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Russians have known the Caucasus and its mountain people since olden times. In 1561, Tsar Ivan the Terrible married a Kabardin princess, Maria Temryukovna. Since then, many mountain princes sought Moscow's support and accepted Russian citizenship. During the Time of Trouble, when Russia was weak, its contacts with the Caucasus were nearly broken, but were soon restored when the first Romanovs came to rule it. Archives store the requests of many mountain rulers and princes for Russian citizenship.

The very first documents on contacts between the Russians and the Chechens date back to the 16th century. At that time, the Russians did not know the word "Chechens," and hence called them differently. One of the names was "Shibuts people." We will cite one of these documents. Contacts were sporadic and did not leave a large trace in history then. Logically, Russians were interested in Orthodox Georgia, while Georgians reciprocated. The North Caucasus, with its numerous mountain people, including Chechens, was located on the road from Moscow to Tiflis (as Tbilisi was called then).

Documents show that somewhat later, when Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich and his offspring ruled Russia, Chechens persistently asked the Russian Tsar to take them under this protection, promising to faithfully serve the Moscow ruler and help him in the struggle against the enemies of the Russian land. Read these documents and judge for yourself. They include numerous oaths and pledges of loyalty, which, as time showed, were not worth much.

During the reign of Peter the Great, the son of Aleksei Mikhailovich, who fought Persia, the Russian troops did not get the promised assistance from Chechens, but had to fight back their raids. It was at that time that the Russians held - although with questionable success - several punitive operations against the mountain people. On the other hand, that clash was only an episode in Russia's history, as Peter's basic interests were in the West, and not in the Caucasus at all. Besides, the Caspian regions, which he had conquered, were soon ceded back to Persia.

Empress Anna Ioannovna ordered the construction of Russian battlements in the Caucasus, called the Caucasian Line. The main goal of that project was not to suppress the mountain people, whose likes and dislikes vacillated between Russia, Persia and Turkey. NO, the line was designed as a border dividing the zones of influence between Russia and Turkey under the 1739 Treaty. Besides, the Caucasian Line ensured the maintenance of stable contacts with Georgia. Russia helped Georgia more than once, and Georgian units joined Russia in the battle with Turkey.

In 1785, when Georgia was threatened by Avar Khan Omar, the Russians wanted, but could not, help Georgians. The trouble was that the road to Georgia was cut off by a military conflagration in Chechnya, which numerous testimonies says was incited by Turkey. It was at that time that the Russians came face to face with Chechens. The mountain army, which launched "a holy war against the infidels," was led by a poor shepherd. He proclaimed himself to be the chosen man of Mohammad and assumed the name of Sheik Mansour. That illiterate shepherd Ucherman from the village of Aldy laid the foundations of gazavat (holy war) in the North Caucasus.

During his brightest period, Mansour had up to 25,000 troops, as the Russian military said, who presented a serious threat to the whole Caucasian Line. The first attempt of the Russian troops, commanded by conceited Colonel Yuri Pierri, to surge ahead to the "seat of the pseudo-prophet," ended in a catastrophe. The Chechens well nigh liquidated the Russian group, but their success was short-lived. All other attempts by Mansour to storm the Russian entrenchments, in particular Kizlyar, led to major losses among the mountain army and the loss of his prestige. Quite a few of his supporters deserted him. Using the assistance of Turkey, which provided weapons and money to the self-proclaimed imam, Mansour continued to worry the Russian troops for several years, but was finally defeated during the battle with Cossacks in October 1787. Mansour's retreat across the snow-laden mountains was tragic. Many frozen bodies were found along the way of his retreat next spring. The "sheik" took refuge in the Turkish fortress of Sucuk-Kale, where he was taken prisoner in the summer of 1791.

The Russian elite discussed for a long time where Mansour came from. Prince Grigory Potyomkin-Tavrichesky, chief commander during the 1787-91 Russo-Turkish war, did not doubt that the pseudo-prophet "was directed by the enemy." Empress Catherine the Great disagreed with her favorite. She believed that when the sultan's government learned "about the known tramp who incited unrest among the mountain people," decided to "create a party there to damage us [Russia]." Modern historians tend to agree with the empress. Three are the reports of the Turkish agents, who met with Mansour and say quite definitely that that "liar" had "no qualities necessary for becoming known as genuine Mansour," whose appearance was predicted by the Great Prophet Mohammad. Although it learned about the deception, Turkey nevertheless continued to pursue its geopolitical goals in the region and played into the hands of the pseudo-prophet.

It should be said at this point that Turkey, as well as Persia and Britain, would subsequently play a very active part in the developments in the Caucasus. In particular, Britain traditionally regarded Russian presence in the region as a potential threat to its domination in India, and hence consistently (sometimes directly, but most often with the help of Turkey and Iran) tried to influence the Caucasian affairs in its own interests.

Despite the tragic nature of the war between Russia and the self-proclaimed "sheik Mansour" and Chechens, who supported "the holy war against the infidels," that historical episode cannot be regarded as the beginning of Russo-Chechen confrontation. Too much in that conflict depended on the personality of Mansour, his religious fanaticism, and on foreign interference, rather than on the truly fundamental contradictions between Russia and Chechnya. The more so that Russia has always been tolerant of Islam, owing to its long-standing historical contacts with the Moslem world, and was hence not interested in fanning a religious war.

The first truly fierce clash of Russo-Chechen interests happened later, and was provoked, to a degree, by geopolitical chance, "an unhappy historical accident." The beginning of the sanguinary Caucasian War, traditionally dated 1817-64, reminds one very much of a traffic accident, when the culprit, who made a dangerous manoeuvre, leaves the site of the clash, while two other drivers are left stranded, settling accounts and nursing their wounds. To begin with, the Caucasian War was provoked by the voluntary integration of Georgia into the Russian Empire. Before that, Russians had only sporadic clashes with Chechen tribes, but when Georgia joined Russia, the North Caucasian people, and in particular Chechnya, found themselves surrounded by the Russian Empire, living as they were on the vital road leading from Central Russia to Georgia.


However, we should not forget how this happened and why Georgia asked for Russian assistance. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Georgia had been the only Christian island in the Moslem ocean in Asia and for ages remained the object of aggression on the part of Persia and Georgia. The national archives of Georgia recorded the rivers of blood and tears shed by Georgians from Moslem terror. And Russian archives show how difficult was the decision to accept Georgia under its wing. It was one thing to provide assistance from time to time, and quite another to make Georgia a part of the Russian Empire and hence assume full responsibility for the protection of its borders. The Russian rulers knew that they were shouldering a very heavy burden, and that they would have to carry it for many centuries. No wonder that several Russian emperors had rejected the numerous integration requests of Georgia. The last to turn Georgia down was Paul I, to whom the new king of Georgia, George XII, pleaded for help in 1798. But Paul's son, Emperor Aleksandr I, could not master the courage to reject Georgia again.


The Grand Russian Encyclopaedia, published before the 1917 revolution, writes on this score: "Aware of the burden of sacrifices and cares, which Russia would take on with the integration of a country, ruined by external enemies and internal unrest, Emperor Aleksandr I took his time. During the second discussion of the issue on the integration of Georgia, the Council of State was informed of 'the extreme unwillingness of the Tsar to agree to admit the Georgian kingdom into Russia.' But the council persisted and reinforced its opinion with such arguments which Aleksandr I could not neglect. He approved the opinion of the council and signed a manifesto on the complete integration of Georgia into Russia on 12 September 1801."


The crucial arguments in that case were not the imperial ambitions, but a duty to co-believers, who had been for ages subjected to ruthless persecution and faced total physical extermination.


Viewed from this historical point, it would be hardly correct to accuse Russia of launching the Caucasian War. But neither can we put the blame on the Chechens, for they did not care for the suffering of Georgians or the noble decision of Russians to help Georgia. They only thing they saw was Cossacks on their native land. We are sorry for Chechnya, which was trodden over by the wheel of history. We are sorry for Russia, which was crushed by the same wheel, although differently. In point of fact, both Russia and Chechnya are trying to settle a problem, which they did not provoke in the first place.


The history of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus can be compared to the British conquest of India, or the Spanish conquest of America. There are many other examples, both in the early and the more recent history of humankind.  It was said above that General Yermolov felt as a Roman in the Caucasus. In all such cases, the methods were roughly the same and usually combined the stick and the carrot. And Russia acted in the same manner. It used force to suppress the mountain groups, or lured the local elite over to its side with presents and posts. Quite a few Caucasian princes were treated kindly and allowed to approach the throne. And lastly, many people, tired of endless internecine wars, did not demand privileges for themselves but sided with Russia voluntarily, in search of a strong patron, hoping to get stability, order and economic prosperity from cooperation with a stronger and more civilised partner.

Importantly, the Russian Tsars were convinced that they were bringing civilization to the Caucasus and were prepared to enforce it, if necessary. But it was not the Great Russian chauvinism, as the Russian authorities acted in the same manner also with regard to the indigenous population of the empire, meaning Russians, since Peter the Great. Peter I and his successors were convinced that the subjects must be forced to study, and did this very persistently. The reforms of Peter I, especially at the initial stages, were accompanied with numerous revolts, which were put down no less ruthlessly than the subsequent unrest in the Caucasus.

Eventually, Russians came to an agreement with everyone but Chechens, although it applied all possible methods in Chechnya, from peaceful diplomacy to military force. The raids of Russian convoys and neighbouring mountain people, kidnapping and slave trade continued despite any form of relations with Chechens and any agreements with them. Regrettably, the international civilised European law did not work in the Caucasus. An oath given to an infidel meant nothing for Moslems. This is why one can see the word "amanat" in the documents of that period. The amanat was a hostage whom Moslems usually "supplemented" to a treaty as a guarantee of fulfilling it. But this did not help either.

Emperor Aleksandr I, for example, many times changed his tactics with regard to Chechens. At first he applied the tactics of deterrence. The 1806 instructions to his chief commander reads: "Carry on the war with the mountain people as before: maintain proper vigilance to repel their outrages, but keep punishment commensurate with their crimes, because war is their way of life. The only method that can be effective and useful with regard to the mountain people is, while accepting the outward sign of their obedience, to try to keep them blockaded."

It did not help. When the raids became intolerable, Russians reciprocated with a persecution campaign. In 1813, after a few punitive expeditions, when the Russian troops ruthlessly torched the "guilty" villages, the Emperor ordered General Rtishchev to change the tactics yet again and "to try to restore order in the Caucasian Line by means of friendliness and indulgence." The Chechens regarded it as weakness and carried on their raids with renewed vigour. Russia again reverted to military force when General Yermolov arrived in the Caucasus in 1816. However, the methods of applying military force changed. It was decided to move on step by step, entrenching in new positions, cutting paths in the woods in order to protect themselves from traps, and building new strongholds. Yermolov's style was to move on slowly but surely, methodically pushing Chechens into the mountains and systematically punishing them for each bandit raid.

General Aleksei Yermoov was clearly an inordinate man. His indisputable successes in the Caucasus can be largely explained by his ability to quickly find his bearings and make independent decisions. More importantly, he was one of the few Russian chief commanders in the Caucasus who knew the psychology of the mountain people and Moslems. By the way, Yermolov often said with pleasure that his family roots went back to Tartar murza (noble) Arslan, and deliberately lived in an Oriental manner, as he knew that he was watched all the time. Few know that Yermolov had three Moslem wives during his stay in the Caucasus, with whose parents he signed an accepted temporary marriage agreement and who he repaid with expensive gifts, as was proper in the Caucasus. The court looked at this as another of the general's whims. The main thing for them was that the general remained unmarried from the viewpoint of Christian morals. When his term in the Caucasus ended, his Moslem wives, who bore him daughters, returned home and were subsequently married to other men. As for his three sons - Viktor (Bakhtiyar), Sever (Allahiyar) and Klavdyi (Omar), Yermolov took them to Russia, where they received a brilliant education and became exemplary Russian officers.

Yermolov wrote ironically about his method of ruling the mountain people: "I acted through my ferocious visage, my giant figure, which produced a terrible impression, and broad throat, so that they saw that no man can shout so loudly without good and substantial reasons." And one more quote: "I lived in accordance with many Asian customs, out of necessity, and see that the proconsul of the Caucasus cannot mend the ruthlessness of local habits with a kind heart." It appears that the general took pride in the fact that the Chechen mothers invoked his name to scare their disobedient children.

It should be said that virtually all Russian officers who earned glory in the Caucasus and incited fear in the enemy were similar in one aspect - their ability to wage a psychological war, using local customs and mentality. Baron Grigory Zass, whose forefathers came to Russia from Westphalia, commanded a Cossack regiment and struck mystical terror in the hearts of mountain fighters by his ruthless raids. There are quite a few jokes about Zass, who showed elementary hocus-pocus to them and was thus regarded a magi. Once he unloaded the guns of his guests, unbeknownst to them, after which he ordered them to shoot at him, and was subsequently hailed as immortal. But his popularity with the locals did not rest on hocus-pocus alone. Once Zass released and gave money to an imprisoned Chechen, whose brother had offered his life for the liberation of his brother. Another time somebody spread the rumour that Zass had poisoned a Chechen during talks, and the baron went to the deceased man's village alone, without an interpreter, and denounced the accuser. After that, every local man and woman knew his name.

Cossack General Yakov Baklanov from the Don was no less respected and feared than Baron Zass. Like the baron, he liked effects and was incredibly courageous. Once he the scared the daylights out of a delegation of Chechen elders when he met them in a fur coat turned the fur side out and with his face blackened by soot. Taking into account the inordinate looks of Baklanov, once can imagine that this frightened even the far from cowardly Chechens. He was wounded many times, but never lied down to nurse his wounds, which is why the Chechens regarded him as invulnerable as Zass. His fame grew many times over after a duel with the best Chechen shooter. The Chechen missed, while Baklanov did not even dismount his horse to kill his rival with a single shot. After that, Chechens said about a hopeless boaster: "Want to kill Baklanov?"

And lastly, Baklanov's personal flag - a skull and bones on a black field - made an immense impression on Chechens. An eye-witness wrote: "Whenever the enemy saw that terrible flag, held high by the giant Don Cossack, who followed his commander as his shadow, they also saw the fierce face of Baklanov, bringing inevitable defeat and death to anyone who came his way."

