Nakh peoples

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Chechens at a wedding, circa 1870–1886

The Nakh peoples, today partly also known as Vainakh peoples (Chechen/Ingush: Вайнахи, apparently derived from Chechen вайн нах, Ingush вей нах "our people"; also Chechen-Ingush), are a group of Caucasian peoples identified by their use of the Nakh languages and other cultural similarities. These are chiefly the ethnic Chechen (including the Chechen sub-ethnos, the Kists, in Georgia), Ingush and Bats peoples of the North Caucasus, including closely related minor or historical groups.

The ethnonym "Nakhchi"[edit]

Nakh peoples and Vainakh peoples are two terms that were coined by Soviet ethnographers such as the Ingush ethnographer Zaurbek Malsagov. The reasoning behind the creation of these terms was to unite the closely related nations of Chechen and Ingush into one term. The terms "Vainakh" (our people) and "Nakh" (people) were first used as a term to unite two peoples in 1928. It was subsequently popularized by other Soviet authors, poets and historians such as Mamakaev and Volkova in their research.[1] According to the historian Victor Schnirelmann, the terms "Vainakh" and "Nakh" were introduced more actively during the 1960s-1980s periods.[2]


Before 1920s, however, there was a unifying term for both Chechens and Ingush used by 19th century Russian generals, historians, ethnographers and cartographers. This term was "Nakhchi", or the modern lowland version of "Nokhchi", the term today is only used by Chechens and Kists. Historically, however, this term included peoples such as Ingush and Batsbi. The famous 19th century historian B. K. Dalgat who worked extensively in Ingushetia, wrote a lot about Chechen and Ingush ethnography. According to him, the term "Nakhchuy/Nakhchiy" was already a unifying term for both Ingush and Chechens.[3] This is not the case today, as most, if not all, Ingush would reject the Nakhchi ethnonym and consider it foreign. The rejection of this ethnonym was also recorded in 1872 by the ethnographer Umalat Laudaev who wrote:[4]

The Shatoy and Nazran (Ingush) people are reluctant to call themselves Nakhchiy, which stems from their previous hostile attitudes towards the Chechens. But with the outpouring of heartfelt feelings at meetings, at a party, on the way, etc. they always confirm their unity of tribe, expressing themselves: "We are common brothers (wai tsa vezherey detsy)" or "We are the same Nakhchiy (wai tsa nakhchiy du)".

— Umalat Laudaev, "Collection of information about the Caucasian highlanders, Vol. VI."

The term "Nakhchi" was still used by historians and ethnographers for Chechens, Ingush and Batsbi up until the 20th century before it was replaced by the Vainakh/Nakh term in the 1960s. Russian historian Adolf Berge used this term for both Chechens and Ingush in 1859.[5] The famous Russian linguist Peter von Uslar, who studied the North Caucasian languages, also referred to both nations in 1888 as "Nakhche".[6] This term was also used by Potto,[7] Veidenbaum,[8] Gan,[9] Dubrovin[10] and many others during the 19th century.

The oldest mention of Nakhchiy occurred in 1310 by the Georgian Patriarch Cyril Donauri, who mentions the "People of Nakhche" among Tushetians, Avars and many other Northeast Caucasian nations. The term Nakhchiy has also been connected to the city Nakhchivan and the nation of Nakhchamatyan (mentioned in the 7th century) by many Soviet and modern historians.[11] Chechen manuscripts in Arabic from the early 1820s do mention a certain Nakhchuvan (near modern-day Kagizman, Turkey) as the homeland of all Nakhchiy.[12]


The etymology of "Nakhchi" is believed to have come from "Nakh" (people) + "-chi" (suffix) or "Nakh" (people) + "Chuo" (territory). Whatever the case, most historians and linguists agree that the ethnonym includes the term "Nakh" (people). It is because of this assumption that many historians such as Potto, Berger, Gan, Dubrovin believed that it meant "the nation".[11]

Historical mentions of Nakhchi[edit]

Historical mentions
Name Author Source date
Nakhcheti [13] Archibishop Cyril Donauri Historical document 1310
Nakhchai [14] Sala-Uzden Prince Adzhi Historical letter 1756
Nachkha [15] Peter Simon Pallas "Notes about traveling to the southern observations of the Russian state in 1793-1794" 1793
Nakhchoy [16] Julius Klaproth "Description of trips to the Caucasus and Georgia in 1807 and 1808" 1807
Nakhcha [17] Semyon Bronevsky "News of the Caucasus" 1823
Nakhchoy [18] Chechen Manuscript "Migration from Nakhchuvan" 1828
Nakhche [19] Adolf Berge "Chechnya and Chechens" 1859
Nakhchoy[20] Kedi Dosov "Nakhchoyn Juz" 1862
Nakhche [21] Nikolai Dubrovin "History of war and domination of Russians in the Caucasus " 1871
Nakhchoy [22] Umalat Laudaev "Chechen Tribe" 1872
Nakhche[23] Kerovbe Patkanian "Armenian geography of the 7th century AD" 1877

