Peoples of the Caucasus

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Ethno-linguistic groups in the Caucasus region[1]
The medieval Georgian village of Shatili
The village of Tindi, in Dagestan, in the late 1890s. The photograph was taken by M. de Déchy

This article deals with the various ethnic groups inhabiting the Caucasus region. There are more than 50 ethnic groups living in the region.[2]

Peoples speaking Caucasic languages[edit]

Caucasians who speak languages which have long been indigenous to the region are generally classified into three groups: Kartvelian peoples, Northeast Caucasian peoples and Northwest Caucasian peoples.

Kartvelian languages

Northeast Caucasian languages

Northwest Caucasian languages

The largest peoples speaking languages which belong to the Caucasian language families and who are currently resident in the Caucasus are the Georgians (7,000,000), the Chechens (1,500,000 (according to 2010 Russian Census)), the Lezgins (about 800,000 (source Lezgins)), the Kabardins (600,000) and the Avars (500,000), while outside the Caucasus, the largest people of Caucasian origin, in diaspora in more than 40 countries (such as Jordan, Turkey, the countries of Europe, Syria, United States) are the Circassians with about 3,000,000-4,000,000 speakers. Georgians are the only Caucasian people that have their own undisputedly independent state—Georgia. Abkhazia's status is disputed. Other Caucasian peoples have republics within the Russian Federation: Adyghe (Adygea), Cherkess (Karachay–Cherkessia), Kabardins (Kabardino-Balkaria), Ingush (Ingushetia), Chechens (Chechnya), while other Northeast Caucasian peoples mostly live in Dagestan.

Peoples speaking Turkic languages[edit]

Caucasians that speak languages that belong to the Turkic language family:

The largest of the Turkic-speaking peoples in the Caucasus are Azerbaijanis who number 8,700,000 in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In the Caucasus region, they live in Georgia, Russia (Dagestan), Turkey and previously in Armenia (before 1990). The total number of Azerbaijanis is around 35 million (25 million in Iran). Other Turkic speakers live in their administrative republics within Russian Federation: Karachays (Karachay–Cherkessia), Balkars (Kabardino-Balkaria), while Kumyks and Nogais live in Dagestan.

Peoples speaking Indo-European languages[edit]

Caucasians that speak languages that belong to the Indo-European language family:

Armenians number 3,215,800 in their native Armenia, though approximately 8 million live outside the republic, forming the Armenian diaspora. Elsewhere in the region, they reside in Nagorno-Karabakh (which is de facto independent, but de jure is part of Azerbaijan), Georgia (primarily Samtskhe-Javakheti, Tbilisi, and Abkhazia), and the Russian North Caucasus. The Ossetians live in North Ossetia–Alania (administrative republic within Russia) and in South Ossetia, which is de facto independent, but de jure is part of Georgia. The Yazidi Kurds reside in the western areas of Armenia, mostly in the Aragatsotn marz. An administrative Kurdish region was created in 1923 in Soviet Azerbaijan but was later abolished in 1929. Pontic Greeks reside in Armenia (Lori Province, especially in Alaverdi) and Georgia (Kvemo Kartli, Adjara, the Tsalka, and Abkhazia). Pontic Greeks had also made up a significant component of the southern Caucasus region acquired from the Ottoman Turkish Empire (following the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano) that centred on the town of Kars (ceded back to Turkey in 1916). Russians mostly live in the Russian North Caucasus and their largest concentration is in Stavropol Krai, Krasnodar Krai, and in Adygea. Georgia and the former south Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast was also home to a significant minority of ethnic (Swabian) Germans, although their numbers have become depleted as a result of deportations (to Kazakhstan following WWII), immigration to Germany, and assimilation into indigenous Christian Orthodox communities.

Peoples speaking Semitic languages[edit]

Caucasians that speak languages that belong to the Semitic language family

Assyrians in the Caucasus number approximately 35,000 people, and live in Armenia, Georgia,[3] Azerbaijan and Southern Russia. There are up to 15,000 in Georgia,[3] 3500 in Armenia, up to 15,000 in southern Russia and 1400 in Azerbaijan. They are an ancient Semitic people, descendant from the ancient Mesopotamians. They are Eastern Rite Christians, mainly followers of the Assyrian Church of the East, and speak and write Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic dialects.

There are about 15,000–30,000 Caucasus Jews (as 140,000 immigrated to Israel, and 40,000 to the US). As well as descendants of Sayyid and Siddiqui – the people with Arabian origin, but mostly assimilated by other Caucasian peoples. However, some people identify not just as Sayyid or Siddiqui with non-Arabian ethnicity, but as Arabs.[4][5]

Kalmyk people[edit]

The Kalmyk people — or Kalmyks — is the name given to the Oirats, western Mongols in Russia, whose ancestors migrated from Dzhungaria in 1607. Today they form a majority in the administrative Republic of Kalmykia on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Kalmykia has Europe's only Buddhist government.[6]


See also[edit]