views updated May 08 2018


ETHNONYMS: Maarulal (self-designation meaning "mountain language"); exoethnonyms: Avar, Haibulu, Khundzi Yarussa. The ethnonym "Avar" became established during the last thirty or forty years and comes from the literary tradition (medieval chronicles).


Identification and Location. The Avars are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples of the former Daghestan SSR. For the most part the Avars inhabit mountainous parts of central and northwestern Daghestan, its northern foothills, and parts of the plains to the north, situated roughly between 43°05 and 41°43 N at about 47°25 E. Some of the Avars live compactly grouped in the north of the Azerbaijan SSR (Belokansky and Zakatal'sky districts), in Turkey and in other countries of the Near East. Physically the Avars resemble other indigenous Caucasian peoples. The geography of the Avar territory is characterized by ridges that run parallel to the main Caucasus chain, between which are high mountain plateaus (2,000 meters above sea level), wide basins, and valley flats with semiarid vegetation and a hot climate. These regions are relatively densely settled. The high mountain regions, however, have the typical indices of the alpine zone: a cold climate, wooded terrain, an economy oriented toward livestock rearing, and a low population density. Avar country includes the highest mountain in the republic (Mount Kazbek, 5,012 meters).

Demography. The Avars in the former USSR number 604,200, of which 495,700 dwell in the Daghestan SSR. At lower elevations in Avaria, the density is 35-39 persons per square kilometer; in high mountain country, it is 9.2 per square kilometer.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Avar language belongs to the Daghestanian Branch of the Northeast Caucasian Family. It is divided into two dialect groups: the Northern (Khunzakh and Salatav subdialects) and the Southern (Antsukh). The latter group is subdivided into five subdialects (Antsukh, Gidatlin, Batlukh, Andalal, and Keleb), each of which is divided in turn into more finely differentiated regional varieties. Some sources, however, list four major dialects; others claim that every valley possesses its own dialect. Avaria, in any case, is involved in so-called vertical polylingualism, where ethnic groups speak the languages of those living at lower elevations: many Andis speak Avar; many Avars speak Kumyk. The Avar literary languageBolmats, or "language of the people, the host"is based on the Northern dialect; Bolmats was also the lingua franca of many of the ethnic groups of southern Avaria and of all minor peoples of Daghestan. Bolmats is the language of literacy, used for literature, newspapers, magazines, radio programs, theatrical stagings, and teaching in primary schools. As of 1970, there were no less than fourteen district-level newspapers printed in Avar, as well as one on the republic level printed in Makhachkala. After the unification of Daghestan with Russia, the Russian language spread widely, becoming, during the Soviet period, the language of secondary schools and university education, science, record keeping, and international communication. Nevertheless, the Avars today rank among the least Russified and Sovietized of all Daghestanian groups (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986).

History and Cultural Relations

The earliest news of the Caucasian Avars is found in the communications of ancient authors about the Leg tribe, one of the twenty-six tribes comprising the Albanian Union (Strabo 10.5.1; Plutarch, Pompey 35.6). After the conquest of the Caucasian Albanians by Sasanid Iran (3rd century b.c.), there took shape in the mountains of Daghestan a powerful new political formation called Sarir with its capital in Khunzakh, the residence of the Avar khans until 1834. The ruler of Sarir was called "Avar," which evidently served as a source for the ethnonym. Contemporary researchers reject the hypothesis of an affinity between the Caucasian Avars and the tribe of the same name (probably Turkic-speaking) that swept from Inner Asia to the Balkans in the sixth and seventh centuries. The two groups may have come into contact in the mid-sixth century, when the Turkic Avars passed through northern Caucasia. The conquest of Daghestan by the Arabs (seventh-eighth century) only touched the Avars to some extent. In the fourteenth century Tamerlane, "the Conqueror of the Universe," left the mountains, having suffered enormous losses after invading Avaria with a host of 100,000. A combined military force of Daghestan mountaineers smashed the Persian Nadir Shah in Avaria in 1747. The Avars, like other inhabitants of Mountain Daghestan, above all valued their freedomthe sole (and indispensable) condition for the existence of their local communes (the basic form of social and political organization of Avar society). The Avar Khanate achieved its greatest strength in the eighteenth century, when it influenced the military and political life of all of the Caucasus. Better known is the half-century-long struggle of the Avars against the Russian Empire during the Caucasus Wars (1817-1864). During its last twenty-five years their fight was led by Shamil, a native of the Avar village of Gimri. During the years of this war for independence a theocratic state (an imamate) was created on the territory of Avaria and Chechnia (to the northwest). Following the fall of the fortress at Gunib and the capture of Shamil in 1859, Avaria was definitively annexed by the Russian Empire, retaining, however, a significant degree of internal autonomy. A renewed general uprising against Russia in 1877 suffered defeat. In 1920, after the Russian civil war, Soviet power was decisively established in Daghestan, and on 13 November 1921, at an "Extraordinary Session" of the peoples of Daghestan, Daghestan was declared autonomous. Since that time all the laws, orders, and socioeconomic structures pertaining to the USSR have been extended to all Daghestan. In 1944, some of the Avars were deported, along with other Muslim Caucasians (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 153). Among changes in the culture and way of life, the most significant have been the universal opening of schools and the establishment of institutions of higher learning, including a university (1957) and the Daghestan branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1949). Nevertheless, partly because of their leadership under Shamil, their long-standing tradition of holy war, and their present-day Muslim religiosity, the Avars enjoy the greatest prestige in Daghestan and northern Caucasus political consciousness, with the current trend being a gradual unification of various Daghestan groups around them (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 180-181).

