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Къумукълар (Qumuqlar)
Kumyk architect Abdul-Wahab son of Mustafa.jpg
Abdul-Wahab son of Mustafa — a prominent Kumyk architect of the 19th century.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Russia503,060[1] (2010)
 Ukraine718[2] (2001)
Kumyk, Russian
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Historical: Khazars, Sabir people, Cuman-Kipchaks, North Caucasian Huns, Bulgars[3][4] Modern: Crimean Tatars, Balkars, Karachays, North Caucasian peoples

Kumyks (Kumyk: къумукълар, qumuqlar, Russian: кумыки) are a Turkic people living in the Kumyk plateau (in northern Dagestan to the south of the Terek river), the lands bordering the Caspian Sea, Northern Ossetia, Chechnya and the banks of the Terek river. They speak the Kumyk language, which until the 1930s had been the lingua-franca of the Northern Caucasus.

The territories traditionally populated by Kumyks, and where their historical states used to exist, are called Kumykia.[5][6][7] (Kumyk: Къумукъ, Qumuq)[8].

Population and present settlement area[edit]

Kumyks comprise 14% of the population of the republic of Dagestan, the third-largest population of Chechnya, and the fifth-largest population of the Northern Ossetia, which are parts of the Russian Federation.[9]

Kumyks is the second largest Turkic-speaking ethnic group after Azerbaijanis in the Causasus, the largest Turkic people of the North Caucasus and the third largest nation of Dagestan.

According to the Russian national census of 2010 there are more than 500,000 Kumyks in Russia.

Russian Federation[edit]

Russian'a territorial subject (krai, oblast, republic etc.) Population
Dagestan 365,804[11] 431,736
Tyumen oblast 12,343[12] 18,668
Northern Ossetia 12,659[13] 16,092
Khanty-Mansi autonomous okrug 9,554[14] 13,849
Chechnya 8,883[15] 12,221
Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug 2,613[16] 4,466
Stavropol krai 5,744[17] 5,639
Moscow 1,615[18] 2,351
Moscow oblast 818[19] 1,622
Astrakhan oblast 1,356[20] 1,558
Rostov oblast 1,341[21] 1,511
Volgograd oblast 895[22] 1,018
the table contains regions with the population exceeding 1000 people only.

Turkey and Middle East[edit]

In the 19th century, during and following the Caucasian War, numbers of Kumyks were subject to or willingly resettled (made hijra) to the Ottoman Empire and then Turkey[23].

There is no government-conducted state census of the minor nationalities in Turkey (ethnic or racial censuses are outlawed), but according to the studies of 1994—1996, there were more than 20 settlements with Kumyk population:[24]

Bursa province — Koşuboğazı, Mustafakemalpaşa (assimilated but keeping family history); Orhangazi province — Yeniköy (along with avars and dargins); Sivaş province — Yıldızeli (Yavuzköy), Yağlıdere, Yıldızeli (Yağköy), Süleymaniye, Hafik (along with Turkish and avars; Tokat province — Doğançaylı (along with karachays), Yavu, Çermik, Artova (along with dargins and avars), Çirdağ (along with dargins and avars), Gültepe, Erbaa (along with dargins and avars), Yeniderbent, Zile (along with lezgins), Turhal (along with karachays, Culture Centre is present); Çanakkale province — Akköprü, Biga (Culture Centre is present), Aziziye, Doğancı, Geyikkırı, Kalafat, Biga (Bozna). Many Kumyk districts and villages, for instance in the town of Samsun, dekumykised due to assimilation and resettling.

