The Lezgi are one of the larger Caucasian people groups, numbering between 500,000 and a million people. They are indigenous to the Caucasuses, never having called anywhere else their home. Their historic land is now shared between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Dagestan, the southern most state of Russia. While Lezgis are found in several different regions throughout Azerbaijan, by far their highest concentration—at ninety-five percent—is found in the Gusar region.

As a Caucasian language, Lezgi is completely distinct from the neighboring national languages, Azerbaijani and Russian. But most Lezgis in Gusar are trilingual, speaking Lezgi at home and in their community, Russian or Azeri at school, and primarily Azeri in non-local dealings. A unique feature of the Lezgi language is that numbers are counted by twenties, rather than by tens. For example, rather than saying the number 72 as “seventy two (or seven-ten-two)” as in English, they would say “three-twenty-twelve”.

The Lezgis’ spirituality combines Sunni Islam with local folk traditions. While there are several mosques throughout Gusar, Lezgis are more likely to visit holy pilgrimage sites for healing and blessings. Broken teapots are hung from houses to ward off evil spirits, and thorns from a local weed are hung from car rear-view mirrors and house doorways (and carpet looms) to insure prosperity and safety.

In addition to being famous for their sumakh-style carpets, the Lezgi are also well known for their lively dance called the Lezginka. The Lezginka includes amazingly fast footwork. In general, the Lezgi love to dance. Whether at a wedding (which can go on for days) or any other celebration, their feet will be moving fast and furious.

The Lezgi are primarily an agrarian society. Mountain villages produce potatoes and cabbage, while lowland villages harvest wheat and fruit orchards. Managing livestock is also a significant part of their livelihood, providing both food and income.

Lezgi families are close, with extended families often living in one house. Children live at home until they are married, and the youngest son takes care of his elderly parents.

Hospitality is the highest value in Lezgi culture. Whether you are a visiting family member, or a brand-new friend, you will undoubtedly be invited for tea and a meal. It is hard to understand that while you may be on the receiving end, your presence as a guest bestows a significant blessing on the family.

We would love to extend Lezgi hospitality to you. Please contact our partner group Community Based Tourism Azerbaijan if you are interested in arranging a visit!