Caucasian Albanian language

Caucasian Albanian (also called Old Udi, Aluan or Aghwan)[3] is an extinct member of the Northeast Caucasian languages. It was spoken in Caucasian Albania, which stretched from current day south Dagestan to Azerbaijan. Linguists believe it is an early linguistic predecessor to the endangered North Caucasian Udi language.[4] The distinct Caucasian Albanian alphabet used 52 letters.

Caucasian Albanian possibly corresponds to the "Gargarian" language identified by medieval Armenian historians. Despite its name, Caucasian Albanian bears no linguistic relationship whatsoever with Albanian, the language of Albania.

Old Udi
Caucasian Albanian
Native toCaucasian Albania
Era6th–8th century AD. Developed into Udi[1]
Caucasian Albanian
Language codes
ISO 639-3xag
Caucasian albanian stone azerbaijan mingechaur2
A 7th-century column capital with Caucasian Albanian text

Discovery and decipherment

The existence of the Caucasian Albanian literature was known only indirectly before the late 20th century. Koryun's Life of Mashtots, written in the 5th century but only surviving in much later corrupted manuscripts, and Movses Kaghankatvatsi's History of the Caucasian Albanians, written in the 10th century, attribute the conversion of the Caucasian Albanians to Christianity to two missionaries, Enoch and Dana, and the creation of the Caucasian Albanian alphabet to the Armenian scholar Mesrop Mashtots. A certain Bishop Jeremiah the translated the Christian Bible into their language. As recently as 1977, Bruce Metzger could write that "nothing of [this] version has survived".[5]

In 1996, Zaza Aleksidze of the Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia, discovered a palimpsest[6] at Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai, Egypt, with an unknown script.[7] He went on to identify the alphabet as Caucasian Albanian,[8] and to identify the manuscript as an early Christian lectionary from about the 5th or 6th century. The lectionary may be the earliest extant lectionary in the Christian religion.[9]

Then linguists Jost Gippert and Wolfgang Schulze got involved with the Caucasian Albanian alphabet.[10] Specialized x-ray equipment was used, which made it possible to read the Caucasian Albanian palimpsest texts in their entirety.[11] A list of Caucasian Albanian month names, which survived in a number of medieval manuscripts, gave one of the clues to the language.[10]

Apart from the Caucasian Albanian palimpsests kept at Mt. Sinai, the most famous samples of Caucasian Albanian inscriptions were found in 1949 during excavations in Mingachevir region, Azerbaijan. Among the known Caucasian Albanian words are zow (I), own (and) and avel-om (much, ordinal form).[12]

In 2017, two additional texts of Caucasian Albanian were discovered in Saint Catherine's Monastery.[13] The original text on the palimpsests was erased anywhere between the 4th and 12th century.[14]

The deciphered text of the lectionary includes excerpts from the Hebrew Bible (Psalms and Isaiah)[3] and from the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the epistles of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 2 Peter, 1 John and James).[3][15][16] Text from the Gospel of John, separate from the lectionary, was also found. Its text proved much more difficult to recover and on some pages it can only be identified by the Eusebian canons at the bottom of the page. This was likely a complete gospel originally,[3] and it is possible that the whole Bible had even been translated into Caucasian Albanian.[15]

The Caucasian Albanian translation of the Bible relies predominantly on Old Armenian translations, but it deviates from the known Armenian text in several places, suggesting that the original Greek and possibly Georgian and Syriac translations were also used as source texts.[3]



Plosive Fricative Affricate Approximant Nasal Trill
Regular Ejective Regular Ejective
Bilabial p b p’ m
Labiodental f v
Alveolar Regular t d t’ s z ts dz ts’ l n r
Palatalized tʲ’ dzʲ
Post-alveolar ʃ ʒ tʃ dʒ tʃ’
Alveo-palatal ɕ ʑ tɕ dʑ tɕ’
Palatal j
Velar k g k’ x ɣ
Labialized velar w
Uvular q q’ χ
Pharyngeal ʕ
Glottal h