In the 1910s-1920s, during the Bolshevik Revolution, another emigration wave to Turkey took place. Among muhajirs of that period were prominent Dagestanian figure Aselderkhan Kazanalip (1855-1928) and his wife princess Jahbat Tarkovskaya, along with other princes — Asadullah Utsumi[Uzmi]-khan and Akhmat-khan.[25]

Kumyk population in the native regions of the Caucasus

Kumyks also used to move to Syria and Jordan, where a few Kumyk families still live.[26] For instance, the Syrian village of Dar-Ful was established in 1878-1880 by Kumyk emigrants from the settlements of Utamish, Bashlykent and Karabudaghkent, later joined by Kumyks from the Northern Kumykia and many other Dagestanians.[27]


The majority of researchers (Bakikhanov, S.A. Tokarev, A.I. Tamay, S. Sh. Gadzhieva) derive the name from a Cuman-Kipchak ethnonym "Kimak", or another name for KipchaksCuman.[28] According to P. Uslar, in the 19th century the names "Kumyk" and "Kumuk" pertained to Turkic speaking population of the Northern Caucasian lowlands.[29] In Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia the name Kumyk or originally Kumuk pertained to the Kumyks only.[29] Y. Fyodorov wrote, based on sources from the 8–19 cc., that "Gumik — Kumyk — Kumuk" is originally a Dagestanian toponym from the Middle Ages.[30]

In the Russian, European, Ottoman and Persian sources Kumyks were also known as Dagestan Tatars,[31] Caucasus Tatars,[32] Circassians[33] (although today it's the name of Adyghe people, until the early 19th century it was the name for Caucasus Turkic peoples[34]) and Terek Tatars.[35]


There is no univocal opinion regarding the origin of Kumyks. Konstantine Smirnov supposed that ancient population of the Kumyk plains of the 8-10 centuries were the ancestors of the region's current Kumyk population.[36] Linking Kumyks to Kipchaks, Semyon Bronevsky concluded, that Kumyks appeared in Dagestan in the 12-13 centuries along with Kipchaks. According to I. Klaproth, Kumyks appeared in Dagestan along with Khazars and stayed afterwards. This point of view is supported by the Hungarian historian Ármin Vámbéry, who believed that Kumyks settled on the present territory during the flourishing period of Khazars in the 8th century.[37]

There are also national folklore proving pre-Kipchak ancestry of the Kumyks. It carried through the ages proverbs and sayings coming from the times of Khazar Kaghanate. For instance, in the cry of the heroine from the story "Petrified Aymesedu" there is a mention of the town of Semender, Khazars' capital.[38] There is also a common saying in Kumyk regarding "Khazar treasury",:

«Xazar getdi — xazna getdi Qumuqdan» — «Khazars are gone [defeated] — and so is gone Kumukia's treasury»

S. Tokarev wrote that:[39]

...Kumyks have very diverse ancestry. Its ancient stratum is, undoubtedly, pre-Turkic, Japhetic. There is an opinion that people of Kami, Kamaks, mentioned as long ago as by Ptolemaeus, are historically related to Kumyks. Their turkization started at the times of Khazars already, in the second half of the first millennium... Arrival of Cumans extended Turkic element further. That time point, marked by dissolution of the Khazar Kaghanate, is likely to be the period of the core formation for Kumyks, although some researchers (Bartold) linked their appearance to the latter period, when remains of Cumans defeated by Mongols fled to the lands of Dagestan.

A modern interpretation was proposed by well known professor of the Oriental and Turkic studies V. Bartold, who suggested that "apart from Nogais, from the Turkified Lezginians emerged also Kumyks"[40] (by Lezginians meaning mountainous inhabitants of Dagestan).[41]

However, the prominent professor of the Caucasus studies L. Lavrov doubted "Turkification" version of Kumyks:[42]

It's unlikely that Kumyks might be Turkified Dagestanians, as some claim. Rather, their ancestors are considered to be Kipchaks, Khazars and, probably, other Turks of the early Middle Ages. It would be preferable to also identify whether Kamaks, who used to be settled in the North Dagestan in the beginning of our era, are related to Kumyks.

Another prominent Russian Orientalist V. Minorsky proposed his adjustment to the views mentioned, stating that:[43]

Today's Kumyk Turks, who populate North Eastern part of Dagestan, along the shore, possibly come from the basic Khazar stratum, strengthened and assimilated by the later re-settlers from the Kipchak steppes.

