North Caucasus

North Caucasus


From the 94/5 Report of Minority Rights Group International,

"The North Caucasus: Minorities at a Crossroads" By Helen Krag and Lars Funch

The region

There is no general agreement on delimiting the North Caucasus region. Official Russian terms like 'North Caucasus Economic Region' and 'North Caucasus Military District' relate to the new border region to the south of the Russian Federation. These bounda ries have been drawn out of Russian administrative, economic and security considerations, and not out of concern for the peoples in the region. There is also an exclusively ethno graphic term 'North Caucasian peoples', which encom passes ethnic groups who se native languages belong to a distinct linguistic group. In geographical terms, it is the region in the high mountains, and the northern slopes and valleys of the Caucasus mountains which border the steppe and the black earth belt of southern Russia and the Ukraine. These are both wider and more narrow concepts than the one chosen for this report.

In this report the primary focus is on the traditional habi tat of the native peoples north and partly south of the Caucasus mountain range, a region very much determined by geographical conditions.

Three types of landscape are normally distinguished; the low coastlines along the Black and Caspian Seas, the fer tile plains and low hills and the high mountains. The mountains barred access from outside until new military technology began to connect the region to the outside world and challenge traditional life styles. In the west the mountains rise out of the water, in the east a narrow coast line parts the Caspian Sea from the mountain slopes. Animal husbandry and grazing combined with handicrafts, th e exploitation of natural energy sources and terraced cultivation, especially in the east, predominated the mountaineers' economy. In the lowlands and plains, nomadic or semi-nomadic horse- and stock-breeding together with trading, and farming prevailed.

Many of the North Caucasus people share similar cultural traits and values. They have developed due to similar life conditions and these were enforced during the wars against colonization. The North Caucasians were reputed to be fierce warriors, both in t heir engagements against outside invaders and in internal fights against each other. They handled their horses and daggers with equal excel lency. Looting was a way of life, along with herding and cultivating the soil. Paintings show them as slim, hand so me and dark. They have been portrayed by Russian as well as local poets as very hospitable, proud and fearless, and impossible to subdue.~

Today, Caucasians have been brought down from the high stony peaks and many, if not most, speak Russian. The society offers equal opportunities to women and men and it is not unusual to encounter women in the higher politi cal strata and in academic posit ions. Yet traditional gender ½ relations and family patterns are maintained, and men and male values prevail in public life. The native population in the North Caucasus is clearly distinct from the main stream of Russian society, in terms of their own sense of identity and in the perce ption of others. The North Caucasians have common ground in their strnggle for their languages, traditions and values, and against domi nance from outside. They are minority populations gov erned from political centres far away - in many ways economically and/or politically neglected.

Much has been sacrificed on the altar of modernization and centralization. During the last century the moun taineers were moved from the high mountains to the plains, farm work was collectivized, and handicraft replaced by industry. The region became tota lly depen dent economically on other regions of the USSR. Gigantic hydropower plants came to replace self-sufficient local energy arrangements. The output of oil fields, mines and industry in the region was exported to other parts of the Soviet Union, whi le the region itself was reimbursed by imports and subsidies. Power plants, oil fields, mineral deposits and factories notwithstanding, great parts of the region, especially in the east, can only be described as poor - one of the poorest of the former Sov iet Union.9

The integration into the Russian and Soviet administrative and political system, on the other hand, also brought the development of urban centres, infrastrnctures and institu tions of education although they are few and badly devel oped compared to other parts of Russia.

During the Soviet regime several peoples became 'titular nations' in autonomous republics and districts. This status entailed certain special rights regarding cultural develop ment and political representation. Although their frontiers and territories wer e changed rather frequently, this status had a siguificant effect on the development of national identities in these 'homelands'. The North Caucasus minorities live mainly within seven republics in the Russian Federation (Dagestan, Chechnia, Ingushia, Nor th Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkessia and Adygea) and in two former autonomous republics in Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia).1' Naturally, ethnic groups do not necessarily live in the administrative units which bear their name , and all administrative units are inhabited by more than one ethnic group. Furthermore, Russians live in great numbers in most of the republics in the North Caucasus, especially in the cities and industrial centres in the western part of the region.

The history of the region

As is often the case with minorities, written sources on the North Caucasus give preferential treatment to the victori ous. The history of the subjugated is mostly iguored and forgotten. Still, there is evidence of eminent principalities in the North Cauc asus formed by the Lezgi in the east and the Circassians in the west. The Circassians expanded from the Black Sea south- and eastward, and the feudal princes of their 'stern, Kabardian, branch dominated the North Caucasus up to the start of the eighteenth century. The Russian Czar Ivan IV (known as Ivan the Terrible) apparently for reasons of power, married a Kabard princess, and Russian rulers sided with feudal lords in order to extend power over the Caucasian peoples until armed conquest and collective punishment became the means of expanding dominance and supremacy.

Historical events, particularly Russian colonization poli cies and Soviet deportation practices, play a decisive role in the current claims and grievances of the North Caucasian peoples. History also serves as criteria in identi ty and in legitimizing eth nic and national identities. This goes for the early era of the Great Migration of the fourth and fifth centuries as well as for the latest period of draw ing new frontiers. Insistence on primordial ethnic bonds with clear historical rights to certain ter ritories or cultures going back to antiquity is popular these days although no ethnic group in the region, whether speakers of Caucasian, Turkic or Iranian languages, or adherents of the Jewish, Islamic or Christian faith, can convincingly state if they s tem from one or the other assimilated or converted group of intruders or natives. Claiming history as an ally by using historical arguments that belong to the realm of mythology and imagination has become the norm. Th~re is ample reason for the viability of these arguments because the history of the peoples of the North Caucasus has not been written.

During the Communist Party regime national and region al histories were falsified as they became a taboo - one of the harshest legacies of the Soviet system. The conse quences are momentous. The resultant iguorance fostered inadequate research and a scarc ity of information on the region and its peoples. Furthermore, it has given rise to the formation of myths, the use of guesswork and the abuse of facts in the political debate. We therefore include a historical sketch which focuses on those periods, event s and aspects which are of primary importance for the identity formation of the peoples, and which con tribute to an overall understanding of claims and conflicts. This report aims to disentangle historical events and give an account which reflects the ex perience of the region and the peopk"- emselves which has been neglected in many records of the Russian and Soviet history.

Early intruders

The Caucasus mountains have from time immemorial been at the crossroads of cultures. Once a barrier between early urban civilizations in Mesopotamia and their trade centres in the south, and nomad cultures in the steppes of the north, the scene changed wh en Scythians and Sarmatians, and other linguistically Iranian tribes pene trated the mountains displacing each other. One of the most powerful Sarmatian tribes were the Alans who for some time became the dominating power in the Caucasus. Some of their cla ns settled and mixed with the native pop ulation. According to historical sources the Caucasian Alans were called Os, a name the Ossetes of today still carry.

