Caucasian War

Last updated
The Caucasian War
Part of Russian conquest of the Caucasus
Roubaud. Scene from Caucasian war.jpg
Franz Roubaud's A Scene from the Caucasian War

Russian victory

North Caucasus annexed into Russia

Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Russia

Thirdimamateflag.svg Caucasian Imamate

Flag of Abkhazia (c. 1770-1864).svg Abkhazian rebels
Polish and Ukrainian [ citation needed ] volunteers
Commanders and leaders
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Catherine II
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Tsar Nicholas I
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Tsar Alexander I
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Tsar Alexander II
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Michael Nikolaevich
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Grigory Zass
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Ivan Paskevich
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Aleksey Yermolov
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Mikhail Vorontsov
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Dmitry Milyutin
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Aleksandr Baryatinsky
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Ivan Andronnikov
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Grigory Rosen
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Yevgeny Golovin
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Nikolay Muravyov-Karsky
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Nikolai Evdokimov
Flag of The Principality of Mingrelia (Portolan 1560).svg Grigol Dadiani
Thirdimamateflag.svg Gamzat-bek
Thirdimamateflag.svg Ghazi Mullah
Thirdimamateflag.svg Shamil of Gimry
Thirdimamateflag.svg Beibulat Taimin
Thirdimamateflag.svg Tashev-Khadji of Endirey
Thirdimamateflag.svg Shuaib-Mulla of Tsentara
Thirdimamateflag.svg Hadji Murad
Thirdimamateflag.svg Isa Gendargeno
Thirdimamateflag.svg Baysangur of Beno
Thirdimamateflag.svg Talhig Shelar
Thirdimamateflag.svg Umalat-bek of Boynak
Thirdimamateflag.svg Irazi-bek of Kazanysh
Thirdimamateflag.svg Idris of Endirey
Flag of Abkhazia (c. 1770-1864).svg Akhmat Aublaa
Thirdimamateflag.svg Shabat Marshan
Flag of Adygea.svg Kizbech Tughuzoqo
Flag of Adygea.svg Qerandiqo Berzeg
Flag of Adygea.svg Seferbiy Zanuqo
Flag of Adygea.svg Thirdimamateflag.svg Muhammad Amin Asiyalo
Flag of Adygea.svg Jembulat Boletoqo
Flag of Adygea.svg Keysin Keytiqo
1819: 50,000 [1]
1857: 200,000
1862: 60,000 [2]
Thirdimamateflag.svg Caucasian Imamate:
15,000–25,000 [3]
Flag of Adygea.svgCircassia:
35,000–40,000 [3]
Casualties and losses
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Military dead: HighFlag of Adygea.svgCivilian dead: 1,200,000 [4] [5]
Flag of Adygea.svgTotal dead: High
Thirdimamateflag.svg Total dead: High

The Caucasian War (Russian : Кавказская война; Kavkazskaya vojna) of 1763–1864 was an invasion of the Caucasus by the Russian Empire which resulted in Russia's annexation of the areas of the North Caucasus, and the ethnic cleansing of Circassians. It consisted of a series of military actions waged by the Empire against the native peoples of the Caucasus including the Chechens, Adyghe, AbkhazAbaza, Ubykhs, Kumyks and Dagestanians as Russia sought to expand. [6] Among the Muslims, resistance to the Russians was described as jihad. [7]


Russian control of the Georgian Military Highway in the center divided the Caucasian War into the Russo-Circassian War in the west and the Murid War in the east. Other territories of the Caucasus (comprising contemporary eastern Georgia, southern Dagestan, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were incorporated into the Russian Empire at various times in the 19th century as a result of Russian wars with Persia. [8] The remaining part, western Georgia, was taken by the Russians from the Ottomans during the same period.