Final stages of the Kumyk ethnicity's formation stretched over the period of XII–XVII centuries.[44]

Some of Turkic peoples who blended into the Kumyk nation were those of Tumens from the Tumen Khanate (Caucasian Tumen), which formed in the 15th century as a fragment of the dissolved Golden Horde, those of Borogans, As people[45] and pre-Cuman Turks[46] who inhabited Boragan-Madjar region, which in the 7th century encompassed vast North Caucasian plains.[47]


Rifle of the Kumyk Shamhal of Tarki, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New-York

Kumyks historically were related to the states of Caucasian Huns, Cuman-Kipchaks, Golden Horde.[46][48][49]

The starting nationhood point is often considered to be the times of Khazar Kaganate.[50][42]

Starting from the Medieval times Kumyks formed a few feudal states. Until the 19th centuries CE the Kumyks had a feudal entity of strategical geographic and political importance for Russia, Persia and Ottomans,[51][52] headed by a leader called Shamkhal (originally Shawkhal, in Russian sources Shevkal) — Shamkhalate, which is mentioned as early as in the 14th century by the Timurid historians.[53]

Amongst the other feudal entities were such as Endirey Principality,[54] Utamish Soltanate,[55] Tumen Possession,[56] Braguny Principality,[56] Mekhtuly Khanate,[57] Kaytag Uzminate[58] and others.[58]

Expansion of the Russian state, Ottoman Empire and Persia[edit]

In the 16th century Kumyk rulers tried to balance their relationships with the three neighbouring states, the Shamkhalate established itself as a considerable regional power. The two Empires and yet-to-be one Russian state considered the Caspian area as their influence domain.

Shamkhal Chopan became a subject of the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century, and participated in the 1578-1590th Ottoman-Persian war.[59]

1560s are marked as the start of the numerous campaigns of the Russian troops against Kumyks, provoked by the requests of Georgians and Kabardians. Commander Cheremisinov seized and plundered the capital of Tarki in 1560. Tumen khanate in the alliance with the Shamkhalate also resisted the invasion but in 1588 ceased its existence; at the location of its capital Russians established the Terki stronghold (do not mistake for Tarki). Tumen ruler Soltaney fled to the pan-Caucasian hero Sultan-Mahmud of Endirey.[60] In 1594 the other Campaign of Khvorostinin in Dagestan was organised, during which Russian forces and Terek Cossacks seized Tarki again, but were blocked by the Kumyk forces and forced to retreat to Terki, which resulted in a stampede.

In 1604—1605 one more Campaign of Buturlin in Dagestan was conducted, famously known as the Shevkal Campaign. This one is also failed and resulted in a significant loss for Russians on the field of Karaman, known as The Battle of Karaman. The joined forces of the Dagestanian peoples under the banners of the Kumyk Shamkhalian prince Soltan-Mahmud of Endirey prevailed, and according to the prominent Russian historian Karamzin stopped Russian expansion for the next 118 years until the rule of Peter I.[61]

In 1649 and 1650 Nogai leader Choban-murza nomadised away to the allied Shamkhalate. Russian sovereigns pursuing Nogais sent 8,000 men in order to force Nogais to return. Surkhay-Shawkhal III attacked and routed Russian troops in The Battle of Germenchik.[62] Developing success, in 1651 and 1653 Kumyks, this time in alliance with Safavid forces, destroid Russian fortress at the river Sunzha. Iranian Shah Abbas II though intended to strengthen Persian foot on the Kumyk lands, which didn't match with Surkhay's plans. In alliance with Kaytag Uzmi (a title of a local feudal) Rustem, Surkhay III confronts Persians but concedes. Nevertheless, high losses disrupted Shah's intentions of building fortresses in the Kumyk lands.[63]

Resistance to Peter I.[edit]

In the XVIII century Russian Emperor Peter I organised Persian Campaign of the 1722—1723. Endirey principality was the first to oppose the Russian forces, and despite the defeat, caused losses which shocked the Emperor.[64] Kumyks of the Utamish Soltanate feudal entity, also according to the Peter's officers, fiercely resisted at The Battle at the River Inchge. Peter I stated afterwards:[65]

Roubaud, Peter I in Tarki, the Capital of Tarki Shamkhalate

If these people had a comprehension of the Military Science [Art], no other nation could take arms against them.