While both Greek and Roman colonies reached up to the shores of the Black Sea, mounted Turkish nomad tribes from the Altai mountains in Mongolia such as the Iluns

and later the Avars reached Europe in the first centuries AD, taking the Mans, in the steppes north of the Caucasus and in the Caucasus as their slaves. Some of the Mans moved west, while others continued under Hunnic rule in more or less independent trib al federations. Beginning with the fourth century many peoples in the western part of the Caucasus were converted to Christianity from what later became Georgia", while the eastern parts came under the influence of the Iranian Sasanids. The Arabs brought Islam in the seventh century

Out of Turkish and Iranian tribes, defeated Huns and indigenous Caucasians came a new people, the Khazars, who by the year 650 had established a stable state with trading routes across the Caucasus. Despite trade rela tions, the Caucasus belt separating t he Khazar Empire from the Arab lands became the scene of repeated and devastating wars in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Each conquest resulted in migrational processes in the region. The conquerors brought thousands of immigrant families, while those conquered were either killed or assimilated, others emigrated or sought refuge in the mountains.

The process of changing spheres of influence, changing patterns of settlement as well as blending and superseding of ethnic linguistic and religious groups continued during Mongol raids in the thirteenth century. Ghenghis Khan's troops crossed the Caucasu s mountains from the south forcing the local population up into the high mountains. The mountains themselves protected its inhabitants against the invaders, and more than once nomads who had threatened the population on the fertile plains chose to retreat into the mountains once they were defeated by newcomers.

In 1227 Ghenghis Khan's grandson Batu with 120,000 men, predominately Turks, moved westward and firmly established The Khanate of the Golden Horde, also known as the Kipehak Khanate, in the North Caucasus. It became the strongest power north of the mounta ins from the mid-thirteenth century, and was to dominate Russia until the fourteenth century while the Il-Khan Empire, the Persian successor state of Ghengis' Empire extended to the south. At the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth century Timur or Tamer lane conquered a vast empire inclnding the Caucasus and terminated the age of the Mongol yoke.

Most peoples of the North Caucasus consider themselves to be descendants either of one of the great conquering tribes or their victims. Ossetes claim to stem from the Mans, Kumyks from the Khazars, and Nogai from the Golden Horde. Arab and Persian reigns have also left an influence on various cultures. However those Caucasian peoples who do not claim such descendances are calling for their indigenous rights.


Russian conquest and Caucasian resistance

Victimization by conquering powers is a strong element in Caucasian identity. Although there is a very long pre Russian history of violent attempts to cross the mountains with the aim of conquest, it is the Russian colonization which has left the stronges t imprint of disenfranchisement among the peoples of the region.

It was when the Golden Horde had disintegrated, that Russia, in the sixteenth century, became involved in the steppes north of the Caucasus. Russia used the Cossacks who had formed self-governing military communes at the fringes of Muscovy, to protect and expand the Russian frontier. Around 1700 Russia was unambiguously rooted in the Stavropol region north of the Caucasus, and Cossacks began to raid Caucasian settlements regularly. Violent counter-raids by the mountain peoples became a frequent enterprise and contributed to the Caucasians' image of fierceness and hostility which is still present in the Russian mind.

As time went on, several Caucasian principalities had to retract southwards towards the Caucasian mountain range. After several retreats Russia gained access to the then Persian and Ottoman dominated areas in the low lands and between 1763 and 1793 built a line of fortresses across the country besieging the Caucasus. Practically all towns in the region originate from these fortifications.

Parts of Dagestani, Ingush and Chechen territory were conquered in the 1780s giving rise to desperate resistance under the religious and political leadership of Sheikh Mansur, a Chechen. This was to become the first orga nized military manoeuvre unifi'ing the mountain peoples in the North Caucasus: Chechen, Ingush, Ossetes, Kabard Cherkess and the peoples of Dagestan. Some 20,000 were brought under and resisted the attack. When Mansur was captured by the Russians, they had to withdraw. Osset territory as well as the Kabarda became Russian. Russia built the military highway, founding the fortress of Vladikavkaz'2 as the strategic centre for further coloniza tion. It was opened in 1588 and connected Osset and Georgian territory. Georgia became a Russian protec torate in 1801, and by the mid-nineteenth century most of Transcaucasus, the area south of the mountains, was under Russian control. Before it was finally annexed and incorporated as Russian provinces, various charters were sigued with the Caucasian principalities, including Abkhazia and South Dagestan.

The colonial war continued with renewed vigour when the mountain peoples once again united under the holy flag of Islam and the charismatic and disciplined Shamil, Imam of Dagestan and an Avar. In the early 1830s he called for strict observance of the Shariat, Islamic law, and for Gazawat - militant holy war against the Christian invaders. Within a very short time a strong Muslim revivahst movement spread through the entire eastern part of the mountains, and united much of the Caucasus regio n in one regional state formation, the Imamat of Shamil, which lasted for nearly 30 years. Abkhaz and Cherkess in the west were not converted to the Soft movement but supported the war for independence. Since then Islam has repeatedly functioned as a mobiliz ing force against dominance from the Russian centres of power.

It was only after Russia had won and settled her disagree ments with Turkey, that she threw her massive military force into the Caucasian project of conquest. From the military highway Russia began a methodical advance into the mountains of Dagestan proce eding westwards, placing aul after aul under her rule, razing many of them to the ground. In 1859 Shamil was caught and arrested. By 1864 the Caucasian War was accomplished. The majority of the Cherkess, then the biggest group in the region, but also Abkhaz, Chechen, Muslim Ossetes and Dagestanis were forced to emigrate and many died en route. New esti mates suggest that approximately 1.2 million Caucasians emigrated from Russian-conquered territories, and 800,000 of them lived to settle i n the Ottoman dominions.'~ Their descendants today form a diaspora of one or two millions, mainly in Turkey and the Middle East.'4 Many of those who stayed were forced to move from their settlements in the highest mountains to the slopes, where they were easier to control.

Russian revolution and civil war

The Russian revolution of 1917 gave rise to new hopes for independence. Already in May that year mountaineers of the North Caucasus and Terek Cossacks united to elect a temporary Terek-Dagestan Government for a free inde pendent state. After the Bolshevi k victory in the Russian centres the government declared its secession from Russia, signed an alliance with Turkey and was formally recognized by the Central Powers. Simultaneously left wing Osset radicals together with socialists from other minorities es tablished a Soviet Terek Republic which was soon overthrown by Terek Cossacks. The military-political movement of the government's White voluntary army under Auton Ivanovich Denikin was initiated by Cossack units from the North Caucasus. Once again aul s were burnt to the ground and North Caucasians were forced to fight. Denikin was unacceptable to the leaders of both governmental structures due to his overt Russian-nation alist policies

During 1919 the fighting continued, and by the end of the year the mountainous part of Dagestan, Chechnia, Ossetia and Kabarda once again was declared an independent state - The North Caucasian Emirate - under the conser vative sheikh Uzun-Hadzhi. Caught between the anti-reli gious Red and nationalist White armies, he coopted with the Bolsheviks, who promised full autonom¾ After severe fighting, which brought Red and White in turn to power, Lenin's party was victorious in September 1921 and the Com munist Party of Russia immediately abolished the Emirate. The situation was far from well-defined as there was no unanimity among Communist Party individuals or organizations.'5 A parallel Caucasian Revolutionary Committee was established in V ladikavkaz in 1920 which came to be the core of a Soviet Mountain Republic.'6 it was Stalin himself who visited the region to control the process of change. In the name of his government he sug gested, or rather demanded, a Soviet Republic of all Caucasian Mountaineers. Those in charge agreed to rec ognize Soviet power on condition that shariat and adat were the sole legal foundations of the new autonomous republic. This claim as well as a claim to return territories which had been given to Cossacks during and after the Russian conquest, were accepted, and Cossacks we re forced to leave the North Caucasus. This was convenient for the new Russian leadership who saw Cossacks as a major enemy. Seventy thousand Cossacks are said to have been forcibly deported from their settlements or stanitzas to the other side of the Ural mountains.17

