Population: About 654,000 speakers (in all countries)
Language: Lezgi, East Caucasian language
Location: South Dagestan and Northern Azerbaijan
Religion: Sunni Muslim
Published by IBT Sermon on the Mount and Parables of the Kingdom (1990), Gospel of Mark (1996), Luke & Acts (2004), Children's Bible (2009), Ruth/Esther/Jonah (2010), 4 Gospels (2013)
Audio recordings: Children's Bible (2013, 2014)
Current work in progress: OT books and preparing for publication of the NT
The Lezgi are the second biggest ethnic group in Azerbaijan, and in Dagestan they constitute more than 13% of the whole population. This is the largest North Caucasian people whose historical area of settlement was divided by state boundaries (between Russia and Azerbaijan) into almost two equal halves after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are also large Lezgi communities in almost all regions of Russia and other CIS countries, such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and also in Turkey. The Lezgi are well-known all over the world for their beautiful national dance called the “Lezginka,” which is like an emblem of this Caucasian people.
History. In the 3-9th centuries A.D., the ancestors of the contemporary Lezgi were among the tribes that made up the kingdom of Caucasian Albania, which accepted Christianity. 6th century manuscripts of the Bible translated into one of the languages of this kingdom were discovered in the Sinai monastery in the 20th century. After deciphering the unknown script and analyzing the language at the turn of the new millenium, scholars came to the conclusion that it was closely related to the Lezgi group of languages.
Language. Although the majority of the Lezgi speak their own language, not all of them can write in it. Usually people write either in Russian or in Azeri, since all the Lezgi are at least bilingual. Lezgi is being taught in several schools of Dagestan, but it is no longer taught in Azerbaijan. There and several Lezgi national newspapers and websites.
Bible translation progress: Our long term plan is the full Bible in Lezgi. In 2012 a new step was introduced into the translation procedure for this project. The translated texts are now being checked in Azerbaijan, in order to make the translation more understandable for those who are not familiar with the literary language, which is based on one of many dialects. This additional step is making the translation better understood on the other side of the border. The team also initiated reading meetings in Baku, so that the Lezgi believers in Azeri churches would embrace this translation as the Bible they want to read. These meetings have already started. They are very positive, the participants are enthusiastic. This is a good step towards Scripture engagement in Lezgi. In winter 2017 there was a successful consultant checking session on the remaining NT books. The Lezgi translation team is preparing to submit the NT to the publishing department in late 2017. The team is simultaneously working on several OT books.
Your donation will help the Lezgi Bible translation project to be continued in 2017.