Brief Information

Bezhta is spoken on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan, and partially in the Kvareli Municipality of the Republic of Georgia and the Balakan District of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The pattern of settlement is compact in mountainous areas and mixed on the plain. According to the 2010 census, the population of Bezhta people in Russia is 5958 (34 of them live in the urban area, 5924 — in the rural area). According to the individual researchers’ estimates, the total number of Bezhta people in Russia is about 11,000 people; the total number in the world is 12,000. Almost all of the Bezhtas speak Bezhta, except for a small part of the urban youth.

Bezhta is divided into three dialects: Bezhta Proper, Tladal and Khasharkhota. 

The main ethnonym in Russian is bezhtincy, in English — the Bezhta. The endonym of the Bezhta is bežƛasa, of the Bezhta language – bežƛalas mic. The etymology of the ethnonym bežƛasa comes from the name of the large main settlement Bezhta (from bežƛa “on the paddock, in the barnyard”. The Georgian name of the Bezhta is Kapuchi (капучинцы in Russian).

The ethnonym qašajqo (Khasharkhota people) comes from the toponym Qašajqoƛa (Khasharkhota); the Khasharkhota dialect is called qašajqolas mic, meaning “Khasharkhota language”. 

The ethnonym haƛosa (Tladal people) comes from the toponym Haƛod; the Tladal dialect is called haƛolas mic, which means “Tladal language”. 

Bezhta people are engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture. In the past most of the male Bezhta population worked in Georgia and Azerbaijan during the off season.

All Bezhta people are Sunni Muslims.


Bezhta belongs to the Tsezic group of the Nakh-Daghestanian (East Caucasian) language family. Together with Hunzib, it forms the East Tsezic subgroup of the Tsezic languages. Bezhta has three dialects - Bezhta Proper, Tladal and Khasharkhota. 


Bezhta Proper dialect
Khasharkhota dialect
Tladal dialect
more than one dialect
Bezhta is mainly spoken on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan, and partially in the Kvareli Municipality of the Republic of Georgia and the Balakan District of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Dialects and their distribution

Vitality map

начало языкового сдвига
под угрозой исчезновения
под существенной угрозой исчезновения
на пороге исчезновения

Language contacts and multilingualism

Bezhta people are in contact with Avar, Russian, Hunzib, Hinuq. 

Most of the Bezhta people speak Avar, which is the language of inter-ethnic communication among the representatives of the Andic-Tsezic language group. Avar competence amongst the Bezhta people depends on age: the older generation have a good language competence of Avar.

Almost all Bezhta people speak Russian; only children of preschool age are monolinguals. The language of inter-ethnic communication in Dagestan is Russian.

Small part of the Bezhta emigrants from Georgia still speak Georgian; this fact is explained by the historically established trade, economic and political relations with Georgia.

Some of the Bezhta people speak Hunzib and Hinuq at the colloquial level. Bezhta serves as the language of communication with the Hunzib people (partially with the Hinukh people as well).

Language functioning

Bezhta has no official status. In the Constitution of the Republic of Dagestan, Bezhta is defined as one of the non-written languages of peoples of Dagestan.

Bezhta does not have an officially established writing system. However, the first literary works appeared in the 1990s, which are the Bible translations: the Gospel of Luke (1999), The Book of Proverbs (2005), and four parables from the Gospel of Luke (2018). The Avar alphabet, which is based on Russian graphics, is used in the Bible translations; also considering the phonetic features of Bezhta (the language has about 30 vowels and 32 consonants).

Bezhta has no established literary standard. The native speakers of different dialects speak their own dialects with each other.

Dynamics of language usage

Bezhta remains the primary means of communication among the Bezhta people, despite the fact that most Bezhta identity themselves as Avar. At the same time, the knowledge of Avar among the Bezhta people is decreasing every year due to the spread of mass media (television, radio, press, etc.) in Russian. Nowadays, the knowledge of Russian is almost absolute.

The knowledge of Bezhta is considerably high in compact living areas. In general, the transmission of Bezhta to the children is maintained. The level of proficiency of Bezhta amongst the youngest generation living in urban areas is decreasing.   


Language structure


Bezhta has 30 vowel and 32 consonant phonemes

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Morphological type of the language: agglutinative with fusional and analytic elements.

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Bezhta is classified as the language with ergative–absolutive alignment. The basic word order is SOV, but in general the word order is free.

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The Avar, Arabic, Georgian, Persian, Russian and Turkic languages are the main sources of word borrowing.

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Language experts

Madzhid Sh. Khalilov
(Makhachkala, Russia)

The author of many works on phonetics, morphology, word formation, and lexicology of Bezhta. He is the author of the Bible translations into Bezhta, the author of the first Dictionary of the Bezhta language, of the chrestomathy of Bezhta texts and the co-author of the Bezhta grammar.

Bernard Comrie
(Santa Barbara, USA (California))

The author of multiple works on morphology and syntax of the Tsezic languages including Bezhta.

Zaira M. Khalilova
(Moscow, Russia)

She works on documentation of Bezhta.

Yakov G. Testelets
(Moscow, Russia)

Yakov Testelets is one of the authors of the grammatical description of the Bezhta language (Tlyadal dialect).