The ruthlessness of the current conflict, which the West frequently points to, is genetically inherited, just as the problem itself. The Caucasian War was not a game without rules, but these rules, as we have seen, were dictated by the Caucasus, and not Europe. The best witness would be not a Russian or a Chechen, but a neutral observer. One of such observers was the famous French writer, Aleksandr Dumas, who had visited the Caucasus. Daniel Zimmerman wrote in the book, "Aleksandr Dumas the Great," using the recollections of the French writer himself: "What is the cost of human life amidst that wild nature? A handful of coins, at the best. On the way to Chervlennaya, Aleksandr's convoy was attacked by a small group of Chechens. The Cossacks rushed at them. All Chechens retreated, with the exception of one abrek, who had pledged never to run away. The abrek offered a duel. Aleksandr's unconquerable inquisitiveness makes him promise 20 roubles to the one who takes up the challenge. A Cossack sends his horse galloping. He and the abrek exchange shots and take out their sabers, and the abrek holds the Cossack's head aloft, challenging anyone else to continue the duel. Another Cossack, who was smoking a pipe, inhales for the last time, throws his pipe away, and rushes at the abrek. His rifle on his shoulder, he fires but there is only a little smoke, as if the fuse is burning. The abrek approaches, he fires, but the Cossack manoeuvres and shoots again. The abrek falls down. The Cossack cuts off his head. His comrades undress the body. The victor is asked how he managed to shoot twice from a single-barrel rifle. It turns out he exhaled the first smoke."

This episode gives much food for thought over the 19th century morals, but then, the behavior of the great French writer looks strange too, as he offered money to see two gladiators fight for their life.

Although the natural talents and ruthless use of force by Yermolov, Zass, Baklanov and many other talented Russian generals ensured many military triumphs to Russia, these victories did not settle the problem. Aleksandr Griboyedov, who accompanied General Yermolov during several campaigns, noted the uselessness of military force for the solution of that problem. He wrote in a letter of December 7, 1825: "I'm going to Chechnya. Aleksei Petrovich [Yermolov] did not want me, but I forced myself on him. I am so much entranced by all this now, that struggle of the mountain and forest freedom with the drum enlightenment; we will hang them and forgive them, and who cares for the history!" Later, after he had seen his share, Griboyedov wrote: "Fear and rewards are good only to a certain point; but one most horrible justice will reconcile the conquered people with the victors' banners."

Of course, Yermolov used more than just fear and rewards. We know of quite a few of the proconsul's attempts, although clumsy, to civilise the region. He imported women from Russia in order to marry them to his bored Cossacks and populate the Caucasus with Russians. Acting at his request, the centre dispatched several thousands widows with children and young girls to him. The Cossacks shot in the air and shouted "Hurray!" They also drew lots to choose their future wives. Or Yermolov also thought of using the formula of Peter the Great and civilizing the region with the help of foreigners. He even imported 37 families from Germany, but later complained that he was sent "shoddy goods": "Immoral, spendthrift, and lazy." Yermolov claimed that "many of them were of that contingent which the Rhine Union provided to Napoleon."

As we see, the Russian authorities were convinced that the best way to civilise the region would be not to work with the local population, but to settle it with Russians. And they did not ask the permission of the locals or the new settlers. We know that Russian settlers in the region suffered major hardships and troubles during the implementation of that imperial plan. A total of 1,631 Russian families were settled along the Caucasian Line in 1811. Ten years later, there were 16,790 Russian men there, mostly from the Chernigov and Poltava provinces. They had few means of subsistence there, as they had been forced to sell their property at home for kopecks and to move over to the Caucasus by autumn, which was the worst time of the year for resettlement. They lost their cattle on the way to the Caucasus and reached their new homes in dire poverty. Yermolov tried to launch a private subscription to help them, but the results were pitiful: less than a rouble per new settler and 16 horses for all of them. It was impossible to civilise the Caucasus in that way and at that rate.

Most importantly, Chechnya did not want to be civilised and preferred to live by its own rules, which differed considerably from the rules of other Caucasian nations. Unlike other mountain people, which had their nobility by that time (with whom the Russian authorities could better come to an agreement), Chechens thought they were all equal. The Chechens' prestige rested not on riches or knowledge, and not even their belonging to a certain clan, but above all on personal military valiance and successful raids. Unlike other mountain people, Tsarism could not find an object of talks in Chechnya, or the leaders and social structures, which would guarantee the fulfilment of agreements. As soon as such leaders appeared in the Caucasus, the Russian authorities did their best to win them over to their side. A classical example is the legendary Shamyl.

Officially, Russian history of the 19th century respectfully describes Shamyl as "the famous leader and unifier of the mountain people of Daghestan and Chechnya in their struggle with Russians for independence." Born in Daghestan in 1797 (other sources cite the year 1799), Shamyl became an ardent follower of a new teaching, which provided for saving the soul and cleansing one's sins by waging a holy war against the Russians. He came to power as the third imam of Daghestan, rallied both Chechens and Daghestanis under his banners, and ruled them for 25 years. His war against Russians had its ups and downs, but by late 1843 Shamyl became (for a time) the undivided ruler of Daghestan and Chechnya. The latter was divided into eight regions (naibates), ruled by his governors (naibs). At the best of times, Shamyl had as many as 60,000 troops. The naibs' closest assistants were the murides, the most loyal servants of Shamyl. They were also his personal guards. The supreme authority rested with the clergy. Shamyl tried to make the territory he controlled live by the Shariah laws, which fiercely clashed with the old mountain customs and traditions.

Shamyl's power rested on religion and violence, and the executioner, who always accompanied Shamyl, had much work to do. Like Russians, the third imam of Daghestan was outraged by the Chechens' obstinacy. The archives keep quite a few derogatory expressions, which the imam used with regard to Chechens. When talking with Russians, Shamyl constantly hinted that it would be in their interests to allow him to "hobble" the unruly Caucasus, and in particular the Chechens.

The simplified and primitive picture of Shamyl, created by some modern Caucasian, and in particular Chechen, nationalists - "he decided to devote his life to the struggle for the freedom of the people against Russian colonizers" - has little in common with the real man. Shamyl wrote to General Klucki von Klugenau, commander of the Russian troops in Daghestan, in 1836: "As long as I live, you will find in me a diligent servant of the Russian government, who cannot betray." His only condition was the following: "I ask You for only one thing: Don't stop us from fighting each other. The bravest of us will be the winner, the unbridled will reconcile themselves, law and order will triumph, and, God willing, there will be general tranquillity." Of course, there was a measure of diplomatic slyness in Shamble's promises to be "the loyal servant of the Russian government" at the height of "the holy war against the infidels," but the very idea of "hobbling" the mountain people met the desire of the emperor.

Their methods were similar, too. Shamyl admitted much later: "I used ruthless methods against the mountain people: many of them were killed on my orders. I fought the people of Shatoi, Andi, Talbutin and Ichkeria; but I fought them bot because they were loyal to Russians - you know that three was no such thing, but because of their bad character, their robberies and raids. And you will fight them for the same traits, which they find very difficult to mend. This is why I am not ashamed for what I did and I have no fear of answering for my deeds to God. With time, Shamyl became even more convinced of that stand. He thought that he was ruling "a bad people, bandits, who will do good things only when they see a saber, from which several heads have rolled, over their heads." "If I acted differently," Shamyl concludes, "I would have had to answer to God, and He would have punished me for not punishing my people." Such words were the healing balm for the ears of many Russian generals who had fought in the Caucasian War.

Eventually, Shamyl was defeated and taken prisoner. His last hiding place was the village of Gunib, where he took refuge in 1859. Chronicles show that imam Shamyl went to Gunib with a rich convoy, but arrived there without anything "other than weapons in his hand, and a horse on which he sat." On his way to Gunib, the imam was robbed by the dwellers of neighbouring villages. They feared Shamyl while he was strong, but robbed him when he became weak. It was not by chance that Shamyl told his subordinates a few years before that, invoking the name of the famous Russian general: "If you feared the Allah as you fear Baklanov, you would have long become saints."

Imprisonment was not trying for Shamyl. When the imam was brought to Aleksandr II, who had distinguished himself as a young officer in the Caucasian War and was decorated with the St. George's Cross for his courage, the Russian emperor said: "I am very glad that you are in Russia at long last, and I am sorry that this has not happened sooner. You will not regret this. I will have you settled and we will be friends!" The imam was comfortably settled in Kaluga and was given a considerable remuneration. When passions ebbed in the Caucasus, he was allowed to leave for Mecca, where he died and was buried. He left many letters to the Russian emperor, filled with words of gratitude and loyalty. He said once: "In his dying days, old Shamyl is sorry that he cannot be born again, so as to devote his whole life to serving the white Tsar, whose generosity he is enjoying now." One might doubt these words of an old man, but on the other hand, nobody forced him to utter them. When he was in Mecca, Shamyl did not voice a desire to resume his struggle against Russians. He was buried in Medina, at the Jannat-al-Bakir cemetery, one of the most respected places for Moslem pilgrims. One of his sons became a Russian general and loyally served Russia, and the other became a Turkish general and fought Russians. His grandson, French officer Said-bek, fiercely fought the Soviet regime in southern Russia in 1920.

The imprisonment of Shamyl engendered hopes for the quick settlement of the Caucasian problem. Prince Baryatinsky, who imprisoned the imam, said: "Now that we have taken all these mountains, gorges and valleys, protected by nature and art; when their militant, fanatic dwellers, who have not laid down weapons for such a long time, have suddenly surrendered to us - now is the time for the numerous concerns and vigorous efforts to build communication routes, establish a correct, in the spirit of the people, administration, and choose and occupy strategic positions. In a word, now is the time to acquire a position, which would protect us in the future from all risks and a repetition of sanguinary struggle. God willing, and using the help of my wonderful assistants and those incomparable troops and resources, which His Imperial Highness provided to me until the end of 1861, I can hope to attain this goal to the glory of my beloved Monarch." Regrettably, it was only a temporary success.

In 1801-64, the Caucasian War claimed 77,000 Russian lives. It is apparent that many more mountain dwellers fell in that war, but nobody counted the dead on their side, or could hope to do it.

The war resulted in the first mass exodus of Chechens, above all to Turkey, which promised to give a warm welcome to refugees. Russia did not object and there is documentary proof showing that it even provided small material assistance to the refugees. Since many of those refugees soon sought the permission of the Russian government for returning, the Turkish welcome was not that warm. Here are the notes of Shamyl's son, Mohammad-Shafi: "I will appeal to Sultan Abdul-Mejid to stop deceiving the mountain people. The Turkish government pursued the same policy with regard to them as the Europeans did with regard to Negroes. The Turkish government was not generous enough to give refuge to the resettled mountain people, who had come to Turkey eagerly, as to a holy place, thinking to find a new homeland for themselves in a country of the same religion, Turkey. The governmental cynicism of Turkey was such that the Turks, who initially well nigh issued statements encouraging the resettlement, in fact probably intended to use the refugees for their own military purposes. But when they saw the landslide of refugees, they were frightened and shamelessly doomed to a hungry death those who died, and were ready to die, any day for the glory of Turkey."

The Chechens founds themselves between Scylla and Charybdis. Russia, which fought Turkey many times, was not eager to take back those who "were ready to die any day for the glory of Turkey." The more so that there were many more of such in the Caucasus still. Aleksandr II wrote on one of such mass appeals: "The return is out of the question." A few were given individual permissions to return, but the bulk of the refugees remained in Turkey.

The Caucasian volcano went to a short sleep after 1864, although small eruptions did happen now and then, especially in Chechnya. It woke up against when central power was weakened in Russia by the 1917 revolution and the ensuing Civil War. The Caucasus rejected both the White Guards of General Denikin and the Red Army. It was with great pains and suffering that Soviet power was established in the region.

On the other hand, it is very difficult to distinguish between political struggle and elementary robbery there. In 1921, the Daghestani Council of People's Commissars (Ministers) judged, possibly correctly, that the main reasons for robbery were nepotism and bribery of the local law-enforcement agencies. Crime also grew because of "the bandit movement in Chechnya and the resettlement of 4,000 Chechens, a people with predominantly predatory traits, to the Khasavyurt Region without official permission," the Council wrote. "In view of such particularly bandit-like neighbor as Chechnya, measures are being taken to restore order and protect the people from attacks. Local self-defense units are to be established for such protection, and resources are to be found for their maintenance." Of course, it would be very tempting to write off all these unpleasant words, which Daghestanis said about their neighbours, to the influence of Bolshevism, but as you read above, imam Shamyl used virtually the same words long before the Soviets came to power in Russia.

The situation did not change three years later. The intelligence department of the regional staff wrote in its annual report for 1923: "Take note of recurring conflicts between the population of Chechnya and Daghestan, engendered by robbery and the kidnapping of women for ransom." The report also cites numerous facts of robberies and theft committed by Chechens. Several operations were launched to disarm Chechen villages. Reports mention hundreds and even thousands of weapons and say that they could be confiscated only with military force. The usual methods used by the Soviet security forces and the army at that time reminds one very much of the pre-revolutionary period. First the talks with the elders and an offer to settle the problem peacefully. The offer is usually rejected. Next come warning shots, replaced by effective fire. The population surrender their weapons only after several houses are destroyed in their village. But they don't give up all their weapons. Subsequent searches considerably increase the piles of confiscated weapons. Documents show that this happened in virtually each village and settlement of Chechnya at that time.

But despite these measures, the Chechens revolted in 1929 and 1932. The suppression of resistance was followed by a period of respite, which lasted until the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. The rebels, encouraged by the fact that the frontline was consistently approaching the North Caucasus, resumed their destructive actions in the autumn of 1941. They attacked collective farms and small military units. Documents prove that some rebels established contacts with the German command and even helped the mountain infantry of the group of armies South, which were moving southeast. When Russia pushed back the German troops from the Caucasus, its army and security agencies focused their attention on Chechnya. In late February 1944, hundreds of thousands of Chechens were forces into trucks, brought to the railway stations and deported to Kazakhstan.

The above is the truth. Likewise, it is true that hundreds of thousands of people suffered in cruel persecution campaigns, and that most of them were innocent. Joseph Dzhugashvili, a.k.a. Stalin, ordered those persecutions. Born in the Caucasus, he certainly knew the regional history and the Chechen psychology very well. Moreover, the Communist Party leader was also well versed in the traditional mountain methods of robbery. In 1906-07, he headed "the expropriation expeditions" in the Transcaucasus. In other words, he robbed banks and other establishments in order to finance the revolutionary activity of the Bolshevik party.

The deportation of Chechens and several other ethnic groups of the Soviet Union happened at the height of the Second World War. It is difficult to say if Stalin, "the father of nations," as he was called then, recalled the past history and feared mass betrayal by Chechens, or if he used war as a pretext for their ruthless persecution. Either is possible, in view of Stalin's complicated psyche. And lastly, he could borrow the idea of deporting Chechens not only from Russian history, but also from the modern Western experience. It was at that time that the USA interned all ethnic Japanese. All of them - just in case.

We can imagine the hurt and pain of Russian citizens, the modern reasonable and law-abiding Chechens, with which they remember those distant times or the latest tragic decade of relations with the federal centre. But they must admit that many neighbours of Chechnya, who have suffered so much from Chechens, have the right to be offended too.