The Autonomous Soviet Mountain Republic, including Ingush, Kabard, Balkar, Karachai, Chechen and Osset dis tricts, and the Autonomous Soviet Republic of Dagestan, were founded in January 1921 on the basis of multi-ethnic territorial self~determination.1½

National fragmentation

The Mountaineers' Republic existed in full only for a very short time. Already in 1922 all mountaineer groups had been disarmed and the republic dissolved step by step into districts within the Russian Federation. After a year, only Chechen, Ingush, and N 4rth Ossetes were left in the Mountain Republic, and another year on the Chechen had to content themselves with an autonomous district. In 1924 the remaining Ingush and North Ossetes were split up. Their common capital Vladikavkaz remained with the Ossete s, depriving the Ingnsh of the only urban centre with educational institutions and industry. This split is still a bone of contention. With national fragmentation in many places the system of schools and the infrastructure of the districts deteriorated si gnificantly. Local party lead ers reported to the party headquarters about the arbitrary and insufficient nature of the solution and about the patronizing and discriminating attitude of the Caucasian Committee, which was located in south Russia and was re sponsible for its development.'9 By the mid-1920s a hierarchy of nationally (i.e. ethnically defined) autonomies had been established, headed by local socialist leaders. This meant that significant regional identity was discour aged, and withou t the peoples themselves being involved, specific groups were selected for further national-cultural development. Langnages were standardized, and new alphabets in Latin script constructed, paving the way for further changes.

The national fragmentation policies were continued and all autonomies were taken out of the hands of Caucasian leaders.2 The borders and names of the so-called autonomies were changed in connection with repeated instances of insurrection among several of the North Caucasian peoples. The insurrection was a result of the arbitrary fragmentation process and its effects on ethnic land tenure. In 1928-9 the Soviet programme of collec tivization started, farming land was confiscated, the shari- at was abolished, the population disarmed21 and the Caucasian political and intellectual leadership annihilated or deported, accused of bourgeois nationalism and pan- Islamic policies. The former territorial and regional man agement was replaced by leaders sent from Moscow to represent the new centralized administration. The situa tion stabilized only in 1936 when the new Soviet constitu tion finalized a structure with the Autonomous Republics - Dagestan, North Ossetia, Kabardo-Balkaria, Chechen Ingushia and Abldiazia; and the Autonomous Districts - South Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Adygea. Beginning in 1938-40 the newly created alphabets, which despite their positive effect also barre d access to written sources and documents which had been produced earlier in history, were replaced by the cyrillic alphabet.

Fragmentation of the Soviet Mountain Republic:

Mountain Republic reduced in January 1922:

[2 January 1922 Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous District

[6 January 1922 Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous District

27 January 1922 Adygean Autonomous District

July 1922 changed to Adygei-Cherkess Autonomous District

Mountain Republic reduced in November 1922:

Chechen Autonomous District

Mountain Republic dissolved in July 1924:

Ingush Autonomous District

North Osset Autonomous District

Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous District dissolved in January 1926:

Cherkess National Region

Karachai Autonomous District

Adygei-Cherkess Autonomous District dissolved in Augnst 1928:

Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous District Adygei Autonomous District

January 1934 Chechen and Ingush Autonomous

District amalgamated

December 1936 changes of status:

Adygei Autonomous District

(part of Krasnodar Province)

Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous District

(part of Stavropol Province)

Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Republic

Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic

North Osset Autonomous Republic

Occupation and deportation

Caucasian peoples characterize events which happened during the Second World War as their third catastrophe - after the colonization and the destruction of the native elites. The German Army reached the Caucasus in 1942 on the way to the Caucasian oil fie lds in Maikop, Grozny and Baloi. Parts of the Caucasus were occupied 1942~322, but the mountain range barred further access. Kalkhozes, col lective farms, were closed, mosques reopened in areas where the German Army arrived, and promises for sovere ignty were given to those people who were willing to cooperate.

TABLE 1 Deportations24
Total loaded Total reported Total of
on trains as deported> whom were
Date Peoples 1943-4 1944-6 children
Nov.1943 Karachai 69,267 60,139 32,557
Dec.1943 93,139 81,673 32 997
Feb.1944 CKhaemc?;ken &
478,479 400,478 191,100
InC~etllen 387,229
Mar.1944 BIaln~rsh 37,773 32,817 16,386

Following these events, came deportation - the worst peri od in history for the native peoples in the North Caucasus. Between November 1943 and March 1~, on decrees signed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, all Karachai, Ingush, Chechen and Balkar - to mention only the Caucasian peoples - were rounded up, loaded into tens of thousands of cattle waggons and transferred to Central Asia and Siberia in five rounds of deportation reported meticulously to Moscow. The violent deportations were carried out w ith extraordinary speed, on an admittedly mostly unfounded accusation of collaboration with the enemy.

The deportations, or repressions as the peoples themselves prefer to call them, can be said to be genuine genocides because ethnicity was the sole criteria for selection, and practically nobody from the selection was spared.223 Some were taken not only from their national territory but also from other Soviet republics, and those at the front were deported after the war. All deportees came under severe surveillance, with up to 20 years in labour camps if they left their assigned place of settlem ent. Wherever they set tled, the local population was told that they were bandits, traitors and criminals, which resulted in their isolation and other additional hardships. They often lived in dugouts or in the open, under hard labour, had little food and many of the children had no schooling at all. One quarter of the Chechen and one third of the Karachai died during trans port or deportations.

The former republics of the deported peoples were dis solved and the territory given to other repubhcs or groups. New inhabitants moved into the houses of the deported, others fell into decay. Graveyards and national monuments were destroyed and the names of the collectively punished peoples were deleted from maps, streets, documents and public memory. It was forbidden to enquire on their fate. It was only during Perestroika that the first article on details of the deportations was published in the Soviet Union.27 The first book containing personal recollections was pubhshed in J993,% This experience has left its mark on the peoples of the Caucasus, comparable only to the memories of those who survived the Holocaust in the Second World War.