Greatly popular among the Avars are the epic-historical songs about the defeat of the armies of Nadir Shah and by the cycle of songs devoted to various episodes of the War of Independence in the nineteenth century. Of the medieval poetic inheritances of the Avars the best-known are the ballads "Khochbar" and "Kamalil Bashir," the dramatic subjects of which are without direct parallel in world literature. In the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Avar culture and literature experienced a significant upsurge. Well-known Avar literary figures include the poets Aligaji of Inkho (died 1875) and Chanka (1866-1909), the lyric poet Makhmud (1873-1919), the satirist Tsadasa Gamzat (1877-1951), and the celebrated poet Rasul Gamzatov (born 1923). Avaria, perhaps more than any other part of Daghestan, was a centuries-old seat of Arabic culture with many learned scholars, visited by disciples from other Muslim lands (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 177).

The script of the Avar alphabet was reformed three times. Texts from the thirteenth century testify to the adaptation of the Georgian alphabet; from the sixteenth century on the language of literacy was Arabic, and in the eighteenth century, on the basis of the Arabic script, the Avar alphabet was established by cleric and scholar Dibir Kadi of Khunzakh. In 1928 a new alphabet was created based on Latin before the shift to the Cyrillic-based alphabet in 1938.


Avar settlements (Koroda, Urada, Mekhelta, and so forth) consisted in essence of a single complex building, about which the architects wrote that "the concept of separate ownership, of the integrity and unity of a building is not seen here; an entire quarterperhaps even the whole aul (mountain village)may consist of a single building, in the sense of an unbroken, continuous structure" (Baklanov 1924, 258). Another scholar wrote: "Nowhere as in Avaria does the density of houses reach such concentration, where the streets and thoroughfares run like tunnels, sometimes at two levels below the houses, and the densely-packed houses form one great, indivisible amalgamation" (Movchan 1972, 130). The compactness of building was dictated by the necessities of agricultural economy and of defense. A settlement would consist of several quarters, each of which also had its places for public gathering (godekan) and worship. The division into quarters was also administrative: participation in communal work and the election of commune leaders was organized by quarters. The houses were most often built in tiers, which is why the settlements had a terraced form. In many settlements the agricultural and livestock accommodations were placed around the edge of the village as separate quarters. In the alpine zones the settlements were not so large (thirty to fifty houses) and rather free in their layout. The traditional dwelling had several floors, a quadrangular shape, and a flat roof; the lower floors were used for economic purposes, and deep-set porches faced south. Since the 1960s the traditional form of the settlements has tended toward this spread-out, "free" type, and the flat roofs of the houses have been replaced by slanting ones made of slate and iron. In some places towerlike houses were preserved until the middle of the twentieth century.