History of statehood[edit]

Ingush woman in traditional costume, 1881
9th – 12th centuries
An association of clans called Durdzuks (Durdzuki) is mentioned by the Persian writers Ibn al-Faqih and al-Baladzori in the 9th to 10th centuries, stating "the construction of Chosroes Anushirvanom (VI) in Durzukia 12 gates and stone fortifications".[24]
Destruction of the Alania capital of Maghas (both names known solely from Muslim Arabs) and Alan confederacy of the Northern Caucasian highlanders, nations, and tribes by Batu Khan (a Mongol leader and a grandson of Genghis Khan). "Maghas was destroyed in the beginning of 1239 by the hordes of Batu Khan. Historically, Maghas was located at approximately the same place on which the new capital of Ingushetia is now built."[25] However, there are many other theories as to where Maghas was originally located, such as in Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria or North-Ossetia.
13th – 14th centuries
Independence wars against Tatar-Mongol hordes and army of Tamerlane.
14th – 16th centuries
The State of Simsir was a union of Vainakh teips. They started a national struggle of liberation from the Golden Horde.[26] After the Mongol invasion, Islam started its spread in the region.[27] The spread of Islam seems to have started in the lowland part of the Vainakh states at this time, associated with the advent of the Arabic language and Arabic writing. Inscriptions on monuments from this time, preserved in some Vainakh villages, also testify to this.[28]
17th century – present
Ongoing struggle over the independence of Chechnya; Ingush remain less openly rebellious, but still have a particularly problematic conflict with the Ossetes; Batsbi and Kists are considered Georgians and are part of Georgia (living mainly in the Tusheti region).
Caucasian Imamate
North Caucasian Emirate
Mountain Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Russia

Social structure[edit]

Necropolis in Itum Kale (Chechnya), and tower of Tsoi-Pheda protecting the peace of the dead

Traditionally, Nakh peoples were known as a society with a highly developed and complex clan system. Individuals are united in family groups called "Tsa" – house. Several Tsa's are part of the "Gar" -branch or "Nekh"-road, a group of Gar's is in turn called a teip, a unit of tribal organization of Vainakh people. Teip has its own Council of Elders and unites people from the political, economic and military sides. Teips leave all cases to the democratically elected representatives of houses i.e. "Tsa". The number of participants of Teipan-Kheli depends on the number of houses.

Some believe that most teips made unions called tukkhums, a military-economic or military-political union of teips. However, this has been heavily disputed by several historians and ethnographers, including Dalgat who claims that most Chechens never used tukkhums. He also claims that they were only used by some societies in the lowlands.[29]

The national scale issues were addressed through Mehk-Khel, the People's Council. Representatives of the Council were elected by each Teip Council and had an enormous influence on the destiny of the people. They could start a war or prohibit and prevent any teip from starting one. Mehk-Khel could gather in different places at different times. It used to gather in Terloy-Mokhk and Akkhi-Mokhk's Galain-Chozh region. A gigantic Mehk-Kheli stone still stands in Galain-Chozh, around which Mehk-Kheli members solved issues.[30]

Political structure[edit]

Sharoi village

Chechen-Ingush society has always been egalitarian, unstratified, and classless. Traditionally, there was no formal political organization and no political or economic ranking. Many observers, including famous Russians such as Leo Tolstoy, have been very impressed by the democratic nature of the indigenous Chechen governments prior to Russian conquest. According to the Western Ichkerophile Tony Wood, the Vainakh peoples, in particular the Chechens (as the Ingush and the Batsbi have fallen under foreign domination much more frequently and as a result, the indigenous system and democratic values are less deeply ingrained), could be described as one of the few nations in the world with an indigenous system highly resemblant of democracy[31] (others cited are often Scots, Albanians and Basques; notably, all three, much like the Vainakh peoples, are mountain dwelling peoples with a clan-based social organization and a strong attachment to the concept of freedom). In the 19th century, a couple of Circassian tribes overthrew their traditional aristocracy and established a democratic, egalitarian society, with some adoptions from the Nakh system. Of course, this advance, which may have spread eventually to all of the Circassian tribes, was halted by their political state being annihilated by Russian conquest, a fate later shared by the rest of the Caucasus.

