Udis - Orientation

Identification and Location. The Udis inhabit eastern Transcaucasia, in the district center Vartashen and in settlements in the Nij Kutkashen Raion of the Azerbaijan Republic. In 1921-1922, after the civil war, a group of Udis settled in eastern Georgia, where they founded the village Oktomberi (Q'vareli Raion).

Demography. The Udi population was 7,100 in 1886; 2,500 in 1926; and 6,900 (of which 5,800 lived in Azerbaijan) in 1979. Behind these figures is a rate of natural population growth offset by an intensive assimilation of Udis into the Azeri (and to a lesser degree, Armenian) ethnic communities. The Udi settlements are located at the base of the southern slopes of the Caucasian range. Clean mountain rivers, a healthy climate without abrupt weather changes, a rich variety of flora (fir, hornbeam, beech, linden, etc.) and fauna (squirrels, sables, wild boars, rabbits, and so on.), all provide conditions conducive to the economic welfare of the Udis.

linguistic Affiliation. The Udi language is classified in the Daghestanian Group of the Northeast Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) Language Family. Several linguists (G. Klimov, A. Chikobava, V. Gukasian) consider it a descendant of one of the languages of ancient Caucasian Albania. It is the only Daghestanian language known to have had an orthography before modern times. The decipherment of the small number of surviving epigraphic texts in the Caucasian Albanian alphabet (dating from the seventh to ninth centuries) indicates that the written language of Albania was related to Udi. The Albanian alphabet is considered by experts to have been a distinct, original offshoot from the Aramaic script. In recent times Udi has been an unwritten language. During the nineteenth century Udis of the Armeno-Gregorian faith wrote in the Armenian language for clerical purposes and used Classical Armenian in church services. Armenian was likewise used as the medium of instruction in parish schools. Udis belonging to the Orthodox church attended services conducted by Georgian priests in the Georgian language, which they could not understand. In the early 1930s an Udi orthography was devised using the Latin script, and a primer was prepared by the Udi linguist brothers Jeiranishvili (published in 1934 in Sukhumi). At this time in Vartashen an elementary school was opened with two sections: one with instruction in Armenian, the other in Udi. After only three years the Udi section was closed. At the present time the Orthodox Udis attend Russian-language schools, and the Gregorian Udis study in Armenian. The Udi language is primarily used within the domestic circle. The majority of Udis are multilingual, with a good command of Azerbaijani and Russian, and often Armenian as well. The younger generation of Udis in Georgia can speak Georgian.

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