After Stalin's death, some of the deported people began to return to their former homelands even before the official rehabilitation in 1957. Soon after the official rehabilitation 50,000 families returned and claimed their land. The first violent clashes with new Russian settlers were reported as early as 1956.2) After the official rehabilitation, the Republics of Checheno-Ingushia and Kabardino-Balkaria and the District of Karachai-Cherkessia were reestab lished, although not all the former areas were re turned. Areas which remained with Dagestan and North Ossetia, and partly with Russia and Georgia, have caused severe disputes on the issue of land ownership. In all the republics the return of the deportees repeatedly evoked tensions. Among others, new Ru ssian settlers inaugurated a three day pogrom or massacre against returning Ingush and Chechen in 1958. In 1970 the Ingush once again claimed their former habitat by demonstrating in the dis puted Prigorodny (a suburban distijet in North Ossetia), but were driven out. Ten years later violence repeated itself( and the Ingush were explicitly f%L)rbidden from tak ing residence in North Ossetia. With the fading out of the Soviet period new hopes for autonomy and rehabilitation were awakened. k D'tgesta n, returning Chechen found their villages occupied by' Lak who had been forcibly moved from their own settlements in the high mountains into the hoiises of the deported Akki-Chechen.


In autumn ~990 all autonomies in the North Caucasus declared themselves sovereign republics, claiming the same status as the Transcaucasian republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, in Georgia, the status of autonomy for South Ossetia and Abk hazia was abol ished. When the Soviet Union fell apart after the coup in August 1991 against President MiThail Gorbachev, the Transcaucasian republics were recognized as independent states. The status of the republics was ratified for all for mer autonomo us districts and autonomous republics in the Russian Federation. Chechnia has refused to accept this and insists on an independent status. Chechnia left her long time partnership with Ingushia in 1992. With the new Russian constitution of December 1993 th e status of the republics is no longer characterized as 'sovereign' but as equal to that of the Russian Regions. With the transition to a new political system some severe conflicts have arisen.

In accordance with Soviet ideology, all means of produc tion, including soil and natural resources, were collectively owned and distributed by the state. After the introduction of the market economy, with land reform and privatiza tion as new guiding prin ciples, the need to define, for the first time ever, the right to land tenure is thought by many to be likely to lead to conflict. In an atmosphere of misin formation and anxiety people are discussing whether indi viduals, peoples or republics are to beco me owners of the land. Soviet ideology, policy and economic planning are difficult legacies in times of transition. This is true for the entire territory of the former USSR but is particularly important for large parts of the impoverished, multi-eth nic N orth Caucasus, which until recently were closed to foreigners. Some of the mountainous parts of the region, especially in North Ossetia, Stavropol Province and Kabardino-Balkaria were well developed tourist resorts and spas receiving visitors from all ove r the Soviet Union. They are now largely deserted due to the overall econom ic situation, to armed conflicts in the region and to general anti-Caucasian sentiment among Russians.

Industrial plants are also in difficulties due to a lack of investment and the overall dependency on imports and subsidies. Maintenance of technological installations such as the 1.1 megawatt hydroelectric power plant in Cherke30, is also of gr eat concern to leading engineers. The military complex is still owned by the Russian centre, and important harbour installations in the ports of Dagestan for instance cannot be exploited by the Republic. Unemployment is increasing steadily, and many Cauca sians engage in petty trade all over Russia. The new possibilities on the free market have also produced an emerging upper class which is backed by the traditional Caucasian networks with a reputation of indulging in mafia activities.31

The administrative-territorial units

While the Soviet Union still existed, central State policies aimed at creating a common Soviet identity through the dissemination of a standardized educational system, the promotion of heavy industry, the free movement of labour, and the abolition of reli gious and local ties with sanctions for disobedience. Simultaneously, a hierarchy of

TABLE 2 The territorial units in the North Caucasus in alphabetical order
Name of unit in km2 Inhabitants Capital Major groups in %
ABKIIAZIA2 8,600 524,000 Sukhum Georgians: 46, Abkhaz: 17,
Armenians: 15, Russians:14
ADYGEA 7,600 432,000 Maikop Adygei: 22, Russians: 68

DAGE STAN 50,300
1,271,000 Grozny Chechen: 58, Russians: 23,
Ingush: 13
1,802,000 Makhachkala Avar: 28, Dargin: 16, Kusnyk: 13,
Lezgi: 11, Russians: 9, Lak: 5

KABARDINO 12,500 754,000 Nalehik Kabard: 48, Russians: 32
BALKARIA Balkar: 10
KALMYKIA 75.900 323.000 Elista Kalmyk: 45, Russians: 38.
Dargin: 4
KARACIIAI 14,100 415,000 Cherkessk Russians: 42, Karachai: 31,
CHERKESSIA Cherkess: 10, Abaza: 7
NORTH OSSETIA4 8,000 632,000 Vladikavkaz Ossetes: 53, Russians: 30,
Ingush: 5
SOUTH OSSETIA5 3,900 99,000 Tskhinval Ossetes: 66, Georgians: 29

Figures based on 1989 census. In many eases tbey no longer apply (for reasons described in tbe report and in the following notes). A general feature is the out-migration of Russians (Slavs), most markedly from Chechnia and Ossetia.

to CoOriection with the Georgian-Abldiaz war all Georgians and many other non Abkhar have left, at least teilporarily.

3 After the 1991-2 partition of Checheno-Ingushia into two republics, Chechnia's capital is Grozoy, a territory of t7.3tit)km2 and Ingushia's capital is Nazran. a territory of 2,000k052. Chechen and Ingush make up 80-90 per cent of t he inhabitants in their respective new republics. From 1994 Chechnia 5 o~ official name is 'Noxcijo Respublika Ickeriy',i.e. Chechen Republic Iclikeria.

4 1989 figures are distorted (e.g. 30,000 Ingush living unregistered in North Ossetia. Furthennore. the share of cads people in tise republic has since changed: all Ingush have left, and approximatley 120,000 refugees came from South Ossetia.

5 Due to war, many Ossetes and Georgians have left the republic.

territorial administrative units defined in ethnic terms, was created, which allowed for a certain degree of autono my and national development within the limits of the pri mary aim. This hierarchy was of utmost importance for the development or non-devel opment of national identi ties in the region.

The highest degree of self-government was delegated to the fifteen Socialist Republics, all of which are now sovereigu states recoguized by the international communi ty. The North Caucasus Ties today at the crossroads of three of these newly independent s tates: the Russian Federation, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The status of Union Republic implied that members of the titular nation par ticipated in high ranking positions in the authoritative Communist Party and in the republic's government. that the native l anguage of the titular nation had - although not always good, but - better chances of ttsage in the edu cation system and media and that due to this degree of 'sovereiguty' republics could to a certain degree decide on internal structures and opportunitie s for minority partici pation. Azerbaijan thus never became a federation like Georgia, although the number of people belonging to minorities was probably much the same.

Within the republics, at a lower hierarchical level, were the autonomous republics (20 in the entire Soviet Union, five of them in the North Caucasus): Abldiazia, Dagestan, Checheno-Ingushia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. When Georgia adopted a new constitution, Abkhazia was no longer mentioned as an Autonomous Republic. As a consequence Abkhazia in her own new Ct atstitt ttiou unilaterally reinstated her earlier status of Uititat Reptll)liC. Since the demise of the Soviet Union AI)kltazia lt,t s l)C~ figlititig a wir to retain its autonomy - tutI is stipported iii this w'tr by other North Caucasians.~ ( .'lteclt~tt itid Ingusli tertitinated titeir long tinie partner shi1) iii (~Ii('clie1it)-liigiishit 'tud 110W constitttte two sepa- rate rel)ttl)IiCs, Checituit and Ingushit. beth in the Russian Federation. Clieclini't decl~ired itself' an indepen- deut state and no longer participates in the political struc tures of Russia, however Russia and the international community have n ot recognized this claim. Ingushia and North Ossetia are fighting a cruel war over disputed bor (1cr territory. The Soviet legacy of autonomy has undoubt edly fuelled a desire for a new orrler of self-determination for the peoples of the region. Dagestan is an exception as no one ethnic group is 'titular'. But the entire concept also holds here: some of the most important groups wish to unite with their kin outside the republic and form new ethnically defined units.