Research centres

Institute of Language, Literature and Art named after Gamzat Tsadasa, Dagestan Scientific Center of RAS (Makhachkala, Dagestan, Russia)

One of the main research theme of the institute is documentation of non-written minority languages of Dagestan.  Within this research framework, M.Sh. Khalilov, a specialist in in the Tsezic languages, prepared “The Bezhta-Russian Dictionary” (1995), 
“Bezhta-Russian Phraseological and Folklore-Ethnographical Dictionary” (2014), and “The Language, Folklore and Ethnography of the Bezhta People” (2017).

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The researchers of the Institute of Linguistics Y.G. Testelets (Department of Caucasian Languages) and Z.M. Khalilova (Laboratory for the study and preservation of small languages) are working on documentation of Bezhta.

Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany) and partially Leiden University (Netherlands) have supported the publication of several works on Bezhta, which are “The Bezhta-Russian Dictionary” (1995), “Bezhta-Russian Phraseological and Folklore-Ethnographical Dictionary” (2014), and “The Language, Folklore and Ethnography of the Bezhta People” (2017) were published.

Core references

Grammatical descriptions: grammars, sketches

Bernard Comrie, Madzhid Khalilov, and Zaira Khalilova. 2015. Grammatika bezhtinskogo yazyka (Fonetika. Morfologiya. Slovoobrazovanie) [A grammar of Bezhta]. Leipzig-Makhachkala: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Madieva, G.I. Grammaticheskiy ocherk bezhtinskogo yazyka [Grammatical description of the Bezhta language]. Makhachkala, the publication of Dagestan State University, 1965.


M.Sh. Khalilov. Bezhtinsko-russkiy slovar' [The Bezhta-Russian Dictionary]. Makhachkala, 1995.

M.Sh. Khalilov. Slovar' bezhtinskogo yazyka [The Dictionary of the Bezhta language]. Makhachkala: Alef, 2015.

Selected papers on grammatical issues

Bokarev E.A.  Bezhtinskiy yazyk [The Bezhta language.] // Tsezskie (didoyskie) yazyki Dagestana. Moscow, AN URSS, 1959. p. 66–109.

Comrie B. Verb stems and verb inflection in Bezhta // Philologie, Typologie und Sprachstructur- Philology, Typology and Language Structure: Festschrift für Winfried Boeder zum 65. Geburtstag / Festschrift for Winfried Boeder on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday / Ed. by Wolfram Bublitz, Manfred von Roncador, and Heinz Vater. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2002. Р. 251–264.

Comrie B., Khalilov M. Loanwords in Bezhta, a Nakh-Daghestanian of the North Caucasus // Loanwords in the World’s languages. A comparative handbook. Berlin, 2009.

Comrie B., Khalilov M., Khalilova Z. Valency and valency classes in Bezhta // Valency classes / Ed. by Wolfram Bublitz, Manfred von Roncador, and Heinz Vater, eds.: Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton, 2015. Р. 541–570.

Comrie B., Forker D., Khalilova Z. General noun modifying clause constructions in Hinuq and Bezhta, with a note on other Daghestanian languages // General noun modifying clause constructions / Ed. by Yoshiko Matsumoto, Bernard Comrie & Peter Sells. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2017. P.121–146.

Khalilov M., Khalilova Z. Word formation in Bezhta // Word-Formation: An International Handbook of the Languages of Europe / Ed. by Müller, Peter O., Ingeborg Ohnheiser, Susan Olsen & Franz Rainer. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter (= Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science, HSK 40), 2016. P. 3597–3616.

Kibrik A. E., Testelets Ja. G. Bezhta // The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, 3: The North East Caucasian Languages Part 1 / Ed. by Job, Michael. Delmar, NY: Caravan Books, 2004. P. 217–295.

Publications of texts

Khalilov M.Sh. Translation of the Gospel of Luke in the Bezhta language. Institute for Bible Translation, Moscow, 1999. 

Khalilov M.Sh. The Four Parables from the Gospel of Luke in the Bezhta language. Institute for Bible Translation, Moscow, 2018. 

Khalilov M.Sh. The Book of Solomon Proverbs in the Bezhta language.] Institute for Bible Translation, Moscow, 2005. 

Khalilov M.Sh. Na ustakh u bezhtintsev: legendy, predaniya, skazki i rasskazy. [On the lips of the Bezhtas: legends, lore, tales and stories.] Makhachkala, 2020.


Corpora and text collections

There is no publicly available electronic corpus of Bezhta. There is a collection of texts in Bezhta with 60,000 tokens.

Other electronic resources

IDS The Intercontinental Dictionary Series

The Intercontinental Dictionary Series (IDS), which is a database with lexical material, contains wordlists of Bezhta in three dialects:
Bezhta Proper — 1731 entries, Khasharkhota — 1896 entries, Tladal — 2315 entries.

Valency Patterns Leipzig Online Database

Database of Bezhta verbal valency

Institute for Bible Translation

Bible translations into Bezhta are available not only in printed versions, but also in electronic formats, which are an e-book, an application with texts for a mobile device, audio versions of the Bible translation into Bezhta, Bible translations for smartphones, and the program “Electronnaya Biblia [“Electronic Bible”] for Windows, Linux, Mac.

Bezhta Talking Dictionary

The Bezhta-Russian voiced dictionary contains 25 word entries. The dictionary is constantly updated.

Data for this page kindly provided by

Zaira Madzhidovna Khalilova (Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow).

«Sluchaj v Turcii» [“An Incident in Turkey”]

Приложения к тексту «Случай в Турции»

«Nasha zhizn'» [“Our Life”]

Приложения к тексту «Наша жизнь»