The war took place during the administrations of three successive Russian Tsars: Alexander I (reigned 1801–1825), Nicholas I (1825–1855), and Alexander II (1855–1881). The leading Russian commanders included Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov in 1816–1827, Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov in 1844–1853, and Aleksandr Baryatinskiy in 1853–1856. The writers Mikhail Lermontov and Leo Tolstoy, who gained much of his knowledge and experience of war for his book War and Peace from these encounters, took part in the hostilities. The Russian poet Alexander Pushkin referred to the war in his Byronic poem "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" (Russian: Кавказский пленник; Kavkazskij plennik), written in 1821. In general, the Russian armies that served in the Caucasian wars were very eclectic; as well as ethnic Russians from various parts of the Russian empire they included Cossacks, Armenians, Georgians, Caucasus Greeks, Ossetians, and even soldiers of Muslim background like Tatars, Bashkirs, Kazakhs, Uyghurs, Turkmen and even some Caucasian Muslim tribes who sided with the Russians against fellow Muslims of Caucasus. Muslim soldiers of Imperial Russian Army had played some parts on religious discussion and wooing allies for Russia against their fellow Muslim brethren in the Caucasus.

The Russian invasion encountered fierce resistance. The first period of the invasion ended coincidentally with the death of Alexander I and the Decembrist Revolt in 1825. It achieved surprisingly little success, especially compared with the then recent Russian victory over the "Grande Armée" of Napoleon in 1812.

Between 1825 and 1833, little military activity took place in the Caucasus against the native North Caucasians as wars with Turkey (1828/1829) and with Persia (1826–1828) occupied the Russians. After considerable successes in both wars, Russia resumed fighting in the Caucasus against the various rebelling native ethnic groups in the North Caucasus, and that was the start of the Caucasian genocide committed by Russians, most of the terminated people were from the Circassian nation. Russian units again met resistance, notably led by Ghazi Mollah, Gamzat-bek, and Hadji Murad. Imam Shamil followed them. He led the mountaineers from 1834 until his capture by Dmitry Milyutin in 1859. In 1843, Shamil launched a sweeping offensive aimed at the Russian outposts in Avaria. On 28 August 1843, 10,000 men converged, from three different directions, on a Russian column in Untsukul, killing 486 men. In the next four weeks, Shamil captured every Russian outpost in Avaria except one, exacting over 2,000 casualties on the Russian defenders. He feigned an invasion north to capture a key chokepoint at the convergence of the Avar and Kazi-Kumukh rivers. [9] In 1845, Shamil's forces achieved their most dramatic success when they withstood a major Russian offensive led by Prince Vorontsov.

During the Crimean War of 1853–1856, the Russians brokered a truce with Shamil, but hostilities resumed in 1855. Warfare in the Caucasus finally ended between 1856 and 1859, when a 250,000 strong army under General Baryatinsky broke the mountaineers' resistance.

The war in the Eastern part of the North Caucasus ended in 1859; the Russians captured Shamil, forced him to surrender, to swear allegiance to the Tsar, and then exiled him to Central Russia. However, the war in the Western part of the North Caucasus resumed with the Circassians (i.e. Adyghe, but the term is often used to include their Abkhaz–Abaza kin as well) resuming the fight. A manifesto of Tsar Alexander II declared hostilities at an end on June 2 (May 21 OS), 1864. Among post-war events, a tragic page in the history of the indigenous peoples of the North Caucasus (especially the Circassians), was Muhajirism, or population transfer of the Muslim population to the Ottoman Empire. [10]


Many Circassians forced to immigrate and leave their home to the Ottoman Empire and to a lesser degree Persia. The genocide of Terek Cossacks during the Civil war was a continuation of the genocide of Circassians, former allies of the Russian Empire who supported the Communists. Most of the historical Circassian territories were historically distributed amongst the allies of the Russian Empire, such as certain Vainakh and Turkic families. However, many of those new settlers were exiled by Stalin in 1944, and some of those lands was redistributed, this time, to Georgians and Ossetians. Though many of the exiled people have returned, many lands, granted to them by the Russian empire, are still inhabited by Ossetians. The Georgians left all the lands given to them as they did not consider it theirs since the land was not within Georgia itself, but in neighbouring Russia. This still generates tensions (East Prigorodny Conflict) in the former war theaters of the Caucasian war. [11] Today, there are three titular Circassian republics in Russia: Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessia. Other historical Circassian territories such as Krasnodar Krai, Stavropol Krai, and southwestern Rostov Oblast have much smaller communities of Circassians. The diaspora in Syria is repatriating Russia. Circassians from Kosovo also returned to Russia after the civil war in Kosovo.