Adygea, Karachai-Cherkessia and South Ossetia were three out of eight Soviet Autonomous Provinces (Oblasti). When Georgia abolished the autonomy of South Ossetia, after independence this former Autonomous Republic became involved in a war of resist ance and had much of her territory destroyed and the larger part of the popula tion driven out of the country. With their low level auton omy status, the titular groups in Adygea and Karachai-Cherkessia only constituted small minorities within thei r own Province, and had little schooling or materials in their own languages.

After the demise of the Soviet state in 1991, whilst Georgia opted for the status of a nation state and disre garded her autonomies, Russia converted all former Autonoinous Republics and Districts into Federal Republics within the Russian Federation. With the new Russian constitution of December 1993, these Republics lost much of their specific status and were transformed into administrative units on a par with other Russian regions.~ They are known formally as 'Subjects of the Russian Federation'. Chechn ia, pleading for indepen dence, has not acknowledged this status.

The North Caucasus, as interpreted by the peoples them selves, consists of nine Republics: Abkhazia and South

Ossetia (not recognized) in Georgia, and Adygea,

Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnia,

Ingushia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan in the Russian


Apart from these primary North Caucasian entities, other areas, adjacent to the republics of the Caucasus mountain range, can reasonably be included in the region here, due to their very close proximity to the republics and to their own Caucasian minoriti es: the two Russian Provinces Krasnodar and Stavropol, the Republic of Kalmykia - north of Dagestan, and the northernmost part of Azerbaijan, locally known as Lezgistan

TABLE 3 The North Caucasian peoples and minorities in order of size
% of group
Ethnic Number Language Major resident in
group in region group religion republic
CHECHEN 957,000 Caucasian Muslim 77 in
AVAR 601,000 Caucasian Muslim 82 in Dagestan
OSSETES 598,000 Iranian Christian/Muslim 67 in North and
South Ossetia2
LEZGJ 466,000 Caucasian Muslim 44 in Dagestan,
50 in Azerbaijan
KABARDS 391,000 Caucasian Muslim 93 in Kabardino-Balkaria
DARGIN 365,000 Caucasian Muslim 77 in Dagestan
KUMYK 282,000 Turkic Muslim 82 in Dagestan
INGUSH 273,000 Caucasian Muslim 71 in Ingushia3
KARACHAI 156,000 Turkic Muslim 82 in Karachai-Cherkessia
ADYGEI 125,000 Caucasian Muslim 76 in Adygea
LAK 118,000 Caucasian Muslim 77 in Dagestan
ABKHAZ 105,000 Caucasian Muslim/Christian 85 in Abkhazia
TABASARAN 98,000 Caucasian Muslim 78 in Dagestan
BALKAR 85,000 Turkic Mushm 89 in Kabardino-Balkaria
NOGAI 75,000 Turkic Muslim 37 in Dagestan,
18 in Kabardino-Balkaria
ABAZA 33,000 Caucasian Muslim 88 in Karachai-Cherkessia
RUTUL 20,000 Caucasian Muslim 72 in Dagestan
TSAKHUR 20,000 Caucasian Mushm 26 in Dagestan, 65 in Azerbaijan
AGUL 19,000 Caucasian Muslim 69 in Dagestan
MOUNTAIN JEWS 18,000 Iranian Mosaic 50 in Kabardino-Balkaria,
20 in Dagestan 4

'Figures according to 1989 Soviet census. The largest non-Caucasian minorities in the Caucasus are Russians (approximately t Irnillion in the seven republics in the Russian Federation), and Armenians (approximately 150,000 dispersed in the region. This nu mber has viereaxed with refugees frorn the war between Arinenia and Azerbaijan). and Azeri (approximately 75,000 in Dagestan).

2 Due to refugee movements the exact distribuono hetween north and south cannot he given.

3 The current percentage includes Ingosh from foriner Checheno-Ingushia and North Ossetia and constitutes up to 90 per cent.

4 Only those registered as Mountain Jews. Others svere registered differently, e.g. as Tat and are not included. Many have moigrated.

Ethnic groups

The numbers given for distinct ethnic groups in the North Caucasus vary greatly - from 20 to 80. This is due to rather ambiguous criteria of distinctiveness, to conflicting interpretations of the results of assimilation and to the interests of the countin g authorities. The highest numbers of ethnic groups were defined earlier this century by ethnographers and liugnists who described the Caucasus as the 'Mountains of Diversity' or the 'Refuge of Peoples'. Since then natural and artificial processes of assi milation, separation and of reassessment have taken place. Today approximately 40 groups living in the North Caucasus are believed to still have a distinct ethnic identity.

The most artificial process has been the categorization ol the peoples by the authorities. Just to give a few examples:

the Cherkess (or Circassians or Adyge') were registered as two different groups in Soviet censuses to justiQ the establishment of two autonomies: Adygea and Cherkessia. This instance of separation was not successful however. In addition, early this centur y, all groups of Turkish tongue were collectively called Tatars.~ They were then reassessed, probably due to a strong pan-Turkic move ment which was perceived as threatening the Soviet state.

Today, Balkar, Karachai, Kumyk and Nogai perceive themselves as distinct groups. A similar process took place in South Dagestan, where the Lezgi were once the domi nating group, while earlier sub-groups, e.g. the Avar and

the Dargin today have distinct identities - the Avar being the dominating group in Dagestan, while the Lezgi have been divided by the state border between Russia and Azerbaijan, and many smaller, formerly distinct groups, are no longer registered separate ly.

Soviet policies of ethnic engineering, played an important role in the processes of ethnification and de-ethnification, both by standardizing and promoting a selected number of local laugnages and by creating autonomies for a num ber of selected peoples. Groups with their own written language or their own territory have found it easier to maintain their ethnic identity or develop a national identi ty than others. Ethuification, though, is not an exclusively Soviet enterprise: when, for example, Russia beg an to conquer the Caucasus, Ingush settlements were incorpo rated much earlier than what later became known as the Chechen settlement area. Living under very different conditions for this long period in history resulted in dis tinct ethnic identifications . Ethnicity, therefore, like nationality, in the Caucasus as in anywhere else, is the result of history and not a static or biological concept. Distinctions were then made between the mountain peo ples proper and the inhabitants of the plains.

One of the primary ways that ethnic awareness has been preserved is as a consequence of ethnic registration since the 1920s. This identity was supported by the implemen tation of few but explicit collective cultural rights for cer tain groups and territor ial rights for those who gave their name to autonomies. Also punishment was given collec tively to ethnic groups, as was the case with the deporta tions of the Balkar, Karachai, Ingush and Chechen. Forty groups are mentioned explicitly in this report. The omis sion of others is due only to their size, their role or lack of information.

