Abrek is a North Caucasian term. Origin from the Bible meaning in Hebrew "to kneel" or "prostrate in front of the God". Prior to Russian invasion into the Caucasus, and following Islamization of the North Caucasians in the 16th-19th centuries, majority of the North Caucasians were Christians. That is why from Chechen or Ingush the word abrek has the meaning as "avenger", from Cherkess or Karachai the word has the meaning as "brave man". In the Caucasus only in Ossetian and Russian the word has a derogatory meaning as "bandit", but they are of Indo-European language family. Once it was used for a person who vowed to avoid any pleasures and to be fearless in fight for the sake of the God. An abrek renounced himself from any contact with friend and relatives. Abrek lifestyle also included a lonely life in the unexplored wilderness and prayers. Later majority of abreks were devoted Muslims.
The word abrek was used as propaganda to and the example for the anti-Soviet guerrillas at the post-war North Caucasus, as well as for all illegals. Those abreks were widely popularized as the defenders of the motherland and paupers. Becoming aged, abreks of the West Caucasus usually devote themselves to beekeeping. Majority of the East Caucasus were killed in non-stop warfare against invaders.
After the establishment of the Soviet power, abreks continued the fight against oppressors, for the most part in Chechnya. The Chechen abreks unleashed the rebellions of 1920-21, 1929–31, 1931-1939, and the last in 1940-44, that led to the deportation. The last anti-Soviet Chechen abrek was killed 28 March 1976 at the age of 70., however an Ingush abrek Laisat Baisarova was never captured or killed and the tradition gradually transitioned into the modern times.
The habit of raids done by the Chechens and the Ingush against Russian oppressors. Primary Chechen targets were Cossacks who occupied their lowlands. Primary Ingush targets, because of the proximity of the Georgian Military Road a major artery connecting Russia and Georgia, where Russian trade, banking, and mail services. Both hatred of the oppressor (Chechens generally failed to see the distinction between Russian and Cossack, and to this day they may be used as synonyms) and the need to either fill the mouths of hungry children and to regain lost lands played a role. The Chechen raiders, known as abreks were the focal point of this conflict and are almost symbolic of the two different viewpoints. The Russian view on the abreks is that they were simple mountain bandits, a typical example of Chechen barbarism (often compared to Russian "civilization", with general Colonialist racist vocabulary); they were depicted as men of honor by some Russian authors. The Chechen view is that they were heroes of valor, much like Robin Hood. As Moshe Gammer points out in his book Lone Wolf and Bear, Soviet ideology fell somewhere in between the two views- and notably, one such abrek, Zelimkhan, was made a Chechen hero.
- Zelimkhan Gushmazukayev - the most prominent Chechen abrek
- Khasukha Magomadov - Chechen abrek, killed by KGB
- Buzurtanov - Ingush abrek who killed Russian viceroy to Ingushetia colonel Mitnik. Executed by Russian communists on the orders of Chernoglaz.
- Uzhakhov - Ingush abrek who killed Soviet Communist leader of Ingushetia Chernoglaz. Executed by Russian communists.
- Sulom-Beck Sagopshinski - Ingush abrek and a close friend of Zelimkhan Gushmazukayev
- Akhmed Khuchbarov - Ingush abrek, killed by NKVD
- Laisat Baisarova - Ingush woman-sniper who killed scores of Russian soldiers and NKVD officers 1944-1991. Never killed or captured. Currently lives in Chechnya.
- (Russian) Khasukha Magomadov bio Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Gammer, Moshe. Lone Wolf and Bear. Page 117.