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"Balkar" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Balkar, Iran.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Russia 112,924
 Turkey 18,512 (2010)
 USA 3,542 (2010)
 Kazakhstan 1,798[citation needed]
 Ukraine 206[3]
Karachay-Balkar, Russian
Sunni Islam, Nondenominational Muslims, Muwahhid Muslims
Related ethnic groups

The Balkars (Karachay-Balkar: таулу - taulu "mountaineer", аланла - alanla "alans") are a Turkic ethnic group in the Caucasus region, one of the titular populations of Kabardino-Balkaria. Their Karachay-Balkar language is of the Ponto-Caspian subgroup of the Northwestern (Kipchak) group of Turkic languages.

History and cultural relations[edit]

The origins of the Balkar people have not yet been definitively established: various hypotheses have associated them with the Huns, Khazars, Bulgars, Alans, Ubykhs, Kipchaks, Cumans, the Magyars, the Czechs and/or Turkicized Caucasoid groups.[citation needed] Some contemporary scholars[who?] attribute their origin to a cultural conglomeration of northern Caucasian tribes with the Alans and with Turkish-speaking tribes, among which the most significant were probably the "Black Bulgars".[citation needed] Elements of Balkar culture indicate a long association with the Near East, the Mediterranean, the rest of the Caucasus. In the pre-Mongol period (before the thirteenth century) the Balkars were part of the Alan union of tribes, but after the Mongol invasion they retreated into the canyons of the central Caucasus.[citation needed]

Balkars or Alans is a nation living in the North Caucasus (current territories of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia that are subjects of Russian Federation. )Their language belongs to the Turkic Family of languages.

There used to be a kingdom of Alania before the Golden Horde expanded its territories. Afterwards, the kingdom was not fully re-established, and people of Alania were divided in small fractions, predominantly in Karachay and Malkar unions.

During Tsar period of Russia and Soviet era, Alans were facing a lot of hardship and persecution. First persecutions started when Russian Empire was expanding its territories in Caucasus region. Lots of Alans had to leave their homeland along with other nations of Caucasus to Ottoman Empire seeking refuge from massacres of Tsar's generals. Therefore, there is a big community of Alans in Turkey nowadays, and some can be found in Syria and Jordan.

Second wave of persecutions started during Soviet Era, when the whole Alan nation was transported to the Central Asia in stock cars (cattle wagons). As a result, 1/3 of Alans died out of starvation and unbearable conditions during journey. Although they were allowed to return back to their homeland after the death of Stalin, the nation had been facing restrictions on teaching and learning its language and history during the whole the Soviet Era.

Now, Alans face new challenges in Modern World, reviving their history and building the future of their small nation.

According to native ethnogenetic traditions, the Balkars originally settled in the basin of the main Balkar canyon, where the hunter Malkar found success and called his companions Misaka and Basiat of Majar (or Madyar) to join him. The oldest written information about this canyon dates from the 14th century and can be found in a Georgian epigraph on a golden cross in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tskhovati, South Ossetia: the text refers to the canyon in question as "Basianian".[citation needed] In more recent times, in Russian sources, the Balkar population is also referred to as "Basian" and "Balxar".[citation needed]

Legends and chronicles describe the irruption into the fastnesses of Tamerlane's men, who intended to ascend the heights of Mount Elbrus. The Balkars are mentioned in west European and Turkish chronicles around the end of the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Balkars together with the Kabardians mounted a resistance to the Crimean Girays and maintained relations with Georgia and Russia. In 1827 the Balkars finally became Russian citizens, fixing their loyalty through the institution of amanat (hostages).

ABy the beginning of the 20th century a small segment of the Balkars (Chegems and Basians) emigrated to Turkey and Syria. After the civil war and the establishment of Soviet power in 1920, the Balkars were integrated into the structure of the USSR and assigned their own national-territorial unit. In early 1944 Joseph Stalin accused the Balkars of collaborating with Nazi Germany and the entire population was subjected to a mass deportation to parts of Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan. The territory was renamed the Kabardin ASSR until 1957, when the Balkar territory was reestablished and most Balkars returned to their native localities.


In 1944, the Soviet government forcibly deported almost the entire Balkar population to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Omsk Oblast in Siberia. Starting on 8 March 1944 and finishing the following day, the NKVD loaded 37,713 Balkars onto 14 train echelons bound for Central Asia and Siberia. The Stalin regime placed the exiled Balkars under special settlement restrictions identical to those that it had imposed upon the deported Russian-Germans, Kalmyks, Karachais, Chechens and Ingush. By October 1946 the Balkar population had been reduced to 32,817 due to deaths from malnutrition and disease. The Balkars remained confined by the special settlement restrictions until 28 April 1956. Only in 1957, however, could they return to their mountain homeland in the Caucasus. During 1957 and 1958, 34,749 Balkars returned home (Bugai, doc. 64, pp. 279–280).[4]

Language and literacy[edit]

In the Cyrillic alphabet as used by the Karachay-Balkars there are eight vowels and twenty-seven consonants. In the past the official written languages were Arabic for religious services and Turkish for business matters. From 1920 on Balkar has been the language of instruction in primary schools; subsequent instruction is carried out in Russian. Until 1928 Arabic letters were used to write the Balkar language and after that (in 1937), Cyrillic. Ninety-six percent of the population is bilingual in Balkar and Russian. Organs of mass culture, secondary school texts, newspapers, and magazines in both Balkar and Russian continue to increase in number.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russian Census 2002: Population by ethnicity(Russian)
  2. ^ Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
  3. ^ "About number and composition population of Ukraine by data All-Ukrainian census of the population 2001". Ukraine Census 2001. State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  4. ^ N.F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat;": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov," 1992).


  • Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (London: MacMillan, 1970) (ISBN 0-333-10575-3)
  • Alexander Nekrich, The Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978) (ISBN 0-393-00068-0)