Udis (endonym Udi or Uti) are a native people of the Caucasus that currently live mainly in Russia and Azerbaijan, with smaller populations in Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other countries. Their total number is about 10,000 people. They speak the Udi language, which belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian or Armenian, depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

Jeunes femmes oudi de Warthachen.jpg
Udi women from Vartashen (now Oğuz), 1900
Total population
c. 10,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Udi, Azerbaijani, and Russian
Albanian-Udi Church, Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Lezgins, Tabasarans, Tsakhurs, and other Northeast Caucasian peoples


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. There was also province of the Kingdom of Armenia, Utikʻ (later annexed by Caucasian Albania), which likely bore the name of the ancestors of the Udis.[5][6]

Since the 5th century, the Udi people are often mentioned in the Armenian sources. More extensive information is given in The History of the Land of Ałuank[7] by Movsēs Kałankatuatsʻi. The Udi were one of the predominating Caucasian Albanian tribes.[8]

Due to their Caucasian Udi language and their Christian faith, the Udis are regarded as the last remnants of the old Caucasian Albanians. Under Arab and later Persian rule, some of them converted to Islam, and soon adopted the Azeri language. Others assimilated into the Georgians or Armenians. The Armenian Apostolic Church held services exclusively in the Armenian language and refused to ordain a local Udi priest, against which Udis protested:[9]

...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...

Today, most Udis belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, while in Nij, they belong to the Armenian Apostolic (or 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 their material culture.[10]

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.[11] In 2003, the “Albanian-Udi Christian Religious Community” was founded in Azerbaijan, which seeks to restore the Albanian Apostolic Church as a church independent from the Armenian Apostolic Church.[12]

Udi villagesEdit

Until 1991, the main Udi villages were Vartashen (now Oğuz) 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 Karimli), Bajan, Kirzan, and Yenikend. In contemporary times they have mostly assimilated with the people of Azerbaijan.[13]

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.[14] Some 50 Udi people remained among some 7000 ethnic Azeris in the town, which was renamed to Oghuz.[15]

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.[15][13]

A significant group of Udi lives 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.[15]


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.[16] 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[17] was created by the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots.[18] The alphabet had 52 letters. The language was widely used, as major Bible texts were translated into the Caucasian Albanian language.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Population and changesEdit

In 1880, the population of the Udi people living in the area around Qabala in northern Azerbaijan[19] 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 4,152 Udis.[20]

In the 2002 Russia Census, 3,721 residents identified as Udi. Most of the Udi people (1,573 persons) in Russia have been registered in Rostov region.[citation needed]

Notable Udi peopleEdit

  • Stepan Pachikov, co-founder of ParaGraph Intl., Parascript, Evernote Corp. among other software companies which contributed heavily to the development of handwriting recognition and VRML technologies.
  • George Kechaari, Udi writer, educator, public figure and scientist.
  • Voroshil Gukasyan, Soviet linguist, Caucasologist and specialist in the Udi language and Caucasian Albanian inscriptions.
  • Patvakan A. Kushmanyan, (1870-1955), distinguished educator of the Armenian SSR and notable scientist, linguist, editor of first Armenian-Udi and Udi-Armenian dictionaries.[citation needed]
  • Movses Silikyan, major general of the Russian Imperial Army during World War I and then of the army of the First Armenian Republic.
  • Zinobi Silikashvili, founder of Udi village of Zinobiani

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ethnic Groups in Georgia # 3 – Udis". The Georgian Times. 2008-04-17. Archived from the original on 2008-08-29. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
  2. ^ State statistics committee of Ukraine - National composition of population, 2001 census (Ukrainian)
  3. ^ "Muslim Kurds and Christian Udis". Hetq Online. 2006-11-13. Archived from the original on 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
  4. ^ "Ethnic composition of Georgia 2014". 2022-07-23. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  5. ^ Shnirelman, Viktor A. (2003). Memory Wars: Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasia (in Russian). Moscow: Academkniga. pp. 226–228. ISBN 5-94628-118-6.
  6. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. (1983). "The Kingdom of Artsakh". In Samuelian, T.; Stone, M. (eds.). Medieval Armenian Culture. Chico, CA.
  7. ^ "Movses Kagancatvasiy, The History of Aluank (в 3-х книгах)". Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  8. ^ "K. V. Trever K voprosu o kul'ture Kavkazskoy Albanii (doklad na XXV Mezhdunarodnom kongresse vostokovedov, 1960 god)" К. В. Тревер К вопросу о культуре Кавказской Албании (доклад на XXV Международном конгрессе востоковедов, 1960 год) [K. V. Trever On the question of the culture of Caucasian Albania (report at the XXV International Congress of Orientalists, 1960)] (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
  9. ^ National Archives of Armenia, fund 56, list 1, file 5214, p. 1 (in Armenian, English translation taken from A Brief introduction on Nizh village. Samvel Karapetian, Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), Հայկական ճարտարապետությունն ուսումնասիրող հիմնադրամ (Armenian Architecture Research Fund), consulted on 25 January 2018).
  10. ^ "The Red Book of Peoples: The Udis". eki.ee.
  11. ^ A Brief introduction on Nizh village. Samvel Karapetian, Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), Հայկական ճարտարապետությունն ուսումնասիրող հիմնադրամ (Armenian Architecture Research Fund), consulted on 25 January 2018.
  12. ^ Agha, Javid (2021-06-07). "Perspectives | Who were the Caucasian Albanians?". eurasianet.org. Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  13. ^ a b "Igor' Kuznetsov. Udiny" Игорь Кузнецов. Удины [Igor Kuznetsov. Udine] (in Russian).
  14. ^ Avetisyan, Armine. "Fading - On Being Udi in Armenia". Chaikhana.
  15. ^ a b c Schulze, Wolfgang (2005). "Towards a History of Udi" (PDF). International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics. 1: 55–91.
  16. ^ Игорь Кузнецов. Удины.
  17. ^ И. В. Кузнецов. Заметки к изучению агванского (кавказско-албанского) письма
  18. ^ Jost Gippert and Wolfgang Schulze. Some Remarks on the Caucasian Albanian Palimpsests (2007) pp. 210.
  19. ^ Map showing in dark green the Udi area in 1800
  20. ^ Петрушевский И. П., Очерки по истории феодальных отношений в Азербайджане и Армении в XVI – начале XIX в.в., Л., 1949, с. 28

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