Menu
RSS

Ubykhs, by T. Tatlok - Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958)

T. TATLOK (Ramazan TRAHO 

Born in Northern Caucasus. Philologist. Until World War II he worked in various academic and educational institutions, both in Moscow and in the Caucasus. Published monographs and articles on Northern Caucasus. Editor of the Vestnik of the Institute of Study of the USSR.

''The Ubykhs'', Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958), pp. 100-109 (Munich)

The Ubykhs were a Circassian people, closely related, linguistically and ethnically, to the Abkhazians of the present-day Abkhazian ASSR, but who occupied a place quite apart in the western group of the peoples of the Caucasus. At the same time, they were not ethnically absolutely homogeneous but were split up into a number of tribal communities which differed from each other territorially, economically, and politically and had preserved certain linguistic peculiarities. Among these separate groups were the tribes known as the Vardane, Sasshe, Khize, Subashi, and Alani. Of these, the first two were the most progressive, economically and socially, and inhabited the valleys of the Vardane and Sochi Rivers and possessed a more advanced agriculture and horticulture. 

The Ubykhs inhabited the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus from the Shakhe River to the Khosta (Khamysh) River. In the east they were contiguous with Dzhigets (Sadzy) and Akhchipsou, Abkhazian tribes living in the present Gagry and Sochi areas, and in the west, with the Shapsugs whose territory stretched along the sea as far as the Pshada River. The Abdzakhs (Abadzekhs) were neighbors of the Ubykhs on the north, occupying the northern slopes of the main mountain range within the confines of the Belaya River and Pshish River basins. It is difficult to estimate the number of Ubykhs existing at the time of their subjugation by Tsarist Russia in the middle of the last century, but some Russian sources have given a figure of forty to fifty thousand.

 

Until 1830 the Ubykhs did not have any serious clashes with the Russians as the Tsarist government did not wish to become involved with Turkey. However, the Adrianople treaty of 1829, in which Turkey ceded to Tsarist Russia all rights to the Black Sea coastal area of the Caucasus, opened the way for the Russians to attempt a conquest of the western Caucasus. These plans were already well advanced by 1830 and involved the occupation of the Abkhazian coast and the establishment of direct land communications between Sukhum and Anapa by the so-called “Abkhazian expedition.” The task of executing the plan, devised by Paskevich, was entrusted to Major General Gesse who, in July 1830, sent his force of two thousand infantry and cavalry from Redut-kale to Sukhum, from whence a part of it was dispatched by sea for a landing operation in Gagry while the remaining troops were moved along the coast from Sukhum via Lykhny to Pitsunda. Although the Russians occupied a few points along the coast of Abkhazia, they were forced to abandon the major portion of the campaign due to lack of familiarity with the local terrain and thus the Ubykhs were temporarily spared the “blessings” of Russian civilization.

 

The Ubykhs, however, did not remain indifferent to the approach of the Tsarist forces toward their frontiers and actively supported their neighbors in the struggle which had developed in the western Caucasus. There were Ubykhs in the ranks of the Sadzy (Dzhigets) who, in August 1830, resolutely stormed the Gagry fortifications erected by General Gesse. They also fought in the Kuban, where they came in answer to an appeal by the Shapsugs, Natukhais, and Abadzekhs to take part in the raids on the Georgievsko-Afonskoe and Alekseevskoe fortifications built by General Emmanuel in the summer of 1830.

 

From 1831 until 1836 the Russian command in the Caucasus refrained from any ambitious attempts to advance along the coast of the Black Sea and confined itself to the defense of Gagry in the south and Anapa and Gelenzhik in the north. However, the Ubykhs soon came face to face with the Russians when, acting on direct orders from Nicholas I who visited the Caucasus in 1837, construction was commenced on a series of fortifications along the coast, three of these, the Golovinskoe, the Navagiriskoe, and Svyatoi Dukh, situated on the territory occupied by the Ubykhs. This dealt a fatal blow to their coastal trade with the Turks and brought the danger of invasion by Tsarist forces into the interior of their land itself It is therefore hardly astonishing that these acts provoked the unanimous protest of the Ubykhs and drove them into a bitter struggle against the invaders. The resistance encountered by the Russian forces in the Ubykh land was so fierce that the Russian commander was constantly forced to reinforce these three garrisons and to give up all thoughts, temporarily, of advancing into the interior and to concentrate on defending the coastal areas and fortifications.[1]