Tarki Shamkhalate initially took a pro-Russian stance, but after a new Russian fortress had been built they confronted Russia again. However, this time Shamkhals couldn't unite the neighboring local peoples and remained alone in the struggle. Russian historian Sergey Solovyov wrote:[66]

In October 1725 general-majors Kropotov and Sheremetev embarked to devastate the possessions of the Shamkhal and burned down twenty settlements, including Tarki, the capital of the Shamkhal, which comprised 1,000 households; the total number of destroyed households amounts to 6,110. Shamkhal, having only 3,000 troops, couldn't resist the overwhelming number of Russians, who had in their ranks 8,000 Cossacks and Kalmyks only, not counting the regular troops, and two infantry regiments and two cavalries; Adil-Girey [Shamkhal] left Tarki and together with the Turkish ambassador had sent letters to other mountaineer possessors, asking for help, but got a refusal.

Caucasian War[edit]

Fragment of the Caucasus map with Kumyk lands (Land der Kumuken and Dagestan Tataren) by F. Bandtre. Printed by Druck und Verlag von C. Flemming in Glogau, 1855

Russian 19th century general Gregory Phillipson , known for his important actions in subjugating Adyghe and Abaza ethnic groups at the left flank of the Caucasian front in Circassia, wrote:

I had vague knowledge about Caucasia and the Caucasian war, although professor Yazikov on the lectures in the military geography used to tell about one and the other; and according to his words it turned out that the most valiant and inimical to us tribe was that of the Kumyks.

Kumyks were one of the major forces in the late 18th century Sheikh Mansur's insurgence. Kumyk prince Chepalow in alliance with Mansur attacked a few times the Russian stronghold of Kizlyar. In the decisive battle Mansur led the Kumyk forces himself.[67] Despite the formal acceptance of the Russian sovereignty over the Shamkhals at the beginning of the Caucasian war (resulting from the Treaty of Gulistan), there were numerous revolts in Kumykia. In 1825 the village of [Old] Aksay was destroyed and 300 men from the settlement were gathered for their participation in the insurgence against Russian Empire led by the Chechen leader Taymiyev Biybolat, and murdered when one of the Kumyks Ochar-Haji killed two Russian generals at the spot.[68] In the same year the people of Endirey called the peoples of mountaineer communities to the mutual resistance.[69]

In total, there were at least five revolts in Shamkhalate and on the Kumyk plateau (called also Kumyk plains): anti-Russian revolt, resulting in the defeat of Northern Kumyks (Endirey and Aksay principalities) and then-disestablished Mekhtula Khanate,[70] Shamkhalate Revolt of the 1823,[71] participation in Beybulat Taymiyev's revolt (who though shortly beforehand pledged allegiance to Russia),[72] Shamkhalate Revolt of the 1831,[73] the revolt at the Kumyk plains in the 1831 and one more Shamkhalate Revolt of the 1843.[74]

There were also preparations for the insurgence on the Kumyk plains in 1844 and for the general Kumyk insurgence in 1855,[75] which had been planned as a joined actions with the advance of imam Shamil, but the advance didn't progress enough to the Kumyk lands,[75] In the insurgence in Dagestan in 1877-1878 one of the major centres was the village of Bashly.[75]