It is not pleasant for the Chechens to listen to many evaluations of modern experts, the more so that they are correct and objective. But this painful, and regrettably traumatic, analysis is necessary. It is time to stop putting the blame on Moscow alone. Russians have long been trying to analyze their mistakes, arguing themselves hoarse over Chechnya, but Chechens should likewise try to see what their main problem is. For example, they should try to honestly answer the question: Why do many Chechens still regard as a norm of their life the things which Russia, the civilised Europe and even imam Shamyl regarded as robbery?

Chechens hardly ever surrender the murderers, robbers and rapists to the law. Most Chechens still choose loyalty to their clan instead of respect for law. Tsarist generals and Soviet law-enforcers many times punished whole settlements not only for their direct involvement in robbery and kidnapping, but also for assistance to the robbers and kidnappers. This did not help in the past, and does not help now. Numerous historical sources say that even the so-called peaceful valley Chechens, who lived in the direct proximity to Russian settlements, usually did not take part in raids but helped the raiders, pointing to the weaknesses in the Russian defences, providing the raiders with information and hiding them, if necessary. This is how it happened in the past, and this is how it still happens, to our regret. Historians frequently cite the answer that a Chechen gave to General Rumyantsev, who demanded that the raids be stopped: "Ours is to raid and rob, while yours is to grow grain and trade."

Chechens did not invent raids and kidnapping, of course. In the past, the Moscow Rus suffered greatly from the Don and Volga Cossacks, who for several centuries complicated her foreign policy contacts with the southern neighbours by raiding foreign merchants, robbing vessels on the Black Sea and selling slaves. Many other nations have similar pages in their history. So, raids as a side trade are a well-known fact in the history of humankind. It is another matter that it seldom remained the basic source of income for such a long time as in Chechnya.

Depending on their political likes and dislikes, scientists offered different explanations for the Chechen raids. Many historians, while deliberating on the ethno-psychological traits of Chechens, still refer to Friedrich Engels, a founding father of Marxism, who wrote about "the striving for plunder" during the transition to a class society. They usually provide his words to the effect that "theft, violence, deceit and treachery" are the obligatory elements of the transition from the tribal/clan relations to a class society. These scientists think that the point at issue is a social underdevelopment of Chechens, caused by the unique mountain conditions of their life.

In Soviet times, Stalin suggested that such raids be explained by the anti-colonial war waged against the Tsarism, while the more recent raids be explained by exclusively anti-Soviet activities and intrigues of the West. Imam Shamyl was even denounced as "the paid agent of the Turkish sultan and the British imperialism," but was soon rehabilitated and hailed as "the hero of the national-liberation struggle against the Russian monarchy." That rehabilitation was carried out in a unique manner of that period. A scientific conference "On the Movement of the Mountain People under the Guidance of Shamyl," organized in 1957, provided arguments to prove that the official view changed because of the need to "expose various concepts of bourgeois apologists and distortions in the sphere of historical science," to combat "opportunism, dogmatism, unnecessary pedantry and doctrinairism with regard to theory." Not a word was uttered throughout that conference about hostages and slave trade. Instead, the speakers quoted from Karl Marx, in particular: "The brave Cherkess seriously defeated the Russians several more times. People, learn from them, see what the people who want to remain free can do." And lastly, the conference concluded that "the war of the mountain people under the guidance of Shamyl should be regarded as progressive," because this is how it was regarded by the greatest leaders of the Communist Party, "the students of Lenin - Stalin, Ordzhonikidze, Kirov and Frunze."

We remind you of these changes in historians' views of Chechnya because modern Chechen nationalists and separatists are using that old Stalinist anti-colonial argument. It was not very impressive then, and it is no more impressive now. The trouble is that Chechens started raiding their neighbours long before they even heard about Russia, continued their raids throughout the Tsarist period of Russian history, during the February and October revolutions in 1917, the subsequent Civil War and the interregnum in the Caucasus, the Soviet regime, and lastly, the current democratic period. In the past few years, anyone could become hostage in Chechnya - citizens of Russia, France, Britain, Israel and Poland. How is this related to the so-called anti-colonial war? And lastly, Chechens have always robbed, and continue to rob, each other. Dr. Aslambek Aslakhanov (Law), Chairman of the Union of the People of Chechnya, stated recently: "Chechnya is a thorn, above all in the flesh of the Chechens. 95% of those who stole were Chechens. No other state would have tolerated the crimes that were committed in the republic." Nothing helped, or helps, in Chechnya, not even the clerical cloak, as in the case of Shamyl. Facts show that the questions of religion, ideology or politics, in particular the struggle for independence, had nothing, and have nothing, to do with the situation in Chechnya. The target for a raid was determined by only two factors: possible loot and entailing risks.

Of course, not each Chechen is a robber, like not each Russian is an upright person. But it is a historical fact that a "source of infection," that is not quite clear even to modern analysts, has been smoldering in Chechnya for many centuries now. The republic is ill, and everyone suffers from the effects of this disease -- Chechnya, its closest neighbours, and Russia as a whole.

History shows that the Chechen disease is a kind of recurring fever. It became aggravated each time when Russia was weakened, for different reasons, as during its several clashes with Turkey, the Crimean War of 1853-56, the 1917 revolution and the subsequent Civil War, the first post-revolutionary years, which were extremely difficult for the country, and the Second World War. That fever was rekindled during the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when vital but difficult and painful reforms were launched in Russia. 


October-before November 7, 1657



"In the Name of the Almighty,

"We of the Shibut Jama'at,/1 in our desire to be subjects of the Great Tsar, sent three envoys to the Tsar of Russia from our mountain land of Chechan [Chechat?] and Tonsa. We shall become His Majesty's subjects if that be his Royal will. Those envoys, Alikhan, Suslah and Algian, were sent by us for a second time. A hostage/2 was sent, likewise. May the Tsar of Russia grant our request. We shall also send an embassy to Temuras our king, who accepted the sovereignty of the Russian Tsar, for we desire to do the same.

"Grant your merciful consent to our supplication, Your Majesty, for we shall bring under your aegis an abundance of villages.

"Meanwhile, we of three or four villages implore the Great Tsar to grant our humble request."


1/ Contemporaneous written records refer to Chechens by a variety of ethnic names, "the people of Shibut" among them.

2/ The institution of amanat, hostageship, principally concerned children of noble lineage. A broken pledge spelt their death or slavery.



From a report by General Kuroyedov, commandant of

Kizlyar, to Prince Grigori Potemkin

January 21, 1781

"<...> Your humble servant received three missives from the elders in the preceding year 1780, in which they continued their requests for Russian citizenship. They were still hesitating, however, as we were to learn later on. <... > That was why your humble servant chose to leave those missives unanswered. In the long last, they repented their hesitation and made one more unanimous request for Chechnya to be permanently incorporated in the Russian Empire, brought an oath of allegiance, and made written pledges for themselves and on behalf of their posterity to be devoted subjects of Her Imperial Majesty.

"They implore all-merciful forgiveness for their past trespasses and address a supplication to Her Imperial Majesty to accept them as her subjects forever.

"With this, I am humbly offering to Your Excellency a translation of written pledges received by me in a Tartar dialect, in the hope of Your Excellency's approval thereof.

"In this, your humble servant makes bold to recommend to Your Excellency Captain Prince Bekovich-Cherkassky and Junior Lieutenant Zorin as officers who proved their worth on numerous occasions, particularly secret missions in the borderland."

"We the undersigned, High Elders of Chechnya and Haji Aul, and our people, swear the following on the Holy Koran, and by the Almighty and the Prophet:

"though we subjects of the Russian throne since olden times had pledged to the crowned predecessors of Her Imperial Majesty allegiance and submission to the Royal will and orders thereof,

"we wilfully and repeatedly perjured our oaths to scorn due obedience, and in our audacity to abuse Her High and Merciful Majesty by secession from the Russian Empire.

"In hearty repentance of our deplorable misdoing, we now bring our supplication to accept our eternal subjection, and entrust ourselves to the motherly concern of Her Majesty the Empress in the hope of pardon and of the honour of joining her eternally loyal subjects. In our hearts, we regard ourselves as eternally loyal subjects of Her Majesty and her successors to the crown. We fall at Her Majesty's feet to beg for mercy and forgiveness of our trespasses.

"We swear by the Almighty and the Prophet Mohammed to serve the Imperial family [names following] eternally, loyally and obediently as we must and are willing to, seeing it as our sacred duty to fulfil their Royal orders unquestioningly and conscientiously, with the utmost ardour and in all meekness. In our lifetime and the lifetime of our posterity, we pledge voluntarily to defend Her Imperial Majesty, Their Imperial Highnesses and Motherland wherever we can. To fight bravely to the last drop of blood we swear by our eternal bliss.

"We shall never offer the slightest resistance to our superiors and to whatever orders thereof.

"If, against all expectations, any of us dare to rise on Motherland and Her Imperial Majesty in defiance of the fear of God, the conscience of the loyal subject, and his duty, we shall avoid communication with such miscreants. At the bidding of our heart, everyone of us shall spare no effort to prevent such evil, and denounce it to high offices in due time. The evil-doers shall be regarded as outcasts of the human race undeserving of the company of their brethren. Whenever it is possible, the miscreants shall be hunted down and brought to the high judgment of Her Imperial Majesty.

"If we transgress this our solemn oath even the slightest, may the Almighty and the Prophet turn Their face away from us for ever and ever, and deprive us as godless of all heavenly mercies in the afterlife. May we be eternally damned and punished by the invincible force of arms of Her Imperial Majesty.

"We pledge to hold sacred this our oath, and keep it eternally. In confirmation of this pledge we kiss the Holy Koran, and give the signatures of our own hand, and impressions of our thumbs and signets."

 Oath of the High Elders and people of Chechnya and Haji Aul

"On January 21 of the year 1781, we the undersigned, High Elders of Chechnya and Haji Aul, and our people, make the following voluntary, sincere and conscientious statement to Brigadier-General Kuroyedov, holder of high Imperial orders and commandant of Kizlyar:

"Aware of the tender mercies shed by Her Imperial Majesty on all her loyal subjects, and of the wisdom of her rule, we come under her Royal patronage, and request for her Royal order to accept the loyalty of all elders and people as her subjects according to the following regulations:


"All elders of the above-listed villages, the entire population thereof, and their posterity shall become forever subjects of Her Imperial Majesty [an exhaustive list of the Royal family follows], loyal and dedicated for our lifetime and those of our offspring. We shall unquestioningly follow all their orders and instructions as our sacred duty, with becoming goodwill and in every diligence.


"We pledge to stand on guard of the interests of Her Imperial Majesty to the last drop of our blood, fight the enemies of Her Imperial Majesty and Motherland, and under no pretext maintain friendly contacts with such.

"In case the elders and tribes should learn about encroachments by the neighbouring nations or subjects of Her Imperial Majesty on Her Majesty's wellbeing, the boon of our Motherland or Royal interests, we pledge to immediately make appropriate reports to military commanders in the nearest Russian settlements and to the commandant of Kizlyar, and to spare no efforts to nip such encroachments in the bud.


"We elders and our entire people shall proceed in our relations with Kumyk tribes, eternal subjects of Her Imperial Majesty, from the present Rules.

"We shall freely elect our village elders for public weal and according to our ancient customs. We shall honour and respect our sovereigns, and obey them in everything.


"We elders and our entire people shall maintain hearty accord with Kumyks, Kabardians and Ossets as loyal subjects of Her Imperial Majesty and our compatriots, and under no pretext tolerate enmity. Quarrels over thefts and robberies shall be settled according to ancient Kumyk customs. In case settlement cannot be reached and required damages are not paid, the commandant of Kizlyar shall be applied to.


"We shall proceed from ancient Kumyk customs and available evidence in case of unpremeditated crime.

"All loyal subjects of Her Imperial Majesty shall be entitled to immediate payments of damages. In case of manslaughter, the bereaved household shall be entitled to a hundred roubles for a killed kinsman or kinswoman, and fifty roubles in case of an injury.


"All men and women captured by us in the Cossack village of Kalinovskaya last year, 1779, shall be delivered without ransoms to commandant Kuroyedov in Kizlyar. In case any village is keeping captive Cossacks, soldiers or other Russians bought several years ago, the villagers shall release them and be entitled to the price thereof, for which they shall apply to the above commandant. Prisoners-of-war shall be released upon payment according to rates accepted with the Kumyks.

"In case our fugitive Muslim serfs appear within Russian borders, they shall be delivered up to us.

"Georgian, Armenian and other Christian slaves shall be paid for according to rates accepted with the Kumyks.

"We pledge not to give shelter to whatever fugitive subjects of Her Imperial Majesty but capture them to be delivered up to commandant Kuroyedov in Kizlyar.


"Whatever complaints may be made by the Russian Party concerning previous pillages, thefts or robberies, with the exception of the capture of Kalinovskaya Cossack men and women, whom we pledge to release, as referred to in Clause 6 of the present Oath; and of a burglary of Sarafannikov's factory church in the Cossack village of Shelkovskaya, which we pledge to investigate and, would the track lead to our people, to restore the aforesaid ecclesiastical property--we apply to Her Imperial Majesty to forgive us, out of motherly mercy, all previous trespasses, aforesaid robberies, livestock thefts, etc., included.

"We, on our part, pledge to relinquish all our reciprocal claims for good and solely appeal for Royal mercy and forgiveness, as befit loyal subjects of Her Imperial Majesty.


"In case, contrary to expectation, we fail to prevent or report violation of Russian frontiers by whatever citizens of the Russian Empire or aliens with our knowledge, resulting in pillage, theft of livestock or capture of people, and we tolerate the culprits to cross our land unimpeded, we pledge to reimburse the cost of destroyed and pillaged property, and shall be liable to criminal responsibility in compliance with the laws of Her Imperial Majesty.


"After Her Imperial Majesty deigns to issue her merciful order to reinstate us in eternal Russian citizenship, we dare to request safe passage to Kizlyar, Mozdok and other Russian settlements on the purpose of trade. We demand to be treated everywhere as eternal loyal subjects of Her Imperial Majesty.

"In case of whatever claims and injuries, we pledge cooperation with high officers, especially the commandant of Kizlyar, who receive appropriate complaints.

"Be our horses or livestock recognised in Russian or Chechen settlements as stolen, we pledge to cede the animals unquestioningly or expose the thieves, as our ancestral customs demand.


"In protestation of our loyalty, we are giving a hostage descended from one of our most noble families, and leave his upkeep to the sovereign will of Her Imperial Majesty, who shall be likewise free to demand him substituted by other hostages of the noblest lineage.


"All the above clauses confirm voluntary resolution of elders and the people for eternal acceptance of Russian citizenship and their oath of allegiance, as guaranteed by Chechen sovereign Arslanbek Aidemirov.

"In the presence of the above and His Honour Junior Lieutenant Zorin, who arrived from Kizlyar for the purpose,

"Signed with own hand, and sealed with signets and thumb prints, with an oath on the Holy Koran."