It is notable that the Chechen and Ingush systems, as well as the system later adopted from them by some Eastern Circassian tribes, resembles the typical Western democratic republic. It has a central government with a legislative body (the Mehk-Khel), a body resemblant of an executive branch (the Mehk-Khetasho) as well as a judicial branch (the other councils). The adat and other bodies have served as the constitution. The members of all three of the main national councils of the nation were elected, producing an indigenous democracy of the Nakh peoples.[32]

During the Soviet Union period, as well as during the Ramzan Kadyrov's regime, the Teip-Council system was strongly criticized by Russian governments and their puppet governments installed in Chechnya and Ingushetia, who viewed it as a destabilizing force and an obstacle to maintaining order. They said that such a system was illustrative of the anarchic nature of the Caucasian ethos.[33]

The democratic and egalitarian nature, the values of freedom and equality of Chechen society have been cited as factors contributing to their resistance to Russian rule (in addition, there was no elite to be coopted by Tsarist authorities, as Wood notes).[34][35][36][37]

Tower architecture[edit]

Chechen military tower near settlement Chanta

A characteristic feature of Vainakh architecture in the Middle Ages, rarely seen outside Chechnya and Ingushetia, was the Vainakh tower. This was a kind of multi-floor structure that was used for dwelling or defense (or both). Nakh tower architecture and construction techniques reached their peak from the 15th to 17th centuries.[30]

Residential towers had two or three floors, supported by a central pillar of stone blocks, and were topped with flat shale roofing. These towers have been compared in character to the prehistoric mountain settlements dating to 8000 BC.

Military ("combat") towers were 25 meters high or more,[30] with four of five floors and a square base approximately six meters wide. Access to the second floor was through a ladder. The defenders fired at the enemy through loopholes. The top of the tower had mashikul – overhanging small balconies without a floor. These towers were usually crowned with pyramid-shaped roofing built in steps and topped with a sharpened capstone.

Buildings combining the functions of residential and military towers were intermediate in size between the two types, and had both loop-holes and mashikuls. Nakh towers used to be sparingly decorated with religious or symbolic petrographs, such as solar signs or depictions of the author's hands, animals, etc. Military towers often bore a Golgotha cross.

Traditional economy[edit]

Agricultural structures[edit]

Ruins of ancient Vainakh settlement, and agricultural terraces behind.

Lack of arable land in sufficient quantities in the mountainous areas forced Vainakhs to use their territory of residence as efficiently as possible. They leveled the steep slopes, organized terraces suitable for agriculture. On the barren rocky slopes of rocks, which are unsuitable for agriculture, Vainakhs hew foundations for terraces. On carts harnessed donkeys and oxen, they brought black soil of the lowlands, and filled with it artificial terraces.[38] For maximum harvest was organized by the entire irrigation system, which consisted of a small artificial stream canals connected with the mountain rivers, these canals were called Taatol, they also built a small stone canals called Epala, and quite small wooden troughs Aparri. Some scholars notably I. Diakonov and S. Starostin proposed that Epala and Aparri may correspond to Urartian irrigation canal name "pili" and Hurrian "pilli/a".[39] Some irrigation structures were built also on lowlands but they were less complicated.


Carts and carriages made by Vainakh masters were highly valued in the region and beyond. Products of Vainakh masters brought power not only to the Caucasian peoples, but also by such excess power to the established industry of Russia. To support non-competitive domestic producers, Russia overlaid Vainakh manufacturers with large fees. At this complaining Terek Cossacks in their letters to Russian Government, despite the fact that they are a natural enemy of the tree.[40] In 1722 the Russian Army bought 616 vehicles for 1308 rubles, at a time when the annual salary of the governor of the three villages was only 50 rubles.[41][42]

Carpet weaving[edit]

Nakh traditional feasting carpet, Istang

Since ancient times, the Chechens have been producing thin felt carpets called Istang. Chechen rugs are distinguished by a peculiar pattern and high quality. Jacob Reineggs, who visited the region in the 18th century, noticed that Chechen and Ingush women skillfully manufactured carpets and fringes.[43] Vainakh carpets were divided among themselves into different groups dependent on patterns:

  • Сarpet with colorful ornaments (Chechen: Khorza istang)
  • Rug with fringe (Chechen: Khinja yolu istang)
  • Plain rug, without any decorations or ornaments.
  • Thick floor rugs (Chechen: Kuuz)
  • Expensive wall carpet (Chechen: Pals)

Legends and mythology[edit]