 

The military organization of the Ubykhs at this time was described by General N. Dubrovin, the official historian of the Tsarist government:

 

Before undertaking an expedition... the Ubykhs chose a leader. He could only be a man noted for his bravery... During the expedition, the leader could rely on the complete obedience of his party... It was left to the leader to act on his own imitative and not to disclose his intentions to anyone beforehand... An uninhabited pass usually served as an assembly point for the party. Only decrepit old men and small children did not take part in the expedition. Everyone undertook to provide the necessary clothes… and food. When a force of from eight hundred to three thousand had assembled, the leader went to the assembly point to inspect the clothes and provisions of those present... After inspection, the force was split up into a vanguard and a rearguard. Men from the same village were formed into units of ten to a hundred men. Each unit had its own commander who gave orders, led his men, and, in important cases, reported to the leader to obtain instructions and to confer... The Ubykhs marched in files of two. They raided only at night, before dawn. Before a raid, the leader divided his force into three parts, the first two, consisting of the most able, for the attack and the third, consisting of the old and young, cooks, treefellers, etc, formed the reserve.[2]

 

The Berzek [Berzeg -- editor] family provided the military and political leadership during the first stage of Ubykh resistance against the Russians. Members of the Berzeg family were among the most frequently chosen to lead military raids. The well-known Khadzhi-Berzeg hailed from this family. He enjoyed great authority, not only among the Ubykhs, but throughout the western Caucasus In 1839, the Tsarist government placed a substantial price on his head.[3]

 

From the very beginning, Khadzhi-Berzeg did not confine himself to the defense of the territory inhabited by the Ubykhs, but set out to organize the joint resistance of all the neighboring nations and tribes. Together with the Shapsugs, he and his Ubykh forces attacked the Mikhailovskoe fortification on the Vulan River in 1837. With the Abkhazian tribe of Akhchipsou, he threatened the Sadzy (Dzhigets) in 1839 for not resisting the Tsarist troops. He conducted negotiations on joint action with the Pskhuvs and sent couriers to Pabal and Dal, whose inhabitants were threatening Sukhum-Kale.

 

This urge to unite in resisting the Tsarist invaders found an echo in the hearts of the West Caucasian peoples. The liberation movement became general in the spring of 1840 because of a terrible famine caused by a poor harvest and the loss of their cattle due to a particularly hard winter. Cut off from the coast by the Russian fortification, the inhabitants were unable to improve their lot by the usual trade with Turkey and hence had cause to resent the encroachment of the invaders. They rose against the Russians in early 1840 and, within a period of six weeks, stormed and captured four fortifications, the Lazarevskoe, Golovinskoe, Velyaminskoe, and Mikhailovskoe.

 

The tactics employed in the seizure of the first of these fortifications deserves description since it was indicative of the type of imaginative leadership possessed by the Ubykhs which caused the Russian campaign against them to drag on for so many years. The Ubykhs employed the technique of the trojan horse in the capture of the Lazarevskoe fortress. They sent Shogan-Musa to this fortress three months prior to the attack to pretend that he was fleeing from Ubykh persecution so that he might spy out the weak and vulnerable points which would enable the attacking force to effect complete and sudden surprise. The Russians permitted Shogan-Musa to remain at the fortress as a refugee, but on the night before the attack, he escaped and returned with a small force which silenced the sentries and opened the gates to a force of twelve hundred Ubykhs, Shapsugs, and Natukhais. The attack was a complete success and resulted in the capture of the fort after three hours of fighting during which the entire contingent of 184 officers and men were either killed or captured despite the strength of the fortifications and the number of cannon which could control all approaches with grape-shot.

 

The overall strategy of the Ubykhs during this part of the campaign was also shrewdly devised as the first blow did not take place at those fortresses in the Ubykh area, but against those barring that part of the coast belonging to the Shapsugs. By this plan, the Ubykh leadership ensured the faithful support of their allies who could feel that they were fighting for their own land and people. Also, the Ubykhs knew that these forts were undermanned since from fifty to seventy-five percent of the personnel were down with scurvy and malaria. The result of this first blow was a wedge was driven between the first and second section of the Black Sea line and the remaining garrisons were cut off from any hope of relief from the north and appeared to be threatened with certain destruction. Another result was the immediate swelling of the ranks of the rebels by the people in the area in which the fighting occurred. The only fault one can find in the strategy is that no attempt was made to link up with Shamil who was then fighting against Russian forces in nearby Daghestan.

