' Histories (5th century BC). Describing the Battle of Marathon, during the Greek-Persian war (490 BC), the author noted that Udi soldiers also were at war as a part of nine satrapy of the Persian army. The Udis are mentioned in the Geographica of the ancient Greek writer Strabo (1st century BC) in his description of the Caspian Sea and the Caucasian Albania.

The ethnic term "Udi" was mentioned first in the Natural history by the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder (1st century AD). Further ancient information about the Udi people can be found in books by Ptolemy (2nd century), Gaius Asinius Quadratus and many other authors. Since the 5th century, the Udi people are often mentioned in the Armenian sources. More extensive information is given in The History of Aluank[6] by Movses Kagancatvasiy. The Udi were one of the predominating Albanian tribes [7] and they were considered the creators of Caucasian Albania. The Byzantines cooperated extensively with their leader Sandilch in the latter half of the 6th century.

Both capitals of Caucasian Albania: Kabalak (also called Kabalaka, Khabala, Khazar, today's Qabala) and Partav (also called Partaw, today's Barda), were located in the historical territory of the Udi. They occupied extensive territories from the bank of the Caspian Sea to the Caucasian Mountains, on the left and right banks of the Kura River. One of the regions in this area was named "Utik". After the conquest of the Caucasian Albania by the Arabs, the number of the Udi and their territory were gradually reduced.

Udi villagesEdit

Until 1991, the main Udi villages were Vartashen and Nij in Azerbaijan, as well as the village of Zinobiani in Georgia. In the recent past, Udi people also lived in Mirzabeily, Soltan Nuha, Jourlu, Mihlikuvah, Vardanli (now Kərimli), Bajan, Kirzan, and Yenikend, in contemporary times they have mostly assimilated with the people of Azerbaijan.[8]

Vartashen was mainly a Udi village, where the Vartashen dialect of the Udi language was spoken by about 3000 people in the 1980s. The Udis of Vartashen belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church and had Armenian surnames. During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Udis as well as the Armenians were expelled to Armenia.[9] Some 50 Udi people remained among some 7000 ethnic Azeris in the town, which was renamed to Oğuz.[10]

Today the only place of concentrated Udi settlement are the village of Nij in Azerbaijan and the village of Zinobiani in Georgia, which was founded by Udi refugees from Vartashen in the 1920s.[10][8]

A significant group of Udi live in the Georgian village of Zinobiani, founded by Udi from Vartashen in the 1920s. Small groups reside in Russia in the Rostov region (Shahty, Taganrog, Rostov-na-Donu, Azov, Aleksandrovka); in the Krasnodar territory (Krasnodar, areas of Dinskoy, Leningrad, Kushchevsky); in the Stavropol Territory (Minvody, Pyatigorsk); in the Volgograd region (Volgograd, Dubovy Ovrag); and also in Sverdlovsk, Ivanovo, Kaluga areas, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Astrakhan; in Georgia in the outskirts of Tbilisi, Poti, Rustavi, in Armenia mainly in the Lori Province, and Aktau in Kazakhstan. Some also live in Ukraine's (Kharkiv oblast).[10]


The Udi language is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. The two primary dialects are Nij (Nidzh) and Vartashen. The people today also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, and Georgian. The Udi are commonly bilingual, and less frequently trilingual, depending on residence and work. Many use Udi only in daily life, but for official purposes, the Udi use the language of the country in which they reside, such as Azerbaijani, Russian, or Armenian.


The Udi language has two dialects: Nidzh and Vartashen. Nidzh dialect has sub-dialects that are divided into three subgroups - bottom, intermediate, top. Linguists believe the dialects originated according to geographic groupings of the Udi from the Tauz region: the villages of Kirzan and Artzah (Karabah, v. Seysylla, Gasankala) moved to Nidzh and Oguz.[11] The Vartashen dialect has two sub-dialects: Vartashen and Oktomberry.


In the past the Udi language was one of the widespread languages of Caucasian Albania on the basis of which, in the 5th century the Caucasian Albanian script,[12] was created by the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots.[13] The alphabet had 52 letters. The language was widely used, as major Bible texts were translated into the Caucasian Albanian language. Church services were conducted in it. After the fall of the Albanian state, the Caucasian Albanian liturgical language was gradually replaced by Armenian in church.[citation needed]

Due to their Caucasian Udi language and their Christian faith, the Udis are regarded as the last remnants of the old Caucasian Albanians. Under Persian rule, some of them converted to Islam, and soon adopted the Azeri language. The Armenian Apostolic Church held services exclusively in the Armenian language and refused to ordain a local Udi priest, against which Udis protested:[14]

...our strong desire is that our pastor be a representative of our people, for although we belong to the Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener, our language is different: we are the Uti and we know that these people live nowhere except for the villages of Nizh and Vardashen. We do not have the slightest command of the Armenian language; nor have we any idea about what the Gospel says...