Only a few fragments of Vainakh mythology have survived to modern times. These fragments consist of the names of deities personifying elements of animist ideas, Nart saga, cosmogonic tradition, remnants of stock-breeding and landtilling, totemic beliefs and folk calendar.[44]

The greatest samples of Nakh mythology are the legends of Pkharmat, Galanchoge Lake, the epic war of Pkhagalberi (hare riders) dwarves against Narts, Kezanoi Lake, and myths about how sun, moon and stars appeared.[45]

The Nakh myth of the legendary Pkharmat being shackled on Mount Kazbek by God Sela because he has stolen heavenly fire from him shows some parallels with Greek Myth of Prometheus and Georgian Amirami. The legendary war of Pkhalberi (hare riders) dwarves against Narts can be compared to Greek "Crane and Pygmies war" by Said-Magomed Khasiev[46] The Golden Fleece myth seems to be bound to Nakh 11 years calendar tradition. In such a myth, ram skin was placed in an oak frame "Jaar" for 11 years, and produced golden fleece named "Dasho Ertal".[47]

Legend of Kouzan-Am Lake[edit]

This legend has explicit parallels with Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Islamic Lot. The story tells us that there once was a very rich settlement at the place where now there is a lake. Despite their wealth, the people of this city were very greedy. Once God Dela sent his representatives in the guise of beggars, to test people. They asked all residents to give them food, but the residents of the city in response abused and drove them away. Only one poor family in the village shared their food with them.

Legend has it that a poor family left a burnt bread for themselves and gave a piece of white bread for their guests. Leaving the house, the guests told the family that after some time has passed, water will be collected in puddles behind the front door, and when this happens they should gather the bare necessities, leave their home, and go to the mountains. Since poor families do not disobey and so did everything as they were told to do by the guests.

They told the rich of the impending disaster, and asked to follow them. But their greed would not allow them to leave their treasures. That evening, the family watched a terrible catastrophe, they saw the water cover their house along with those who remained. In memory of the terrible events, Vainakhs named the lake, the lake of sorrow and cruelty, Kezanoi lake.

Legend of Galain-Am Lake[edit]

Galain-Am Lake

Legend tells of an incident which occurred when two women decided to wash clothes in the purest water of the lake next to their settlement, which was the abode of vainakhish supreme deity Dela's daughter Tusholi. In continuation of the story, the insulted goddess punishes the offenders turning them into stones, all the same goddess could not remain in the distorted lake. She turned into a mythical bull, and began destroying the settlements that are located on the hillside. Disaster continued until the bull was tamed in the settlement located in the place of Amie in Galain-Chazh area. People in Galain-Chazh found use for the tamed animal, with its help they plowed their fields. But unfortunately by the next spring, in the fields that were plowed by the sacred animal, rainfalls begun to appear. The water flooded the fields and turned them into a lake, and Tusholi again turned her face and settled into a new clean abode.

Cosmology and creation[edit]

In ancient Nakh cosmology, the universe was created by the supreme god Dela. Earth, created in three years, was three times larger than heavens and was propped up on the gigantic bullhorns. The realm of the Vainakh Gods was over the clouds. Ishar-Deela was the ruler of the subterranean world, Deeli-Malkhi. Deeli-Malkhi was larger than the realm of the human; it took seven years to create it. Nakhs believed that when the sun sets in the west it goes to the netherworld and vice versa. Deeli-Malkhi wasn't an evil realm of the dead or undead. It was almost similar to the upper world with some improvements in its social structures. There was no judgment in life after life. Dela-Malkh was the sun god playing a central role in religious celebrations. On 25 December Nakhs celebrated Sun Festival in honour of the Sun God's birthday.[48]

The names of stars and constellations were also connected to myths:

  • Milky Way as the route of scattered straw (Chechen: Ča Taqina Tača)
  • Great Bear as the seven brothers’ seven stars (Chechen: Vorx Vešin Vorx Seda) meets 7 sons of the god of the universe Tq'a. In the Ingush version of the legend Pkharmat, seven sons of Tq'a were punished by his wife Khimekhninen for help Magal, stealing fire from Tq'a. She lifted them up into the air, far from land that they have become the seven stars.
  • Gemini (Chechen: Kovreģina Seda)
  • Sirius, Betelgeuse and Procyon as Tripodstar (Chechen: Qokogseda)
  • Orion as Evening star (Chechen: Märkaj Seda)
  • Capricornus as Roofing towers (Chechen: Neģara Bjovnaš)
  • Venus depending on daytime as sunset star (Chechen: Sadov Seda) and sunrise star (Chechen: Saxül Seda). The name of the planet is Dilbat


During the Middle Ages, Vainakh society felt a strong Byzantine influence that led to the adoption of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in some parts of the country (particularly the mountainous South). However, Christianity did not last long. After the devastation of the country by Tamerlane, Christianity was eroded (due to the temporary loss of contacts between Georgia and Nakh Christians) and gradually the Chechens and Ingush returned to their native, pagan beliefs (while the Bats were permanently Christianized). Islam began to spread on Nakh peoples lands from 16th and 17th centuries.

