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(ä`värz), mounted nomad people who in the 4th and 5th cent. dominated the steppes of central Asia. Dislodged by stronger tribes, the Avars pushed west, increasing their formidable army by incorporating conquered peoples into it. Reaching their greatest power in the late 6th cent., they plundered all of present S Russia and the Balkans. Their siege (626) of Constantinople was unsuccessful, but they continued to dominate the Hungarian plain until Charlemagne defeated them. The Avars were not mentioned after the 9th cent. It is doubtful that the modern Avars, a pastoral, Muslim people of the Dagestan Republic, are descended from the original Avars.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(native name, Maarulal), a people residing primarily in the mountainous part of the Dagestan ASSR and also in the valleys of the Buinaksk and Khasaviurt raions. Some Avars also live in the northern Azerbaijan SSR, in the Belokany and Zakataly raions. According to the 1959 census, there were 270,000 Avars, of whom 239,000 lived in Dagestan. There were 396,000 Avars according to the 1970 census. They speak Avar.

After the October Revolution the Ando-Tsezy (AndoDidoitsy) nationalities and Archintsy, who are related to the Avars in language, culture, and customs, grouped themselves around the Avars; these nationalities called themselves Avars in the 1959 census, although they retain their native languages and some ethnographic characteristics. The practicing Avars are Sunni Muslims. They have a diversified economy that includes animal husbandry, farming, and horticulture. Many Avars work in industry. Literature and art have developed greatly, and a national intelligentsia has arisen.


Narody Kavkaza, part 1. Moscow, 1960.




a large tribal alliance in which Turkic-speaking tribes played a major role. The Russian chronicles called the Avars the Obry. The Avars were first mentioned by Priscus of Pania in the middle of the fifth century. Later information on the Avars is to be found in writings of ancient authors (Theophylact Simocattes, Menander, John of Ephesus), in the chronicle of Fredegarius, and in Kartlis Tskhovreba (a collection of Georgian annals). The Avars were the vanguard of a large group of tribes who moved from Central Asia and formed the nucleus of the West Turkic Khanate.

In the middle of the sixth century the Avars invaded the steppes in the western part of the Caspian region and from there moved into the northern part of the Black Sea steppe, the Danube valley, and the Balkans. Between 560 and 570 they devastated the lands of the Saviri, Antes, Gepidae, and other European tribes and set up the Avar Khanate in Pannonia (the territory of parts of present-day Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Austria). The Avar Khanate was a tribal federation similar to the barbarian empires and was headed by the great military commander Khan Baian. Using the Pannonian system of fortresses (hrings), the Avars made raids on the Slavs, Franks, Lombards, and Georgians and on Byzantium.

The khanate survived only by the military subjection of different tribes and by bribing tribal leaders. Its own economy was weak and limited to extensive nomadic livestock raising; the khanate was internally weak and short-lived. Although the upper strata of the tribes became rich, the formation of a class society was never completed.

After major victories in Dalmatia, Illyria, and Moesia (late sixth century), the military power of the Avars declined. In the first half of the seventh century they suffered a number of defeats at the hands of Byzantium, the Slavs, the Franks, and the Bulgars. The khanate was torn by internal strife and finally disintegrated. In the middle of the seventh century the Avars were driven out of the northern part of the Black Sea steppe and their rule in Pannonia was limited by the Bulgarian kingdom, which was created in 680 on the Danube. In the late eighth century the Avars were definitively routed by the Franks under Charlemagne, and in 796 the most important of the hrings fell. Later the Avars were completely absorbed by the peoples in the western part of the Black Sea region and in the Danube valley.


Bernshtam, A. N. Ocherk istorii gunnov. Leningrad, 1951.
Ocherki istorii SSSR, III-IX vv. Moscow, 1958.
Artamonov, M. I. Istoriia khazar. Leningrad, 1962.


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