 (Document of January 21, 1781)

 April 19, 1781







"Upon arrival to Kizlyar, March 13, Alikhan Nurmamatov, the sovereign of Chakh-Kira, issued a statement in his Tartar dialect on his ancient kinship with Chechen sovereigns Alisoltan Alibekov and Arslanbek Aidemirov, which he alleged to be known to the entire people. <...> He is sovereign ruler of his entire village in Chakh-Kira, which possesses more than two hundred homesteads. <...> He pledged not to do whatever wrongs to the Russian Party under whatever pretext, and to remain eternally loyal to Her Imperial Majesty, and serve her rivalling the Kumyks in zeal and ardour.

"Therewith, he requests to grant him and all his vassals permanent Russian citizenship as they fall to the feet of Her Imperial Majesty.

"The sovereign and his vassals request to be resettled to this bank of the Sunzha River four versts downstream from Kullar vale, the abode of Kaituka of Kikha. They pledge to serve Her Imperial Majesty with the utmost dedication, and follow whatever orders and instructions with due obedience. They pledge not to grant safe passage to robber gangs but to banish or capture them or, if that be impossible, to urgently report to Russian outposts and to commanding officers in urban settlements.

"In case he fails to stop robbers, and damage is done to the Russian side through his negligence, the sovereign and his vassals pledge to pay all damages and undergo punishment in compliance with the law.

"The aforesaid village in Chakh-Kira is situated on the Argun riverside, twenty verses upstream from Chechen-populated villages of Greater Chechnya.

"Therewith I dare to advise to Your Excellency to notify in due time Lieutenant-General Musin-Pushkin in case you approach Chechen dwellings to Your Excellency's left, for the latter to inform Your Excellency which villages have given hostages on your humble servant's demand, and whether they have been following my instructions, and which of the villages displayed disobedience. The former should be entitled to condescension and all possible protection, while the latter Chechen and Karabulak villages deserve to be punished without mercy. The detachment under Your Excellency's command must block off aforesaid villages from the mountains, in which the rebels cannot take refuge now that the snow is fallen. The detachment ought then to turn to the left for action. Another detachment, under the command of Lieutenant-General Musin-Pushkin or whatever officer he chooses to appoint, shall advance from Mozdok, starting with Kumbeleika, so that the predatory rebels would not avoid confrontation with the invincible army of Her Imperial Majesty. This punishment must continue before they concede to give hostages of the noblest lineage and swear allegiance to Her Imperial Majesty, pledging never and under no pretext to repeat raids and pillages.

"For that reason, Your Excellency ought to notify Musin-Pushkin in due time so as to launch an advance simultaneously and make provisions for timely exchanges of information, which will allow to develop success.

"In this, I rely on Your Excellency's experience and diligence. I shall send a messenger to Lieutenant-General Musin-Pushkin today.

"Enclosed is a copy of orders received by the latter. Please preserve instructions to Barant so as to pay compensations, after the expedition finishes, to the population of cantonments and civilian settlements, and to military units whom Chechen and Karabulak raiders deprived at different times of horses and other possessions."

The original approved by General Count Gudovich, to which he signs.

March-no later than April 14, 1807




"We the undersigned, elders elected by the entire Chechen rural population, repenting our previous misdoings and aware of the infinite mercy of His Imperial Majesty Alexander Pavlovich, Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia,

"fall to his feet with the entire Chechen nation in heartfelt repentance to pledge eternal loyalty to the Most August Imperial Throne of All Russia, and swear it on the Holy Koran in compliance with our custom and in the form required by such.


"We swear eternal loyalty by all that we hold sacred. Not only shall we never turn our weapons against Russian citizens but make them any slightest offence, i.e., undertake kidnappings, steal livestock or rob and pillage within the Russian borders. We confirm this our oath by giving hostages from among our highest-born compatriots at the choice of the local Russian gerent.


"We pledge urgently to release all Russian captives and deliver up all Russian fugitives presently in our settlements, with the exception of converts who embraced Islam of their own free will or under duress, and have spent 15 years before this day in Chechen communities to assimilate and have families. We request freedom of choice be granted them to stay with us or return to their native land with their entire households.


"We swear on the Holy Koran and in clear conscience to cede all horses and livestock stolen by us within Russian borders and presently in our possession.


"We swear to immediately report to our superiors on, or deliver up all our compatriots who, contrary to expectation, dare to break this our oath and perpetrate outrages within Russian borders.


"May we be subjected to the most severe of punishments and suffer our homes ransacked without the slightest resistance on our part do we trespass this ordinance even the slightest."

Following, 52 fingerprints with written comments on their identity.

March-no later than April 14, 1807



"I [signatory's name] swear to the Almighty by the Prophet Mohammed, His four successors and His Holy Koran to serve loyally and conscientiously, without sparing my life and to the last drop of my blood, as I am willing and as I must,

"His Imperial Majesty Alexander Pavlovich, Most August Emperor of All Russia and my true and merciful sovereign, and his successor to the throne of Russia, whom he wills to appoint.

"With this I swear to stand on guard of, and defend the best I can whatever rights and benefits of His Imperial Majesty legalised heretofore and to be legalised later on, and to do my utmost on the service of His Imperial Majesty and for the weal of the country.

"Whatever threat may come to the interests of His Imperial Majesty, I pledge to report in due time and do my utmost to ward off such danger.

"I pledge to keep whatever secrets may be entrusted to me, and unquestioningly and in all conscience to obey Royal orders and instructions of my superiors, and follow them in all diligence.

"I pledge never to put my interests, friendships and enmities above my duties and this my oath.

"I pledge to behave as befit the loyal subject of His Imperial Majesty.

"In this I shall answer to the Almighty every day as on Doomsday. May God help me in this and grant me bodily and spiritual strength to follow this my oath.

"In conformation of this oath I kiss the Holy Koran and say the following awesome words, O Allah..." [the text is illegible further on].

March-no later than April 14, 1807





"Not to do whatever wrongs to Russians of whatever rank and social status along the road from Vladikavkaz to Mozdok, along the Caucasian border and elsewhere, and urgently notify the nearest Russian military and civil officers in case a robber appears in, or crosses a village.

"Trespassers shall be punished in all severity in compliance with the Russian law.


"The Chechen people shall assume responsibility for the safety of the road from Vladikavkaz to Mozdok to prevent whatever attacks on, and robberies of travellers.


"Not to give shelter to fugitive army men, Cossacks and others, not to ransom them out, but urgently to deliver them up to the nearest Russian military and civil officers in Kizlyar, Vladikavkaz or Mozdok, for an award of 50 roubles.

"Concealment of fugitives shall qualify as high treason.


"Every village shall give hostages of its noblest family to settle in Kizlyar and be entitled to an annual grant of 120 roubles. Such hostages shall be punished in case of whatever crime perpetrated by Chechens anywhere.


"Chechens may search their lost livestock and recover it be it found in a Russian homestead.


"Chechens shall be entitled to duty-free sales and purchases, while duties shall be exempt from their partners in the said transactions.


"In case Chechens display loyalty, they shall be entitled to salt deliveries on a par with Kabardians and other Caucasian mountain peoples loyal to His Imperial Majesty.


"Chechens will be utterly ruined and exterminated unless they stop their raids and robberies.

"Certified true copy.

"Count Ivan Gudovich"



"I left the Grozny fortress for the frontline, October 1. Once in the village Prokhladnaya, I called for conference the foremost princes, the clergy and the highest-born warriors. All came to my summons except the most diehard rebels, who did not dare to face me.

"I encountered the gathering with bitter reproaches for broken promises of peace and an oath of allegiance they had taken several times and repeatedly violated. I was referring to many recent outrages, in which they figured as downright scoundrels. The reputation for valour which they once had with the mountain folk, and their martial glory were now tarnished with ignoble deeds to which only the most despicable thieves would stoop, I said as I exemplified the aul of Tramov, punished for giving shelter to robbers.

"I threatened them with similar reprisals unless they changed their conduct. I appealed to parents to call their children and landlords their peasants to order, and to kinsmen to admonish each other. I called to the clergy, with their tremendous influence on the laity, to make exhortations prescribed by the law.

"No one was arguing the truth of my words. Many said there was a way to follow my demands, and promised to do what they could as they saw my advice was to their benefit. Only two or three dared to warn me before the whole gathering that they were making empty promises out of sheer flattery, and did not intend to do anything about it. As they said, it was up to the strongest of the princes to make an example of extraditing their clansmen for robberies. They pointed out the difficulty of that step unless the highest-born made it the first to be followed by others. If, now, they had an example of the highest to follow, they would be willing to do so and were sure that disorder would stop. Then, they would no longer be afraid of Russians but would once again be favourably disposed toward them.

"On that we parted. I went away, fully aware that the conference was no use.

* * *

"Chechens were making raid after raid. The several villages known as Kachkalyk were specially notorious. Their dwellers had stolen a great many horses from us. Determined to teach them a good lesson, I proposed to oust them from the lands of Aksai, which they initially settled on an understanding with the landowners, and later on held against those owners' will as they had gained in strength.

"The villages were situated on wood-grown mountain slopes, and an attack forebode us heavy casualties unless the dwellers removed their wives, children and property into safety in due time, for they always desperately fought for their near and dear, and for their possessions. Only exemplary atrocities could move them to evacuate their women and children, I knew.

"To achieve that end, I ordered to Major-General Sysoyev of the Don Cossacks to reinforce his small unit by all Cossacks he could immediately call to his banners, encircle the village of Dadan-Yurt on the Terek River, and order that the population leave it. In case of refusal, he was to exterminate them. Chechens said no, and fought back in desperation. Every homestead, behind its high fence, had to be taken by storm. Many villagers killed their wives before the attackers' eyes to save them from captivity as Russian soldiers broke into houses. A great many women threw themselves on the soldiers with daggers.

"Heavy fighting went on late into the afternoon to bring us unprecedented losses. No less than two hundred privates, and many officers were killed or wounded. No less than four hundred fell on the enemy side. Not a single armed man survived. Up to 140 women and children were taken prisoner. Our soldiers spared their lives as they had no one to protect them and were begging for mercy. Even more were massacred or died under artillery fire and in burning houses. We had rich trophies for the village was the principal robber stronghold as one of the closest to the Russian border, and had been involved in every raid. A greater part of the property was consumed by fire.

"The village, of 200 households, was razed to the ground, September 14.

* * *

"The Chechen mutiny was raging on. The false prophet was instigating resistance with seditious words, yet his influence was dwindling. Envoys sent to Lezghins for help brought back nothing but vague promises.

"Many villages, on the contrary, stayed true to their pledges and gave hostages of their best families on our choice.

"As experience taught me, the most desperate of Chechen fighters lived in the places hardest of access, which our troops had never set foot on, or penetrated long ago. The situation of such villages ruled out surprise attacks to enable families to take refuge in the woods with their possessions, leaving only armed men behind.

"That was why I determined to open the shortest possible routes to those villages by cutting down trees within gunshot to either side of the highway. Our troops could advance along such roads unhampered and at the greatest possible speed, even very small units running no danger. By that we could keep Chechens in obedience without open hostilities with prospects of teaching them peace.

* * *

"That was the end of the Chechen campaign. Some, along the river Michik, remained bellicose. They were incapable of any job but robber raids. The mutiny, however, died down everywhere else. The principal villages were appeased and gave hostages. The delusion of forests as impregnable strongholds was dispelled. Our springtime advance was harder on Chechens than any other as they did not dare to show in the open and left their fields unsown to doom their livestock to starvation. As spring came into its own, families hiding in the woods were visited by famine and epidemics.

"Another mass rebellion is hardly possible with military transport routes allowing rapid advance everywhere. The head of every household will now care about his family's safety alone, they will be dispersed, and have small chance to league together again."


What is seen as crime by many is a trade to a Chechen man. Kidnapping of people for ransom and stealing of livestock and wheat are, at a time, production, distribution and accumulation of wealth. Also, the most successful of "entrepreneurs" have always been popular with women.

The government preferred ransoming high-ranking officers before mail packages with their ears and fingers chopped off might come in. With General Yermolov as governor general of the Caucasus, an incident once occurred that made the Chechens doubt the lucrativeness of hostage trade. Major Shvetsov was abducted on his way from Khaziyurt to Kizlyar. No experts in the Russian officer insignia, the Chechen kidnappers mistook the major for an important statesman. Happy they had gotten so lucky, the Chechens demanded of his relatives a ransom of ten cartfuls of silver coin. The Russian government could not think of how to react to such an exorbitant price. And it did not have so much money available, anyway. Fellow officers therefore launched a national fund-raising campaign to get Shvetsov out of captivity. While the necessary funds were being raised, Yermolov arrived in the North Caucasus. The first thing he did was to prohibit paying a ransom for Shvetsov. Instead, he ordered that all Kumyk princes and landowners by whose property the Russian officer had been made to pass be placed in a fortress, warning that if they failed to find a way to set Shvetsov free, he would hang them all. The arrested princes immediately arranged for the ransom to be reduced to 10,000 roubles. But Yermolov again refused to pay. Eventually, at the general's secret request, an Avar khan came along to ransom the prisoner. The Russian general got at once the particularities of Chechen mentality. Paying to locals means that you are scared and want to pay them off, Yermolov argued. He therefore called upon Russian officers to follow the enemy's logic: "I want my name to guard, by fear it inspires, our frontiers better than chains and fortifications, I want my word to be a law to Asians, or rather an inevitable death to them. Mercy in an Asian's eye is a sign of weakness, and I can be tough implacably for the sake of humanism. One execution will keep hundreds of Russians from dying and thousands of Moslems from betraying." The general tended to back his words with actions. So, the abduction of high-ranking officers and wealthy merchants was put by the Chechens off the list of lucrative businesses for some time.


(A Caucasian war veteran; a military minister and field marshal under Aleksandr II) 

"It is about five o'clock in the afternoon. On coming up to Prince Baryatinsky, Baron Wrangler and General Kesler report the situation: action has been suspended, everything's quiet, and fourteen battalions stay around the aul [or settlement] menacingly, holding guns at their feet; they are waiting for Shamyl to respond. But the imam still hesitates. A new envoy comes along on behalf of the Tsar's governor general, demanding that Shamyl surrender immediately, otherwise the aul will be destroyed. Baron Wrangler, accompanied by Prince Mirsky, Colonel Lazarev, Daniel bek and several more people, advances as far as the entrance into the aul. Shamyl sends over Yunus, already known to us, to negotiate the terms. Yunus is told that discussion of any terms is now out of the question and that Shamyl must right away come out to meet the commander-in-chief, giving his own fate and the fate of his family to the latter's mercy. Some time later, Yunus comes back with a request for permission to introduce himself for a start. The request is honoured. He is taken to Prince Baryatinsky, who persistently reiterates the demand, promising absolute security to Shamyl and his family. But even after that, under the burden of fear, doubt and distrust, Shamyl continues hesitating; Yunus reappears several more times with different statements: now Shamyl suggests giving away his younger son instead of himself, now he asks that the troops move backwards as he comes out. These inappropriate demands are turned down; the imam is responded with a threat of immediate storming. More than two hours pass that way; Prince Baryatinsky's patience is running out, and the day is declining. To implement the commander-in-chief's will, I also head for the entrance into the aul, so as to bring an end to the lengthy negotiations. It is necessary to settle the matter somehow before the sunset.

