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W

hen I hear the words lavash – yukha, I am imme-

diately overwhelmed by childhood memories. 

I remember women living next door kneading 

dough together with my mother, aunt and grandmother. 

They put the dough to mature, and then divided it into 

round pieces “kunda”. One or two of the women prepared 

the tandir or saj (concave circular iron plate). The saj was 

plastered with shira (a mixture of ash, clay and manure) 

on the underside. While the women were engaged in all 

this, we, the kids, prepared firewood in order to heat the 

tandir or light the fire under the saj.

And here begins the solemn performance: Women 

rolled paper-thin lavash with the “okhlov”, a thin and 

pointed rolling pin, on a round wooden yayga. The 

okhlov also helped to turn the lavash on the saj and make 

holes in the bubbles. If it was prepared on the saj - it was 

called “lavash”, “yukha salmag” – to spread the yukha and 

lavash on the saj, and if it was prepared in the tandir -  

“yavash yapmag” – to attach the lavash. The thing is that 

the lavash had to be attached to the hot inner walls of 

the tandir. To do this, it was first rolled out on a special 

tool called rafata (rяfяtя). The rяfяtя is elongated and re-

sembles the raf (rяf) – a shelf on which something is put, 

and the word ata means throwing (at - throw). After that, 

the lavash was wetted with water from above, otherwise, 

it would not stick to the hot wall of the tandir. Interest-

ingly, the first lavash often fell on the ashes. This formed 

a folk idiom. Ilk lavash kut geler (İlk lavaş küt gяlяr) - “the 

first lavash is always a blob”. Interestingly, a similar event 

and culinary thinking exists in Russian cuisine “The first 

pancake is always a blob”, which once again proves the 

psychological closeness of our peoples.

And now the first hot lavash is ready. As long as it is 

hot, kids crumbled it into the flour with butter – they 

prepared “doymaj” (döymяc); This simple dish was so tasty 

that it is difficult to describe it. Some gourmets crumbled 

(motal) cheese or cottage cheese into the doymaj.

Here kids did their best to help and behaved politely. 

Everyone knew a story about how “The moon was a small 

child. When his mom was preparing a lavash, he merci-

lessly fooled around. Mom could not stand it, slapped 

the moon across the face and said: “Get out of my sight.” 

And God heard the words of his mother and raised the 

moon to the sky. But traces of the slap still remain on 

the face of the moon. So he secretly glances longingly 

at his mother at night. He may ask her to caress him.” You 

cannot misbehave when lavash is being prepared. Nor 

is it impossible to fight in the presence of lavash as the 

popular proverb says “Galdi lavash - bitdi savash” (“When 

Following tradition

About  lavash



Tahir AMIRASLANOV,

Professor




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35

lavash comes, fighting ends”). There are a lot of people’s 

ideological statements about lavash “Yavash-yavash-

pendir-yavash” (“Quietly (slowly) - cheese and lavash”) or 

“Khamrali hash - bagrina bas” (“Khamrali (kind of bread) 

is clean – stick it to your breast i.e. lavash - eat slowly”). 

Lavash is used to make popular sandwiches in the form 

of a roll - durmek. In villages, children were supplied with 

such sandwiches when they ran out to play or went to 

school. Inside durmeks – rolls, they put butter and jam, 

cheese, cottage cheese and butter, cheese with herbs, 

potatoes, boiled eggs, etc.

And at funerals, they always serve flour halva wrapped 

in lavash. And no wedding is complete without lavash.

Lavash has formed the habit of eating with hands. 

We break the lavash with clean hands, put it on a piece 

of meat and then place it in our mouth. Or we keep the 

meat by the bones and then eat it, and in the end, we 

send it into our mouth. To eat soups, we wrap pieces of 

lavash as a spoon, scoop the soup and instead of the 

spoon, we place this spoon in the mouth. For centuries 

people have crumbled lavash in liquid dishes, milled dry 

lavash into flour and taken it for a long journey. And in the 

journey, putting it in milk, diluted gatig (sour milk) and 

something else, they quickly prepared tura. Such flour 

is used in Gabala to prepare stuffing for Gabala baklava.

