Lezgins - History and Cultural Relations

The ancestors of the Lezgins have occupied the areas of Daghestan and Azerbaijan since at least the Bronze Age. Little, however, is known about their early history. According to legend, the Islamic religion was first introduced among the Lezgins by Arab conquerors in the eighth century. The final conversion of the Lezgins to Islam, however, came in the mid-fifteenth century with the conquest of their territory by the Shah of Shirvan, Khalil Ulloi. As a result of the long influence of the Turkish khanates of northern Azerbaijan on the Lezgins, a Lezgin feudal principality, the khanate of Kurin, was formed in 1775 with its center in Kurakh. This khanate, however, included only a relatively small part of the what was then Lezgin territory and exerted only a minor influence on the Lezgins. The majority of Lezgins continued to live in free societies, although others lived, at different times, under the khanates of Kuba, Derbent, and Kazikumukh. In 1812 the Kurin Khanate became a Russian protectorate, and in 1864, with its abolition, the Lezgin territory became an integral part of the Russian Empire. In the mid-nineteenth century, under the leadership of Shamil and his Murids, the Lezgins played a major role in the Caucasus Wars against imperial Russia.

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