Avar in Azerbaijan

Avar
Photo Source:  Frontier Ventures 
Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Avar
Country: Azerbaijan
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 114,000
World Population: 893,700
Primary Language: Avar
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Caucasus
Affinity Bloc: Eurasian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

In Russia’s southwest is a mountainous region known as Dagestan. The largest group there is the Avar people, who call themselves Ma 'arulal (by translation—"free mountaineers, who inhabit the highest lands").

Dagestan was difficult for the powerful Russian Empire to conquer, not only because of the mountainous terrain, but also because of the strong will and honor code of the local Avar people. Imam Shamil, arguably the most famous Dagestani in history, was Avar. Imam Shamil was a powerful Muslim religious leader in the 1st half of the 19th Century, who led the political and military resistance to the Russian conquerors from 1834-1859. Shamil accomplished one daring exploit after another to baffle Russian military battalions of Tsarist Russia. Defense of Dagestani and Avar honor was the leading theme of these dozens of battles. The Avar people (and all of Dagestan) were finally subdued by the Russian Empire in 1864, but the code of honor among the Avar has never diminished.

During the Soviet Era, small numbers of Avar people migrated to other states that made up the USSR. These include Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. They do not have as much political power in these post-Soviet nations they do in Dagestan.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Contemporary Avar culture is epitomized by the famous Avar poet, Rasul Gamzatov (1923-2003). Gamzatov became one of the most famous poets in all of Russia during the Soviet era. His stirring poem—Zhuravli—honors returning heroes from Russia’s Great War against Fascism, World War II. Avars proudly carry their culture with them no matter where they live throughout Central Asia.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Officially Avars are Sunni Muslim. Islam is a strong part of their identity. But religion is superseded by their craving for honor. Some are secularized, while others attend mosque on a regular basis. Be they secularized or religious, their quest for dignity is far more important to them than obedience to Allah.

What Are Their Needs?

The Avar carry many amazing ancient cultural strengths, capped by their intense sense of honor; however, one strength not found in Avar culture is grace. The absence of grace—i.e. forgiveness, tolerance, mercy—has left the Avar people vulnerable to intense cycles of violence on many levels.

Hope of grace is springing up among the Avar. There are now more than 50 Avar believers. The New Testament has been completed in the Avar language, as well as Genesis, Proverbs, Ruth, and Jonah. The Avar, no matter where they live, need to understand that "keeping away from strife is an honor for a man" (Prov.20:3); and that there is even greater honor in forgiveness and 2nd-mile love (Rom.12:17-21) than in vengeance.

Prayer Points

Thank God for the new believers among the Avar—Pray for their number to continually increase, not only in Russia, but also in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan.

Pray for blessing upon God's Word in Avar, into thousands of Avar lives throughout Central Asia.

Pray for men and women of peace (Luke 10:6) and for the power and grace of the Holy Spirit to be infused in each Avar community in the years ahead.

Pray for dreams and visions among open-hearted Avar, both young and old.

Pray for courageous men and women, who will discover the powerful grace of Jesus, and find that this grace.

Text Source:   Joshua Project