 

Unfortunately for the future success of the Ubykhs, the other Circassian tribes, including the Abadzekhs, remained passive during this struggle so that only the Shapsugs and Natukhais supported the uprising. The leadership of the Ubykhs in this campaign was recognized by the Russian government which reprimanded the commander of the local forces, General Raevsky, and ordered him to send a punitive expedition immediately to “the land of the Ubykhs and “to burn and destroy their crops and reserves.” In his report to Chernyshev, the defense minister, Raevsky invited his attention to the need for:

 

…more resolute action against the Ubykhs... We can scarcely defend Abkhazia so long as  the Ubykhs are in touch with the Dzhigets. This makes it essential to drive the latter to complete submission and then, by means of the combined forces of the Dzhigets and Abkhazia, supported by our forces, to undertake resolute action against the Ubykhs...[4]  

 

The resistance against the Russian invader soon petered out due to lack of unity among the Caucasian tribes. The Shapsugs and Natukhais living on the northern slopes of the main Caucasian range remained passive during this time, while the rest of the tribes participating in the attacks against the fortifications in February and March of 1840 soon dispersed, believing that the campaign was completed. This lack of a unified force in the field enabled the Tsarist command to reoccupy the ruins of the Velyaminovskoe and Lazarevskoe fortresses in May 1840 and, from there, to launch punitive expeditions along the Psezuape River which resulted in the burning of thirteen Shapsug mountain villages and the destruction of many vineyards and plantations.

 

The renewed offensive by the Russians found the Ubykhs all alone. No longer able to rely on the Shapsugs, the Ubykhs, under the leadership of Khadzhi-Berzeg, tried to gain the support of the tribes in the southeastern part of the Caucasus, the Sadzy (Dzhiget), Achkhipsou, Aibga and other Abkhazian tribes. This search became even more urgent as the Tsarist government was pressing the Dzhiget nobility to strike the Ubykhs from the direction of the Mzumty River. By the fall of 1840, Khadzhi-Berzeg was able to gather a force of twenty-five hundred Ubykhs and Achkhipses which appeared on the banks of the Bzyb River from where he sent couriers to the Dais. His plans were apparently blocked by internal disputes with other Ubykh tribal notables headed by the leader of the Sochi Ubykhs, Aubla-Akhmet, who were more inclined to appeasement with the Russians.

 

By this time, the Russian garrisons of the coastal fortifications from Glendzhik to Adler had been doubled, mostly at the expense of the garrisons in Abkhazia. Khadzhi-Berzeg took advantage of this to become more active in that region since he had allies there among the Achkhipsou, Pskhu, and Dais, who, under the leadership of Izmail Dopua, had revolted during the summer of 1840 in the Kodor area, undoubtedly in conjunction with the uprising of the Ubykhs. The political situation in Abkhazia caused the Tsarist command considerable concern as can be seen by General Raevsky’s report of November 23, 1840 to Count Chernyshev. Raevsky requested reinforcement of the garrisons in Abkhazia,

 

as a reserve of the coastal line. If this is not forthcoming, there will be a repetition during the coming winter of what happened last winter and I do not know what will happen to Abkhazia if Khadzhi-Berzeg moves against it with fifteen thousand men as he did last year against the coastal fortifications.[5] 

Raevsky’s request was granted and the garrisons of Sukhum, Gagry, Bombory, and other fortifications were reinforced and, toward the end of December 1840, a punitive expedition was organized to “compel the obedience of the insurgent Dals.” Despite stubborn resistance, Dal was captured in January 1841, its inhabitants were evicted, and their dwellings were burned. However, on February 15, 1841, a force of about a thousand Ubykhs, lead by Kerentukh Berzeg, a nephew of Khadzhi-Berzeg, made a deep raid into Bzyb Abkhazia and attacked the settlement of Otkhary, which belonged to the ruler of Abkhazia, Prince Mikhail Shervashidze [Mikhail Chachba in Abkhaz -- editor] [6].