Despite the devastation brought by imperial army for the attempts to rise against Russia,[76] Kumyk plains were also exposed to plundering forays from the neighboring tribes. As an instance, one of Chechen leaders Avko in 1830 gathered forces in a call to allegedly join troops of the leader of the Caucasian resistance Gazi-Muhammad, but at the last moment declared the true reason "to use the opportunity to attack the city of Endirey and plunder Kumyks' cattle", but the troops disbanded in disappointment.[77] Gazi-Muhammad himself tried to make Kumyks resettle higher in the mountains from the plains and join his resistance by destroying Kumyk settlements, as it's stated in the Russian military archives:[76]

Kazi-mulla, trying to hold Kumyks close, came up with a strange trick: destroying their auls [settlements] in order to force them to resettle in the mountains by depriving of living spaces. On the 24th of July he, in front of our troops, made the first experiment on Endirey village and burned down the third of it. Prince [Knyaz] Bekovich [Russian officer] at that time was burning Kumyks' bread at the slopes of the mountains...

During the Caucasian War Kumyks found themselves between the devil and the deep sea, not always supported by the insurgents on one hand, and being a target of retaliation from Russians on the other. Same archives say:

...Kazi-mulla... used all the means to push away from us the population of the Small Chechnya and Kachkalik ridge, which however remained loyal to us only by their appearance, and namely because they didn't want to get between two fires as Kumyks did.

Kumyks during the War gave the Caucasus many common heroes. Imam of Dagestan and Chechnya Shamil was of the Kumyk descent,[78][79][80] as well as his companion and the second pretender to the Imam's position Tashaw-Hadji.[75][81][82][83] Besides, Kumyks were the leaders of the earlier Dagestanian revolts such as Soltan Ahmed-Khan of Avars, and Umalat-bek of Boynak (the heir of Tarki throne), companion of the imam Gazi-Muhammad Razibek of Kazanish, trusted companion of the Imam Shamil — Idris of Endirey.

Dissolution of Shamkhalate and the Kumyk okrug (district)[edit]

With the Caucasian War ended, on the 30th of December 1869, the Kumyk district of the Terek oblast (Northern Kumykia) was dissolved and renamed as Khasavyurt okrug. In the end of 1870th the entire southern part of the Khasavyurt district, from Gerzel-aul to Endirey, was populated by Chechens by the Russian decrees. Since 1870 until 1877 the number of Chechens in native Kumyk area increased from 5,912 to 14,000 and continued to grow to 18,128 in 1897.[84]

According to The Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, issued at the turn of XIX - XX centuries, there were 32,087 thousand Kumyks in Dagestan (which at that tim did not comprised the Northern Kumykia[85]). And according to the 1891 data, 108,800 Kumyks lived in the Dagestan and Terek oblasts of the Russian Empire.[86]

A little earlier, in 1867 the Tarki Shamkhalate was abolished by the Russian authorities, which might be considered as the end of the Kumyk statehood.

Russian Revolution, Soviet and Modern times[edit]

Haidar Bammate, one of the founders of the North Caucasian Republic

During the times of the establishment of Soviets Kumyk political elite was an active part in the creation of the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus.[87] Haydar Bammate was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the ideologists of the state, Prince Rashitkhan Kaplan was the Minister of Internal Affairs, one of the major military leaders was prince Nuh-bek Tarkovskiy, Zubair Temirhanov was the speaker of the Alliance Council ("Mejlis", similar to Parliament) of the Republic.

In 1926 the Soviet Population Census stated that there were 94 549 Kumyks in the Russian empire, indicating demographic crisis,[88] compared to the 1891 data.