  1. ^ Aghwan at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Aghwan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c d e Gippert, Jost; Schulze, Wolfgang (2007). "Some remarks on the Caucasian Albanian palimpsests". Iran and the Caucasus. 11 (2): 201–211. doi:10.1163/157338407X265441.
  4. ^ Zaza Aleksidze, "Udi Language: Comparing Ancient Albanian with Contemporary Udi," in Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:3 (Autumn 2003), p. 43.
  5. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 303.
  6. ^ Zaza Aleksidze, "Caucasian Albanian Script: The Significance of Decipherment," Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:3 (Autumn 2003), p. 56.
  7. ^ Zaza Aleksidze and Betty Blair, in "Caucasian Albanian Alphabet, Ancient Script Discovered in the Ashes," in Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:3 (Autumn 2003), pp. 38-41.
  8. ^ Zaza Aleksidze and Betty Blair, "Quick Facts: The Caucasian Albanian Script," Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:3 (Autumn 2003), p. 43.
  9. ^ Zaza Aleksidze and Betty Blair, in "The Albanian Script: The Process - How Its Secrets Were Revealed," in Azerbaijan International, Vol. 11:3 (Autumn 2003), pp. 41-51..
  10. ^ a b Wolfgang Schulze. "Towards a history of Udi" (PDF). Papers of the IFEA Round Table. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  11. ^ Zaza Alexidze (2007). "Discovery and Decipherment of Caucasian Albanian Writing" (PDF). Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 21, 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  12. ^ Wolfgang Schulze (2003). "Caucasian Albanian - Palimpsest and Inscriptions". Leibniz-Rechenzentrum. Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
  13. ^ Scientists find languages not used since Dark Ages among ancient manuscripts recovered from monastery.
  14. ^ Sarah Lasgow "Found: Hidden Examples of Long-Lost Languages in Centuries-Old Palimpsests"
  15. ^ a b For Acts, see Wolfgang Schulze, "Aspects of Udi–Iranian Language Contact", in Uwe Bläsing, Victoria Arakelova and Matthias Weinreich (eds.), Studies on Iran and The Caucasus: In Honour of Garnik Asatrian on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 373–401, at 376.
  16. ^ See photo of Albanian script of 2 Corinthians 11:26–27 with its repetition of the phrase in "I was persecuted," which helped unlock the key to the alphabet for Aleksidze.
Alarodian languages

The Alarodian languages are a proposed language family that encompasses the Northeast Caucasian (Nakh–Dagestanian) languages and the extinct Hurro-Urartian languages.

Arran (Caucasus)

Arran (Middle Persian form), also known as Aran, Ardhan (in Parthian), Al-Ran (in Arabic), Aghvank and Alvank (in Armenian), (Georgian: რანი-Ran-i ) or Caucasian Albania (in Latin), was a geographical name used in ancient and medieval times to signify the territory which lies within the triangle of land, lowland in the east and mountainous in the west, formed by the junction of Kura and Aras rivers, including the highland and lowland Karabakh, Mil plain and parts of the Mughan plain, and in the pre-Islamic times, corresponded roughly to the territory of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan. The term is the Middle Persian equivalent to the Greco-Roman Albania. It was known as Aghvania, Alvan-k in Armenian, and Al-ran (Arabized form of Arran) in Arabic.

Today, the term Aran is mainly used in Azerbaijan to indicate territories consisting of Mil and Mughan plains (mostly, Beylaqan, Imishli, Saatli, Sabirabad provinces of the Republic of Azerbaijan). It has also been used by Iranian historian Enayatollah Reza to refer to the country of Azerbaijan, freeing the name "Azerbaijan" to refer to a region within Iran. (The bulk of the territory of Rep. of Azerbaijan was the historic Shirvan as well as Kuba/Qubbah).

Azerbaijani art

Azerbaijani art has developed over the ancient history of Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijanis have created a rich and distinctive culture, a major part of which is decorative and applied art. This form of art rooted in hoary antiquity, is represented by a wide range of handicrafts, such as chasing, jewelry-making, engraving in metal, carving in wood, stone and bone, carpet-making, lacing, pattern weaving and printing, knitting and embroidery. Each of these types of decorative art, evidence of the culture and endowments of the Azerbaijan nation, is very popular there. Many interesting facts pertaining to the development of arts and crafts in Azerbaijan were reported by numerous merchants, travelers and diplomats who had visited these places at different times.