 

In the meantime, the Ubykhs did not leave the coastal fortifications in peace. The commander of the Caucasian Independent Corps, General Golovin, reported to Count Chernyshev:

 

Between the Lazarevskoe and Golovinskoe fortifications, they (the Ubykhs. – T. T.) have a few cannon with which they are training gunners with the intention of bombarding both these fortifications. Between the Golovinskoe and Navaginskoe forts there is a fairly considerable concentration of mountaineers who are constantly harrying these two forts by firing on them at night.[7]

 

The erection of the coastal fortifications along the coast in Abkhazia and the punitive expeditions mounted by the Russians into the interior of the country finally made it safe for Prince Mikhail Shervashidze to return. He had been proclaimed by the Russians as the ruler of Abkhazia in 1824, but had not been able to establish himself there after being banished by the rebel Abkhazians. He and his stooges Hasan Chachba, Hasan Maan, Kats, Zvanbaya, and others, were loyal executioners of Tsarist policy and had received for their “zeal in the Tsar’s service” the rank of officers, awards, and gifts of money.[8]

 

On May 9, 1841, the first meeting took place between Ubykh delegates, headed by Khadzhi-Berzeg, with general Anrep, who invited also the Ubykh appeaser, Aubla-Akhmet, and Prince Mikhail Shervashidze with his Abkhazian supporters. Differences immediately arose in the Ubykh delegation as Aubla-Akhmet favored peace with the Russians, but the Ubykhs from Vardane and the vicinity of the Golovinskoe (Shakhe) fortifications vehement supported the anti-Russian stand of their fellow tribesmen. This first round of talks ended on May 12, 1841 when Aubla-Akhmet took the oath of allegiance to the “throne of all Russia” and the other Ubykh delegates left the meeting in protest. This was reported by General Anrep on May 20, 1841 as follows:

 

The Ubykhs, assembled in considerable number, arrested the acquiescent princes, Aubla-Akhmet and Zurab Khamysh, and several others who had negotiated with us when I was at the Svyatoi Dukh fortification… Princes Aubla-Akhniet and Zurab Khamysh were forced to repudiate their oath of allegiance and only then were they released from arrest.[9]

 

Khadzhi-Berzeg renewed military operations. In early June 1841, a Russian force consisting of twelve infantry companies. Half a hundred Cossacks, and six cannon, reinforced by the Abkhazian “militia” of Prince Mikhail Shervashidze [Mikhail Chachba in Abkhaz -- editor], appeared at the mouth of the Mzymty River near the Svyatoi Dukh fortress. This move compelled the Ubykhs to renew negotiations with the Russians in order to gain time, to which the Russians agreed as they did not feel strong enough at that time to inflict a decisive defeat on the Ubykhs. The agreements reached at this meeting were half-hearted and obviously tentative. General Muravyev reported:

 

 I persuaded the Ubykhs to agree to the following conditions:

1) I am giving them three months to decide whether to follow the example of the Dzhigets and submit to the government and swear allegiance;

2) During this period they are not to use force against the Dzhigets who have submitted to us or to cross their lands for raids against Abkhazia;

3) They are to return to the Dzhigets immediately all hostages who have been long in their keeping; and

4) The Dzhigets, in return, will not raid Ubykh land.[10]

 

The agreement with the Ubykhs was concluded on June 4, 1841, but did not last long. It was first violated by the Russians, but the Ubykhs did not waste any time either. Their representatives negotiated with the Shapsugs, Natukhais, and Abdzakhs in an endeavor to organize another general uprising on the Black Sea coast. N. Dubrovin quotes from the Defter (Book) adopted at such a “National assembly of Circassian tribes” held in 1841 in Pshekha village.

 

None of us must go over to the infidels. Friendly relations with the infidels are strictly forbidden and therefore any peace or offer from their side must always be rejected . . . As soon as Russian forces enter the country, each one must take up arms and go where danger calls.[11]

 

This attempt by the Ubykhs to gain the support of Shapsugs and Abdzakhs was unsuccessful as the Abdzakhs were menaced by the operations of General Zass on the Kuban River and the Shapsugs were already fighting on two fronts against the same Zass in the north and the Russian garrisons of the coastal forts in the south. The Ubykhs were also unsuccessful in their attempt to storm the Navaginskoe fortress in which they used some of the captured cannon in their possession. When General Muravyev dispatched a part of his force to Navaginskoe, the Ubykhs were forced to retreat into the mountains. This move by General Muravyev into ‘‘the heart of Ubykh land’’ undermined the morale of the Ubykh and Khadzhi-Berzeg was compelled to withdraw from their leadership.[12]  This change in leadership did not lead to Russian victory as a patriarchal democracy of the tribal leaders continued the resistance, it was later reported that eighty-eight engagements had been fought on the Black Sea coast during the period from 1841-46, the greater part of them around the Golovinskoe and Navaginskoe fortification situated in Ubykh land.[13]

