Avar Khanate

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Avar Khanate
Early 13th century–1864
Capital Khunzah
Languages Avar
Religion Islam
Government Khanate
 •  Established Early 13th century
 •  Disestablished 1864
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Russian Empire

The Avar Khanate (Avar: Awarazul Nutsallhi, Russian: Аварское ханство), a long-lived Muslim state, controlled Western Dagestan (in the North Caucasus) from the early 13th century to the 19th century.

Following the fall of the Christian kingdom of Sarir in the early 12th century, the Caucasian Avars underwent a process of Islamization.[citation needed] Military tensions escalated in 1222, when the Tengriist Mongols under Subutai invaded the region. Although the Avars had pledged their support to Muhammad II of Khwarezm (reigned 1200-1220) in his struggle against the Mongols, there is no documentation for the Mongol invasion of the Avar lands. As historical clues are so scarce, it is probably fruitless to speculate whether the Avars were the agents of the Mongol influence in the Caucasus and whether they were entrusted with the task of levying tribute for the khan, as modern historian Murad Magomedov suggests.

The rise of the Shamkhalate of Kazi-Kumukh following the disintegration of the Golden Horde in the 15th century was at once a symptom and a cause of the khans' diminished influence during the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time, the khanate was a loosely structured state, sometimes forced to seek the Tsar's protection against its powerful enemies, while many mountainous communities (djamaats) obtained a considerable degree of autonomy from the khan.

In the 18th century, the steady weakening of the shamkhals fostered the ambitions of the Avar khans, whose greatest coup was the defeat of the 100,000-strong army of Nadir Shah in September 1741 during his conquest of Dagestan. In the wake of this success, Avar sovereigns managed to expand their territory at the expense of free communities in Dagestan and Chechnya. The reign of Umma-Khan (from 1775 to 1801) marked the zenith of the Avar ascendancy in the Caucasus. Potentates who paid tribute to Umma-Khan included the rulers of Shaki, Quba, and Shirvan.

Within two years after Umma-Khan's death, the khanate voluntarily submitted to Russian authority. Yet the Russian administration disappointed and embittered freedom-loving highlanders. The institution of heavy taxation, coupled with the expropriation of estates and the construction of fortresses, electrified the Avar population into rising under the aegis of the Muslim Imamate, led by Ghazi Mohammed (1828–32), Gamzat-bek (1832–34) and Imam Shamil (1834–59). This Caucasian War raged until 1864, when the Avar Khanate was abolished and the Avar District was instituted instead.

See also


  • History of Dagestan, vol. 1–4. Moscow, 1967–69.

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