Lesghians - Encyclopedia

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LESGHIANS, or Lesghis (from the Persian Leksi, called Leki by the Grusians or Georgians, Armenians and Ossetes), the collective name for a number of tribes of the eastern Caucasus, who, with their kinsfolk the Chechenzes, have inhabited Daghestan from time immemorial. They spread southward into the Transcaucasian circles Kuba, Shemakha, Nukha and Sakataly. They are mentioned as AiNac by Strabo and Plutarch along with the Mac (perhaps the modern Galgai, a Chechenzian tribe), and their name occurs frequently in the chronicles of the Georgians, whose territory was exposed to their raids for centuries, until, on the surrender (1859) to Russia of the Chechenzian chieftain Shamyl, they became Russian subjects. Moses of Chorene mentions a battle in the reign of the Armenian king Baba (A.D. 37 0 -377), in which Shagir, king of the Lekians, was slain. The most important of the Lesghian tribes are the Avars, the Kasimukhians or Lakians, the Darghis and the xvI. 16 a Kurins or Lesghians proper. Komarov 1 gives the total number of the tribes as twenty-seven, all speaking distinct dialects. Despite this, the Lesghian peoples, with the exception of the Udi and Kubatschi, are held to be ethnically identical. The Lesghians are not usually so good-looking as the Circassians or the Chechenzes. They are tall, powerfully built, and their hybrid descent is suggested by the range of colouring, some of the tribes exhibiting quite fair, others quite dark, individuals. Among some there is an obvious mongoloid strain. In disposition they are intelligent, bold and persistent, and capable of reckless bravery, as was proved in their struggle to maintain their independence. They are capable of enduring great physical fatigue. They live a semi-savage life on their mountain slopes, for the most part living by hunting and stock-breeding. Little agriculture is possible. Their industries are mainly restricted to smith-work and cutlery and the making of felt cloaks, and the women weave excellent shawls. They are for the most part fanatical Mahommedans.

See Moritz Wagner, Schamyl (Leipzig, 1854); von Seidlitz, "Ethnographie des Kaukasus," in Petermann's Mitteilungen (1880); Ernest Chantre, Recherches anthropologiques dans le Caucase (Lyon, 1885-1887); de Morgan, Recherches sur les origines des peoples du Caucase (Paris, 1889).

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