Russian Federation: in the southwest of the Republic of Dagestan, very close to the border with Georgia, and in the village of Monastyrskoye in northern Dagestan.
Approximate total number: 500 (data from 2007).
Produced by CIEMEN.
The Hinukhs are one of the smallest ethnic groups in the Republic of Dagestan. Traditionally, they have only ever lived in Hinukh (Hino, in their own tongue), a village in southwest Dagestan's mountainous inland and a linguistic enclave in a Dido-speaking area. The Hinukhs have lived under Avar control since the 16th century.
Hinukh has no dialects. Both the language and the people take their name from the main village in which the tongue is spoken. The only characteristic that distinguishes the Hinukhs from the other peoples in their vicinity is their language. The vocabulary of Hinukh has been heavily influenced by other tongues, such as Avar, Dido, Georgian and Russian.
Hinukh is only used orally in family settings. Its speakers generally use Dido and Avar for the purposes of writing and communicating with the region's other peoples. Nonetheless, the Hinukhs have managed to preserve their language and culture due to their isolation in the mountains. Hinukh is not presently taught in schools. Hinukh 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, Hinukh 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 Hinukh 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.