Some of the groups are related either by religion, lan guage or way of life, others are not. Although there are many cultural traits that most of the Caucasus peoples share, at least those who have lived in the mountains for centuries, the astonishing div ersity is often ascribed to a time in history when people lived geographically isolated from each other in far off places in the mountains where by their languages and their way of life developed in dif ferent directions. Alternative explanation stress ot her factors: local settlements - or avis as they are called in many places - have fostered quasi-ethnic loyalties to dif ferent chieftains and princes. This is thought to have been enforced by the fact, that settlements in the high moun tains were family-organized. Only after moving to larger settlements and bigger farms in the lower woodlands and plains were the first collective territorial identities encour aged and new social structures evolved around two or three neighbouring avis. They are sometimes called clan loyalties by outsiders, taip in Chechnia and Ingushia and tukhum by Dagestani peoples. They are the basis of these strong quasi-attachments. These social structures deter mined who could get married or trade with whom, who was friend and who was foe. Before national identities began to emerge in the Soviet period, coherent identities of belonging to extended families were strongest, together with a common regional identity, and all have survived.

In today's atmosphere of claiming national and territorial rights, Caucasian peoples sometimes make a distinction between indigenous peoples and newcomers, stressing the natives' legitimate right to be there. Indigenous, as the word is used in these cases , relates to the Caucasian peo ples proper, i.e. those whose native tongue belongs to the Caucasian languages.


When speaking of relatedness among the peoples of the North Caucasus, the relationship is nearly always mea sured in terms of native languages, and Soviet registration of nationality regularly included one or more groups under a single linguistically moti vated designation. When first investigated and described, many of the languages in the Caucasus could not be placed within known language groups. They had no resemblance to any other languages. They were categorized as Caucasian, and their speakers as

indigenous in the region. Although the criteria for rela tionship have been altered through the history of linguis tics, the Caucasian languages are still seen as linguistically related, although many of them are incomprehensible to other Caucasian laugna ge speakers and are clearly differ ent languages.35 Except for native Russian speakers, speakers of Caucasian languages make up the biggest group (3 to 4 million) within the North Caucasus. The Caucasian languages belong to two major language g roups, the North Eastern branch: (Lak, Avar and Dargin in Central Dagestan; Lezgi, Tabasaran and Rutul in Southern Dagestan; Chechen and Ingush in their respec tive republics) and the North Western branch: (Circassian languages - Kabard and Adygei or Cher kess - and Abkhaz, including Abaza).

Others speak Turkic languages, especially Western Turki or Kipchak (Nogai, Kumyk and Karachai-Balkar). These langnages were brought by Turkic nomads who first came to live in the region centuries ago. In Dagestan one also finds an Azeri minority, cut off from neighbouring Azerbaijan by state borders. Their language belongs to the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family.

Indo-European languages are spoken by two very differ ent groups: Osset and Tat belonging to the Iranian branch and Russian and Ukrainian as languages are from the Slavic branch. Russians, including Cossacks, have lived in the region since it was incorpor ated into Russia. However. the largest immigration of Russians took place during the Soviet era. Despite extensive out-migration since the demise of the USSR, Russians still have a strong presence in the region, mainly in the cities and industrial centres .

Most people in the North Caucasus are bilingual in their native language and Russian. Earlier in history it was quite common for Caucasians to be bilingual with a Turkic lan guage, often Kumyk, as the main language of trade and inter-group communication. Also Arabic was widespread as a second language, and most local languages developing


Relationship between the languages spoken in the North Caucasus

North Caucasian Turkic Iranian
North North
West East.~~
1 Abkhaz 1 Nakh iWest lNorth East
Abaza Chechen Kumyk Ossetian

2 Circassian Ingiish Karachai Iron Adyg 2 Dagestan Balkar Digor Kabard a Avar 2 Central Tual

Andi Nogai


3.South Azeri 2South West bknk Dargwa Tat

C Lezgi

Tabasaran written standards used the Arab alphabet. Today, people remember that their parents, born before the Second World War, never became literate in any other alphabet. In the 1920s and 1930s Soviet atithorities encouraged new standardizations for many of th e North Caucasian lan guages, constructed new alphabets (in Latin script) and published newspapers, political literature and schoolbooks in them. It was only in the 1940s that the Russian alpha bet was introduced. In the 1970s and 1980s most educa tional institutions and all administration was Russianized. Many of the local languages have been preserved to a high degree in everyday oral communication. Today most peo ples in the Caucasus want to reinstall their own language in the official sphere, and some are preparing for a change of script. However, newspapers and other publications which are currently published in native languages have few readers and it is becoming common to publish texts in Russian with native language headings.36


During the Soviet period, practised religion did not play an important role in society, at least not overtly. But it has always been an integral part of the peoples' identity. Today, the impact of religion as a factor of distinction is OR the incre ase in the North Caucasus. It is also used for articulating ethnic identity on the political scene. This notwithstanding it must be pointed out explicitly, that conflicts in the North Caucasus are not religious conflicts. Religion is an integrated factor of the cultures, yet does not form the basis for hostility between groups, even though the media, particular Western media, regularly describe them as Christian-Muslim conflicts. There is, on the other hand, a growing tendency to identif~ opponents in int ernal conflicts in terms of religious stereotypes when this is applicable.35

In the North Caucasus three major religions can be iden tified in the individuals' search for identity as well as in the groups' expression of culture - Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The North Caucasus is known as one of Russia's Muslim regions. Islam, in its scholarly variety, came to Dagestan when part of the region was under Persian rule. It was also the religion of the Turkic tribes coming from the northern steppes. But more important, Islam, in its Sufi variety, played a unif~'ing role duri ng the long War of Independence against Russian colonization in the eigh teenth and nineteenth centuries. The heroes of the resis tance, Sheildi Mansur and Imam Shamil, both religious and political leaders gave rise to an ethnic and regional revival of the Sufi tradition, Both traditions have been revived, particularly in the eastern republics and in Dagestan, for example, the importance of the Imam in political life is growing.

