Laz

The Laz (Laz: lazepe, Georgian: lazebi or ch’anebi, Turkish: lazlar) are a Kartvelian people who live in Turkey. They used to live in western Georgia (first called Colchis and later Lazica), but beginning about 1,000 years ago were driven south. Today they inhabit what is sometimes called Lazistan (Laz: lazona, Georgian: lazeti or ch’aneti), a littoral strip of Turkey stretching from about Artvin in the east to Trabzon in the west.

lazistan

I added the arrow because some readers were too lazy to find Lazistan. Get it?

The Laz language (Laz: lazuri nena) is closely related to Mingrelian (indeed, the two are sometimes regarded as dialects of a single language) and more distantly related to Georgian. It is shot through with Turkish loanwords (adapted to fit Laz phonology). This is because every Laz is a fluent speaker of Turkish. Among younger Laz, knowledge of the Laz language is diminishing. Even when they do know it, it’s not uncommon for them to lack large swaths of Laz vocabulary, relying instead on Turkish. (The Turkish involved, by the way, is the local dialect, which can differ substantially from standard Turkish.)

Nowadays the Latin (Turkish) alphabet is used to write Laz (on those rare occasions when the non-literary language is written).

laz grammar marr

Nicholas Marr‘s Laz grammar textbook

Like the Adjarans, the Laz were converted to Sunni Islam around 500 years ago. Unlike the Adjarans, they have not converted back to Christianity.

laz samsun

Laz soldiers in Turkey

In general, the Laz are almost completely Turkified. Despite this, some Georgians think that the Laz, on account of being Kartvelian, are Georgians. At least some (and probably most) Laz disagree. At the same time, some Turks have claimed that the Laz were really Turks all along. This isn’t true either. Adding even more confusion to the mix is this nutjob missionary website, which conflates the Laz with the Mingrelians (a mistake which is not uncommon).

laz militia

Laz soldiers in Russia

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7 thoughts on “Laz

  1. Pingback: The Kartvelian (South Caucasian) Language Family | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

  2. Pingback: Are Mingrelians Georgians? | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

  3. Interesting interview! I can see one little mistake, though. 😀
    In Lazish, laz people are called “Lazepe”. Have a nice day!

  4. Pingback: Notes on Terminology | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

  5. Pingback: Dannon: “In Soviet Georgia…” | georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever

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