Due to the continuous resettlement policies by the Russian Empire, then the Soviet government, continuing today in the modern Republic of Dagestan of the Russian Federation, during the XIX-XXI centuries the native territories of Kumyks have been dramatically reduced, Kumyks became a minority on their own lands.[89][84]


By the decree of Stalin's government on the 12 of April 1944 Kumyk population of historical Kumyk capital Tarki and adjacent villages was deported to the lands of entirely deported to the Middle Asia Chechens (Karachays, Balkars and Crimean Tatars also were deported). The reason was stated as "freeing the area for the agricultural needs" of the resettling there mountaineer peoples. The deportation, despite the Russian laws is still not acknowledged by the Russian government. As a result of this event, local population lost for years their ancient capital of Tarki, which led to the permanent destruction of the most of the cultural inheritance.[90]


Anthropologically Kumyks represent Caucasian racial group, its Caspian subgroup.[91][92]


Kumyks speak Kumyk language, which is a part of Kipchak-Cuman subfamily of the Kipchak family of the Turkic languages. It's an inheritant of the Khazar languages and in addition contains Bulghar and Oghuz substratum.[93]

Nikolay Baskakov, basing on a famous 12th century scripture named Codex Cimanicus, included modern Kumyk, Karachai-Balkar, Crimean Tatar, Karaim, and the language of Mamluk Kipchaks in lingual family of the Cuman-Kipchak language. Samoylovich also considered Cuman-Kipchak close to Kumyk and Karachai-Balkar.[94]

Kumyk had been a lingua-franca of the bigger part of the Northern Caucasus, from Dagestan to Kabarda, until the 1930s.[95][96][97]

In 1848, a professor of the "Caucasian Tatar" (Kumyk) Timofey Makarov published the first ever grammatical book in Russian language for one of the Northern Caucasian languages - which was international Kumyk. Makarov wrote:[98]

From the peoples speaking Tatar language I liked the most Kumyks, as for their language's distinction and precision, so for their closeness to the European civilization, but most importantly, I take in account that they live on the Left Flank of the Caucasian Front, where we're conducting military actions, and where all the peoples, apart from their own language, speak also Kumyk.

Kumyk was an official language of communication between North-Eastern Caucasian nations and Russian administration[99].

Amongst the dialects of the Kumyk there are Kaitag, Terek (Güçük-yurt and Braguny), Buynaksk (Temir-Khan-Shura) and Xasavyurt, the latter two became basis for the literary language.[100]

Kumyk is the oldest script literary language of Dagestan and Caucasus. During the 20th century the writing system of the language was changed twice: during Soviet times in 1929 traditional Arabic script (called ajam) was substituted by the Latin script, and then in 1938 — by Cyrillic script.

The closest to the Kumyk are Karachai-Balkar, Crimean Tatar, and Karaim languages.[101]

More than 90% of the Kumyks, according to 2010 census, also speak Russian, and those in Turkey and the Levant (Sham) speak Turkish and Arabic.

In Russian and European classical literature[edit]

Kumyk language was a subject of studies for such Russian classical authors as Leo Tolstoy[102] and Mikhail Lermontov,[103] both of whom served in the Caucasus. The language is present in such works of Tolstoy as "The Raid",[104] Cossacks,[105] Hadji Murat, and Lermontov's - "A Hero of Our Time",[106][103] Bestuzhev-Marlinsky's - "Molla-nur" and "Ammalat-bek".

German poet Fleming, travelling together with Holstein embassy through Kumyk lands in 1633 and 1636, had dedicated to Kumykia and its towns a few verses.[107][108]

Notable Kumyks[edit]

Djalaluddin Korkmasov, Abdulkhakim Ismailov, Temirbulat (Timour) Bammate, Najmuddin Bammate, Ilyas Bekbulatov, Bozigit Ataev, Jamal Ajigerey (wushu star and actor,[109] 12-time European and 1-time world wushu champion[110][111]), Nariman Israpilov, Rustam Khabilov, Bakhtiyar Akhmedov, Saypulla Absaidov, Magomet-Gasan Abushev, Marid Mutalimov, Muslim Salikhov, Marat Gafurov, Nasrulla Nasrullayev, Zapir Rasulov, Haidar Bammate.


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Coordinates: 42°23′14″N 47°59′12″E / 42.3873°N 47.9867°E / 42.3873; 47.9867