 

During this same period, the Russian forces conducted most of their activities primarily along the coast and did not attempt many deep ‘‘reconnaissances’’ or punitive expeditions. This may appear strange at first, but it must be remembered that the attention of the Russian forces were concentrated in the Eastern Caucasus where the Daghestani peoples were winning one victory after another over the best regiments of Nicholas I. In 1842, Shamil inflicted a terrible defeat on General Grabbé in the forests of Ichkeria. By 1843, not a single Russian soldier remained in Chechnya and North Daghestan. In 1845, the grandiose Dargin expedition ended in a complete fiasco when General Vorontsov, the commander-in-chief in the Caucasus, barely escaped capture after leaving over one third of his soldiers and his artillery and supply columns in the hands of the enemy. After liberating Daghestan and Chechnya, Shamil continued his advance westward into Kabarda. These victories of Shamil undoubtedly stirred the Ubykhs to renewed activity and once again they began playing a leading role along the coast.

 

In the summer of 1844, the Ubykhs once again organized a general resistance along the coast and, with the Shapsugs, they aimed a blow in the direction of Abkhazia in January 1846. Here again they were not successful although they did provoke a great deal of unrest among the Abkhazians. On January 15, the Abkhazians attacked the troops of Pitsunda garrison and February 4 there was a clash between ten Abkhazians and a squad of soldiers who had come out to fell trees near Sukhum-kale. Fighting was particularly intense in the Dal and Tsabal areas. In July 1846, about four thousand Ubykhs and Shapsugs besieged the Golovinskoe fortification for twelve days.

 

In 1845, Shamil’s emissary, Suleiman Effendi, visited the Natukhais and Abdzakhs in an attempt to raise a force among the Adygeis to help Shamil. This attempt was unsuccessful, but Suleiman Effendi’s appeals greatly influenced the Adygeis to step up their activities within their own native land. General Budberg wrote:

 

The Shapsugs held a meeting of several elders loyal to Shamil between the Tengingskoe and Velyaminovskoe fortifications in the certainty that, in the early spring, their undertaking would succeed as it did in 1840... According to rumors, which need confirmation, this meeting was held on the suggestion of Suleiman Effendi.[14]

 

However; the attempts of Shamil to draw the peoples of the Western Caucasus into the Imamate orbit did not end here. In 1848, he sent another emissary, Mohammed-Emin, to the Kuban. At first Mohammed-Emin was active among the Abdzakhs and Bzhedukhs, but on the eve of the Crimean War, he appeared on the coast among the Ubykhs where his efforts had the greatest success During the Crimean War, all the garrisons along the coast of the Black Sea were evacuated as their position was considered untenable in the race of contemplated landings by Anglo-French and Turkish forces and the simultaneous attacks by the Adygei and Ubykhs.

 

For three years, the Adygeis and Ubykhs enjoyed respite from Russian invasions, but at the end of the Crimean War, the Tsarist forces resumed their conquest of the Caucasus. They began by occupying Abkhazia and closed the country with a ring of forts comprising the so-called Adagumskaya and Belorechenskaya lines. In the summer of 1857, a bitter struggle was waged for Gagry in which the Ubykhs fought by the side of the Sadzy. On , April 1, they raided the domains of the Abkhazian princes at the settlement of Koldokhvary and in May they attacked a landing party of Russian troops which had occupied the former Gagry fortress. The example of the Ubykhs prompted resistance in the Abkhazians.

 

Recently the number of people discontented with the present state of affairs in Abkhazia has increased considerably in the Bzyb district and, by joining the mountaineers, they can cause great disorder in Abkhazia.[15]

 

This was written by General Gagarin in 1857, justifying his orders to concentrate thirteen hundred infantry on Cape Pitsunda, and in May 1859, General Filippson confessed:

 

The situation in Abkhazia has not changed for the better. Our soldiers cannot stray from their fortification for even one verst without running into the danger of being killed or taken prisoner. In short, we occupy Abkhazia, but we do not rule it.[16]

 

Once again the opportunity was lost. A strong leadership, capable of organizing the common struggle, was lacking. At that time Shamil, surrounded by an iron ring of a two hundred thousand-man Russian army, was fighting like a wounded lion with his remaining handful of Murids. In August 1859, it was all over in Daghestan. The commander-in-chief of the Caucasian army, Prince Baryatinsky, issued his famous order. “Gunib has been taken. Shamil is a prisoner. I congratulate the Caucasian army.”

