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The Andis live in nine villages in the northwestern part of the Dagestan mountain region: Andi, Gunha, Gagatl, Rikvani, Chakhno, Zilo, Munib and Kvanhidatl. The largest of these are Andi and Gagatl, in which there are more than 1,000 households. Besides the villages there are also a number of scattered Andi settlements. The varied natural conditions of the Andian district are shaped by the middle reaches of the River Andi-Koisu and the surrounding mountain area. Administratively all the nine Andi villages of Dagestan belong to the Botlikh region. To the north and east their neighbours are Avars, to the southeast Karatas, to the south Bagulals, to the west Godoberis and to the northwest Botlikhs.

Self-designation. The Andis call themselves khivannal after the name of their largest village, Khiani (more commonly known as Andi). The place names in official usage are all in Avar. The Andi or Andian language belongs to the Andi subgroup of the northwestern group (Avar-Ando-Dido) of the Dagestan languages. It is remarkable for its internal divergences. For example, there are two dialects in Andi: Upper Andi, or the Andi dialect, and Lower Andi, or the Munib-Kvanhidatl dialect. Andi has no written form and the literary language of the Avars is used instead. The Avar language is widespread among the Andis because of close historical and economic ties. Due to the fact that the two languages are so closely connected, Andi has abundant loans from Avar. Recently the Andian vocabulary has also been heavily influenced by Russian. Very little research has been made into Andi. The first academic monograph specifically about Andi was written by A. Dirr (1903) and is based on material collected from the village of Andi. Andi has also been studied by J. Suleymanov.

Population. The Andis are the largest group of people within the Andi group. The Andis were officially counted in the 1926 census. However, since then they have been considered as Avars. The additional data have comes from expedition reports and scholarly books:

native speakers
19267,68199.6 %
19588,000 (Y. Desheriyev)
19678,000--9,000 (I. Tsertsvadze)

The number of Andis is stable and has probably remained constant for centuries.

Anthropologically the Andis have features common to the Caucasian type of the Balkano-Caucasian race: a comparatively light pigmentation, massiveness of the facial part of the skull, and above average stature. Also discernible are features typical of the Caspian type.

In terms of their ethnic culture the Andis are connected with the Avars and other Ando-Dido peoples. Their cultures are very similar, almost overlapping. Differences in their material culture and customs are evident only in details (e.g. clothing).

Religion. The Andis are Muslims (Sunnites). A peculiarity in the history of their religion is that two different religions spread in the Andi-Koisu river basin during the 9--12th century: Islam from the south, introduced by the Arabs who had invaded the area in the 8th century, and Christianity from the north, propagated by the rulers of Georgia and Kakhetia. Christianity lost out, snuffed by Timur's expedition in the 14th century which established Islam once and for all. The Andis being a primitive race, continued to practise widespread paganism alongside Islam. Traces of paganism exist even today.

The exploration of Andi origins has been complicated, as with all the nations of Dagestan. The theory of territorial isolation has now been abandoned because all the peoples living in the Andi-Koisu river basin have close economic and cultural ties. There is reason to presume that these links have a long history and that they have existed for centuries. The current hypothesis explaining the differentiation in Mountain Dagestan languages is that it is a result of the widespread polystructural political system, based on small administrative units, free communities and associated communities. In this kind of system the ethnocultural processes include integrational as well as differential trends of development. Integration affects the whole social system, whereas differentiation affects some parts of the society (community etc). This kind of polystructural political system could account for the differentation in language, expressed in the different language usage of each small system.

The peoples of this region have a common history and the processes of their development have, in the main, mirrored those of Avaria as a political unit and that of the Avar nation as an ethnocultural unit. The Avars received mention as an ethnic group for the first time from the ancient writers who knew Avaria as Serir. In the 8th century foreign forces became interested in Avaria and this interest has continued to this day. The first to arrive were the Arabs, followed by the Mongol-Tatar hordes in the 12th--13th centuries. During the 14th--17th centuries the Avars were robbed and killed by the armies of both Turkey and Persia. In the 18th century Russians took an interest and by the beginning of the 19th century they had conquered Avaria. The Andian territory was officially united with Russia in the year 1806 though a real centralized power capable of imposing colonial policy arrived only in the 1870s. The representative of Arab rule had been a shamhal residing in Kazikumukh, the Avar Khan had wielded authority for the Turks and now the Russians sent their army and governor general as executors of their power. Thanks to the fact that the Andis have been isolated from the rest of Avaria, the influence of foreign powers has been comparatively nominal. The basis of the Andi political system became the free community which consisted of all the nine Andi villages. Due to a shortage of farming land and pastures several military encounters and conflicts took place, preserved in the Andian historical memory as a traditional hostility towards the Botlikhs. In Andian society traditional feudal relations did not develop, common matters were discussed and decided at community meetings, and leaders and judges were elected there. From the 18th century on there was a tendency to make the administrative posts hereditary.

