Russian Federation: in the southwest of the Republic of Dagestan, on the left bank of the upper reaches of the River Avar-Koisu.
Approximate total number: between 600 and 900 (data from 2002).
Produced by CIEMEN.
The Hunzibs are one of the Republic of Dagestan's smallest ethnic groups. They have traditionally inhabited an inland mountainous territory in southwestern Dagestan, by the border with Georgia, although nowadays many of them live on the plains in central Dagestan (the Kizilyurt district) and in northeast Georgia (the Qvareli district) for financial reasons. Historically, the Hunzibs have had close political and social ties with the Avars since the 16th century.
Hunzib does not have any dialects. It has been influenced by other languages to a great extent and, over time, has acquired loanwords from Avar, Georgian, Turkish and Arabic, as well as from Russian during the Soviet era.
Hunzib is not a written language. In the past, its speakers have used Avar for the purposes of writing and communicating with the other peoples in their vicinity. The Hunzib tongue is not taught in schools. Hunzib children learn Avar for the first five years of their primary education and then go on to learn Russian.
Like all Dagestan's other languages with few speakers, Hunzib is currently facing serious problems in relation to its survival, due both to the widespread nature of Russian at present and to the cultural expansion of Avar in the past. This state of affairs is compounded by the fact that the speakers of Hunzib do not consider it to be an essential part of the identity of their people, by financially motivated emigration to areas where Russian or Avar is spoken, and by the lack of a standard written form for teaching the language in schools.