"When I reach the site in front of the settlement where Baron Wrangel and his entourage are standing, a big fuss is spotted in the aul. Yunus reappears with the last persistent request - that at least the police should retire, to prevent Moslems from witnessing their imam's humiliation. We deem it possible to honour the request; all policemen are ordered to retreat behind the infantry line and following this, we see a crowd of turban-bearers coming out of the aul. Shamyl on horseback stands out against the crowd. His appearance from behind the aul's rear huts provokes an unintentional "hurrah" all across the front of the troops standing nearby. The enthusiastic cheers scare Shamyl and the crowd around him; all movement stops for a moment. In the meantime, I return to the commander-in-chief to inform him about the desired ending. On his order, a small group of armed Myurids (40 to 50 men strong) following in Shamyl's wake is halted some distance away from the commander-in-chief; only three of his most devoted subordinates, including Yunus, are left by his side. And only Shamyl is allowed to keep his arms. Prince Baryatinsky receives the imprisoned imam as he sits on a stone, surrounded by all our generals, a numerous entourage, orderlies, escort Cossacks, and even policemen. Everyone is eager to become a witness to the memorable historic event. On dismounting, Shamyl approaches the governor general respectfully, but with dignity. His pale face expresses embarrassment, and fear, and grief. The Myurids behind him look confused and sad, especially Yunus, too nervous to keep a decent posture: he is nervously rolling up his sleeves, as if preparing himself for a fist fight. On assuming a severe look, Prince Baryatinsky addresses the prisoner with a reproach for refusing to surrender on favorable terms previously offered to him and preferring to let his own and his family's fate be decided by weapon; now all those terms are out of the question; his fate will depend entirely on the Tsar's mercy; only one thing remains in force - the promise of security for his life and the lives of his family members... Shamyl pronounces several clumsy sentences to justify his mistrust of the earlier Russian proposals, something about his weariness after a many-year struggle and his desire to end his life in peace and prayer. Everything he says lacks coherence and is out of place; at least his words sound that way in the Russian interpretation of our official translator. The explanation is brief: two or three minutes. The commander announces to Shamyl that the imam will go to St. Petersburg and wait for His Highness to make a decision on his score. With this, Prince Baryatinsky rises; turning to Count Yevdokimov, he instructs him to arrange Shamyl's transportation to a camp on the Kegher Heights and instructs Baron Wrangler to set aside a force for escorting the prisoner and also to give all necessary instructions for maintaining order in Guniba, for guarding households and property to stay behind in the aul, and for transporting prisoners the following day, who now number more than a hundred. Prince Baryatinsky then mounts a horse and heads for his camp together with his entourage.

"The sun is already low when we come down a steep lane from Guniba to a passage leading to Koisa. Is it really necessary to describe the feelings presently experienced by the victor and the morale of each of us who escort him? I am riding by the commander-in-chief, and we both keep silent for several minutes, emotionally overwhelmed and with our brains crowded with thoughts. It is hard to at once become fully aware of the historic significance of the event, which we have just witnessed and participated in. We have had to wage a bloody war against Myuridism for thirty years. How many human lives and millions of roubles has that war taken! Today, finally, an end has been put to it; the last, dying sigh of Myuridism... Starting from today, there is no more imam, no more Myurids; the entire eastern half of the Caucasus has been pacified, which will serve as a foundation for the pacification of the remaining, western half. I recall that almost that same day twenty years ago, Shamyl was lucky to narrowly escape being caught by us. Prince Baryatinsky also recalls that today is an anniversary of his appointment as governor general and commander-in-chief. Exactly three years later, he has achieved such a tremendous success, such a brilliant result one can only dream of.

"Let me cite here one anecdotal detail characterizing Prince Baryatinsky. On our way, while still in Guniba, after our first exchange of thoughts and impressions, he suddenly addresses me, 'You know, Dmitry Alekseyevich, what I've been thinking? - I've imagined how what happened today will be seen in some 50 or 100 years; what a rich plot it can make for a historical novel, a piece of drama, or an opera even! We'll all be taken out on the stage in glittering costumes; I will be the play's central character, of course - the first tenor, armour-clad and wearing a golden helmet with red plumage - you will be my confidant, the second tenor; Shamyl will be a basso profundo; with three loyal Myurids - baritones - and Yunus permanently behind him... this will be buffo cantante... and so forth.' The joke makes both of us laugh; our serious mood, inspired by the striking upheavals of today and the sight of corpses and blood, suddenly gives way to a brighter outlook and the feeling of pleasure. We discuss forthcoming instructions concerning Shamyl and his family, his accommodation for the night, his dispatching to Petersburg, and so forth. Everything has already been thought through by the Prince: a tent has been put up at the camp for the prisoner, outfitted with all possible comforts; it was promised - half-seriously, half-jokingly - to adjutant Trompovsky a long time ago that he would be charged with the responsibility of escorting Shamyl to Petersburg. A carriage has been ordered from Tiflis, and is now waiting in Temir Khan Shura.

"We get to our camp when it is already getting dark, and the imprisoned imam is brought along much later, in complete darkness. An indigenous officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alibek Penzulayev, is attached to the prisoner as an interpreter. Upon arrival at the camp, Shamyl is so nervous that he is trembling as though in fever, certainly not so much from the cool night air at the rather high altitude of our camp as from emotion. He still does not trust the Governor General's positive promise, expecting imminent punishment for all evil he has done to the Russians. Alibek tries in vain to convince him of the observance of the promise and of the Russian Tsar's generosity. The prisoner is amazed when he is served tea in the commander-in-chief's luxurious tea set and when Prince Baryatinsky's expensive fur coat is sent over to him to keep the old man warm. Everything is done to calm the prisoner down; he is told that his family, left behind in Guniba, will arrive at the camp tomorrow; it is even suggested he write a note to his family so that they would not worry for him." 


July 8, 1855 - Data "received from the mountains" about attempts by Turkish agents to move hordes of highlanders against Russia

"Information about Magomet Amin and about a national assembly in Pshekups, in the valley of Bochepshi, is confirmed: its objective is consultations rather than military campaign planning, but apart from the aforementioned assembly, in Pshekups, in the valley of Oshhanuko, there is also another assembly, made up of Shapsugs and Natukhai, who aim at acting against us in line with the Turkish government's plans. The leaders of this assembly tried to invite Magomet Amin and the Abadzekhs to join hands against us, but Magomet Amin responded that the Abadzekh people would not obey the Turks or anyone else and that they were not going to act in anyone's interest. But that if he wanted Abadzekhs to get involved in military operations in his interest, the Turkish sultan should provide them with decent allowance and food. The Abadzekhs fully share Magomet Amin's opinion. On receiving his reply, the leaders of the Shapsug and Natukhai assemblies decided to act on their own and to alarm the Black Sea cordon line. The Shapsug and Natukhai assemblies have the Turk Adilbei, a literate man, whose responsibility is reporting to Sefer bei developments within the assembly. It is hard to assume that these offensives could be dangerous for the line. 'Oskhanuko' means 'half a mound' in Circassian; the region has three valleys that we know of under that name: one at Pshekups, another at Afips, 10 versts [1 verst is equal to .663 mile] above the former Afips fortress, and still another at the former settlement of Vityazeva." 

Major General Kukharenko 

July 11, 1855 - A report by Prince Gurgenidze, a landlord from the village of Shildy, to General Bebutov on the release of his daughter from Shamyl's captivity.

"My daughter Dariya and her nurse Yelizaveta were taken prisoner as Shamyl attacked the settlement of Shildy, and are now staying in the Antsukh community with the Lezghin Dush Alia. Being absolutely broke financially, I have no cash to ransom them, and am humbly requesting Your Excellency that you kindly arrange for them to be ransomed or exchanged for Lezghin prisoners under the government's jurisdiction. Enclosed herewith is the original of a related certificate from local authorities." 

April 5, 1857 - Excerpt from a letter of Butenev to Aleksandr Baryatinsky on the landing of a Turkish force onto the Caucasian shore 

"Dear Sir, Prince Aleksandr Ivanovich,

"I had the honour of receiving Your Excellency's letter No. 383 of March 4/16 and therewith a copy of Major General Philipson's report No. 8 of February 23, on the landing to our coastal Caucasian line, at the estuary of the Tuapse River, of a strong enough Turkish force. On analysing all information available to the effect, I has arrived at a conclusion that the aforementioned expedition is the one that secretly set sail from here on the English steamship Kangaroo in early February, with Megmet bei and two other Turkish officers on board. That steamship reached the Tuapse River's estuary on February 11 (23) and returned to Constantinople on February 25 (March 9). As for the small Turkish detachment mentioned in the report of Major General Philipson, related testimony by spies puts its strength between 3,000 and 6,000 men, which must be a gross exaggeration. I managed to come into contact with the Grand Vizier on that affair, and his explanations convinced me further that my conclusions are not unfounded.

"I immediately reported the Foreign Ministry about such an important affair, all the more so since I had not received from our consul in Trebisund any further reports on the alleged operation of such a large scale against our Caucasian coast. Considering it to be my duty to inform you, Dear Sir, about all this, I deemed it necessary, with the significance of the affair in mind, to have this letter of mine immediately sent to our consul in Trebisund, instructing him to deliver it safely and without delay to our frontier, for subsequent deliverance to Your Excellency.

"Yours sincerely,

 A. Butenev" 

April 10, 1857 - Excerpt from a letter of A. I. Baryatinsky to Foreign Minister, State Secretary Gorchakov on the resumption of cruising in the Black Sea and the prevention of contacts of foreign agents with highlanders. 

"On receiving from our envoy in Constantinople an official notification about the withdrawal of the English Fleet from the Black Sea, I have the honor of humbly requesting Your Excellency that you kindly inform me if it is yet time to reopen cruising, much needed now for maintaining peace in the Caucasian region and for protecting that region from plague. Hazardous contacts with highlanders of Turks and other nationals under the protection of secret political intrigues intensify with every passing day, and have already gone so far that a recent landing of a filibuster band onto the Caucasian shore was made almost openly and the shipment of contraband of war and slave trade is ongoing. Seeing no resistance on our part to these brazen undertakings and noticing the presence of our naval forces nowhere in the mountains, highlanders, who have always yielded easily to hostile propaganda against us, will take as an obvious sign of our weakness our further troubles in the sea and will believe the words of revolters spreading among them rumors that European powers have allegedly declared them independent and have taken them under their protection.

"However, to restore cruising, it is necessary to lay down the rules, otherwise instructions for cruisers will be impossible to draw up. To avoid, on the one hand, arbitrary actions by cruisers and protests against them of foreign cabinets and, on the other, weakness and shakiness of cruising, arising from fear of ship commanders to face trial for troubles beyond their jurisdiction, each cruiser should know exactly at what distance from the blocked coast it has the right to interrogate and search vessels for finding out if they are loaded with contraband of war and also at what distance it may chase them for catching them as trophies.

"Any violation of the recognized blockade, as well as of quarantine and customs regulations, gives the right to confiscate cargo vessels; in the past war, the Turks caught on board contraband vessels would be sent to convict labour gangs. We have a triple right to pursue vessels entering into trade and other types of relations with highlanders, namely: 1) for violation of the blockade of the coast whose inhabitants are constantly at war with us; 2) for non-compliance with quarantine and customs regulations and 3) for slave trade, prosecuted by all European states. These grounds are sufficient to declare our rights to blockade of the Black Sea's eastern coast and to prevention of whatever relations of foreign vessels with highlanders." 


In connection with the complete victory over Chechnya and Daghestan I have already told you orally that the Emperor of All Russia has graciously pardoned the Chechen people for their hostile actions against us, which continued for more than 20 years, for the blood shed by Russians, the harm done to us and losses sustained by us during the war. I hereby reaffirm my words in writing and once again declare that all what happened during that disastrous war should be forgotten once and for all times. From now on, His Excellency the Emperor, while extending to you, as on his other subjects, his mercy and care, grants you the following graces:

1) Each of you can freely profess his belief and no one will prevent you from exercising its rituals.

2) You will never be forced to serve in the army and will never be turned into Cossacks.

3) You shall be entitled to use in perpetuity all the lands and forests in the territory in which the Chechen people lived before the mutiny of 1839, excepting the territories under fortifications and adjacent mow lands which will remain the possession of the Treasury forever. Those lands and forests in the mountains which the people did not use before the mutiny shall stay in reserve at the disposal of the government but neither Cossack stanitsas, nor Chechen auls shall be created on these lands. You shall be allotted land per aul commensurate to the number of people, and each aul shall be issued an act entitling it to use its land in perpetuity. The lands which have been given by the government as a gift and those of the unoccupied lands which can be turned over to private holders for their services shall forever remain their inalienable possession.

4) Those appointed to be your rulers shall rule by Adat and Shariah, and the trial and punishment shall be decided by people's courts comprising the best people to be elected by you and appointed with the consent of your superiors.

5) Aware of the plight of the people, which is the result of the war, the government frees you from the obligation to pay duties for five years to give you a chance to organise your economy, have some rest and put your everyday life in order. Upon the expiry of the exemption period (that is, five years) we shall be bound to pay one rouble per home. In the beginning you are only to fix the wages of your aul officials in the amount, which you collectively decide to be a fair payment for services to your community.

6) Throughout the same five years we will free you from the duty to form militia; you will only nominate people to deliver documents and orders and guard the arrested in your aul and on the road. When the privileged years expire, instead of nominating anyone each time by special demand, you shall be bound to put one armed horseman per 100 sazhens of land under the complete command of your officials who will be on the full upkeep of the community on the principles of hire or in turns, depending on which of the options you will jointly decide to be the best. These people will be permanently attacked to your officials to make deliveries, guard the arrested and maintain order and tranquillity in the territory.

