The modern Avar language (self-designation магIарул мацI
[ma'arul mats] "language of the mountains") belongs to the Avar-Andi-Tsez subgroup of the Northeast Caucasian (or Nakh-Dagestani) language family. It is spoken mainly in the western and southern parts of the Russian Caucasus republic of Dagestan, and the Zakatala region of Azerbaijan. There are also small communities of speakers living in the Russian republics of Chechnya and Kalmykia; in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Jordan, and the Marmara Sea region of Turkey. It has about 604,300 speakers worldwide. In Dagestan it is spoken not only by Avars, but also serves as the language of communication between different groups.
There are two main dialect groups: the northern, which includes Khunzakh; and the southern, which includes Andalal, Gidatl', Antsukh, and others.
The literary language is based on the болмацI
[bolmats] - the common language used between speakers of different dialects and languages. The bolmats in turn was mainly derived from the dialect of Khunzakh, the capital and cultural centre of the Avar region, with some influence from the southern dialects. Nowadays the literary language is influencing the dialects, levelling out their differences.
The Avar language has been written since the 15th Century, in the old Georgian alphabet. From the 17th century onwards it was written in a modified Arabic script known as Ajam
, which is still known today. As part of Soviet language planning policies the Ajam was replaced by a Latin alphabet in 1928, which was in turn replaced by the current Cyrillic alphabet in 1938.
The most famous figure of modern Avar literature is the late Rasul Gamzatov
(† November 3, 2003), the People's Poet of Dagestan. Translations of his works into Russian have gained him a wide audience all over the former Soviet Union.