 

This new terrible danger united the Ubykhs, Shapsugs, and Abdzakhs who decided to continue fighting. In, June 1861, a congress was held in the Sochi valley of the “elected elders” at which important decisions were made. Prince Gagarin, the Kutaisi governor-general, gives the following description of the situation among the Circassians at this time.

 

            I must give our enemies their due. The Circassians have not lost either their heads or their hearts. On the contrary, they have decided to fight for their independence not only with arms, but with an energetic appeal to foreign powers. Whereas, of necessity, the main role in the matter of armed resistance has fallen on the Abadzekhs, the Ubykhs, who are no less enthusiastic over their joint cause, have taken the administrative and diplomatic initiative in keeping with their determination...  In the first place, they have turned their attention to their internal affairs and are seeking to replace internecine strife with powerful centralization, which in normal times is subject to so many restrictions, but into which, in moments of great danger, all forms of social order have developed at all times  everywhere. To this end they have set up a Medzhlis (parliament. - T. T.). In order to from the Circassians to the Consul of Great Britain in Sukhum. This, among other things, is what the letter says:

 

“On the 17th day of zilkhidzh 1277 (June 13,1861. -T. T. ), all Circassians were invited to attend a council to restore Arrakhian rule and establish independence. They all unanimously decided to establish an Extra-ordinary Union and not to secede from it so as to maintain internal order and to punish those who secede from it. (In the Circassian domain, a Medzhlis of fifteen ulema theologians. - T. T.) and wise men has been established. This Medzhlis has been given the name of Great and Free Assembly. On the decision of the Medzhlis, twelve districts have been set up in our land. In each district, muftis and kadis and also a mukhtar (headman. - T. T.). under the name of zaptie, have been nominated. They must execute the orders of the Medzhlis and act in accord with the Great Assembly. In the Circassian domain, five horsemen are to be enrolled from every hundred hearths, to execute the directions of the district mokakem (court. - T. T.) on the collection of revenue and the imposition of taxes and the administration and observation of escheat, In all cases, the revenues should exceed expenditures and, thanks to Allah, the great Medzhlis of Circassian freedom, in administering the land, should always live up to its mission.[17]  

 

The letter quoted by Prince Gagarin is a document of great historical value. The draft of the Ubykh constitution of 1861 shows a high degree of political awareness and from it we learn the nature of the democratic order which the Ubykhs and their allies tried to establish. The letter is also interesting in another connection as it discloses their intention to appeal to international public opinion in order to receive aid from states hostile to Tsarist Russia. The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War was fresh in the memories of the Ubykhs and it strengthened their hopes of foreign intervention. It is very characteristic that the Ubykhs approached not the Turkish government, but England, realizing presumably the advantages of the British Empire over Turkey. The style of the letter is very interesting as it reveals no hint of groveling before the might of the addressee, no humiliating request to be accepted as subject, etc. The “Great and Free Medzhlis” speaks to the government of England as an equal, seeking not so much a patron, as an ally. The Ubykhs received no help since their letter was intercepted by the Russians, but it is not likely that it would have been of much use in any event.

 

Shortly afterwards, there was bitter fighting for literally every inch of Abdzakh land on the northern slopes of the main range. Fighting by their side were the Ubykhs sent by the Medzhlis. Their gallantry, self-sacrifice, and heroism astounded even the Tsarist generals.

 

The Ubykhs lost sixty killed from their best families. Despite this telling loss, the Ubykhs once again pledged themselves to fight even more resolutely and, in order not to weaken themselves and not to give the reluctant an excuse for staying a way, they decided, contrary to national custom, not to send their dead and wounded home. They then in the most drastic terms and with threats of implacable hatred insisted that the Dzhigets sent forth two thousand men. It was clear that all the vital forces of the unruly lands, on which it might be said the fate of the Caucasus depended inspired by deathless unanimity, joined against the forces of Count Evdokimov.[18]

 

Toward the end of 1863, the Russians forced the Abdzakhs to capitulate and then crossed to the southern slopes of the main range and occupied the Pshady and Dzhugbi passes in the land of the Shapsugs. In February 1864, the Ubykhs were surrounded by a tight ring of Russian forces and on March 6, 1864, they ceased resistance. The Ubykh elders headed by the Berzegs opened armistice negotiations with General Heiman who demanded, in accordance with the wishes of Alexander II, that