In architecture the Gidatlin Valley was significantly set off by a local culture of fortresslike living complexes with hall-like quarters (up to 80 square meters of space for each room). A central pillar (tlolbol hubi, "the pillar of kinship") was carved in the form of a mighty oak with its top shaped like the crown of the tree. The pillar was adorned with carved ornaments and solar symbols and was revered as holy. In front of the pillar was situated the open hearth, where a fire was always burning. The layout and adornment of the interior of the home symbolized the might and longevity of clan values. The hall-like living quarters of Gidatl were preserved until the 1860s. There were other local architectural styles as well in Avaria (e.g., the places of worship). Construction materials were stone and wood. The contemporary settlement and its dwellings are convenient, but from the architectural point of view they manifest an evident degradation in the culture of spatial organization.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional economy of the Avars consisted of agriculture, livestock breeding, domestic industries, and trade. Avaria is one of the most significant regions of ancient terrace agriculture in the Caucasus. The inhabitants of mountain valleys received indispensable foodstuffs in exchange for the products of stock raising. Animal husbandry had several forms, with large stock in settled zones and the pasturing of sheep in the high mountains. The contemporary economy of the Avars in the more labor-intensive sectors is mechanized (plowing, harvesting, trucking, and so forth).

Clothing. The clothing of the Avars as a whole is of the generic Caucasian sort, but it has some distinctive features. Men's apparel includes pants, a shirt, a beshmet (quilted coat), a cherkeska (long, narrow, collarless coat), a sheepskin coat, a felt coat, a cowl, a fur cap, leather shoes, and socks of felt or wool. Avar men from the age of 15 traditionally sought to obtain the full set of weaponry for battle and display (saber, rifle, dagger, pistol); they wore the dagger as an accessory to their costume. Since the 1930s the bearing and possession of arms has been forbidden. The contemporary clothing, particularly of men, resembles ordinary European civilian clothing. Women's clothing varies somewhat from one region to another in Avaria. The community from which a woman comes could be ascertained by her clothing as much as by her speech. On the chukht (headdress) were sewn silver ornaments, different for each community.

Food. Dairy products and meat predominate in the diet of the mountainous regions. In the mountain valley zones vegetables and grain flour are consumed, as well as fruits, edible gourds, edible herbs, and wild grasses. The contemporary Avar cuisine and the dietary regime and etiquette of nourishment among city dwellers have undergone considerable changes.

Industrial Arts. In Avaria, district centers have specialized in different kinds of industry. The construction industry has developed more in the cities of Sogratl and Teletl; the master masons from these centers built the best houses. Leather, woodworking, and other domestic industries, despite their great variety, served mainly to satisfy local demand. But bronze embossing (in Gotsatl and Ichichali), textile manufacture, and silk spinning had a larger market. Since the middle of the nineteenth century the village of Untsukul has achieved great renown for its woodworking products with silver inlay. The products of Untsukul masters have been celebrated with prizes at many international fairs.

Trade. Trade and exchange of goods were as important as their production. In Avaria there have traditionally functioned several weekly bazaars, as well as state and cooperative stores.

Division of Labor. The gender division of labor among the Avars was obligatory and has been preserved to a significant degree to this day. Traditionally men did the heavier work: house building, plowing, threshing, transporting the harvest, maintaining and repairing terraced fields, pasturing cattle, driving livestock. All domestic work, including receiving and processing milk products, and all remaining fieldwork (weeding, picking fruits, hilling up plants, haying on steep slopes when a scythe could not be used) was women's work. The transformation of the traditional economy into a collective-farm economy only slightly changed the gender division of labor. Domestic tasks continue to be relegated to Avar women. In the cities the male Avars, like other Daghestan mountaineers, do not hire out as servants, conductors, and janitors. Women are considerably freer than they are in the east.

Land Tenure. Because of intensive forms of agricultural economy, such as the terracing of mountain slopes since ancient times, the land traditionally was the private property of small families, whereas alpine meadows, forests, and some pastures were communal property. Every member of a commune was the private owner of plowland, hay fields, and sometimes pastures, and a co-owner of all the territory of the given commune. Property could be freely disposed of (gift, will, purchase, and sale). There were legal limits to the sale of land to someone who was not a member of the commune. After the nationalization of land and the creation of a kolkhoz structure (1932-1934) the landowners and the landless peasants became land users and workers on state farms. At the present (the period of reconstruction, or perestroika ) there is a tendency toward the reinstatement of some progressive forms of property ownership.