Announcing these graces, I wish you should enjoy peaceful life and, from now on, use all the forces which you wasted for the devastating war for so many years to peaceful endeavour - work in the fields, crafts and trade. All the willing can be engaged in crafts and trade on general grounds, which are granted to all the subjects of the Russian Emperor. The road is clear to you to all the places beyond the Sundzha and Terek where you can find work and sell its fruits. In your land troops are building roads, which will make it easier for you to carry all you want to sell. But to extend the life of the roads it is necessary to mend them, repair bridges repairs and not to allow roads to become overgrown with trees which have been fallen by soldiers; you will be responsible for all that. Obey those who have been nominated as your officials; persecute, catch and give away criminals and fugitives, do not hide them under any pretexts and nominate one of you, in turn, to guard them in your auls and bring them to the places indicated by your officials. This is our main requirement, which is essential for your own tranquillity. No one can know better than you those of your people who like to plunder and rob and no one can know better than you the arrival of such people from other places. That is why we make the aul communities responsible for murders and robberies committed in their territory. During the passage of troops through your lands we will need waggon-loads. The chief official will decide how many waggon-loads you can provide without any damage to yourself. Certain payment will be made out of the treasury for each waggon-load provided in addition to the number, which is due under the law. A fair distribution of waggon-loads between villagers will in turn made by the communities under the supervision of naibs. People's courts will check the fairness of distribution. To protect forests from extermination each aul is to allot special foreign territories in which trees may not be fallen without the permission of the community. People's courts should determine the fee levied for the falling of trees in designated forests. The money thus collected shall be used for the upkeep of schools and allowances to the poor and victims of fires and other calamities. The money will be kept in a people's court, and special supervisory authorities will monitor its use. This is all what you shall have to fulfil and we will not demand from you anything in excess of what I hereby declare. You should not have any fears or doubts about your future. From now on you should be convinced that our faith, possessions and customs shall be inviolable. Blood feud is the only custom, which should disappear from society because it is rejected by God and inflicts irreparable damage to people. You will soon realise the expediency of abrogating this wild custom and, when you see that the government stands firmly on guard of your tranquillity, you will ask that some other of your customs, which disagree with your present condition, should also be changed. Rural mullahs and khadias are bound to read this announcement in mosques as many times as it will be necessary to make it known to all the people and explain its contents correctly in your native tongue. I want to warn you from the outset that if there are ill-wishers who begin agitating people by false misinterpretations, they will be most harshly punish and we shall have be no mercy on them.

General Field-Marshal Aleksandr Barytinsky Commander in Chief of the Caucasus Army and Viceroy in the Caucasus


October 9, 1859

1. The bailiff and his assistant with whom the government trusts the supervision of Shamyl should, in the line of duty, be his advisors and guardians, protecting him against all what could make his condition more difficult and acting as interceders in his humble requests.

2. Shamyl and his family shall be under constant supervision without any inconveniences.

3. Shamyl and his sons shall be allowed to have promenades on foot, by carriage or on horseback in and out of the city but not farther than 30 verstas in diameter. Shamyl and his sons are free to go to the theatre, attend public and private parties and keep their own saddle and draught horses. For considerations of cautiousness but under plausible pretexts the bailiff or his assistant shall accompany Shamyl and his sons when they make visits and travel outside of the city's confines, especially, on horseback. It shall be up to the bailiff to decide whether he should accompany Shamyl and his sons on their promenades within the city.

4. Russian subjects and foreigners alike shall be allowed to freely visit Shamyl if such visits do not bother him. The bailiff or his assistant and an interpreter shall be present when Shamyl is visited by aliens. Muhammadans and other Caucasian Moslem believers shall see Shamyl only with the permission of the commander in chief of the Caucasian army. By and large, Shamyl and his family must not have any suspicious contacts.

5. Two interpreters shall be appointed to work with Shamyl: one by hire for interpreting at the household level and the other with the right of active service to translate Shamyl's conversations and thoughts about matters which go beyond ordinary household subjects. Both interpreters shall be subordinated to the bailiff and fulfil his instructions.

6. The bailiff shall deliver all the letters addressed to Shamyl or his family, which will be received in Kaluga, through the governor to the Minister for Military Affairs in Petersburg. The letters from Shamyl or members of his family should be also delivered to Petersburg in the same manner.

7. The bailiff and his assistant shall not burden Shamyl with their presence without need and, especially, they will not interfere in the fulfilment of his religious rites and his normal family life.

8. The bailiff shall do the utmost to establish more intimate terms with Shamyl and win his trust.

9. Every three months the bailiff shall in advance receive 2,500 roubles in silver out of 10,000 roubles, which have been graciously allocated for Shamyl's upkeep and immediately hand the entire sum to Shamyl, taking his receipt. The receipt, which shall be the document confirming that the money has been duly delivered, shall be deposited with the office of the governor. The bailiff may not interfere in Shamyl's expenditures or any other economic or family business inasmuch as there is nothing contradictory to our laws. If the bailiff's advice or warning can be of use to Shamyl who may not know the language or local conditions and prices, her should use such an opportunity to win the prisoner's favours.

10. The bailiff shall bear in mind that Shamyl is an outstanding personality for the Caucasus. That is why he should try to learn from conversations with him and from his stories as much as possible about the war events in the Caucasus, the plans by which Shamyl guided himself and the means he used to strengthen and buttress up his power, as well as about the customs, traditions, trade and lifestyle of the tribes which were under his control. Conversations on such subjects should be recorded in a diary, which the bailiff shall keep secretly. At the end of each month he shall submit his diary to the officer on duty at the general staff of His Imperial Excellency.

11. The bailiff shall try to fulfil Shamyl's requests and wishes unless there are any special obstacles or if this is beyond the bailiff's power. He shall ask for the governor's permission if something exceeds his power. Shamyl's wishes and requests the fulfilment of which the governor will be unable to permit shall be forwarded in writing to the Minister of Military Affairs.

12. The bailiff and his assistant shall reside in the same house Shamyl will rent. If the presence of both supervisors is inconvenient, only the bailiff should live in the house.

13. The money for the upkeep of the bailiff, his assistant and the interpreter shall be paid out of the budget of the Military Department and the rent and heating expenses connected with Shamyl's house shall be taken out of the treasury on demand from the governor.

14. The bailiff shall inform the governor of all the instances which are not covered by this instruction and which shall present certain difficulties.

15. Higher supervision over all covered by this instruction shall be exercised by the governor so as the circumstances deserving special attention or requiring special clearance should be made know to the Minister of Military Affairs.


December 19, 1868

Having lived in Russia for more than nine years, I have always enjoyed the good graces of Your Excellency, and your graces grew day in, day out. Loaded with favours beyond my personal merits, I have not found any other way to express my heartfelt gratitude and deep loyalty but together with my entire family to swear allegiance to his Majesty the Emperor and, in his face, to my new Fatherland - Russia, as I did with Allah's help in 1866. It is a long time that I intended to ask permission to travel to the sacred places, as it is a compulsory custom that each Moslem should visit sacred places and bow low to Prophet Mohammad's burial place. However, I have not officially made such a request till now. Being old and in poor health now, I am afraid that I may part with life on earth without fulfilling that sacred rite. That is why I are humbly asking your Majesty to intercede on my behalf before the Emperor so that he grant permission for me and my family to visit Mecca to fulfil our rite and fix up my elderly daughters, leaving my beloved sons Gazi-Magomed and Magom Sheffi in Russia. Having fulfilled my sacred duty, if Allah extends my days on earth, I will consider it my duty to return to Russia to personally express my sincere gratitude at the knees of my benefactor who has interceded for me with the Emperor. I take the liberty to hope that Your Excellency will not reject the most sincere request of this feeble old man and console me in the evening of his earthly life. I am wholeheartedly loyal to you and pray for you. Sincerely your, Shamyl.


January 26, 1869

In the letter attached Shamyl asks my intercession in granting him the permission to visit the scared Moslem places in Mecca. The question of Shamyl's trip to Turkey was also considered by me in 1886 in connection with Your Excellency's reply No. 5 dated February the 5th. At that time I was against such a trip because of the situation in Turkey's Asia Minor provinces adjacent to us and the mood of the mountain population of the Caucasus which was more tense than usually owing partly to the just implemented and partly to forthcoming reforms in their lifestyle. In the present state of mountain populations and the state of Caucasian affairs in general I personally do not seen any reason to reject Shamyl's request. Taking into consideration the circumstances of Shamyl's present situation and his behaviour since he has been brought to Russia and in view of the fact that, while asking to leave, Shamyl leaves his sons in Russia, I am not inclined to suspect him of insincerity and see any secret plan in his trip which would contradict the interests of the government. As I see it, Shamyl's trip to Turkey would only be inconvenient if our relations with that country remained unclear or were close to a rupture. Only in that case the Turkish government and our numerous ill-wishers would not miss the opportunity to derive advantages from Shamyl's stay in that country and use him as an instrument of influence on Caucasian Moslems which would be hostile to us. It is probable that with his tested mettle Shamyl would, nonetheless, remain loyal to the oath he made to the Russian government. However, it would be more cautious to give him the leave only when our relations with Turkey no longer arouse the threat that a hostile clash is nearing. I ask you, Your Excellency, to submit my opinion and Shamyl's letter to consideration by His Highness the Emperor. Would you be so kind as to inform me of His Highness's will which I will convey to Shamyl?


There were no estates among Chechens in our interpretation of the term. However, on the basis of the social law that no unconditional equality ever exists, they were divided into castes which differed from one another by their trades. "Excluding the clergy and the so-called dignitaries, let us name the three main castes: ishleigen - working people, uruchi - thieves and chonguri - balalaika-players," writes P. Petukhov. Ishleigen are land tillers who are rather inconspicuous at first glance. Without attracting too much attention, these people earn their living. Their clothing is rather shoddy and smells of sweat. They wear simple daggers; they do not shave for several weeks in a row and their horny hands are rather inflexible. They do not talk much, as they do not like to waste words. They mind their own busyness, thinking how to improve it. They are more religious than the other castes; they come to the mosque earlier than the other prayers and stand in a corner; when the pray is over, they hurry home, instead of profusely talking with others. Uruchi, or thieves, are mostly young people aged 15 to 30 years. They have no possessions, only debts; they are in rags but have good arms and other things that are necessary for their "trade". They always keep a well waxed wick and matches in their pockets and blood-letting instruments which enables then to use them on a horse if the need arises after a long drive. The life of thieves made them cautious, lonely and reserved. Uruchi easily find a common language with anyone except their like; they never give a direct answer to any question and never tell anyone where they live. These people have a very bad character. They are partly atheists and people who would not think twice before taking a false oath. At the same time, it is a great disgrace for them to admit that they are thieves. Having acquaintances in distant communities and knowing all the roads and mountain paths, they could made excellent guides, were they not people with two faces. Uruchi know all the news, grasping it at once and then retell what they learnt supplementing the story with their own comments and additional details. They eat all they can get hold of, drink wine, smoke pipes, good tobacco in a corn leaf and makhorka (inferior kind of tobacco) in wrapping paper. These people adore social riots, accidents and anything which would distract the attention of society from their trade. Uruchi is a hanger-on like chonguri (the balalaika-player). Writes P. Petukhov: "This is the name of not only those who play chongur, a kind of balalaika, but those who can be otherwise called charlatans, dandies and womanisers (though the latter two names are different from what they mean in Russian). Chonguri can be the real chongur player. Hence the name of the caste. It is a good-looking young man wearing a very tall papakhas (astrakhan hat), high eyes wide open, his face having a careless and idle expression. There are no callouses on his hands because they for the most part belong to families which can support them, that is, they have working brothers and sisters but they themselves do nothing which requires any effort. Uruchi is often seen in a crowd of young men and women who are going to weed and, especially, harvest corn. There are always songs, laughter and jokes, which is the main food for uruchi. Later, when young people are resting at sunset, they retell news which they heard by chance from someone else who does not belong to this crowd."


"It should not be forgotten that Russian state power should not dominate in the outlaying regions as the power of the conqueror, as power which the entire population regards as a gift; that the Russian state should lean on the recognition of the superiority of Russian state institutions; that people of different ethnic origin should feel not only the need but also the advantage of the use of the Russian language; that respect for the dominant church should proceed from the spirit of Christian meekness and love for every human being on the past of both the clergy and ordinary believers. Only given all these conditions can we count on close ties between the provinces and the state as a whole. We must unfortunately admit that our internal policy has made too many sins with regard to the provinces. "When conquering new territories, Russian power almost always was incredibly mild, to say the least. At first, conquered peoples did not feel any oppression. What is more, in the new government they found patronage and protection which they could not expect from the previous regime. This mildness went so far that the conquered treated Russian conquerors as the dominating race. This was the case of the territories severed from Poland and of the Polish Kingdom in general; this was true of the Baltic gubernias, Finland and even the Moslem East. where we built mosques. "Later the time came when it was impossible to tolerate the striving of non-Russians to live not only independently but at the expense of the whole state and displayed an arrogant attitude to all things Russian. This awakened the national feelings of Russians and triggered demands for unconditional obedience and immediate changes in relations which were established over many years, up to a hundred years. This provoked hostile feeling for Russia among non-Russians. By and by, one extremity followed another, mildness and even slackness yielded to harsh persistence to make up for all that was lost as a result of connivance."  



'The experience of centralizing the administration of the Caucasus from St. Petersburg by way of instituting, in situ, the post of a high administrator of civilian affairs, his powers somewhat exceeding those of the usual Governor General, which has lasted over twenty years, has produced rather deplorable results. Instead of following the Imperial center along the road of development, the Caucasus has lagged behind, and the blame belongs to the central agencies, rather than the local authorities in the Caucasus.

'The high administrators, armed with the their extended powers primarily in the sphere of precluding and combating violations of public and state order, could only raise matters for the consideration by appropriate agencies, engage in lengthy and well-nigh always fruitless correspondence with them and finally had to give up their projects, having run into clear lack of understanding to their initiatives in these agencies.

'It is only thanks to their personal insistence that some high administrators have managed to relate their projects to the supreme legislative bodies, and then mostly in the sphere of reinforcing the very same power of theirs to generally maintain and protect law and order.

'But reforms projected for the good of the territory by the high administrators, e.g. abolishing the military-popular administration and the mandatory and dependent relationships of peasants, or reforming the rural administration, etc., would be rejected in Petersburg to be returned, under one pretext or another, back.

'All minor administrative issues, e.g. recruiting more policemen, would not be treated with understanding in the center, and if they were to be resolved at all, they would be resolved from the viewpoint of universal state objectives, the type of precluding undue expenditures from the state treasury, even to the clear detriment of the real needs.

'The performance of agencies not directly connected to the work of high administrators, e.g. mass education and land use, and state property administration, has had no consideration for the local conditions.

'The well-nigh only major reform of the two decades, which embraced the Caucasus in such an important sphere as taxation, has been fully unconnected to the real needs of the population of the Caucasus.

'Two years ago, Your Imperial Majesty graciously noted the abnormal standing of the Caucasus and restored the Caucasus Viceregency, and employed me to be the Viceregent.

'.As to the need to preserve the Viceregency of the Caucasus in the future, I cannot but view the matter positively, notwithstanding my personal position of the Viceregent. I cannot visualize the Caucasus being administered from the centre, as prescribed by general formulas, without keen attentions to the requirements and needs of the local population which is very diversified in matters of religion, tribal composition and political past.