 

those who wished to go to Turkey should assemble in encampments on the sea coast at the mouth of the rivers Shakhe, Vardane, and Sochi where Turkish ships may come. Those who wish to join us should begin at once to move to the Kuban where land will be allotted to them.[19]

 

During March 1864, in the angry glare of burning villages, some thirty thousand Ubykhs made their way to the coast to go to Turkey. A few families were removed to the Kuban and were later resettled in the Kostroma province. On May 21, 1864, the Tsar’s governor-general in the Caucasus, the Grand Duke Michael, reported to St. Petersburg “the end of the Caucasian war.”

 

There are now no more Ubykhs in the Caucasus and all traces of their material culture have disappeared in the flames of war. Those remaining, live in Turkey (in the Manias [Manyas -- editor] area near Izmit and Adapazar [Adapazarı –editor]) and other countries (Syria, Jordan, etc.). This same fate had overtaken other North Caucasian before the Ubykhs. During the period of 1859-63, the Shapsugs, Natukhais, Zhane and most of the Bzhedukhs and Kemirgois were expelled and, in 1865, the Checheno-Ingushes, Ossetians, and Karachay-Balkars followed. In this respect the Tsarist regime and the Soviet government were identical, as eighty years later, the Bolsheviks deported the Checheno-Ingushes and Karachay-Balkars to areas in Kazakhstan and Central Asia as unacceptable to the regime and their national autonomies were abolished with the stroke of a pen.

 

On February 9, 1957, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree restoring the national autonomies of the Karachay-Balkars and the Checheno-Ingushes and permitting them to return home. Only recently have the first groups returned their homeland, but they have not been able to find employment nor have they received any of their confiscated property, and do not live in their own villages.[20]

 

Today, the Ubykhs have virtually disappeared from the pages of history, but it is certain, in view of their past history of struggle against oppression, that their fate in the USSR would have been the same as the other small nationalities there who have resisted, aid continue to resist, racial destruction.

 

 

1.     Fadeev. “Ubykhi v osvoboditelnom dvishenii na zapadnom Kavkaze’’ (The Ubykhs. in the Liberation Movement in the Western Caucasus) Istorichesky sbornik, Works of the Historical Commission of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, No. 4, Moscow-Leningrad, 1935, pp. 142-144, and F. A. Shcherbina, Istoriya Kubanskogo kazachyego voiska (The History of the Kuban Cossack Army), Vol. I-II, Ekaterinodar 1910, p. 251.

2.     N. F. Dubrovin Istoriya voiny i vladychesta russkikh na Kavkaze (The History of the War and Rule of the Russians in the Caucasus) Vol. I, Book I, St. Petersburg, 1871, pp. 254-257.

3.      Ibid.

4.      Fadeev op. cit., pp. 143-149.

5.      Ibid., pp. 148-153.

6.     Zhurnal voennymi proisshestviyamiv 3 otdelenii Chernomorskoi beregovoi linii (Journal of Military Events in the Third Section of the Cost Line of the Black Sea), from February 15 to 20, 1841, and Fadeev, op. cit., p. 154.

7.      ‘‘Vospominaniya generala Filippsona’’ (The Reminiscences of General Filippson) Russky arkhiv, p. 209.

8.     Fadeev, op. cit., p. 155.

9.    Ibid., pp, 156-158,

10.  N. F. Dubrovin, Cherkesy (The Circassians) published by the Adyghei Local Lore Research Society, Krasnodar, 1927, p. l58

11.  Ibid., p. 159.

12.  Ibid.

13.  Fadeev, op. cit., pp. 157-167.

14.  Ibid., p. 168

15.  Ibid.

16.  Ibid,  pp. 169-172.

17.  Akty Kavkazskoi arkheograficheskoi komissi (Documents of the Caucasian Archeographical Commission) Vol. XII, Pt. 3. P. 618.

18.  Fadeev, op. cit., pp. 173-175.

19.  Ibid., pp 179—-180, 181.

20.  Izvestia, February 12, 1957 and Kavkazsky sbornik (Caucasian Review), .No.4, published by the Institute for the Study of the USSR. Munich, 1957, p. 7.

 

Related

Country

News

Articles & Opinion

Publications

Abkhaz World

Follow Us