About Udins

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About Udins


The Udi are considered to be one of the 26 tribes of the Caucasian Albania of late antiquity. According to the classical authors, the Udi inhabited the area of the eastern Caucasus along the coast of the Caspian Sea, in a territory extending to the Kura River in the north. Today, most Udis belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, while in Nij, they belong to the Gregorian church and used to conduct services in Armenian. Centuries of life in the Armenian, Iranian, and Turkish spheres influenced their culture, as is expressed in Udi folk traditions and the material culture.

Since the 5th century, the Udi people are often mentioned in the Armenian sources. More extensive information is given in The History of Aluank by Movses Kagancatvasiy. The Udi were one of the predominating Caucasian Albanian tribes.

Udi villages

Until 1991, the main Udi villages were Vartashen and Nij in Azerbaijan, as well as the village of Zinobiani in Georgia. In the recent past, Udi people also lived in Mirzabeily, Soltan Nuha, Jourlu, Mihlikuvah, Vardanli (now Kərimli), Bajan, Kirzan, and Yenikend, in contemporary times they have mostly assimilated with the people of Azerbaijan.

Vartashen was mainly a Udi village, where the Vartashen dialect of the Udi language was spoken by about 3000 people in the 1980s. The Udis of Vartashen belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church and had Armenian surnames. During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Udis as well as the Armenians were expelled to Armenia. Some 50 Udi people remained among some 7000 ethnic Azeris in the town, which was renamed to Oghuz.

Today the only places of concentrated Udi settlement are the village of Nij in Azerbaijan and the village of Zinobiani in Georgia, which was founded by Udi refugees from Vartashen in the 1920s.

A significant group of Udi live in the Georgian village of Zinobiani, founded by Udi from Vartashen in the 1920s. Small groups reside in Russia in the Rostov region (Shahty, Taganrog, Rostov-na-Donu, Azov, Aleksandrovka); in the Krasnodar territory (Krasnodar, areas of Dinskoy, Leningrad, Kushchevsky); in the Stavropol Territory (Minvody, Pyatigorsk); in the Volgograd region (Volgograd, Dubovy Ovrag); and also in Sverdlovsk, Ivanovo, Kaluga areas, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Astrakhan; in Georgia in the outskirts of Tbilisi, Poti, Rustavi, in Armenia mainly in the Lori Province, and Aktau in Kazakhstan. Some also live in Ukraine's (Kharkiv oblast).


The Udi language is a Northeast Caucasian language of the Lezgic branch. The two primary dialects are Nij (Nidzh) and Vartashen. The people today also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, and Georgian. The Udi are commonly bilingual, and less frequently trilingual, depending on residence and work. Many use Udi only in daily life, but for official purposes, the Udi use the language of the country in which they reside, such as Azerbaijani, Russian, or Armenian.


The Udi language has two dialects: Nidzh and Vartashen. Nidzh dialect has sub-dialects that are divided into three subgroups - bottom, intermediate, top. Linguists believe the dialects originated according to geographic groupings of the Udi from the Tauz region: the villages of Kirzan and Artzah (Karabah, v. Seysylla, Gasankala) moved to Nidzh and Oguz. The Vartashen dialect has two sub-dialects: Vartashen and Oktomberry.


In the past the Udi language was one of the widespread languages of Caucasian Albania on the basis of which, in the 5th century the Caucasian Albanian script, was created by the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots. The alphabet had 52 letters. The language was widely used, as major Bible texts were translated into the Caucasian Albanian language. Church services were conducted in it. After the fall of the Albanian state, the Caucasian Albanian liturgical language was gradually replaced by Armenian in church.

Due to their Caucasian Udi language and their Christian faith, the Udis are regarded as the last remnants of the old Caucasian Albanians. Under Persian rule, some of them converted to Islam, and soon adopted the Azeri language. The Armenian Apostolic Church held services exclusively in the Armenian language and refused to ordain a local Udi priest, against which Udis protested:

...our strong desire is that our pastor be a representative of our people, for although we belong to the Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener, our language is different: we are the Uti and we know that these people live nowhere except for the villages of Nizh and Vardashen. We do not have the slightest command of the Armenian language; nor have we any idea about what the Gospel says...

Whereas the Udis of Vartashen remained in the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Udi Christians of Nij changed from the Armenian to the Russian Orthodox Church soon after the beginning of Russian rule.

Population and changes

In 1880, the population of the Udi people living in the area around Qabala in northern Azerbaijan was estimated at 10,000. In the year 1897, the number of the Udi people was given around 4.000, in 1910, it was around 5.900. They were counted as 2.500 in the census of 1926, as 3.700 in 1959, as 7.000 in 1979, and in 1989, the Udi people numbered 8.652. In census of 1999 in Azerbaijan, there were 4152 Udis.

In the 2002 Russia Census, 3721 residents identified as Udi. Most of the Udi people (1573 persons) in Russia have been registered in Rostov region.

The number of Udis in Azerbaijan according to population censuses.

Year 1896 1926 1959 1970 1979 1989 1999 2009
Udin 7856 2441 3202 5491 5839 6120 4152 3800