'Any centralization is only possible when it is capable of keenly monitoring all aspects of life of a territory's population and channeling them in the proper direction; otherwise, it is dangerous, for it leads to disunity of the state's parts. The best example in this respect is the alienation of the North American United States from England, which has forced Great Britain to radically amend it colonial policy and introduce into it respect for the local government and basics of variegation in line with the needs of separate colonies.

'All those considerations for which Your Majesty has graciously restored the post of the Viceregent, have become in my eyes, now that I have directly studied the ways of administration of the Caucasus, irrefutable proof of the impossibility of running a far-off province from Petersburg.

'.What is needed in situ is an authority which, while possessing, to a known degree, the powers of ministers, could combine, in its decisions, the basics of universal state policies with the local requirements, could satisfy the latter promptly, at the time of appearance, if possible, and would have the right to raise, for the consideration of the Empire's legislative bodies, matters of local requirements, whatever the personal vision thereof of representatives of the central government. Only the Viceregent of Your Imperial Majesty can be such an authority. Replacing this authority with that of a Governor General, one or several does not matter, when a Governor General, according to our laws, and even more so, according to the years-long administrative practices, no matter how his powers in the sphere of protecting order may be reinforced, is, in effect, although a high official, but nevertheless only an official of the interior ministry, means doing nothing for the urgent needs of the territory.

'Public life in the latter case possesses peculiar features and cannot but generate very specific tasks of administering a province which are different from those of administering the Empire. These local features cannot be ignored or forcefully conditioned to fir into the Imperial framework, but rather must be used and channelled in a direction which conforms with the aims of the state's unity. This is only realistic if the local government is allowed to participate in the administration under the guidance of a person concentrating in his hands all functions of the state administrative authority, i.e. solely the Viceregent, but in no way a Governor General who would be incompetent to deal with the majority of urgent matters since they may exceed the competence of the interior ministry. For all above reasons, I believe that the Caucasus Viceregency is instrumental, because as I see it, only this form of administration is the earnest of close unity of the Caucasus and the rest of the Empire.

'. In the light of the above, today's performance of the Viceregent cannot be separated from the activities of the central government and be placed exclusively under the Royal patronage, as has been the case under the previous Viceregents, but should, on the contrary, be closely connected to the general activities of the central government and strictly harmonized with them. I therefore hold, on the one hand, that the Viceregent (having reserved the right of appointing a special person to deputize for himself) must be included into the Cabinet, and on the other hand, that his administration must include representatives of all agencies who receive instructions from the appropriate ministers and are responsible to the Viceregent on matters of their agencies, and who are in parallel members of the Viceregent's council. The positions of such representatives of agencies may in some cases coincide with the positions of overseers of all bodies of a certain ministry in a territory, e.g. a representative of the ministry of popular education can be, in parallel, the guardian of an educational district, etc.

'.The composition of the Viceregent's council and its powers should be subject to some changes in order to make this body workable and really capable of assisting the Viceregent by way of advising him. For this purpose, I believe it is advisable to invite public forces to join the council. Once the zemstvo is established in the Caucasus, it would be easy to do: thus, it is possible to admit one representative from each of the district zemstvo assemblies and two or three representatives from the Transcaucasian zemstvo.

'Furthermore, if the Viceregent were to have the right, which belongs to the high administrator to appeal, within a certain time frame, against the use in the territory of a measure which has not been specified in a legislative act as applicable to the Caucasus, it is advisable in such cases to have the opinion of local figures. The matter is that the participation in legislative bodies of representatives of a province does not always ensure the local interests: it is therefore necessary to foresee cases where a measure adopted for use throughout the Empire may prove to be hardly applicable to a territory and it would be advisable to present for the consideration of legislative bodies materials based on local considerations.

'On the other hand, local people do not necessarily have to be involved in all cases which constitute the powers of the Viceregent's council: such involvement seems to be redundant in matters of trying officials. In this connection, the council's sessions should be grouped as general, i.e. held in the presence of all members, and particular, held in the presence of government representatives only.

'The Viceregent's powers on administrative matters should effectively be the totality of powers of the appropriate ministers, but located in the territory, with the exception of such functions of the latter which are inseparable from the Imperial tasks.

'I cannot hide it from Your Majesty that the Viceregency carries a grain of a certain independence of the territory, but I am positive that the basics on which I intend to build the administration of the territory, present no danger for the state's unity. On the contrary, this form will satisfy all Caucasians, for they are perfectly aware of the impossibility of forming national autonomies and are only pondering them to seek a way out for their independence, the understanding of which has been born in them under the influence of the two decades of absence, on the part of the government, of fruitful concern for the vital needs of their outlying province.'



A Report by the Commissioner of the People's Commissariat of Finance Who Visited Daghestan in April 1923

'Special attention should be paid to attacks by Chechens. When we spent a night at the railroad station in Chir-Yurt, the neighbouring station Khasavyurt was attacked, two train attendants were killed, a road repairman was wounded, and a cargo train was plundered. Such attacks are a well-nigh daily occurrence.

'I am enclosing reports by the Avar and Andi executive committees in which they request the permission to form their own anti-Chechen units and demand Chechnya's disarmament. The sentiments, which I noted in conversations with rural dwellers, were clearly hostile. If Chechen banditry is not put an end to in the immediate future, one cannot exclude that some districts would spontaneously rise against Chechnya.' 

Reports by the Intelligence Department Of the Staff of the North Caucasus Military District, 1924 and 1925

'There are notable continuous conflicts between the populations of Chechnya and Daghestan resultant from plunders and abduction of women for ransom. On November 29, 1924, there was a collision between the communities of the village of Khimoy of the Shatoy District and the village of Gako of the Andi District.

'Another conflict took place in March 1925 when Chechens neutralized a Daghestani border checkpoint in the vicinity of the village of Biychi, following which the local population intended to stage armed attacks on the neighbouring Chechen villages. Lastly, the staff of the North Caucasus Military District reports an armed conflict on July 12 of the same year, "for reason of a dispute over a pasture located in between the border communities of the villages of Gogotl and Andi, the Daghestani Republic, and the village of Benoy. Two Chechens were killed and six wounded; on the Daghestani side, one was killed and one wounded. Chechens stole 165 heads of cattle from the people of Gogotl."' 


August 4, 1925

'The operation of the disarming of the Chechen Autonomous Region shall be wholly the responsibility of military commanders of all ranks of army units allocated for the purpose and bodies of the Joint State Political Department, or OGPU, who will be acting through their representatives in situ.A village to be disarmed shall be encircled by an army unit in order to preclude any communication between its dwellers and the neighbouring parts. After the village is fully encircled, representatives of the Chechen Central Executive Committee, or CEC, OGPU and the military command shall gather a general meeting and present the demand of surrendering arms. No more than two hours shall be given for the surrender of arms. The village dwellers shall be advised for responsibility for failure to surrender arms. In case the village population refuses to surrender arms, the unit's command shall, as a means of frightening, open artillery fire for ten minutes, with shells either bursting high in the air or aiming to do little harm, following which they shall, together with representatives of OGPU and CEC, demand that arms be surrendered within a shorter period of time.

'After the announced time period is over, an operational OGPU group shall start an all-out search and shall arrest bandit elements.In case arms are surrendered before the end of the term, the all out search shall not be conducted, but illicit and bandit elements shall be seized.

'Depending on the situation, artillery fire may be opened several times, but fire to kill shall be opened only in case of resistance to the troops.

'After all the above listed means are exhausted, the operation shall be deemed as concluded even in cases of non-surrender of arms and fruitless search. In exceptional cases, when the troops encounter malicious active or passive resistance, the influential people of the village may be arrested, but this measure shall be a means of last resort, and shall be resorted to with maximum tactfulness.'



'The operation in the valley began on August 25, when Korol's group surrounded the village of Achkhoy. They gathered a meeting of the village population to offer the people to surrender arms within two hours. Since no arms were surrendered at the announced time, 15 shrapnel shells were fired at the village, of which ten were intended to kill. After two Chechen women were wounded, the population began surrendering arms. An operational OGPU group began a parallel search. As a result, they seized 228 rifles and 32 revolvers, following which the regiment built a camp 2 versts North of the village. At night, the regiment was fired at. The fire stopped after machineguns opened fire. The disarmament proceeded in exactly the same manner in the subsequent days. The only difference was the stubbornness of the local population and the number of shells fired.

'In some places, the population actively prepared to resist; the price of a bullet went up by a half, and at night two young Chechens tried to disarm a sentry of the 83rd regiment, another sentry was offered a woman for a rifle by an unknown Chechen.

'On August 27, Apanasenko's group approached the village of Zumsoy whose population had offered the worst resistance to the Soviet power in the West and South. At a meeting, they were told to surrender 800 rifles and 200 revolvers, and surrender bandits. At noon, when the Southern convoy reached Zumsoy, the people were told to return home all those who had fled to the mountains. The next day Zumsoy was subjected to artillery and aircraft fire again, which produced the needed effect: when they saw that the troops would not give up their demands or stop repression, the people surrendered, within an hour, 102 rifles, while they had surrendered only 27 rifles the previous day. Also, the houses of the Atabi, the rebel leader, were blown up.

'On that day in the morning, Kozitsky's group approached the village of Keloy where they demanded that arms should be surrendered; only 9 rifles were brought to them. Artillery fire was then opened at the village. Right after the first shells were fired, crying and shouting females rushed to the group's staff. Elders came later to promise that all arms had been surrendered. Yet in between houses men with arms in hands could be seen, and the artillery fire continued. After an hour's shelling, 15 more rifles were surrendered, a search was immediately launched to produce more arms than ha been surrendered, and the artillery repression was repeated. In all, 59 rifles and 9 revolvers were surrendered before nightfall.

'Revel leader Gotsinsky surrendered on September 5 after four days of artillery fire at the villages of Khimoy and Khakmaloy. The village of Day was shelled and bombed on August 29: four people were killed, five were wounded and 20 houses were destroyed.

'The demand was that the people of Day should surrender Ansaltinsky. The planes which were supposed to bomb Day on August 28, dropped bombs on Nakhchu-Keloy, following which its people decided to voluntarily surrender arms that they had.

'Kozitsky's group had to depart for Day on September 2, after the announced time frame of surrendering Ansaltinsky was over. The village was immediately subjected to artillery fire, following which he was delivered to the staff at 5 p.m.

'Special mention should be made of resistance offered in Urus-Martan, which is in effect Chechnya's capital. Comrade Korol demanded that the town should surrender 4,000 rifles and 800 revolvers, but a little over 1,000 rifles and close to 400 revolvers were surrendered in actual fact. The demand to surrender sheiks was resisted by Urus-Martan passively and briefly (from 6 to 9). To convince the town, it had to be shelled with 90 projectiles and be subjected to bombing from the air which destroyed 12 houses; five people were wounded in Urus-Martan.' 



'While conducting economic and political campaigns in Chechnya, the party line was flagrantly violated on several counts: the stake was on total collectivisation, even in the mountainous parts 9up to collecting money for the purchase of tractors), peasants of average means and even poor peasants were illicitly denied election rights on a massive scale, and there were attempts to close mosques by executive orders. These deviations pushed an appreciable part of the masses into the embrace of the class enemy. Special mention should be made of the myopic stance of the old leadership of the Chechen Region, who failed to heed the lessons of the Shali and Goyti events of December 1929. Many responsible officials displayed the striving to avail themselves of the presence of the Red Army to stage faulty measures, which were then boycotted by the population. The December operation failed to fully improve the situation in Chechnya. The central figures - kulaks, bandits and sectarian leaders - not only managed to escape, but also reinforced their standing.' 



'All modern armies have special Alpine units. The Red Army does not have such specially trained and armed troops. Hence the need to each time improvise while forming units for operations in the mountains, and the needed coordination is never attained. This situation cannot be seen as tolerable. The troops are rather combat-ready, but insufficient training for actions in the mountains, with the exception of the 298th division, has affected them all.

'Especially acute was their lack of preparedness for nocturnal actions, combat at night would die out as a rule, the troops would resort to defence and the opponent would escape. The troops also displayed their cumbersome nature, and insufficient aptitude to deliver swift strikes. The task they were given-to destroy bands by delivering decisive strikes and preclude their dispersion-was effectively not realized. The roots of the lack of swiftness, presumably, are in the troops' training, especially in the training of the higher officers.

'It is worth mentioning the confusion of commanders in complicated circumstances, inaptitude to conduct and fear of nocturnal actions, no sign of military ingenuity, and incapacity of running even the slightest risk.

'Proceeding from the indisputable thesis that the extermination of banditry should begin with annihilating its basis, one feels compelled to specially note the role of farmsteads scattered in the mountains. Bandits have to periodically come to these farmsteads, if only to replenish their food reserves. The farmsteads are the main strongholds of banditry, and their residents are more often than not, bandits themselves. What with the current situation in Chechnya, stationing small garrisons at the farmsteads seems to be the most realistic method. Such an operation would make bandits choose between death of starvation and surrender, the experience of fighting bandits in Spanish mountains prompts. But this plan is not feasible, because it would necessitate great material outlays and a great number of troops.'


'In 1943, at a bridgehead on the Dnieper near Kanev, I was accepted to candidate members of the VKP(b) [Communist Party] as a distinguished soldier. Over the years, I had been read up for two government awards. In June 1944, I was detained when they learned that I was a Chechen by nationality. On June 25, 1944, the military tribunal of the 3rd Guards Stalingrad Mechanized Corps sentenced me to a prison term. which I served. I do not ask for anything for myself, but I have two sons. I would not want them to be tainted in any way by the disgrace that had befallen me.'


Top secret.

The State Defence Committee (GOKO)

GOKO Resolution # 5074cc of January 31, 1944,

Done in the Kremlin, Moscow

The State Defence Committee hereby resolves:

3. To instruct the USSR People's Commissariat of Railroads (Comrade Kaganovich) to organize the transportation of special migrants from the North Caucasus to the Kazakh SSR and the Kirghiz SSR by way of forming, for the purpose, special echelons of warm railroad cars equipped to carry humans.

The number of echelons, terms of delivering railroad cars, and embarking and disembarking localities shall be as requested by the USSR People's Commissariat of the Interior.

Settlements shall be done at tariffs of carrying prison inmates.

The echelons shall travel to their destinations as military echelons do, i.e. their progress shall be specially monitored by dispatchers.

4. To instruct the USSR People's Commissariat of Trade, Comrade Lyubimov being personally responsible, to ensure the issue of hot food and boiling water to all passing echelons carrying special migrants in line with a schedule of echelons' progress compiled by the USSR People's Commissariat of the Interior and the People's Commissariat of Railroads.

Responsible representatives of the People's Commissariat of Trade shall be dispatched, no later than February 1, along the echelons' routes with the purpose of conducting organizational measures and preparations and of inspecting the readiness of eateries and station canteens to serve echelons carrying special migrants.