Kin Groups and Descent. Kinship is bilateral, although the line of patrilineal descent shapes the clan organization (called tukhum in most of Daghestan but tlibil in Avar, where clan consciousness is unusually strong). Every tukhum has its designation, formed most often from the name of its founder. The tukhum is a strictly patrilineal or agnatic organizationif we keep in mind the kinship nucleusand is not usually heterogeneous, although its constituency may include persons from diverse places who have received the status of member. The tukhum in turn was divided into smaller patronymic groups the Avars called "the people of one house." The clan and the village "remain the basic cells of native society," with councils of elders and village courts; they are also the basis for Sufi brotherhoods (which have, to some extent, imposed their own territorial organization [Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 167]).

The generations were reckoned in the male line, and genealogies were usually short, usually three or four generations; status was determined through a person's clan membership. Feudal families (in earlier centuries) reckoned kinship on a much wider scope.

Kinship Terminology. Kinship terms on both the paternal and maternal side are primarily descriptive (e.g., grandson = "son's son"): emsul emen or kudada (grandfather), emen (father), vas (son), vasasul vas (grandson). Terms for the collateral line are classificatory: vats (brother), vats' al (male cousin), tsina'al (second cousin), mazhimutl' (third cousin), etc.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally Avars of both genders married at about age 15. The wishes of the parents played a basic role in the selection of a bridal couple and the conclusion of a marriage; however, a young man always had the option of informing his parents of whom he wanted to marry. A couple whose parents were not in agreement with the marriage eloped or simulated an abduction; forcible abductions were rarer. Marriage was possible with relatives as close as first cousins. The girl was not given in marriage to a young man of lower social rank. A girl was also not given to an "outsider"anybody who did not belong to the village commune. The conclusion of a marriage was marked by ceremonies, dances, receptions, songs, and sometimes horse races. The wedding ceremony took place with witnesses to its religious ritual: the public agreement of the couple was a required condition for the conclusion of the wedding. In the Soviet period new rituals and customs took root: the registered civil marriage has become obligatory and material expenses have increased. In earlier times land, livestock, and hay fields were apportioned for the support of the couple. The residence of the newlyweds was always patrilocal but with separate living quarters: the groom's father provided them with a room or built a new house. Today this tradition is being modified toward the provision of help with labor, furniture, room to live in, and money. In divorce, as in marriage, the woman traditionally retained all the property apportioned to her by her parents as a dowry, including land and livestock; the children remained with the father. The latter Sharia-based (Quranic) custom has been modified in accordance with Soviet law: the children now remain with the mother. The formal right to divorce used to rest with the man but now a marriage can be dissolved by either party.

Domestic Unit. Historically the Avars, unlike many other peoples of the Caucasus, lived in nuclear families, which, one supposes, reflected the early establishment of private property in land and the civil nature of the village commune. The Avars, notwithstanding the well-known modernization of their everyday culture, are very devoted to basic and traditional family values.

Inheritance. Inheritance was primarily from father to son; in the absence of direct heirs it was along collateral lines but within the tukhum. Women inherited one-third of the total inheritance. The wills were made by word of mouth to a trusted person but also in writing. Written wills were proclaimed in the mosque. Today the Avars, especially the urban dwellers, follow the Soviet laws of inheritance.

Socialization. In the education of children a major role was played by diverse games and athletic competitions, the contents of which fostered effective socialization. Study in parochial schools was free and voluntary (paid for by the commune), and at various stages there was a winnowing out of the most competent students. In the contemporary life of the Avars, especially in urban areas, education typically takes place in nurseries, kindergartens, and schools. The school reform that began in the 1980s presupposes a definite about-face in "ethnopedagogy."

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Social relations were characterized by segmentation into social classes. The feudal and clan-structural aristocracy (nutsbi, uzden ) constituted a patrician class, whereas the emancipated serfs (or "freedmen") and the serfs (or "slaves") constituted the lower class. A special place in the social structure and the political culture was occupied by the tukhums, according to which the ruling part of the society was also of necessity, subdivided. After the unification with Russia a new aristocracy took shape based on service, and after the Revolution society was divided into workers, peasants, and intellectuals. Nevertheless, popular memory preserved the traditional division even into the Soviet period.