According to one source, the population in Greater and Lesser Kabarda decreased from 350,000, before the war, to 50,000 by 1818. [12] According to another version, in 1790 the population was 200,000 people and in 1830 30,000 people. [13] As a percentage of the total population of the North Caucasus, the number of the remaining Circassians was 40% (1795), 30% (1835) and 25% (1858). Similarly: Chechens 9%, 10% and 8.5%; Avars 11%, 7% and 2%; Dargins 9.5%, 7.3% and 5.8%; Lezghins 4.4%, 3.6% and 3.9% . [14]

Related Research Articles

Caucasus Transcontinental region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea

The Caucasus, or Caucasia,, is a region spanning Europe and Asia. It is situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

The history of Chechnya may refer to the history of the Chechens, of their land Chechnya, or of the land of Ichkeria.

Imam Shamil Imam of the Dagestan

Imam Shamil was the political, military, and spiritual leader of Caucasian resistance to Imperial Russia in the 1800s, the third Imam of the Caucasian Imamate (1840–1859), and a Sunni Muslim Shaykh of the Naqshbandi Sufi Tariqa.

Dagestan Republic in Russia

Dagestan, officially the Republic of Dagestan is a republic of Russia situated on the Caspian Sea, in the North Caucasus of Eastern Europe. It is located north of the Greater Caucasus, and is a part of the North Caucasian Federal District. As the southernmost tip of Russia, the republic shares land borders with the countries of Azerbaijan and Georgia to its south and southwest; and borders the Russian republics of Chechnya and Kalmykia to its west and north, while having a border with Stavropol Krai to its northwest. Makhachkala is the capital and largest city; other chief cities are Derbent, Kizlyar, Izberbash, Kaspiysk and Buynaksk.

The Ingush are a Northeast Caucasian native ethnic group of the North Caucasus, mostly inhabiting their native Ingushetia, a federal republic of Russian Federation. The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak the Ingush language. According to 19th-century scientist Semen Bronevski the Ingush are known as Kisti, Ghalgha, Ingushi and they use the names interchangeably. According to the German scientist Peter Pallas who visited the Caucasus the Ingush are known as Loamaro, Kisti, Ghalghai, Ingush.

Caucasian Imamate 1828–1859 state in the North Caucasus

The Caucasian Imamate, also known as the Caucasus Imamate, was a state established by the imams in Chechnya and Dagestan during the early-to-mid 19th century in the North Caucasus, to fight against the Russian Empire during the Caucasian War, where Russia sought to conquer the Caucasus in order to secure communications with its new territories south of the mountains.

Sheikh Mansur

Sheikh Mansur was a Chechen military commander and Islamic religious leader who was influential in the resistance against Catherine the Great's imperialist expansion into the Caucasus during the late 18th century. Sheikh Mansur is considered the first leader of the resistance in Caucasus against Russian imperialism. He remains a hero of the Chechen and Caucasian peoples in general, and their struggle for independence.

Gamzat-bek, Hamza-Bek, Hamza Bek ibn Ali Iskandar Bek al-Hutsali was the second imam of the Caucasian Imamate, who succeeded Ghazi Mollah upon his death in 1832.

Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus former country

The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus was a country in the North Caucasus formed by the unification of Circassians, Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians and Dagestanis proclaimed at the congress of the North Caucasian peoples on 6 March 1917. It existed from 1917 until 1922.

Dmitry Ivanovich Sviatopolk-Mirsky

Prince Dmitry Ivanovich Svyatopolk-Mirsky was an Imperial Russian Army general, a politician and a member of the princely Svyatopolk-Mirsky family.

Peoples of the Caucasus Diverse group comprising more than 50 ethnic groups

The peoples of the Caucasus, or Caucasians, are a diverse group comprising more than 50 ethnic groups throughout the Caucasus region.