The Chechen revived the tradition of Sufism, which was so strong during the holy war against Russia and as a force for ethnic networking during the years of deportation in Central Asia. Today it is regaining its strength. Two major tariqat (movemen ts or brotherhoods towards the right way to God), are prevailing, the Naqshbandia and the Qadiri. Both developed from revivalist movements of Muslim mystics into radical North Caucasian political movements, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, the first being more philosophical, the sec ond more militant, although these are very supefficial generalizations.45 Both survived underground during Soviet anti-religious cam paigns and strengthened during the years of deportation. Membership of one of the tariqat is in principle subject to an individual's free choice, but is in practice often linked to traditional clan loyalties. The various tariqat are clearly distinguished by content, symbolized by distinct rituals and dances, the zikr which regularly are evoked as mobilizing forces.41 When President Dudaev was inaugurated he swore on the Koran - in Russian, and when he declared Chechnia indepen dent, the Friday was chosen as the official day of£ Dagestani's sometimes express dissatisfaction with the fact, that they cannot freely choose their holidays or edu cational system in accordance w ith their own cultural mores as long as they prefer to stay within Russia - which they do. The western republics have taken a much more secularized attitude to religious rituals and symbols to date. Their Muslim identity is predominantly cultural. Religio us emissaries from various countries and congrega tions have visited all the republics in the North Caucasus and mosques and Islam institutes have opened in several places, e.g. Dagestan, Chechnia, Ingushia and Karachai Cherkessia. However, Islamic fundam entalism has little hearing on the situation so far The other great religion is Christianity in its Orthodox version. It once was the predominant religion in the region, especially after the final Russian conquest in 1864, when hundreds of thousands of Muslim Caucasians left Russia for the Ottoman Empire a nd Christians settled in the deserted areas, among them Armenians, Georgians and Russians. This has for instance set its mark on the Abkhaz. This is in contrast to many other groups where the tendency was for societies to be transformed from Christian to Muslim of Soft observancy as part and parcel of the organized resistance against conquest.

Ossetes, living amidst a Muslim environment, have trans-. formed the Christian religion into an important part of their national and political identity. This stresses a line of demarcation with their Muslim neighbours, and adds an element of cohesion with the Russians; with Ossetes par ticipating with Russians in the International Conferences of Orthodox Churches. This does not mean that all Ossetes are Christian, or that all are observing Christians. It appears primarily to be a cultural and political co ncept. There is a Muslim minority among the Ossetes, primarily in Digor, and although many Muslim Ossetes themselves tend to stress their religious distinctiveness, they are fre quently left out of official Osset publications. Orthodox Christianity is als o an important element of Cossacks' identity, being the Russians most closely tied to the region

The third religious influence comes from the Caucasian Jews who except for religion and language, live the same cultural life as the rest of the Caucasian peoples. In the beginning of the century, communities of Caucasian Jews were numerous and synagogues and rabbinical seminars widespread. Today, the centre of the community is in Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. The most probable explanation for the Jewish presence in the North

Caucasus is Jewish immigration in connection with early Persian rule at the turn of the first millennium AD. They played an important role in mediating between the Persian Empire and the Empire of the Khazars, which officially adopted Judaism at that time . As many as two thirds of all Caucasian Jews are said to have emigrated to Israel since the T970s, but the wave of emigration has been explosive since the beginning of the 1990s.

Buddhism is the main religion of the Kalmyk, living close to but not within the region described. It is a fact of dis tinction between the Kalmyk and their Muslim neigh bours but has had no cultural impact on them. Also Paganism is a factor to be consider ed. Few of the peoples are religious in a traditional ritual sense, and most remem ber, live or revive traditions from a pre-Christian and pre Muslim period. The traditions live alongside each other in a non-antagonistic fashion. Anthropologists on field work in the region describe rituals and holidays as locally based, often very much alike for Christians, Muslims and Jews and with clear roots in history. Syncretisms of Pagan and different religious rituals are the more rule than the exception. Pagan tra ditions are also upheld as proof of ancient rights to the region.

Throughout Caucasian history, travellers have reported on the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims living in the same towns. Mutual support was a part of everyday life in periods when either Muslims or Jews were persecuted.42 On e important factor to be considered is the number of mixed marriages among all religious groups. Although no reliable statistics seem to exist, peo ple on site report on specific patterns of adaptation, e.g. of Christians adapting to Muslim traditions amo ng the Digor, and of Muslims adapting to Jewish traditions. They also report on the specific difficulties of having to choose in today's atmosphere of ethuification.

An overview of the North Caucasian


Indigenous North W ~ 10

100,000 of whom live in Abkhazia in Georgia. According to Abkhaz sources, half a million Abkhaz live in exile in Turkey and the Middle East, where they constitute part of the Cerkez diaspora.

Abkhaz are closely related to Abaza, who moved east wards between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, where they took to Islam under the influence of their new neighbours. They now live in Karachai-Cherkessia. Until the 1860s they were seen as one peo ple living at the east ern coast of the Black Sea. Abkhaz territory came under Russian rule in 1864, and Abax in the early nineteenth

century. Both peoples are absolute minorities in their republics. Many, particularly Muslim Abkhaz, fell victim to a comprehensive population transfer programme between Turkey and Russia. When they left their land was given to Christians.

ADYGEI AND CHERKESS (own name: Adyge')

see also under Kabard

While Cherkess, Adygei and Kabard today are considered distinct peoples by outsiders, they were originally one indigenous North West Caucasian people. They call them selves Adgei, while Cherkess is Turkish. In English they are known under the collective n ame Circassians. When, from the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries onwards, the Circassians expanded their habitat from the Black Sea Coast to the south and east, the Kabard broke away (see under Kabard). The Adgei converted to Islam in the six teenth century under influence from Crimean Tatars but Islam never became deeply rooted. They formed a hierar chically structured feudal society with an aristocracy, free farmers and captured slaves. They fought wars with Russia from the second half of the eight eenth century, but did not support the Shamil uprising due to its non-feudal, more democratic traditions and the fanaticism of the movement. In 1864 the Cherkess and Adygei finally came under Russian rule and their social structure was destroyed. A mass e xodus of up to 90 per cent of the Adgei to the Ottoman Empire followed. Today a diaspora of more than a million Adgei lives in Turkey, the Middle East and the USA.

Today, at least ofhcially, Cherkess and Adygei are seen as two different peoples. Slightly more than half of the Russian Circassians live as Adygei in Adygea, approxi mately one quarter as Cherkess in Karachai-Cherkessia, with the remainder primarily in t he Russian Provinces Krasnodar and Stavropol, where they mostly constitute a rural population. Both groups are absolute minorities in their respective republics and regions.

The closely related Shapsug still live at the coast of the Black Sea. Their name derives from their original way of income - horse-breeding.


see under Lezgi

ANDI (o'ii'n name: Andi)

See also under Avar.

The Audi group consists of Audi, Akhvakh, Bagulal,

Botlikh, Chamalal, Godoberi, Karata and Tindi. They

have not been registered in domestic censuses since 1926.

According to a 1954 estimate there were approximately

50,000 persons belonging to the Audi group then.43

AVAR (own name: Maanilal)

An East Caucasian mountain people of nearly 600,000 liv ing primarily in the highest mountains in the west of the


The process of restructuring the former USSR has led to tensions and conflicts in many places, also - or specifically

- the North Caucasus. Individuals, minorities, nationalities and nations are searching for ways to redefine their identi ties, their legitimacy and their territories. This process is a question of who am I, who are we and who are the others - friends as w ell as foe - and to secure political participation and cultural, social and economic development on the basis of the peoples' own resources. The dynamics of this process as either cooperation or fragmentation is verv much determined by the degree of trust or distrust, i.e. historically motivated anxieties and internal hierurchies of stereotypes between the groups, who are conceived as either minorities or majorities. While the major focus in this report is on the North Caucasus region within the Russian F ederation, similar patterns of trust-distrust and hierarchies exist in the neighbouring states of Georgia and Azerbaijan on the one hand and between the North Caucasus region and the world at large, e.g. relations to Turkey, Iran and Western Europe. Looki ng at the North Caucasus, two major tendencies can be seen:

- to secure development and participation through region al cooperation as opposed to the dominating power struc tures in the majority society.