Political Organization. Historically, the political structure of the Avars has undergone various modifications: from centralized states (the kingdom of Sarir, ninth to tenth centuries), to the theocratization of the nineteenth century, to Soviet power in the twentieth. The basic form of government until the nineteenth century was an association of aristocratic, aristodemocratic, and democratic republics. At the head of one of them stood the family of the khan, tracing its (legendary) genealogy to the Egyptian pharaohs. After the establishment of Soviet power the Avars, as a recognized nationality of the Daghestan Autonomous SSR, shared power through the Supreme Soviet of the republic. In place of the former federations (and the imamate of Shamil) there has been created a new administrative network. Self-government is realized through local councils.

Social Control. Traditionally, administrative and judicial power was implemented through leaders and elders, together with Quranic judges. Law making and political control belonged to the Council of Elders, who represented the People's Council. Officials were selected annually: for example, the magush served as intermediary between the people and the leaders; there were also "policemen" (el ), watchmen for the fields and the treasuries. The Council of Elders designated the military leader. The leaders were bound by an oath on the Quran to observe the laws of the society. Public opinion plays an important role in social control.

Conflict. The court and its organization are constructed according to Soviet law. Traditionally, in old Daghestan, court was managed by elected leaders and elders according to the written codices of customary law (adat ), whereas the Quranic judges worked in terms of Quranic law (Sharia). A significant role in juridical life was played by common law when it came to mediating conflicts and disputes. The punishments included fines, ostracism, and blood vengeance. Today the vendetta can be considered eliminated. Quranic law functioned until the 1930s, and Quranic and customary legal forms of inheritance, the conclusion of marriage, and so forth have their place even today in legal practices.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religion. In the more distant past the Avars preferred their ancient religion with its pantheon of pagan gods located on mountaintops (the Avar "Olympus" was Mount Tlili Meer), including the chief god Ts'ob. Between the fifth and twelfth centuries Georgian Orthodox Christianity penetrated Avaria; its remnants include the temple of Datun, crosses with Avar-language epitaphs from Khunzakh, and the names of the days of the week. The prevailing religion since the thirteenth century has been Sunni Islam. Two important holy places are situated in Avar territory, and there are many Quranic schools, countless houses of prayer, and a generally high level of religious observance (Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986, 179). The religious functionariesdibir (mullah) and budun (mosque official)were paid not from the property of the mosques but from communal funds. There were mosques in every settlement. Attached to large mosques were parochial schools. Pagan beliefs were interwoven with those of Islam.

Ceremonies. Ancient ceremonies were preserved, among which the most popular was the New Year's festival of ots bay ("bull harnessing"), celebrated during the vernal equinox. A festival is always accompanied by athletic contests. Today innovations are giving these ceremonies new content, and only the basic elements of the past are being preserved. Avar wedding ceremonies are quite elaborate, accompanied by folk dances and folk music. There also exists an established genre of keening and singing by women during funerals (mau ).

Medicine. Sorcerers using magic amulets and other such objects held a significant place in folk medicine. At the same time village mullahs would write out special incantations and prayers, as recommended in books of home cures in the Muslim world. The remedies of Eastern medicine were closely integrated with magical methods. Those who specialized in physical trauma were highly skilled; masters of traditional medicine are known to have performed trephination. The Alibutaev lineage from Sogratl had seventeen generations of healers. Today all large populated areas have medical stations and there are modern clinics in regional centers and cities.

Death and Afterlife. Avar believers imagine a life after death in accordance with Islamic eschatology, with elements of superstition from earlier religions. Funeral rituals are also carried out in accordance with Islamic prescriptions.

See also Andis


Aglarov, M. A. (1981). "Aus der Geschichte der awarischen Volksnamen." Münchner Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 40.

Aglarov, M. A. (1988). Sel'skaia obshchina v nagornom Dagestane v XVlI-nach. XX vv (The village commune in mountain Daghestan in the 17th to the early 20th centuries). Moscow.

Akiner, Shirin (1986). Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union: An Historical and Statistical Handbook. 2nd ed., 133-138. London: KPI.

Baklanov, N. B. (1924). "Khudozhestvennaia kul'tura Dagestana" (The artistic culture of Daghestan). Novyi Vostok, no. 5.

Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide, 166-167. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Istoriia Dagestana (The history of Daghestan) (19671969). Vols. 1-4. Moscow: Nauka.