Barda, Azerbaijan

Barda (Azerbaijani: Bərdə) is the capital city of the Barda Rayon in Azerbaijan, located south of Yevlax and on the left bank of the Tartar river. It was the capital of Caucasian Albania perhaps since the end of the fourth century, Barda became the chief city of the Islamic province of Arran, the classical Caucasian Albania, remaining so until the tenth century.

Caucasian Albania

Caucasian Albania is a modern exonym for an ancient country in the eastern Caucasus, on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and southern Dagestan. Its endonym is unknown. The name Albania is derived from the Ancient Greek name Ἀλβανία and Latin Albanía. The prefix "Caucasian" is used purely to avoid confusion with modern Albania, which has no geographical or historical connections to Caucasian Albania.

Little is known of the region's prehistory, including the origins of Caucasian Albania as a geographical and/or ethnolinguistic concept. In the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, the area south of the Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Caucasian Albania in the east, Caucasian Iberia in the center, Kolchis in the west, Armenia in the southwest and Atropateneto the southeast.

After the rise of the Parthian Empire the kings of Caucasian Albania were replaced with an Arsacid family and would later be succeeded by another Iranian royal family in the 5th century AD, the Mihranids.

Caucasian Albanian alphabet

The Caucasian Albanian alphabet was an alphabet used by the Caucasian Albanians, one of the ancient and indigenous Northeast Caucasian peoples whose territory comprised parts of present-day Azerbaijan and Daghestan. It was one of only two indigenous alphabets ever developed for speakers of indigenous Caucasian languages (i.e. Caucasian languages that are not a part of larger groupings like the Turkic and Indo-European language families) to represent any of their languages, the other being the Georgian alphabet. The Armenian language, the third language of Caucasus with its own alphabet, is an independent branch of the Indo-European language family.

Culture of Azerbaijan

The Culture of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani:Azərbaycan mədəniyyəti) developed under the influence of Iranian, Turkic and Caucasian heritage as well as Russian influences due to its former status as a Soviet republic. Today, western influences, including globalized consumer culture, are prevalent.


A lectionary (Latin: Lectionarium) is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion. There are sub-types such as a "gospel lectionary" or evangeliary, and an epistolary with the readings from the New Testament Epistles.

Matenadaran MS 7117

The MS No. 7117 Manuscript from Matenadaran is a Caucasian Albanian language manual of the 15th century. It contains the Caucasian Albanian alphabet.

This manual presents different alphabets for comparison: Armenian, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Georgian, Coptic, and Albanian among them.

Old Azeri language

Old Azeri, also known as Azeri or Azari (Persian: آذری‎ Āḏarī [ɑːzæri]), is the extinct Iranian language that was once spoken in Azerbaijan (historic Azerbaijan, also known as Iranian Azerbaijan), and in what constitutes the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan (historically known as Arran and Shirvan). Some linguists believe the southern Tati varieties of Iranian Azerbaijan around Takestan such as the Harzandi and Karingani dialects to be remnants of Azeri. In addition, Old Azeri is known to have strong affinities with Talysh.Azeri was the dominant language in Azerbaijan before it was replaced by Azerbaijani, which is a Turkic language.

Udi language

The Udi language, spoken by the Udi people, is a member of the Lezgic branch of the Northeast Caucasian language family. It is believed an earlier form of it was the main language of Caucasian Albania, which stretched from south Dagestan to current day Azerbaijan. The Old Udi language is also called the Caucasian Albanian language and possibly corresponds to the "Gargarian" language identified by medieval Armenian historians. Modern Udi is known simply as Udi.

The language is spoken by about 4,000 people in the Azerbaijani village of Nij in Qabala rayon, in Oghuz rayon, as well as in parts of the North Caucasus in Russia. It is also spoken by ethnic Udis living in the villages of Debetavan, Bagratashen, Ptghavan, and Haghtanak in Tavush Province of northeastern Armenia and in the village of Zinobiani (former Oktomberi) in the Kvareli Municipality of the Kakheti province of Georgia.

Udi is endangered, classified as "severely endangered" by UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

Udi people

The Udis (self-name Udi or Uti) are a native people of the Caucasus. Currently, they live in Azerbaijan, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and many other countries. The total number is about 10,000 people. They speak the Udi language. Some also speak Azerbaijani, Russian, Georgian and Armenian languages depending on where they reside. Their religion is Christianity.

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