|The Caucasian War|
Franz Roubaud's A Scene from the Caucasian War
| Russian Empire
Principality of Mingrelia
Principality of Svaneti
Principality of Guria
| Caucasian Imamate
Big Kabarda (to 1825)
Khanate of Kazi-Kumukh
Dagestan free people
Avar Khanate (1829–1859)
|Commanders and leaders|
|Tsar Nicholas I
Tsar Alexander I
Tsar Alexander II
Haji Kerantukh Berzek
|about 250,000||roughly 300,000|
|Casualties and losses|
|roughly 96,000||about 200,000|
The Caucasian War of 1817–1864, also known as the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, was an invasion of the Caucasus by the Russian Empire which ended with the annexation of the areas of the North Caucasus to Russia and the Ethnic cleansing of Circassians. It consisted of a series of military actions waged by Russia against territories and tribal groups in Caucasia including Chechnya, Dagestan, and the Circassians (Adyghe, Kabarday), Abkhaz, Abazins, and Ubykh as Russia sought to expand southward.
Other territories of the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were incorporated into the Russian empire at various times in the 19th century as a result of Russian wars with Persia and the Ottoman Empire.
|This section requires expansion. (March 2014)|
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 (Kavkazskiy plennik (Кавказский пленник), 1821).
The Russian invasion encountered fierce resistance. The first period coincidentally ended with the death of Alexander I and the Decembrist Revolt in 1825. It achieved surprisingly little success, especially as compared with the then recent Russian victory over the "Great Army" of Napoleon in 1812.
Between 1825 and 1833 little military activity took place in the Caucasus: 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. 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. 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 down the mountaineers' resistance.
The war in the Eastern part of the North Caucasus ended in 1859 when the Russians captured Shamil, forced him to surrender and to swear allegiance to the Tsar, and exiled him to Central Russia. The war in the Western part of the North Caucasus resumed however with the Circassians (Adyghe, Abkhazian, and Ubykh) resuming the fight. A manifesto of Tsar Alexander II declared hostilities at an end on June 2, 1864 (May 21 O.S.), 1864.
Among the post-war events, a tragic page in the history of the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus (especially the Circassians) was Muhajirism, or population transfer of the Muslim population into the Ottoman Empire, and to a lesser extent Persia.
|This section requires expansion with: Aftermath. (January 2011)|
Many Circassians fled to the Ottoman Empire and, to a lesser extent, Persia. Circassians had become the first target of Arab Armies during the first Arab-Israeli war, and helped to mobilize Jewish settlers during the siege of Circassian villages in Palestine by Arab armies and to create an Israeli army. Circassians from Kosovo returned to Russia only after the civil war in Kosovo. There are many Circassians in Syria now who are preparing to repatriate. Some Circassians joined Cossacks, Grebensky (Row) Cossacks being of mixed Russian-Circassian origin from the very beginning. There were Mozdok Cossacks of Circassian origin as well. The genocide of Terek Cossacks during the Civil war was the continuation of the genocide of Circassians, the former Russian Empire allies supporting Communists. Adyghea, Oset, Kabardino-Balkarian and Karachaevo-Circassian republics have some sovereign rights within Russia. The problems of Circassian republics within Russia originate from the distribution of many Circassian tribal lands among the Russian Empire allies in the Caucasus, especially Vainahs and Turkic peoples. Many new settlers were exiled by Stalin in 1944, and some of their land was given to Georgians and Ossetians. Though numerous exiled people have returned, many lands, granted to them by the Russian empire, are still inhabited by the Ossetians, supported by Cossacks and Russians. This still generates tensions (East Prigorodny Conflict) in the former war theaters of the Caucasian war.
Construction of the Georgian Military Road through disputed territories was a key factor in the eventual Russian success
Assault of Gimry, by Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud
Caucasian tribesmen fight against the Cossacks, 1847
Circassians by Theodor Horschelt
- Baddeley, John F. The Russian conquest of the Caucasus. London, New York, Bombay, Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1908. Reprinted Mansfield Centre, Conn.: Martino Pub., 2006. ISBN 1-57898-576-5.
- Charles King The ghost of freedom: a history of the Caucasus Oxford University Press US, 2008 ISBN 0-19-517775-4 ISBN 978-0-19-517775-6
- 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.)
- Yale University paper[dead link]
- Bertolt Brecht The Caucasian Chalk Circle study guide http://www.gradesaver.com/the-caucasian-chalk-circle/study-guide/
- Journal of a residence in Circassia during the years 1837, 1838, and 1839 - Bell, James Stanislaus (English)
- Dubrovin, N. Russian: (Дубровин Н.Ф.) История войны и владычества русских на Кавказе, volumes 4–6. SPb, 1886–88.
- Kaziev, Shapi. Imam Shamil. "Molodaya Gvardiya" publishers. Moscow, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2010
- Kaziev, Shapi. Akhoulgo. Caucasian War of 19th century. The historical novel. "Epoch", Publishing house. Makhachkala, 2008. ISBN 978-5-98390-047-9