- to secure the rights of each group by linking ethnicity to a territory (either by creating new self-determining units, tlirt)~Igh strengthening or federalizing old ones; and either based on a single grottp or in cooperation with related peo pies). i.e. a focus t)1I il)ternal relationships between region al aud locil majorities aod minorities.

Beth ten(k~ucies create ct)()peratit)n as well as opposition. The fi)ll()wing major treods tt) strengthen North Caucasian identities an(l loyalties can he singled olit.

Creating ethnic republics

Many groups in the Caucasus tend in their political argu ments, towards claiming territories defined on the basis of ethnicity. For some, especially the deported peoples who were deprive'd of their lands for decades, this claim is part of a claim for rest itution. This is true not only for those for mally recoguized as deported, but also for those groups which were forcibly removed from their settlements after colonization. Many have very close emotional ties to the places where their ancestors are buried but also to the land they had to leave. The needs of cultural survival and also Soviet policies of registering the Soviet population along ethnic lines have also led to this situation. Adding to this the Soviet policies of establishing autonomies with tit ular nationalities, explains the trend to some extent. Most effec tive in fostering it has however been the iguorance towards the claims of the peoples, and in some places oppression of minorities by old and new majorities. The new Russian constitution's claim for presidencies in republics, and the

new Russian parliament's structure with single delegates from republics can tip internal balances within republics where more than one ethnic group share in power.

Groups sharing in power within one republic are challeng ing the status quo. Ingushia and Chechnia have already parted due to diverting policies and formed ethnically defined republics. Under certain circumstances similar solutions might be claimed or imp lemented in Karachai Cherkessia and in Kabardino-Balkaria if other viable solu ti~s cannot be found. This is not currently an acute problem, nor in Dagestan either, where 11 peoples share in power while 20 more constitute indigenous minorities. But some o f the people, such as the Kumyk, the Lezgi and the Nogai, are claiming ethnically defined territories or at least wish to unite with their kin outside Dagestan. Also, some Cossacks claim the re-establishment of their former Terek Republic. Ossetes claim a reunion with their south ern kin in Georgia. Any such attempt at reordering internal borders along ethnic lines, or even international borders as is the case with Ossetes, will have to solve insurmountable territorial disputes, as the armed clashes betwe en Ingushia and North Ossetia already show. After decades of life under Soviet control all the territories are ethnically mixed, and territorial claims risk leading to war. There are also many families who are ethnically mixed who would fall vic tim in a scenario of creating ethnic territories.

Creating ethnic unions

Related to the trend of ethnic territories is a trend towards uniting culturally related minorities in separate units. Balkars and Karachai, both living in republics with ethnically unrelated groups, have discussed the possibili ties of uniting together. Kumyk have suggested a union of all Turkic-speaking peoples. Such a union could consist of Karachai, Balkar, Nogai and Kumyk. Also the reunion of all Cherkess peoples into one republic is a theoretical p05 sibility. This would include the Cherkess proper, the Adygei, and the Kabard. Like ethnic republics, ethnic unions seem doomed unless peaceful solutions can be found in time.

Federalizing existing republics

The double republics of Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria could change their internal structures into a federation similar to that of Switzerland. In Dagestan, some representatives of national groups have suggested a federation of Kumyk, Dargin a nd Avar, others of Kumyk, Nogai and Lezgi. This federal solution reflects the deeply rooted idea of a correlation between ethnicity and territory, one of the legacies of the Soviet state.

Internal hierarchies

The Soviet legacy as well as historical experiences have con tribtited to creating ethno-national hierarchies throughout the North Caucasus region. These hierarchies are the focus of anxiety and discussions expressed in publications and declarations of na tional movements and organizations.

At the highest level of the hierarchy is the fear of all groups of what they call 'the hand of Moscow' or 'the hand of Thilisi', i.e. the dominance by the centralized state authorities through military action (intervention, administration, threats, etc.), judicial decisions (constitu tion, privatization decrees, non-recoguition of autonomy or sovereiguty, etc.) or economic interference (blockades, subsidies, etc.).

At the regional level, a pyramid is created by numerical majorities in the different republics, by political domi nance through an alleged preference of one people by the authorities, by perceived strength, by the position created through the system of ti tular nations, etc. Thus Kumyk fear Avar dominance, Adygei fear Cossack dominance, Lezgi fear Azerbaijan dominance, and Ingush fear Ossetian dominance. A similar trend can be observed in most of the republics: with Balkar complaints about Kabard dominance , Cherkess about Karachai, etc.

At the individual level, there is an anxiety that privatiza tion might attract non-indigenous investment or favour individuals and result in the local population losing their homes, their land and other traditional sources of basic income. Armenians and t he former Soviet party bosses are those most often mentioned.

These hierarchies of prejudice are expressions of intermin gled majority-minority relations. They add to the very con crete political and economic difficulties already existing.

Cooperating in a transnational regional union

Opposing Russian integration

While the peoples of the North Caucasus discuss possible scenarios for their future, they also express fears that Russia might once again wish to forcibly re-integrate the peoples in a centralized state and combat dissatisfaction with military means. Seve ral republics, such as Dagestan, are deeply concerned about changes in the new Russian constitution which have diminished constitutional rights to national self-determination for the republics by abolish ing the term 'sovereign', thereby changing their pr ivileged status to one equal to other administrative units such as regions. Chechnia is disturbed by the Russians ignoring their claim for independence and the economic blockade imposed on them. Ingushia has protested at the Russian army's one sided condu ct in their conflict with South Ossetia. And all Caucasian peoples have seen the sign on the wall when Moscow, in 1993, decided not to allow peo ple from the Caucasus to settle or trade in the Russian centre and expelled more than 30,000. If Russia and it s Russian majority population, intended to create a multi ethnic state with equal opportunities for all minorities within its territory, one might argue that the fears of the North Caucasian peoples were unjustified. The problem is that Russia insists on the non-national and non-sovereign character of its republics, while simultaneously promoting a Russian nation state. Symptoms of this intent are the special concern for ethnic Russians, the expulsion of non- Russians from Russian cities and a transparent neglect of minority issues.

There is also a trend to unite the region on the basis of historical regional cooperation and the necessity to over come dominance by strong states which do not respect the claims and rights of the peoples of the North Caucasus. This trend is based on a c ommon regional iden tity and is opposed to ethnic cleansing of any kind. It could be implemented peacefully if the states in question were to respect the claims of the North Caucasians and they were given all the necessary guarantees for indepen dent development. Any other scenario could lead to a new war of independence.

Three suggestions have come forward so far; a unification of all Muslim peoples in the region; a re-establishment of the Mountain Republic that existed after the Bolshevik Revolution, including all republics except Adygea and Dagestan. The third suggestio n, with the backing of the Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus, put forward by almost all groups in the Assembly, is a confederation of the peoples in the North Caucasus in a new independent state-like formation. Such an arrangement has been suggested in order to prevent the atrocities of ethnic cleansing but if this aspiration leads to war, it also might result in renewed fragmentations.

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