Whereas the Udis of Vartashen remained in the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Udi Christians of Nij changed from the Armenian to the Russian Orthodox Church soon after the beginning of Russian rule.[15]

Population and changesEdit

In 1880, the population of the Udi people living in the area around Qabala in northern Azerbaijan[16] was estimated at 10,000. In the year 1897, the number of the Udi people was given around 4.000, in 1910, it was around 5.900. They were counted as 2.500 in the census of 1926, as 3.700 in 1959, as 7.000 in 1979, and in 1989, the Udi people numbered 8.652. In census of 1999 in Azerbaijan, there were 4152 Udis.[17][18]

In the 2002 Russia Census, 3721 residents identified as Udi. Most of the Udi people (1573 persons) in Russia have been registered in Rostov region.[citation needed]

Notable UdiEdit

  • Stepan Pachikov, co-founder of ParaGraph Intl., Parascript, Evernote Corp. among other software companies which contributed heavily to the development of handwriting recognition and VRML technologies.
  • George Kechaari, Udi writer, educator, public figure and scientist.
  • Voroshil Gukasyan, Soviet linguist, Caucasologist and specialist in the Udi language and Caucasian Albanian inscriptions.
  • Patvakan A. Kushmanyan,(1870-1955), distinguished educator of the Armenian SSR and notable scientist, linguist, editor of first armenian-udi and udi-armenian dictionaries.
  • Movses Silikyan, major general of the Russian Imperial Army during World War I and then of the army of the First Armenian Republic.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ State statistics committee of Ukraine - National composition of population, 2001 census (Ukrainian)
  2. ^ "Ethnic Groups in Georgia # 3 – Udis". The Georgian Times. 2008-04-17. Archived from the original on 2008-08-29. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  3. ^ "Muslim Kurds and Christian Udis". Hetq Online. 2006-11-13. Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
  4. ^ http://www.geotimes.ge/index.php?m=home&newsid=9467 |accessdate = 2008-04-17 |url-status = dead |archiveurl = https://web.archive.org/web/20080829083551/http://www.geotimes.ge/index.php?m=home&newsid=9467 |archivedate = 2008-08-29 }}
  5. ^ The Red Book of Peoples: The Udis
  6. ^ Movses Kagancatvasiy, The History of Aluank (в 3-х книгах)
  7. ^ К. В. Тревер К вопросу о культуре Кавказской Албании (доклад на XXV Международном конгрессе востоковедов, 1960 год)
  8. ^ a b Игорь Кузнецов. Удины
  9. ^ Avetisyan, Armine. "Fading - On Being Udi in Armenia". Chaikhana.
  10. ^ a b c Wolfgang Schulze: Towards a History of Udi. International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics 1, 2005, pp. 55–91.
  11. ^ Игорь Кузнецов. Удины.
  12. ^ И. В. Кузнецов. Заметки к изучению агванского (кавказско-албанского) письма
  13. ^ Jost Gippert and Wolfgang Schulze. Some Remarks on the Caucasian Albanian Palimpsests (2007) pp. 210.
  14. ^ National Archives of Armenia, fund 56, list 1, file 5214, p. 1 (in Armenian, English translation taken from A Brief introduction on Nizh village. Samvel Karapetian, Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), Հայկական ճարտարապետությունն ուսումնասիրող հիմնադրամ (Armenian Architecture Research Fund), consulted on 25 January 2018).
  15. ^ A Brief introduction on Nizh village. Samvel Karapetian, Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), Հայկական ճարտարապետությունն ուսումնասիրող հիմնադրամ (Armenian Architecture Research Fund), consulted on 25 January 2018.
  16. ^ Map showing in dark green the Udi area in 1800
  17. ^ Петрушевский И. П., Очерки по истории феодальных отношений в Азербайджане и Армении в XVI – начале XIX в.в., Л., 1949, с. 28
  18. ^ "The Udi people in Azerbaijan"

External linksEdit