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"Karachay" redirects here. For the lake, see Lake Karachay.
Karachays or Alans[1]
Karachay patriarchs in the 19th c.jpg
Karachay patriarchs in the 19th century
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Russia 192,182
 Kazakhstan 995
Karachay, Russian in Karachay–Cherkess Republic
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups

The Karachays or Alans[1] (Karachay-Balkar: sg. - alan, pl. - alanla[2][1][3][4][5][6][7]) are Turkic speaking people of the North Caucasus, mostly situated in the Russian Karachay–Cherkess Republic. They constitute the one nation with the Balkars (Karachai-Balkars) and they are direct descendants of the Turkic-speaking part of the Alans.[1] On the territory of the Karachai was the capital of Alania (Lower-Arkhyz settlement).[8]

Karachay-Balkars and Nogays in Karachay-Cherkes Republic and Kabardino-Balkar Republic


The Karachays are a Turkic people descended from the Turkic-speaking part of the Alans,[1] and share their language with the other Turkic tribes. In Turkic, "Karachay" means "Black River".

The state of Alania was established in the Middle Ages and had its capital in Maas, which some authors locate in Arkhyz, the mountains currently inhabited by the Karachay. 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.

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]


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.


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, Bolur, 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. ^ a b c d e Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS): ИЭА РАН. Editor in chief V. A. Tishkov. Series "Народы и культуры" - "Карачаевцы. Балкарцы.". 2014, М.: "Наука", 2014, - pages 815., ISBN 978-5-02-038043-1, chapter 2, page 35"
  2. ^ "The most important fact of Karachay ethnographic tradition is that even today Karachays use the word "alan" to refer to each other. In fact, we have an ancient endonym of Karachay-Balkars." (S.H. Hotko. Essays on the history and culture of Karachay. pages 12-13 - Maikop: JSC "Polygraph Yug", 2011.- 448 pp. With illustrations. ISBN 978'5'7992'0655'0.)
  3. ^ Volkova N.G., Этнонимы и племенные названия Северного Кавказа. — М.: Наука, 1973. — С. 94, 98.
  4. ^ Bekaldiev M.D., История Кабардино-Балкарии. — Нальчик: Эльбрус, 2003. — С. 382. — ISBN 5-7680-1714-3.
  5. ^ Alekseeva E.P. Карачаевцы и балкарцы – древний народ Кавказа. — Черкесск, 1963. — С. 15.
  6. ^ Karachay-Balkar-Russian dictionary / E.R. Tenishev, H.I. Suyunchev. — М., 1989. — p. 48.
  7. ^ Turkic peoples of Central Caucasus icluded Balkars and Karachays. In its origin, language, spiritual culture of the material these people are so close that their ethnogenesis considered separately does not make sense... Sources say directly that Balkars and Karachay - the last (and first) media ethnonyms Alans and Ases ("Yases" - in Russian sources). (Y.A. Fedorov, «Историческая этнография Северного Кавказа»)
  8. ^ The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS): ИЭА РАН. Series "Народы и культуры" - "Карачаевцы. Балкарцы.". 2014, М.: "Наука", 2014, - pages 815., ISBN 978-5-02-038043-1, chapter 2, page 33"
  9. ^ Norman Rich: Hitler's War Aims. The Establishment of the New Order, page 391.