The basic book “Armenian cuisine”, published in 1960, 

on which several dozen doctors, academics (historians, 

biologists, engineers, etc.) of Armenian origin worked, 

which was approved by the board of the Academy of 

Sciences of the Armenian SSR and the Culinary Council 

of the Ministry of Trade of the Armenian SSR and which 

is still copied by all Armenian authors, mentions the “Ar-

menian” lavash and matnakash for the first time. (1)

Let’s look at historical sources. Adam Oleary (17th 

century) wrote about Azerbaijani bread: “There are dif-

ferent kinds of bread made of wheat such as komach 

(komatsch) - biscuits as thick as three fingers and as 

long as half an elbow; lavash (lawasch) – round bread 

half an inch in thickness; peasekeshe (peasekesche) – as 

long as the elbow, they attach it to the house furnace 

or tenur and make furrows of five fingers on it; sengek 

(sengek) – whisked on round cobbles that are used to 

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make furnaces, which is why this bread is humpy; yukha 

(jucha) - thin biscuits, almost like paper, with a length of 

the elbow and almost with the same width.” (2)

“The Tartars also prepare lavash (lyavyash) and bak 

lavash.” (3)

N. A Kislyakova and A. I. Pershitsa note that in Turkey 

“they also bake flat cake lavashes in the villages.” (4) I. A. 

Agranovich said in 1876: “In Azerbaijan in Lankaran dis-

trict, they bake lavashes from it” (5). Fine dried fruit marsh-

mallow sticks are called “lavashana” in Azerbaijani, which 

entered old Slavonic cuisine. Domostroi (14th century) 

calls it “Levashniki” and gives a precise technology of its 

preparation, which is no different from the present one. (6) 

The cooking of different thinly rolled breads that have 

no great thickness is characteristic of Azerbaijani cuisine. 

For example, yukha (in Turkish - yufka), lavash, sangak (or 

shatir), takhtag and others. Different travelers who visited 

Azerbaijan write about these thin breads. For example, 

Baron Fyodor Korf: “Servants came in, carrying a plu-

rality of bread-like pancakes on their shoulders and giving 

a portion to each person.” (7);

L. F. Bogdanov: “A slice of very thin white bread is a 

little thicker than our pancakes and is called stone bread 

because it is baked on small hot stones. The bread also 

serves as a tissue substituting a soup spoon to a certain 

extent.” (8);

Gaspard Drouville: “The servants first bring bread con-

sisting of large foot-wide cakes as long as two or as thick 

as three lines called tegeyrag.” (9);

Tkeshelov: “He gets a bite of bread (chorak) ... bread 

called yukhla, thin tissue-shaped bread” (10);

Muscovite Kavkaz: “Kebab… wrapping it in pieces of 

thin lavash pancakes ... they prepare every minute fresh la-

vashes exterminated by the crowd in large amounts” (11);

Adam Oleary: “In Shamakhi at the khan’s place, the 

stolnik was followed by a royal carver with a wooden 

dish full of cakes or pancakes, which were the size of half 

a cubit and as thin as parchment. These cakes are called 

yukha (Juche)” (2);

Tekodander (1602): “(In Lankaran) ... and then they put 

Following tradition



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37

a big, round thin cake made of rice, replacing bread, and 

a plate in front of each of us.” (12);

G. N. Kozbek says in the book “Three months in Turkish 

Georgia” (1876): “In Ardebil there are 12 bakeries ... In the 

villages, people eat bread (lavash and churek made from 

wheat flour mixed with barley)” (13).

The fact that thin breads were invented by Turks is 

proven by the American explorer Charles Perru. (14)

Some Azerbaijani dishes, especially national sand-

wiches “durmek”, are prepared only with this kind of 

bread. Azerbaijanis remove kebab from the rod (ram-

rod), and again with the help of these breads, as if wrap-

ping the “kebab” in the meat, and they serve “lula-kebab” 

mostly in the form of “durmeks”.

The word “durmek” retains the form of “durma” in the 

Lak language as one of the names for dolma in leaves 

and is explained as a Turkism, which means “wrapping”. 

Vladimir Dal also gives the words “dulma” and “durma” 

together in one context. In Azerbaijan and Turkey, the 

famous “shah pilaf” and “parda pilaf “, etc. are made in la-

vash. (15)

Thus, the people who created this bread also created 

appropriate products and methods of using these breads 

in their cuisine.

Thin sheet bread was mentioned in the 11

th

 century 



by Mahmud Qashgari in his “Dictionary of the Turks” 

(“Lugat-it Turk”), calling it “kevrяk” (16); as a synonym of 

the word meaning gentle, fragile, Turkic peoples use the 

words “yukha”, “yufka” and “lavash”.

At the same time, in the 11

th

 century, Yusif of Balasa-



gun mentions lavash in the book “Gutadgu Bilik” (Fertile 

Knowledge). (17)

In the 12

th

 century, the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami 



Ganjavi wrote the following lines in the poem “Seven 

Beauties”:

“He set a good table when he was hungry.

