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Laz people

Laz men ca.1900s
Total population
45,000 to 1.6 million
Regions with significant populations
  • 1.6 million[1]
  • or 500,000 to 1,000,000[2]
  • or 250,000[3]
  • or 45,000 to 500,000[4]
 Georgia 2,000[4]
 Germany 960[5]
 Russia 160[5]
Related ethnic groups

The Laz or Lazi (

  • Laz Culture Association (Turkish)
  • Culture, News and Information (Turkish)
  • Culture, News and Information (Turkish)
  • Culture Portal (Turkish)

External links

  • Andrews, Peter (ed.). 1989. Ethnic Groups in the Republic of Turkey. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. pp. 497–501.
  • Benninghaus, Rüdiger. 1989. "The Laz: an example of multiple identification". In: Ethnic Groups in the Republic of Turkey, edited by P. Andrews.
  • Bryer, Anthony. 1969. The last Laz risings and the downfall of the Pontic Derebeys, 1812–1840, Bedi Kartlisa 26. pp. 191–210.
  • Hewsen, Robert H. Laz. World Culture Encyclopedia. Accessed on September 1, 2007.
  • Turkey: Laz Minority Passive In Face Of Assimilation.Negele, Jolyon. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 25 June 1998


  1. ^ Bülent Günal (20 December 2011). "67 milletten insanımız var!" (in Türkçe). Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "TURKEY - General Information". U.S. English Foundation Research. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Jak Yakar. "Ethnoarchaeology of Anatolia: Rural Socio-economy in the Bronze and Iron Ages". Institute of Archaeology. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Bedrohte Sprachen: Menschenrechtsreport" [Endangered Languages Human Rights Report] (PDF) (in Deutsch) 63.  
  5. ^ a b c "Национальный состав населения" [2010 Census: Ethnic composition of the population] (PDF) (in Русский).  
  6. ^ Roger Rosen, Jeffrey Jay Foxx, The Georgian Republic, Passport Books (September 1991)
  7. ^  
  8. ^ 1 Minorsky, V. "Laz." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E . Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010.
  9. ^ Dalby, A. (2002). Language in Danger; The Loss of Linguistic Diversity and the Threat to Our Future. Columbia University Press. p. 38. 
  10. ^ BRAUND, D., Georgia in antiquity: a history of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia 550 BC – AD 562, Oxford University Press, p. 93
  11. ^ "World Language Atlas".  
  12. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. (2009). "Armenians on the Black Sea: The Province of Trebizond". In Richard G. Hovannisian. Armenian Pontus: The Trebizond-Black Sea Communities. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, Inc. pp. 43–44, 37–66.  
  13. ^ "Ethnoarchaeology of Anatolia: rural socio-economy in the Bronze and Iron Ages". Jak Yakar. Google Books. Retrieved 26 May 2014. Formerly Christians, they converted to Sunni Islam a little over four centuries ago. 
  14. ^ Özhan Öztürk. Pontus. Genesis Yayınları. İstanbul, 2009. s. 737-38, 778
  15. ^ Roger Rosen, Jeffrey Jay Foxx (September 1991) The Georgian Republic, Passport Books, Lincolnwood, IL ISBN 978-0-84429-677-7
  16. ^ Silvia Kutscher (2008). "The language of the Laz in Turkey: Contact-induced language change or gradual loss?" (PDF). Turkic Languages 12 (1). Retrieved 31 January 2015. Due to a lack of census information on minorities (aside from a small number of exceptions such as the Greek or Armenian populations), the actual number of Laz living in Turkey can only be estimated 
  17. ^ Mathijs Pelkmans (2003). "Uncertain divides: religion, ethnicity, and politics in the Georgian borderlands". p. 174  
  18. ^ Iksander Tsitashi (1939). ]Laz literature [Лазская литература. Литературная энциклопедия (Encyclopedia of Literature) (in Русский). 
  19. ^ Erla Zwingle (September 2002). "Crucible of the Gods".  
  20. ^ a b Ismail Güney Yılmaz (7 January 2015). "90’lar: Laz Kültür ve Kimlik Hareketinin Doğuşu" [1990s: The Birth of the Laz Culture and Identity Movement] (in Türkçe). Lazebura. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Kâmil Aksoylu (3 July 2013). "Laz Kültürü Hareketi̇ 93 Süreci̇nden Laz Ensti̇tüsüne" (in Türkçe). Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  22. ^ "Lazuri classes to begin in secondary schools in Turkey". Anadolou. 14 September 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 


See also

Over the past 20 years, there has been an upsurge of cultural activities aiming at revitalizing the Laz language, education and tradition. Koyuncu, who in 1998 became the first Laz musician to gain mainstream success, contributed significantly to the identity of the Laz people, especially among their youth.[20] The Laz Cultural Institute was founded in 1993 and the Laz Culture Association in 2008, and a Laz cultural festival was established in Gemlik.[5][21] The Laz community successfully lobbied Turkey's Education Ministry to offer Laz-language instruction in schools around the Black Sea region. In 2013, the Education Ministry added Laz as a four-year elective course for secondary students, beginning in the fifth grade.[22]

Cultural assimilation into the Turkish and Georgian cultures has been high, and Laz identity was oppressed during the days of Ottoman and Soviet Rule. One of the pivotal moments was in 1992, when the book Laz History (Lazların tarihi) was published. The authors had failed to have it published in 1964.[20]

The national instruments include Eurovision Song Contest 2007.

