(self-designation, Lezgiiar), a people living in compact groups chiefly in the southeastern part of the Dagestan ASSR and in neighboring regions of the Azerbaijan SSR. In prerevolutionary literature the entire mountain population of Dagestan was often erroneously called Lezghians. The total number of Lezghians in the USSR is 324,000 (1970 census), including 162,700 in the Dagestan ASSR and 137,000 in the Azerbaijan SSR. They speak the Lezghian language, although many also speak Azerbaijan and Russian. Those who profess a religion are Sunni Muslims.
The Lezghians are one of the indigenous peoples of Dagestan. A people known as the Legs living in the eastern Caucasus is mentioned in classical sources. Arab sources of the ninth and tenth centuries, give information about the kingdom of the Lakzi in southern Dagestan. Until the 19th century, the Lezghians did not constitute a single political unit. They generally entered into small unions of independent agricultural communities, or “free societies”; some became part of the feudal formations of Azerbaijan (the Kuba, Derbent, and other khanates). The economy of the contemporary Lezghians consists of agriculture, horticulture, and stock breeding. Some Lezghians are employed in industry. During the years of Soviet power, the Lezghian intelligentsia has grown, and a national literature, theater, and art have developed.