Russian-Circassian War 1763 - 21 May 1864
Isam Hatk (Journal "Al-Waha"-"Oasis", Amman, 1992., #51, p.10-15
There are lot of facts bearing witness to violent eviction of Circassians from their historical lands, but only a few people know how this nation could manage to opposite the one of the greatest countries: Great Britain, Austria, Turkey and Russia. None of these powers could risk resisting Russia openly, especially after routing by Russians the Napoleon's army. But Circassians, not very big nation could resist Russian Empire with her well-trained and armored army for 200 years.
Without going into details I'll remind that Circassians are not the heap of militant highland tribes who have no idea about "politics".
Such a fact can serve as a best proof of it. In 1839 there were several documents made by Circassians. One of them is the "Independence Declaration": "Well armored Russian army accounting for about 100000 soldiers is at war with Circassians, and maybe tomorrow they may happened to invade you. Now they need Caucasus Mountains, tomorrow they'll go down from them and seize your beautiful green lowlands. Our eternal mountains and brave jighits are standing and protecting Turkey, Iran, and India now. If you don't help us you'll be seized and destroyed.
There are 4000000 of us; we divided into numerous tribes. But we have our costumes and traditions, kings and rulers. We don't have one - the united Law but our ancestors' customs control us better than any laws made in any up-to-date country".
In the X-Th century (in 913, 923, 954 and 971 ) Russian squads headed by Sviatoslav a lot of times came up to the Circassian borders. About 55000 lives took away these bloody altercations. Nevertheless, in 960 Russians and Circassians could unite and come out against their common enemy- Khazaria.
In the XI-th century the massacre between Redada and prince Mstislave was taken place. The result-20000 Circassians were killed. Practically after that incident the long-time millitary actions between Circassians and Russians began.
In 1772 the serious collision between the troops of Peter the Great and Circassian Prince Aslan Kaytouko was taken place. In the fort Kizlar of Russian army there were 10.000 soldiers. The battle was occurred on Daghestan territory. A lot of people from both sides were killed and finally Russians stepped back.
In the same XVIII century Russians tried to divide Caucasus in two parts (near Mezdoghu). And only the courage of Circassians and Chechens who defended their Motherland disturbed them.
From 1742 Islam began to spread on the territories of North and West Caucasus. Russia tried to take this opportunity to explain her military actions on Caucasus and to scare Europe by Moslem expansion.
Such a situation continued till 1794 when the Belgrad document was signed where Russia Osman Empire agreed to leave Caucasus independent. It's a rather comic fact that Russia and Osman Empire agreed to grant Caucasus independence but meanwhile as a matter of fact Caucasus didn't depend of them.
The main military battles.
In 1763-1777 near the fort of Mezdagh the military actions began and then engulfed all the territory along Terek.
During Ekaterine the II's rule action didn't reduce, but probably increased. Ekaterine the II sent an army of 120.000 soldiers to Caucasus. During the battles Circassians lost 30.000 men killed. In 1774 Osman Empire sent an army for Circassians to help, but it was too late. Russians managed to takeover Cuban and Taman peninsula. Turkeys returned with nothing not even trying to win back the native Circassian lands.
During this period Russia carried out military actions not only in Caucasus but also in Europe.
Having took this opportunity Circassians made several impacts on russian army in a different directions: part of them tried to get back the seized territories, and other part - attacked Kizlar and Mezdagh, and the third part undertook military actions on Taman peninsula having out flanked russian army. In the course of military actions russians lost about 10.000 men killed.
In 1776 russian army built several forts on Terek to encircle Circassians from the north. Meanwhile Circassians managed to gather14.000 army and won back several forts having captured a lot of soldiers.
In 1793 general Suvorov who could control Noghay tribes seizer the lands of shapsoughs and bzedoughs who had lived on Cuban river
The Circassian national council addressed to Russia a note of protest against such movements. Fazin a was chosen as a leader of Circassians. He was so well known and popular that Ekaterine the II, to win over him to her side, sent him a lot of expansive presents. However Fazin didn't accept them with words: "I was chosen by my nation and must follow her customs and traditions assert her interests. Let her majesty excuse my, but I wouldn't accept the presents."
Someone think Circassians were a bad politicians but the following facts proof the opposite.
In 1552 the Circassian prince Edar Temruk and Russian Tsar Evan the terrible concluded the amicable agreement stipulating the military assistance a of Russian army in actions of Circassians against Turks. And The Circassians for their part had to help Russians in struggle with Crimea Tatars.