Among the Turks, the Laz have a reputation for being "fiercely independent ("Only a Laz woman can handle a Laz man," they say), quick to laugh, especially at their own expense, addicted to hawking and to carrying pistols, and they often work in construction or other building trades."[19]

Since then, several attempts have been made to render the pieces of native literature in the Turkish and Georgian alphabets. A few native poets in Turkey such as Raşid Hilmi and Pehlivanoğlu have appeared later in the 20th century. [18] The Laz language does not have a written history, thus Turkish and Georgian serve as the main literary languages for the Laz. Their folk literature has been transmitted orally and has not been systematically recorded. The first attempts at establishing a distinct Laz cultural identity and creating a literary language based on the

Laz dancers in Armenia, circa 1911


Small expatriate communities of Laz are also present in Belgium, France, Germany and Russia.[4]

The Laz in Georgia are chiefly centered in the country's southwestern [17]

The Laz are the majority in the Pazar (Atina), Ardeşen (Art'aşeni) and Fındıklı (Vitze) districts of Rize, and in the Arhavi (Ark'abi) and Hopa (Xopa) districts of Artvin. They live as minorities in the neighbouring Çamlıhemşin (Vijadibi), Borçka, and İkizdere (Xuras) districts. There are also communities in northwestern Anatolia (Karamürsel in Kocaeli, Akçakoca in Düzce, Sakarya, Zonguldak, Bartın), where many immigrants settled since the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), and now also in Istanbul and Ankara.

The majority of the Laz today live in an area they call Laziǩa or Lazona (ლაზონა) in Northeast Turkey, in a strip of land along the shore of the Black Sea. The ancient kingdom of Colchis, and its successor, Lazica, was located in the same region the Laz speakers are found in today, and its inhabitants probably spoke an ancestral version of the language. Colchis was the setting for the famous Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts.

The total population of the Laz today is only estimated, with numbers ranging widely. The majority of Laz live in Turkey, where the national census does not record ethnic data on minor populations.[16]

Statue of a Laz man and woman in Arhavi (Ark'abi), Turkey

Population and geographical distribution

[15] There are also a few Christian Laz in the

The Laz were converted to Ottoman Empire, the vast majority of Laz became Sunni Muslims as part of the Lazistan sanjak.[14]

One of the chief tribes of ancient kingdom of Colchis, the Laz were initially early adopters of Christianity, and most of them subsequently converted to Sunni Islam during Ottoman rule of Caucasus in the 16th century.[13]


Under the Russian Empire and eventually became Soviet citizens after World War I.

The re-incorporation of Lazica with the Kingdom of Aphkhazeti into the Byzantine Empire in 562 AD, as a result of a campaign waged by Byzantine Emperor Justinian,[12] was followed by 150 years of relative stability that ceased in the early 7th century, when the Arabs appeared in the area as a new regional power.

The ruins of the ancient historical city-fortress of Petra are located in the village of Tsikhisdziri, Kobuleti, which dates back to the 6th century AD. Historically the territory was inhabited and belonged to the Laz people - one of the Iberian tribes. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian build a city here because of the importance of its unique strategic and trade-economic location. The city was crossed by the essential route connecting Western Georgia, with Byzantine provinces, Persia and Armenia.

Historical parts of Lazistan

The former Kingdom of Colchis was re-organized by the Romans into the province of Lazicum ruled by Roman legati. During Byzantine times, the word Colchi gave way to the term Lazica. The Roman period was marked by further Hellenization of the region in terms of language, economy and culture. For example, since the early 3rd century, Greco-Latin Philosophical Academy of Phasis (present-day Poti) was quite famous all over the Roman Empire. In the early 3rd century, newly established Roman Lazicum was given certain degree of autonomy. which by the end of the century developed into full the independence and formation of a new Kingdom of Lazica (covering the modern day regions of Abkhazia, Mingrelia, Guria and Adjaria) on the basis of smaller principalities of Svans, Apsilae, Zans and Sanigs. Lazica survived more than 250 years until in 562 AD it was absorbed by the Byzantine Empire.

Sanjak of Lazistan, Ottoman Anatolia, 1914

The history of Trabzon and Rize. Between the early 2nd century B.C. and the late 2nd century AD, the Kingdom of Colchis together with the neighbor countries, become an arena of long and devastating conflicts between major local powers Rome, Kingdom of Armenia and the short-lived Kingdom of Pontus. As a result of the brilliant Roman campaigns of generals Pompey and Lucullus, the Kingdom of Pontus was completely destroyed by the Romans and all its territory including Colchis, were incorporated into Roman Empire as her provinces.

Kingdom of Lazica in Late Antiquity



  • History 1
  • Religion 2
  • Population and geographical distribution 3
  • Culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Estimates of the total population of Laz people today ranges drastically, with numbers as low as 45,000 to as high as 1.6 million people, with the majority living in northeast Turkey. The Laz speak the Svan and Mingrelian.[9][10] The Laz language is classified as endangered by UNESCO, with an estimated 130,000 to 150,000 speakers in 2001.[11]


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