Image: Avars


Avars, Mongolian people, who about 461 conquered the Uygurs, a Turkic tribe sometimes called the pseudo-Avars, and with the Uygurs formed a confederation on the Volga steppes (now in Russia). In the middle of the 6th century the confederation was almost annihilated by the Turks. The survivors, mostly Uygurs led by Avar chiefs, took the name of Avar, by which they were thenceforth known, and split into two bodies. One part remained in eastern Europe; the other moved westward, eventually reaching the Danube River. The members of the second group settled in Dacia (now in Romania) and inaugurated an era of conquest.

At the end of the 6th century the domain

At the end of the 6th century the domain of the Dacian Avars extended from the Volga River to the Baltic Sea, and they exacted enormous tribute from the Byzantine Empire. During this period, under their khagan, or khan, Baian, they were probably the greatest power in Europe, and they influenced tremendously the later development of a large part of Europe by driving most of the Western Slavs to the areas that they have occupied ever since. After the death of Baian the power of the western Avars declined under blows struck by the Slavs and Bulgars. In 795-96 they were crushed by Charlemagne, and they were later almost completely exterminated by the Moravians. The survivors were absorbed by the Slavs.

Of the Avars who remained in eastern Europe

Of the Avars who remained in eastern Europe little is known; the available evidence indicates that they are the ancestors of the modern Avars of the Caucasus, one of the 27 Lezghian tribes of Dagestan, Russia. Estimated to number more than 150,000, the modern Avars are Muslims and speak a language similar to Arabic. The great Lezghian warrior and patriot Shamil, who led the people of the Caucasus region in the 19th century in their struggle for freedom from Russia, was an Avar.

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