5. To instruct the USSR People's Commissariat of Health, Comrade Miterev being personally responsible, to provide each echelon carrying special migrants, for the term to be agreed with the USSR People's Commissariat of the Interior, with one physician and two nurses and the adequate supply of medicines, as well as to prepare first-aid centres and isolation wards along the echelons' routes.

Signed: Deputy Chairman of the State Defence Committee

                   V. Molotov

Top Secret


USSR People's Commissar For Internal Affairs Comrade Lavrenty Beria

February 1944


The NKVD has learned from its agents that Khasan Israilov was being concealed by Dzhovatkhan Murtazaliyev with the help of his brother Ayub and his son Khas-Magomed, secretly arresting Dzhovatkhan Murtazaliyev and Ayub Murtazaliyev on February 13. After being interrogated, Ayub Murtazaliyev deposed that Khasan was hiding inside a cave of Bachi-Chu mountain (Dzumsoyevsky village council, Itum-Kale district). In the early hours of February 15 a squad of operatives headed by Comrade Tsereteli surrounded and searched the cave, which was mentioned by Ayub Murtazaliyev, failing to find Khasan Israilov there. The search revealed one Degtyarev light machine-gun in good working condition, as well as three ammunition disks, one British 10-cartridge rifle, one Russian Mosin rifle in good working condition, 200 rifle cartridges, as well as Khasan Israilov's authentic correspondence dealing with his insurgent activities and weighing about 2 kg. Such correspondence lists members of the NSPKB insurgent organization at 20 villages of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic's Itum-Kale, Galanchozhsky, Shatoi and Suburban districts (6,540 people, all told), as well as 35 membership cards of the Caucasian Eagles Nazi organization, which were received by Khasan Israilov from German paratroopers, who had landed on the territory of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic over the 1942-1943 period. Apart from that, we have found a map of the Caucasus in German marking those specific populated localities that contain NSPKB cells and insurgent organizations on the territory of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. Having failed to locate Khasan Israilov inside the cave, we demanded that Ayub Murtazaliyev tell us about Khasan Israilov's new cave and its location. Ayub Murtazaliyev, who was pressured to a small extent, later deposed that Khasan had been taken to another cave by Dzhovatkhan Murtazaliyev's son Khas-Magomed. On February 15 we managed to arrest Khas-Magomed Murtazaliyev, who is now being interrogated by Comrade Tsereteli in Itum-Kale.

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State Defence Committee

Attn: Comrade Stalin, February 17, 1944

Preparations for an operation aiming to deport the Chechen and Ingush populations are currently being completed. All in all, 459,486 people, who are subject to deportation, have been registered. Their list includes people living in Daghestani areas, which border on Checheno-Ingushetia, and in the city of Vladikavkaz. Considering the operation's scale and the specifics of mountainous areas, it has been decided to deport the local populace (including the placement of local residents aboard trains) over an eight-day period. It will take us three days to complete this operation in all low-land areas and foot-hills, as well as in some mountainous areas, and to round up more than 300,000 people. The remaining 150,000 people shall be rounded up and deported within the next four days. ... Mountainous areas shall be sealed off well in advance. ... Considering the serious nature of this operation, I request permission to remain in the region prior to the operation's completion, for the most part, e.g. until the February 26-27, 1944 period.


Lavrenty Beria.

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State Defence Committee

Attn: Comrade Stalin, February 22, 1944

In addition to Cheka and army-level measures, we have implemented the following measures in order to successfully complete the entire operation aiming to deport the Chechen and Ingush populations on your orders.

1. Molayev, who chairs the Council Of People's Commissars Government) of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, was informed about the Government's decision to deport Chechen and Ingush populations, as well as about the relevant motives for such a decision. After hearing my report, Molayev quailed, subsequently regaining his composure and promising to fulfil all orders that will be issued to him in connection with the deportation. After that, we conferred with him in Grozny, choosing nine top Chechen and Ingush officials, who were informed about the pace of deporting Chechen and Ingush populations, as well as about the reasons for such a deportation. ... 40 Chechen and Ingush republican party and Soviet officials were attached by us to 24 districts and ordered to choose 2-3 persons from among local activists at every populated locality for conducting subsequent agitprop campaigns. We talked to the most influential clergymen in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, namely, Arsanov, Yandarov and Gaisumov, who were exhorted to assist us through mullahs and other influential local persons. ... The deportation shall commence at dawn February 23, 1944. It was intended to cordon off local districts for the purpose of preventing the populace from leaving territory of populated localities. The populace shall be invited to attend a rally, with some people receiving time for collecting their belongings. The rest shall be disarmed and taken to marshalling areas. As I see it, the deportation of Chechen and Ingush populations will prove to be successful.


Lavrenty Beria.

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State Defence Committee

Attn: Comrade Stalin, February 26, 1944

The deportation of Chechen and Ingush populations is proceeding normally. As of the evening of February 25, we have placed 342,647 people aboard trains. 86 trains have left the overall marshalling area for their new final destinations.


Lavrenty Beria.

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Excerpts from a report to USSR People's Commissar For Internal Affairs Lavrenty Beria

February 29, 1944

From Alma-Ata.

Preparations for receiving and resettling displaced persons in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic were mostly completed on February 25. 309,000 displaced persons are being settled at local collective farms. 42,000 people are being settled at state farms. Another 49,000 people are being accommodated at Kazakh enterprises. They are being transported aboard 1,590 motor vehicles, 57,000 horse-drawn carts and 103 tractors. 145 district-level and 375 village-level special NKVD commandants' offices comprising 1,358 operatives have been established in the vicinity of settlements.




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State Defence Committee

Attn: Comrade Stalin, March 1, 1944

I'd like to inform you about the results of an operation aiming to deport Chechen and Ingush populations. Their deportation began inside most districts, with the exception of highland populated localities, on February 23. 478,479 people, including 91,250 Ingush nationals, were deported and placed aboard trains by February 29. 180 trains have already been filled to capacity, with 159 of them leaving for their new final destinations. Trains containing former administrative officials and religious authorities of Checheno-Ingushetia, whose services were enlisted during the operation, have left the republic today. Owing to heavy snow-falls and rutty roads, 6,000 Chechens still remain to be resettled from some populated localities in Galanchozhsky district. They shall be rounded up and resettled within the next two days. The entire operation was conducted in a well-organized manner; nor was it marked by any serious cases of resistance and other incidents. ... We continue to comb forest areas, temporarily retaining an NKVD-force garrison, as well as an NKVD-operative squad, there. 2,016 anti-Soviet elements from among Chechen and Ingush populations were arrested during preparations for this operation and in its course. We have confiscated 20,072 fire-arms, including 4,868 rifles, as well as 479 machine-guns and sub-machine guns.


Lavrenty Beria.

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Excerpts from Lavrenty Beria's memorandum to Comrades Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov (Council Of People's Commissars) and Comrade Georgy Malenkov (Central Committee Of The Soviet Communist Party -- Bolsheviks)

July 1944

Aiming to fulfil the resolution of the State Defence Committee, the NKVD has resettled 602,193 North Caucasian residents to the Kazakh and Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republics over the February-March 1944 period. Their list includes 496,460 Chechen and Ingush nationals, 68,327 Karachais and 37,406 Balkars. The resettlement of this contingent from the North Caucasus to new residential areas was implemented in a satisfactory manner. 428,948 people were settled at local collective farms, with another 64,703 people settling down at state farms. 908,542 people have been allotted for the purposes of industrial labour. Most displaced persons (477,809 people, all told) were resettled to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. However, republican agencies of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic have failed to pay due attention to various issues as regards the job placement and economic activities of North Caucasian displaced persons. As a result, their everyday life, as well as their subsequent involvement in socially useful labour, were not satisfactory. The families of displaced persons, who were settled at local collective farms, were not admitted into agricultural artels (teams). The allocation of personal holdings and truck gardens to the families of displaced persons also left a lot to be desired. Those particular displaced persons, who were settled at state farms, and who were allotted for the purposes of industrial labour, didn't take a very active part in production. We have registered typhoid outbreaks, shortcomings in the organization of their economic and everyday activities, as well as thefts and felonies. In May 1944 Deputy People's Commissar For Internal Affairs Kruglov and a group of administrators were sent to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic for the purpose of re-establishing law and order there. In July 1944 2,196 displaced persons were arrested for committing various crimes. All cases were examined by the Special Conference. 429 special NKVD commandants' offices responsible for monitoring the life of displaced persons, for preventing attempted escapes, for rendering Cheka-and-police services and for facilitating the fastest possible resumption of economic activities on the part of displaced persons' families have been established. The economic standing of displaced persons has been improved. Of 70,296 families, which were settled at collective farms, 56,800 families, or 81 percent, have joined local agricultural artels. 83,303 families, or 74.3 percent, have received personal holdings and truck gardens. 12,683 families used to live in their own homes. Child-labour colonies have also been established, accommodating 1,268 children in June 1944. The employment situation has improved, as well. For example, 16,396 out of 16,927 active persons were engaged in physical labour on the territory of Dzhambul region.

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Excerpts from a report dealing with the activities of the USSR NKVD's displaced-persons department, which was established on March 17, 1944.

September 5, 1944

... And now a few words about Chechen and Ingush nationals. In the early 1930s a real threat of involving considerable masses in an insurgent adventure became imminent on the region's territory. Various excesses and provocations tended to fuel all-out discontent. Therefore the kulaks took advantage of such developments in order to stage open uprisings, as they enlisted the services of numerous middle-of-the-roader peasants. In a bid to crush this counter-revolutionary movement, a number of serious Cheka-level and combat operations involving artillery barrages and air strikes were staged over the March-April 1930 period. In 1932 an armed uprising involving more than 3,000 people was organized, engulfing all auls (mountain villages) in Nozhai-Yurt district, as well as a number of other auls. In late January 1941 an anti-Soviet uprising was provoked in the village of Khilda-Kharoi, Itum-Kale district, also involving local residents. At that time, Chechen and Ingush nationals began to desert en masse from the Red Army. More than 1,500 conscripts had deserted from the Red Army and labour battalions over the July 1941 - April 1942 period. The number of draft-dodgers stood at over 2,200. 850 men had deserted from one national cavalry division alone.

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Top Secret

For your information

December 29, 1944, No. 494

Comrades Kakuchaya and Drozdov have informed USSR People's Commissar For Internal Affairs Comrade Kruglov that his orders have been fulfilled. Khasan Israilov has been killed; his body has been identified and photographed. NKVD agents have now been ordered to eliminate all remaining gangs.

Comrade Leontyev orders Comrade Barannikov to request a detailed report.


State Security Captain Malyshev, section chief, USSR NKVD's Main Anti-Banditry Department.

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Attn: Comrade Stalin

Comrade Molotov

Comrade Beria

Comrade Malenkov

January 31, 1946

... Chechen national Magomed Khutuyev, who works for the Tenth October Anniversary collective farm in the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic's Dzhalal-Abad region, has addressed a rally of collective farmers, noting that he wanted to thank Comrade Stalin for displaying great care toward displaced persons. We are considered to be one Soviet family. We'll take part in these elections, voting for our dear Communist Party's candidates ... Mullah Aliyev, who lives at a collective farm in Dzhambul region's Sverdlovsk district, called on displaced persons not to take part in the vote, explaining his opinion by the fact that no representatives of Chechen and Ingush populations had been nominated for the USSR Supreme Soviet (Parliament)...


USSR People's Commissar For Internal Affairs


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Attn: Comrade Stalin


RESOLUTION No. 1,927 dated July 28, 1945

Moscow, the Kremlin.


The Council Of USSR People's Commissars hereby resolves:

1. North Caucasian displaced persons, as well as those from the Crimea, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Kalmyks, shall be exempted from fulfilling the following tasks at their new settlements:

a) they shall be exempted from delivering agricultural produce to the state on a mandatory basis;

b) they shall be exempted from paying agricultural tax, income tax, as well as the relevant tax being levied on agricultural incomes at townships. 2. The afore-said displaced persons shall have the relevant debts being owed by them within the framework of agricultural tax, income tax being levied on agricultural incomes at townships, as well as within the framework of mandatory agricultural-produce deliveries to the state (at their new places of residence) written off.


Deputy Chairman Of The Council Of USSR People's Commissars


Chief Of The Business Department Of The Council Of USSR People's Commissars


Not to be published by the press. No. 139/19

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Decree Of The Presidium Of The USSR Supreme Soviet


Considering the fact that present-day restrictions of the legal status of displaced persons, e.g. Chechen, Ingush and Karachai nationals, as well as that of members of their families, who had been deported from the North Caucasus during the Great Patriotic War, are no longer required, the Presidium Of The USSR Supreme Soviet hereby resolves:

1. To abolish the displaced-person status of Chechen, Ingush and Karachai nationals, as well as that of members of their families, who had been deported from the North Caucasus during the Great Patriotic War, and to stop subjecting them to administrative surveillance. 2. Stipulating that the decision to lift the relevant restrictions as regards displaced persons listed in article 1 of this Decree shall not entail the return of their property, which had been confiscated during deportation. Apart from that, such persons shall have no right to return to those specific places, from where they had been deported.


Chairman Of The Presidium Of The USSR Supreme Soviet


Secretary Of The Presidium Of The USSR Supreme Soviet


Moscow, the Kremlin

July 16, 1956

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For your information:


In February 1944 more than 496,000 Chechen and Ingush nationals had been deported from the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Of that number, 411,000 people (85,000 families) had been deported to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. Another 85,500 people (20,000 families) had been deported to the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist republic. As of today, 315,000 Chechen and Ingush nationals live in Kazakhstan; about 80,000 people now live in Kirghizia. The majority of the Chechen-Ingush population are employed, working in a conscientious manner. Of 244,000 adults, 155,000, or 63.5 percent, have jobs. 38,300 people are employed at industrial enterprises, with 91,600 people working within the framework of the agricultural sector. Another 25,000 people work for various organizations and agencies. An on-site check has revealed that an overwhelming majority of all Chechen and Ingush nationals fare just about as well, as they used to, while staying in the North Caucasus. They have their own homes, cows and poultry. However, quite a few Chechen and Ingush nationals, who have talked to us, voiced their discontent over the fact that they are not allowed to return to the places of their previous residence, insistently requesting permission to leave for the North Caucasus. More than 6,000 people have returned to the former autonomous republic's territory after the abolition of their displaced-person status. The Grozny, Daghestani and North Ossetian regional committees of the CPSU (Communist Party Of The Soviet Union) react negatively to the possible return of Chechen and Ingush nationals to the places of their previous residence, explaining their position by the fact that the economic potential of the former Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic makes it impossible to employ them and to resettle them accordingly. Party and Soviet officials explain the undesirability of resettling Chechen and Ingush nationals by the fact that some of them had earned a bad reputation for themselves in the past, also retaining such a reputation at this stage.




November 14, 1956.




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