Movchan, G. Ia. (1972). "Sotsiologicheskaia kharakteristika starogo avarskogo zhilishcha" (The sociological characteristics of the old Avar dwelling). Kavkazskii Etnograficheskii Sbornik (Moscow and Leningrad) 5.

MAMAYKHAN A. AGLAROV (Translated by Paul Friedrich)


views updated May 23 2018


The Avars are one of the many people of the Dagestan Republic of the Russian Federation. Numbering 496,077 within Dagestan at the 1989 Soviet census, they formed 28 percent of this republic's population. This made them the largest ethnic group in Dagestan (the Dargins were second, with 15.8 percent), but still far from a majority. There were a total of 600,989 Avars in the Soviet Union in 1989. Of this total, 97 percent spoke Avar as their first language. Nearly 61 percent, a significant number of the adults, claimed fluency in Russian as a second language.

The Avar language is a member of the Avaro-Andi-Dido group of the Northeast Caucasian family of languages. In Soviet times this would have made the them a part of the larger Ibero-Caucasian family, a classification now seen as a remnant of Soviet druzhba narodov politics. It is written in a modified Cyrillic alphabet that was introduced in 1937. A Latin alphabet had been used previously, from 1928 to 1937. Before that an Arabic script was used. A modest number of books have been published in Avar. From 1984 to 1985, fifty-eight titles were published. Being without their own eponymous ethnic jurisdiction, the Avars were less privileged in this category than the Abkhaz, for example, whose jurisdiction was the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). With only one-sixth of the population of the Avars, the Abkhazians nonetheless published some 149 books in their language in the same period.

The most prominent leader of Caucasian resistance against the encroachment of the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century was an Avar man named Shamil. Curiously, his power base was centered not among his own people, but among the Chechens immediately to the west.

In the delicate multiethnic balance of Dagestani politics, the Avars have occupied a preeminent, if not a dominant, status, especially in the post-Soviet period. The Avar language is often spoken by members of other ethnic groups within the Dagestan Republic as a means of gaining access to power structures. One of the disputes in Dagestan involves the Chechens. Part of the Chechen Republic's territory that had been absorbed by Dagestan after the Chechen deportation in 1944 was never returned. Avars occupied some of this territory, and the return of Chechens seeking their land has resulted in ongoing conflict.

The ethnogenesis of the Avars is often linked to the people of the same name who appeared with the Hunnic invasions of late antiquity. These Avars original from East Central Asia with other Turkic-speaking peoples, and so the connection with a people speaking a vastly different language is difficult to make.

See also: caucasus; dagestan dargins; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist


Ethnologue <www.ethnologue.com>

Hill, Fiona. (1995). Russia's Tinderbox: Conflict in the North Caucasus and its Implication for the Future of the Russian Federation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Karny, Yoav. (2000). Highlanders: A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Paul Crego


views updated Jun 11 2018


European state from c. a.d. 559 to 796. They closely resembled the Huns in appearance, way of life, and warfare. They came into contact with Justinian in 558, and under Khan Baian swept across southern Russia to the Frankish borders where they were checked in 561 and 566. With Lombard aid they conquered the Hungarian plain (Pannonia) from the Gepids and, after the Lombards' departure in 568, established themselves there. They gained ascendancy over the more numerous Slavs, assumed leadership of the Slavs' southward migration, probably their most significant achievement, and indirectly contributed to the separation of the West and South Slavs. The combined horde of Avars and Slavs took Singidunum and Sirmium c. 582 and by 597 reached Thessalonika. Driven back across the Danube by 601, they destroyed the Antes in Bessarabia in 602. In 617 they ravaged the Balkans and reached Constantinople. In 622 the West Slavs revolted from the Avars, and in 626 the South Slavs, after an Avar defeat at Constantinople, did the same with Bulgar help. The Avars thereafter remained confined in Hungary until Charlemagne's campaign of 791 to 796 ended their history, although uprisings against the Franks occurred until 803. After 805 the Avars became Christian. Many of them were absorbed by the Bulgars.

Bibliography: f. dvornik, The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization (Boston 1956). g. ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, tr. j. hussey (New Brunswick, N.J. 1957). e. klebel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:113940.

[r. h. schmandt]


views updated Jun 27 2018

Avar a member of a nomadic equestrian people from central Asia who built up a large kingdom in SE Europe from the 6th century but were conquered by Charlemagne (791–9).