Caucasian mountain peoples

Caucasian mountain peoples (Caucasian highlanders, north Caucasian peoples). A group of small nations that inhabit the Caucasus Mountains and the southern part of Subcaucasia in the vicinity of territories settled by Ukrainians and people of other nations. These mountain peoples are mostly the remnants of larger nations that were destroyed by the Mongol invasion and who were later pushed into the mountains by Russian and Ukrainian colonists. Russian attempts to subjugate them in the 18th and 19th centuries succeeded by the 1860s. From west to east the Caucasian mountain peoples include the following nationalities (the 1979 population throughout the USSR is added in parentheses): the Adygians (109,000) and the Kabardians (322,000) of the Cherkess group, the Balkars (66,000) and the Karachays (131,000) of the Turkic group, the Ossetes (542,000) of Iranian origin, the Chechens (756,000) and the Ingushes (186,000) of the Chechen group, and the Kumyks, Avars, Dargins, Lezgians, and numerous other smaller peoples in Dagestan (total population 1,657,000). Except for some of the Ossetes these mountain peoples are Sunni Moslems.

After the Revolution of 1917 the Caucasian mountain peoples proclaimed their own state on 11 May 1918, but it was crushed by Anton Denikin's White forces and the Bolsheviks. In 1921–2 the Gorskaia ASSR was formed within the Russian SFSR, but it was divided eventually into a number of autonomous republics and oblasts. After the Second World War the Soviet regime resettled the Balkars, Karachays, Chechens, and Ingushes, and in 1944–5 it abolished their autonomous territories. In 1957 the former arrangements were restored. Today the following autonomous republics within the Russian Federation exist in Subcaucasia: Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, as well as the Adygei Autonomous oblast and Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous oblast.

Political émigrés of the Caucasian mountain peoples were active in Warsaw until 1939. After the Second World War they were active in Paris, Munich, and Istanbul and occasionally co-operated with certain Ukrainian émigré groups.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]




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