The Avar people, an ethnic group primarily residing in the North Caucasus region of Russia, have a rich cultural heritage characterized by their distinct beliefs, mythology, and rituals. As a predominantly Muslim society, the Avars have integrated pre-Islamic traditions with Islamic practices, creating a unique fusion of religious and cultural elements.


Before the arrival of Islam in the 8th century, the Avar people followed a polytheistic religion, worshipping numerous gods and goddesses. Some of the significant deities in Avar mythology include:

  • K'usar: The supreme god, K'usar, was considered the ruler of the heavens and the creator of the universe. K'usar possessed immense power and wisdom and was responsible for maintaining cosmic order.

  • Khudal: Known as the god of thunder and lightning, Khudal was a warrior god who protected the Avar people from evil forces. He was often depicted riding a horse and wielding a hammer or an axe.

  • Shunni: The goddess of fertility, Shunni was responsible for ensuring the prosperity and well-being of the Avar people. She was also the patroness of mothers and children, and her symbols included the moon, the earth, and grains.

  • Itaz: As the god of the underworld, Itaz presided over the realm of the dead. Itaz determined the fate of departed souls, either granting them eternal peace or sentencing them to eternal suffering based on their earthly deeds.

Mythological Figures

The Avar mythology is filled with fascinating creatures and legendary heroes. Some of the most significant figures include:

  • Bulam: A giant serpent-like creature, Bulam was considered the embodiment of evil and chaos. Bulam was often portrayed as attempting to destroy the world, only to be thwarted by the gods or heroes.

  • Alkhas: A heroic figure in Avar mythology, Alkhas was known for his strength and bravery. He fought against various supernatural creatures and enemies to protect his people and uphold justice.

  • Kaitag: A legendary bird with extraordinary powers, Kaitag could control the elements and foresee the future. It was said to be the companion of heroes and gods, providing them with guidance and assistance.

  • Tarki: A shape-shifting spirit, Tarki was known to bring either good fortune or misfortune to those who encountered it. Tarki could appear as an animal, a human, or even an inanimate object, often testing the character of those it met.

Rituals and Unique Beliefs

Despite the predominance of Islam among the Avar people, pre-Islamic rituals and beliefs continue to be practiced alongside Islamic traditions. Some unique aspects of Avar culture include:

  • Sacrifices: Animal sacrifices were an essential part of Avar religious practices, particularly during pre-Islamic times. These sacrifices were offered to the gods to seek their blessings, protection, and guidance. Today, although less common, some Avars continue to practice animal sacrifices during significant life events, such as weddings or funerals.

  • Ancestor Worship: The Avar people hold a deep reverence for their ancestors, believing that they continue to influence and protect their living descendants. Rituals are performed to honor and appease the spirits of the deceased, ensuring harmony within the family and community.

  • Divination: Divination has long played a role in Avar culture, with various methods employed to seek guidance from the gods and spirits. These methods include interpreting the patterns of animal entrails, reading the movements of water, and observing the flight patterns of birds. Although less prevalent today, some Avars continue to practice divination for decision-making and problem-solving.

  • Epic Poetry: The Avar people have a rich tradition of oral literature, which includes epic poems, known as "illeshis." These poems recount the heroic exploits of legendary figures and gods, serving as a means to preserve and pass on the cultural history and mythology of the Avars. Epic poetry remains an important part of Avar culture, with the practice of reciting and memorizing these stories continuing today.

  • Sacred Groves: The Avars believe that certain natural sites, such as groves, springs, and caves, possess spiritual energy and are inhabited by spirits or gods. These sacred sites are treated with respect and are often the location for rituals and ceremonies, such as offering sacrifices or seeking guidance from the divine.