He ate white lavash and yellow gogal” (word-for-word 

translation T. A.) (18)

In the 15

th

 century Iranian poet Bushagi Etim writes 



about lavash in the cookbook “Kenzul Ishtiha”, (19), which 

is indicated by the translator of “Kenzul Ishtiha” (from Per-

sian into Turkish), Ahmad Javad, in the 18

th

 century. (23)



G. A. Dubovis, who was in love with Armenia, writes 

in the dictionary “Armenian Cuisine”: “White lavash is flat 

bread made from unleavened dough (Turkish flat bread 

lavash)” (20).

Renowned Armenian scientist Sevan Nishanyan 

writes in his Etymological Dictionary of Turkish (Türkcя 

Etimolojı sözlük): “Lavaş - fars. Lavaş, yassı яkmяk, yufka.” 

(Lavash - Pers. Lavash is flat bread, yufka). (21) That’s to 

say he attributes the word “lavash” to Persian, identifying 

lavash breads with Turkish yufka bread (“yukha” in Azeri).

And the Armenian scholar and linguist E. V. Sevartyan 

write in the book published by the Russian Academy of 

Sciences, “The Etymological Dictionary of Turkic Lan-

guages. Common and Inter-Turkic bases on the letters 

l, m, n, n, s” (22):

“L

I. LAVASH Turk. Tur. Tur. DIAL. Ko.Yem. 310 az., Az.dial. 

DSAz. 287, kim., kaz., uz. Dial. HSHL 167 RIII 741 (OSM., 

Al., Chag.), Bud. II 192 (kazan., az); lav’ash R III 741 (kazan., 

ktat.); la:vash uz.dial.ShL 95; Lяvяsh tat., P III 751 (kazan.);

II. LAVASHA az., az.dial. DSAz.287, RIII 741 (Osm.).

Only uz.dial. the long a is indicated: - in Oguz dialects 

of Khorezm, the reference to length in the Turkic lan-

guage here seems wrong;

aI. 1. Lavash is bread of thin rolled dough, a kind of 

cake - Turk., az., tur., tur.dial.tat., kum., kaz., uz.dial. HSHL, 

SHL; Round thin bread in the form of pancakes and cakes, 

also serving as a tablecloth - R III 741 (Az.), Bud.;

2. Round flat cakes with raisins, marshmallow sticks or 

jam baked in oil - tat., Bud., R III 751 (kazan);

3. Puff puns- tat. Dial. (TRS 354);

4. Thin cake from wheat - R III 741 (osm., chag.); a kind 

of pastry - R III741 (kazan., ktat.);

5. Jam of acidic fruits (plum, etc.), dried cakes - az.dial. 

DSAz.; marshmallow sticks -az.dial.DSAz.;

II 1. Sour marshmallow sticks, dried jam of sour fruit 

with thin layers - plum, dogwood and other. - az., az.dial., 

DSAz.;

2. A thin, flat piece of silver- R III 741 (Osm.).



In semantics, it is necessary to emphasize an impor-

tant component that is present in almost all usages - 

that the small thickness of the product and the rounded 

shape (flat cake, pancake) are mandatory. In a number 

4(23), WINTER 2015



38

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of languages, it is a sweet product or with sweet filling 

belonging apparently to delicacies. In the Azerbaijani 

language and its dialects, the form of the product served 

as the basis for the name of dried fruit jam, if, of course, 

lavasha is regarded as a variant of lavash.

The concept of thin and flat is preserved in Turkish 

lavasha, compared with silver.

There is no recognized etymology here. The initial l- 

gives reason to see a borrowing here, at least of the first 

element of lav-ash. M. Resenen indicates that TT VII 14 

mentions a pair word liv-i as-y “his (sacrificial) food”. “The 

possibility of rapprochement between the pair words 

liv as and lavash was first noted by R. Arat during the 

publication of this text. He suggested that “liv should be 

synonymous to as - ‘sacrificial food’” (See. TT VII 67). The 

combination of liv as is noted in “Kutadgu bilig”: liv as tergi 

– a set table; table laden with refreshments (DTS 333). The 

word liv is used separately here (DTS 333- QBK 140). In 

the DTS, liv is close to Armenian ‘food, pudding’, which 

is possible, but not definite. J. Clawson sees a borrowing 

from Chinese word li - grain

in combination with as it acts as the determinant of the 

form (sacrificial) food - ‘made from cereals (rice, wheat, 

etc.) (Cl.763). In principle, the origin of the word from East 

Turkestan - given the first reflection of other Uighur texts 

and QB – is very likely. Meanwhile, the Chinese word for 

grain is unlikely to be a full definition, as liv as behaves 

like a typical pair word.