The economy of Andi society was determined by the environment. The mountainous land was unsuitable for tillage, but abundant pastures were ideal for the development of seasonal livestock breeding. There was also sheep breeding, and some oxen and horses were used as draught animals. Tillage was practiced to a small degree and with quite remarkable results, achieved through an excellent irrigation system and terrace cultivation. The crops cultivated were wheat and rye and later also potatoes. The yield was still insufficient for the needs of the Andis and grain for bread had to be obtained from villages on the plains and foothills. A firm economic cooperation developed between the peoples of the Andi-Koisu river basin with different communities and villages occupied with specific branches of manufacturing. For the Andis this was the sewing of black woollen burkas. The whole region was famous for its fairs and enthusiasm for trade. During the first decade of the 20th century the Andis, through their neighbours, became acquainted with two kinds of separatist movements: nationalist and religious. The nationalist movements were connected with the independence drive of the Avars and Georgians, the religious with Pan-Islamism. The Andis supported both of these movements, but they favoured no independent national separatism. The two above mentioned movements were opposed by the Bolsheviks who had come to power in Russia in 1917 and in Dagestan in 1920. Bolshevik ideology affected the mentality of the colonial policy of the central powers and the foreign labour in that region. Soviet rule subdued its opponents and immediately started reorganization using all possible means.

Physical destruction and hostility continued in Andian society until World War II. Conflict began in 1918, with a policy to unite northwestern Avaria with the Mountain Republic, founded in 1917, and it continued with the offensive of Soviet troops in 1919--21 and with an anti-Soviet uprising in 1930. The nucleus of the uprisings were the Ando-Dido villages. The peak of the mass destruction was collectivization, which enabled the Soviet authorities to erradicate their last opponents in Andi society. The main accusation against Soviet rule is that central planning has changed the Andi people's course of development and broken its continuity through insiduous educational and economic policies and ideological propaganda. The results have become obvious in material, as well as intellectual culture. The anti-nationalist stance of Soviet educational policy is manifest most tellingly in the absence of Andian language schools and an Andian language educational system (the Avar language is used in teaching in the first form, later only Russian is used). Furthermore, school regulations and the syllabus are subject to central ideology, which differs greatly from the Islamic tradition. There are some anti-nationalist traits interwoven within the economic system, which still continues to implement the principle of colonialism.

A loss of isolation, the growth of industrialization and urbanization in the district, and the rise in educational standards have resulted in several changes in Andian ethnic culture. Elements of European urban culture, noticeable in all spheres of material culture, have started to penetrate into the Andian village. Particularly striking changes have taken place in the way of dress. There is a notable rise in the popularity of Soviet customs, however, this is limited as the majority of the population still observe traditional wedding, burial and working customs. The organic connection between the customs and the way of thinking and temperament, however, is disappearing. For instance, there are still rainmaking rites, but people no longer believe that the ceremony gives results. The abandonment of religious traditions has also led to the spread of alcoholism.

In all the above mentioned tendencies there is a division between the older and younger generations, the old are holding on to the past, while the young strive for the new. Linguistically there is a tendency to assimilate with Avar. This results from close economic and cultural ties, and the fact that Avar is the language used in teaching and in the media. The majority of the population is bilingual but Andi is only spoken at home.


  1. J. A. Güldenstädt, Reisen durch Russland im caucasischen Gebürge, II, St.-Petersburg 1791
  2. М. А. Агларов, Сельская община в Нагорном Дагестане в ХVII -- начале ХIХ в., Москва 1988
  3. А. Г. Булатова, Традиционные праздники и обряды народов Горного Дагестана в ХIХ -- начале ХХ века, Ленинград 1988
  4. А. Г. Гаджиев, Древнее население Дагестана, Москва 1976
  5. Б. О. Кашкаев, Гражданская война в Дагестане 1918 -- 1920 гг., Москва 1976


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