In 1567 Kabardian prince allowed Russians the building of military fort on the bank of river Sunje.
On 1-st September 1739 Russia and Turkey declared the independence of territories of Big and Small Kabarda and Mezdoghu (in accordance to Turkey State archive's information).
On 14 September 1829 Turkey expressed the consent to grant Russia all the rights to own the Circassians territories (Turkey State archives).
In 1808 the commission was established in Petersburg with the main purpose to do everything possible to make Circassians relinquish their military actions against Russia and obey her influence. The commission made the following decisions:
- To clear Caucasus completely of weapon and continue the military actions until then the armed resistance is offer.
- To make Circassians come down from mountains to lowlands, because in highlands they are very skillful in carrying out the military actions. And living on the lowlands they will lose their skills with the passage of time.
- To dissolve the native population by relocating Russians and Kazaks on Caucasus.
- To make Circassians leave their native lands for Turkey (On this account the agreement was made between Russia and Turkey)
21 May 1864 is the day of completion of Russian-Caucasus war (the day of mourning of Circassian people). The Circassians dispatched the delegation for negotiations but all their attempts proved to be in vain. The general commissioner announced them the following: "We have concluded the agreement with Turkey not to hinder those Circassians who wish to leave there. Everyone who remains will be moved to the places that we will point out."
In June 1864 Russia announced: "All the inhabitants of Caucasus have to leave their houses and remove within a month, otherwise they will be considered as a traitors and will be dispatched to Siberia."
It was the beginning of Circassians people tragedy.
Before this horrible date there were a lot of cases of Circassians removing to Turkey. According to information of 1860 of the Turkey migration service the following is clear:
Before 1859 the amount of Circassian migrants were 450000, and in 1859- 300000.
Before the great tragedy according to the facts of 1878 year commission there were:
- In 1877- 100000 abazines
- In 1878- 150000 bzedughes.
Regarding the eviction from Caucasus during the period from 1864 till 1865 the different information exists:Newspaper "Ghuaza" (1911)- 1750000 people.
"Caucasus in history"- more than 1000000.
"Daghestan and Daghestanians"- more than 1000000.
Turkey encyclopedia- 1500000.
Journal "North Caucasus"- 2500000.
World Dictionary- 1000000.
Islamic encyclopedia- 1500000.
Journal "East" (Austria, 1877)- 600000 people (who reached Turkey).
"Notes of General Fadeev"-600000.
Journal "Dulari" (France)- 750000.
Mr. Jurasy (1863-1864)- 400000 people (who reached Turkey).
Journal " Truthful stories " (N 670)-600000.
Historian Biancotti published the following information: a number of Circassian reached the Turkey's shores in ships is attained from 700000 to 1200000. He emphasized that 700000 people reached Turkey in 1864. (It was pointed out about numbers of dead). 1000000 people got Turkey in 1866.
Historian Bizzenj pointed out that from 1858 till 1866 the Turkey's shores reached on ships about 490000 people. Turkey government refused to give the precise information about the exact number of Circassians - migrants in 1866, but supposedly there were 1000000 of them.
Professor Kamal Karpat - member of the central scientific researches commission of Wisconsin University (USA). "Having researched the Turkey archives we found that from 1859 till 1879 the 1400000 people were evicted from Caucasus and only 1000000 of them reached Turkey".
Just on arriving about 20% of migrants dead from diseases and starvation. For example, in May 1864 after the 4 months of being on foreign land 40000 Circassians dead (Samsun, Turkey), and by the late 1865 in Trabzone 53000 had been dead.
From other sources it is known that in 1877 19000 young Circassians were taken to the army from Trabzone to participate in Balcan war. In all 30000 Circassians formed a part of Turkey army in that war.
As a result of Russian - Caucasus war ended in 1864 more than 1000000 Circassians had to leave their Forefathers and go to Turkey with the only hope that sometime they would be able to return. Concerning the assertions of many historians only a half of this number could reach Turkey.
In conclusion I'll point out up-to-date statistic facts. In 1989 in USSR there were:
ABAZAS - 32.482
ABHAZIANS - 98.068
Adyghe Republic - 95.439
Kabardian-Balkarian Republic - 363.494 (includes Mezdoghu circassians)
Karachay-Circassian Republic - 40.241
And all other Circassians of about four million people live in 45 countries of the world.
Isam Hatk (Journal "Al-Waha"-"Oasis", Amman, 1992., #51, p.10-15