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Other spellings: Lazi; Lazepe
Turkish: Lazlar
Georgian: Lazi; Čani

Laz warriors from around 1900

Laz woman

People living in northeastern Turkey and southwestern Georgia, along the coast to the Black Sea.
An estimated 500,000 live in Turkey, but this figure is highly uncertain; the number of Laz speakers is f.x. only set at 50,000. Laz language is not Turkic, but today a great majority among the Laz has Turkish as first language.
There are mainly two groups of Laz. One lives in the region known as Lazistan, or Lazona as they call it themselves. This corresponds to the modern provinces of Rize and Artvin. The second group are 19th century immigrants from Russia to regions of Adapazari and Bursa.
Turkish Laz are today Sunni Muslims, while the Georgian Laz are Georgian Orthodox Christians. Their societies have a strong position for men, but polygamy is not practiced.
The traditional economy of the Laz, fishing, remains important also in modern times, but most of them are farmers, largely with tea.

6th century BCE: Rise of the kingdom of Colchis, in which the Laz is a large population.
183: Rise of the kingdom of Pontus covering the homelands of the Laz.
66: Incorporated into the Roman Empire, forming the province of Lazicum.
Around 300: The Kingdom of Lazica emerges.
557: Lazica is incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, the population soon converts to Christianity.
16th century: A great part of the Laz converts to Sunni Islam, following the incorporation into the Ottoman Empire.

By Tore Kjeilen