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"Karachay" redirects here. For the lake, see Lake Karachay.
Karachay patriarchs in the 19th century.jpg
Karachay patriarchs in the 19th century
Total population
300,000 (est.)
Regions with significant populations
 Russia 218,403[1] (2010)
 Kazakhstan 995[2] (2009)
 Ukraine 190[3] (2001)
 Turkey 50,000[4] (2010)
 Kyrgyzstan 2,400 (est.)[5]
 Uzbekistan 500
 USA about 5000 (2010)
Karachay, Russian in Karachay–Cherkess Republic
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups

The Karachays (Karachay-Balkar: къарачайлыла,[6] also алан - alan, pl. аланла - alanla[7][8]) are a Turkic-speaking people of the North Caucasus region, mostly situated in the Russian Karachay-Cherkess Republic.


The Karachays (Къарачайлыла, Qaraçaylıla) are a Turkic people descended from the Kipchaks, and share their language with the Kumyks from Daghestan. In Turkic, "Karachay" means "Black River".

The Kipchaks (Cumans) came to the Caucasus in the 11th century AD. The state of Alania was established in the Middle Ages and had its capital in Maghas, which some authors locate in Arkhyz, the mountains currently inhabited by the Karachay, while others place it in either what is now modern Ingushetia or North Ossetia. In the 14th century, Alania was destroyed by Timur and the decimated population dispersed into the mountains. Timur's incursion into the North Caucasus introduced the local nations to Islam.

In 1828 the Russian army invaded the Caucasus region, including Karachay. On October 20, 1828 the Battle of Hasaukinskoe took place, a battle in which the Russian emperor's troops, under the command of General Emanuel killed or injured 163 people. The day after the battle, as Russian troops were approaching Dzhurtu, the Karachay elders met with the Russian leaders. In order to prevent the massacre of Karachay villages, an agreement was reached for the inclusion of the Karachay into the Russian Empire.

After this annexation, the internal self-government of Karachay was left intact, including its officials and courts. Interactions with neighboring Muslim peoples continued to take place based on both folk customs and Sharia law. In Karachay, soldiers were taken from Karachai Amanat, pledged and oath of loyalty, and were assigned arms.

Karachay Officers "Wild Division". Petrograd, August 31, 1917.

From 1831 to 1860, the Karachays joined the bloody anti-Russian struggles carried out by the Caucasian peoples. Between 1861 and 1880, to escape reprisals by the Russian army, large numbers of Karachays migrated to Turkey.

In 1942 the Germans permitted the establishment of a Karachay National Committee to administer their "autonomous region"; the Karachays were also allowed to form their own police force and establish a brigade that was to fight with the Wehrmacht.[9] This relationship with Nazi Germany resulted, when the Russians regained control of the region in November 1943, with the Karachays being charged with collaboration with Nazi Germany. The majority of the total population of about 80,000 were forcibly deported and resettled in Central Asia, mostly in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In the first two years of the deportations, disease and famine caused the death of 35% of the population; of 28,000 children, 78%, or almost 22,000 perished.[citation needed]

Karachay girl in traditional dress


The Karachay nation, along with the Balkars and Nogays occupy the valleys and foothills of the Central Caucasus in the river valleys of the Kuban, Big Zelenchuk River, Malka, Baksan, Cherek and others.

The Karachays and Balkars are very proud of the symbol of their nations, Mount Elbrus, the highest twin-peaked mountain in Europe with an altitude 5,642 meters.

Language and religion[edit]

The Karachay dialect of the Karachay-Balkar language comes from the northwestern branch of Turkic languages. The Kumyks, who live in northeast Dagestan, speak the same language, the Kumyk language. The majority of the Karachay people are followers of Islam.

Dombay, Feb. 2004


Many Karachays migrated to Turkey after the Russian annexation of the Karachay nation in the early 19th century. Karachays were also forcibly displaced to the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan during Joseph Stalin's relocation campaign in 1944. Since the Nikita Khrushchev era in the Soviet Union, many Karachays have been repatriated to their homeland from Central Asia. Today, there are sizable Karachay communities in Turkey (centered around Afyonkarahisar), Uzbekistan, the United States, and Germany.


The Karachay's isolation among the Caucasus Mountains was one of the reasons for the establishment of the Karachay's unique character.[citation needed]

Karachay people live in communities that are divided into Families and clans (Tukum). A tukum is based on a family's lineage and there are roughly 32 Karachay tukums. Prominent tukums include: Aci, Batcha (Batca), Baychora, Bayrimuk (Bayramuk), Bostan, Catto, Cosar (Çese), Duda, Hubey (Hubi), Karabash, Laypan, Lepshoq, Ozden, Silpagar, Teke, and Toturkul.[citation needed]

Karachay people are very independent, and have strong traditions and customs which dominate many aspects of their lives: e.g. weddings, funerals, and family pronouncements. They are fiercely loyal to both their immediate family and their "tukum". They will never offend a guest. Cowardice is the most serious shame for a male.[citation needed]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
  2. ^ Republic of Kazakhstan Agency on Statistics. Census 2009. (State of naseleniya.rar)
  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. ^ Kipkeeva ZB Introduction / / Karachay-Balkar diaspora in Turkey. - Stavropol: SSU, 2010. - 184 p. - ISBN 5-88648-212-1
  5. ^ Joshuaproject. Karachai, Alan
  6. ^ R. A. Ageeva, Какого мы роду-племени?: народы России, имена и судьбы, Академия, 2000, p. 152
  7. ^ Ėmma Shirii︠a︡zdanovna Geni︠u︡shene, Zlatka Guentchéva, Reciprocal Constructions, Vol. 3, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2007, s. 971. Quote:
    • It is pointed out in specialist literature that their ethnonym was Alan. ``Alan`` is the common address of the Karachay and Balkar to each other.
  8. ^ Editor: Murat Ocak. The Turks: Turkey (2 v. ), Yeni Türkiye, 2002, s. 353. Quote:
    • Karachay-Malkars use a historical etymon for themselves ``Alan`` and call each other ``Alan``.
  9. ^ Norman Rich: Hitler's War Aims. The Establishment of the New Order, page 391.