As for the second element ash, one of the oldest of its 

meanings is recognized as “food” (“ESTYA [1974] 210-211), 

and there is also the meaning “feast”. Thus, we can assume 

that the pair word or composite * liv+as, which means 

originally the type of food from cereal grains (flour?), 

later became the name for a round baked product. E. 

V. Sevortyan interprets the form of Azerbaijani lavash as 

a diminutive of lavash formed by the indicator -a (Sev.

AI 168).

The word lavash as a borrowing from Turkic, noted 

by dictionaries, entered into many Caucasian languag-

es: for example, Ossetian Lawyz/lauz/lawsi - a thin flat 

cake, pancake (Ab.II 15.49). About lavash in Russian, see 

Ship.218, about levash and levakha ‘cake’, see Fas.II 412, 

which, referring to F. Mikloshich, speaks about the Turkic 

origin of the word.

As we can see, Sevortyan, referring to famous linguists 

and dictionaries and the opinion of scientists at the Rus-

sian Academy of Sciences, claims that “the word lavash

as a borrowing from Turkic, entered into many languages   

of the Caucasus”.

From the work of Sevortyan it is necessary to empha-

size several points.

1. Lavash is used in many Turkic dialects. Turkish, Azeri, 

Kumyk, Kazakh, Uzbek, Ottoman, Karachay, Tatar, Kazan-

Tartar, Oguz and ancient Uighur.

2. Lavash in its semantic meaning includes the idea 

of a “thin sheet”.

So the author people must have several grain prod-

ucts like such a thin sheet, which is not observed in the 

culinary culture of the Armenians. As we noted above, 

thin bread like lavash and products made of them are 

common among the Turkic peoples.

3. The word “lavash” is found in the “Kutadgu bilig” as 

Liv aş tergi – a set table; table set with refreshments.

It must be noted “Kutadgu bilig” is recognized as a 

historical monument of Turkic peoples and was written 

in the 11

th

 century by Yusif Balasagunlu. (17)



In addition, the round low table on which a thin sheet 

is rolled out for lavash also served as domestic item and a 

table, which can be seen from a variety of miniatures, and 

is still used in many homes and ethnographic restaurants 

by almost all Turkic peoples.

4. Sevortyan, citing sources, suggests that the word 

lavash is formed from the Chinese word Liv - grain and 

ash (food in general Turkic) and rightly believes that la-

vash is a pair word.

Indeed, the word lavash is a pair word and is derived 

from a combination of the words “alov” and “ash” (“fire” 

and “meal”). Both words “alov” and “ash” have common 

Turkic roots. Alovash, with the further loss of the first 

vowel “A”, became “lavash”. The loss of the first vowel is 

typical of our language, for example, the word “Rossiya” 

sounds like Rusiya or Rusiet in Azerbaijani, and before, 

and even now, in many areas it is pronounced as Яrяsey, 

Following tradition




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39

Urset. Also, Russians used to be called “Urus” not “Rus” as 

today, or the word “stakan” sounds like “istakan” in Azer-

baijani, “Ravan” - “Iravan”, the word “Ulduz” (star) - “yulduz”, 

the word “rafiqa” (girlfriend) - “irafiga” and so on.

The formation of the word “alovash - lavash” corre-

sponds to rules of forming culinary terminology in the 

Azerbaijani language. For example, bread baked in burn-

ing ashes (köz - in Azeri) is called kozlamach (sh), and 

bread baked in the ashes (kul) is called kullamash (ch). 

That is to say the names of these breads are linked with 

the name of the environment. This is what we are seeing 

in Persian. Thin shatir bread baked on stones is called 

“sangah” - “stone” (from Persian). Bread baked on the walls 

of the tandir comes into direct contact with “alov” (fire). 

Hence the name of the bread alovash, lavash.

In some Turkic dialects, for example, in Turkey, the 

word “alov” sounds like “yalov” and the word “lavash” 

could initially sound like “yalovash” followed by the loss 

of the letter “y” and then the letter “a”. We have seen this 

in the formation of the word “ulduz” (star), which earlier 

sounded and still sounds like “yulduz” or “yildiz” in Turkish.

Hence, the Azerbaijani idiom “aj-yalavaj” - hungry, 

without lavash. The name of the Azerbaijani villages “Ya-

lavash” is probably also connected with lavash. 

To be continued



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