Circassian genocide 19th-century genocide in the Caucasus

The Circassian genocide was the Russian Empire's systematic mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and expulsion of 800,000–1,500,000 Muslim Circassians from their homeland Circassia in the aftermath of the Russo-Circassian War (1763–1864). The majority of Circassians were killed or exiled, while a minority who resettled in swamps or converted to Christianity remained. It has been recorded that during the events, the Russian and Cossack forces used various genocidal methods, such as tearing the bellies of pregnant women. Russian generals such as Grigory Zass described the Circassians as "subhuman filth", and justified their killing and use in scientific experiments, allowing Russian soldiers to rape Circassian children and women.

Russo-Circassian War Invasion and annexation of Circassia by the Russian Empire (1763-1864)

The Russo-Circassian War was the 101 year-long military conflict between Circassia and Russia. The conflict started in 1763, when the Russian Empire attempted to establish hostile forts in Circassian territory and quickly annex Circassia, followed by the Circassian refusal of the annexation; ending 101 years later when the last resistance army of Circassia was defeated on May 21, 1864, making it exhausting and casualty heavy for the Russian Empire as well as being the single longest war Russia ever waged in history.

History of the Caucasus

The history of the Caucasus region may be divided by geography into the history of the Northern Caucasus (Ciscaucasia), historically in the sphere of influence of Scythia and of Southern Russia, and that of the Southern Caucasus in the sphere of influence of Persia, Anatolia and Assyria.

Circassian nationalism

Circassian nationalism is the desire among Circassians around the world to preserve their culture, save their language from extinction, achieve full international recognition of the Circassian genocide, return to their homeland Circassia, re-establish an independent Circassian state and restore its borders fully or partially.

Shapi Kaziev Russian writer

Shapi Magomedovitch Kaziev was a Russian writer, playwright and script writer. Avar by ethnicity, he was the author of historical novels and other books.

Chechen–Russian conflict Centuries-long conflict in the North Caucasus

The Chechen–Russian conflict refers to various conflicts between the Russian government and various Chechen forces.

Murid War

The Murid War was the eastern component of the Caucasian War of 1817–1864. In the Murid War, the Russian Empire conquered the independent peoples of the eastern Ciscaucasus.


Endirey is a village (selo) in the Khasavyurt District of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia. It is the center of the Endireyskoe Rural Settlement and has a population of 7,863 (2015). Endirey - important historical center of the Kumyks.

Baysangur of Beno was a 19th-century Chechen commander. He was one of the naibs of Imam Shamil. Baysangur participated in the Caucasian War of 1817–1864.


  1. Кроме того, командующему Отдельного Кавказского корпуса было подчинено Черноморское казачье войско — 40 тыс. чел.
  2. На Западном Кавказе
  3. 1 2 À la conquête du Caucase: epopée géopolitique et guerres d'influence
  4. "Victimario Histórico Militar".
  5. Richmond, Walter. The Circassian Genocide. ISBN   9780813560694.
  6. King, Charles (2008). The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus . New York City, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-517775-6.
  7. Kemper, Michael (2010). Companjen, Françoise (ed.). Exploring the Caucasus in the 21st Century: Essays on Culture, History and Politics in a Dynamic Context. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  8. Dowling, Timothy C., ed. (2014). Russia at War. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 728–730. In 1801, Russia annexed the Georgian Kingdom of Kartli–Kakheti.
  9. Robert F Baumann and Combat Studies Institute (U.S.), Russian-Soviet Unconventional Wars in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Afghanistan (Fort Leavenworth, Kan: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, n.d.)
  10. Yale University paper Archived December 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. Bertolt Brecht The Caucasian Chalk Circle study guide
  12. Jaimoukha, A., The Circassians: A Handbook, London: RoutledgeCurzon; New York; Routledge and Palgrave, 2001., page 63
  13. Richmond, Walter. The Circassian Genocide, Rutgers University Press, 2013., page 56
  14. Кабузан В.М. Население Северного Кавказа в XIX - XX веках. - СПб., 1996. С.145.

Further reading