Vainakhs are predominantly Muslim of the Shafi`i school of thought of Sunni Islam.[49] The majority of Chechens (approx. 2 million) and Ingush (approx. 700,000 people) are Muslim of the Shafi`i school. Kists (about 7,100 people) are mainly Sunni Muslims with a Georgian Orthodox minority, while Bats (approx. 3,000 people) are Christian (Georgian Orthodox).[49]

By rite, most Chechens are Qadiris, with a considerable Nakshbandi minority. There is also a tiny Salafi minority (Sunni sect).[50] The two main groups (Salafism is more of a modern introduction to the region, and is still considered to be completely foreign) have often had divergent responses to events (for example, the Qadiri authorities initially backing the Bolsheviks who promised to grant freedom to the Chechens from Russia; while the Nakshbandis were more sceptical of the Bolsheviks' sincerity).

However, as is also the case with other Caucasian groups, such as the Georgians, Abkhaz, and Circassians, Islam did not wipe out all traces of the native religion. Many Chechens and Ingush even refer to the God of the Muslim religion (usually "Allah", from Arabic) as "Dela", who is the head god of the original Nakh pantheon (parallel to how Georgians refer to the Christian God as Ghmerti, their original main god). The Nakh interpretation of Sharia often is more resemblant of the adat than of Sharia as practiced in other Muslim countries, though some note that this may actually be closer to the original intent in some ways. There is a saying that "Muhammad may have been an Arab, but Allah is Chechen for sure", emphasizing this attitude towards the restrictive Islam of the Middle East that is often imagined in the West as representing the behavior and culture of all Muslims.[31][34] Despite syncretism, most Nakh peoples are often regarded as either "Muslim people" (in the case of Ingush, Kists and Chechens), or as "Orthodox Christian people" (Batsbi). Nonetheless, worship of the original pantheon, with the exception of Dela, for the most part has no modern continuity and was replaced by Islam, despite some syncretism (i.e. building mosques consistently near streams, where temples were, reverence for the adat, etc.).

There is considerable tension among Chechens about religion. This largely asserts itself in the conflict between the pan-Islamist/Wahhabi/Salafi creed which vows to "cleanse Islam of impurity and syncretism" (i.e. de-Chechenize Islam in Chechnya to bring it more in line with global Islam), and those who view the indigenous form as superior, or otherwise as a national custom to be defended. Among the claimant governments for the land of Ichkeria, both the Western exiled Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian installed Kadyrov regime are largely hostile to Wahhabism/Salafism, while the reaction of the Caucasus Emirate is considerably more positive, though still at times rather uncomfortable towards it (see certain statements by Dokka Umarov, for example). The Kadyrov government, meanwhile, opposes Wahhabism in name, but still rules Chechnya with a rather harsh interpretation of Sharia law, including banning of bare-headed women in public, mandatory Qu'ran study in schools (with the interpretation favored by the government promoted), the death penalty for suspected homosexuality and so on. The exiled Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, meanwhile, has consistently stated both that the indigenous interpretation is a national trait (to be preserved) and that Ichkeria should be a secular national state, and while Islam may certainly be a part of the Chechen identity at times, it is certainly neither a requirement nor more important than any other aspect.

This attitude has been largely consistent (except for in 1998 when Maskhadov briefly allowed Sharia courts to appear due to intense pressure from his opponents, including Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev, in an attempt to find unity by compromise). It is noted by many observers, Chechen, Russian (such as Valery Tishkov) and Western (such as Paul B. Henze, though his wife is in fact Abkhaz, as well as Tony Wood and Anatol Lieven), that often, as seen in countries like Turkey and Albania, nationalist imagery -particularly the wolf, an animal viewed as symbolic of the Chechen nation- is given far more importance than religion.[51]

Burial vaults or crypts remained from the pagan period in the history of Vainakhs, before some of them converted to Islam in the 16th century (Islam has spread throughout the entire region only in the 17th century). They were built either a bit deepening into the ground or half underground and on the surface. The latter formed whole "towns of the dead" on the outskirts of the villages and reminded sanctuaries from the outside, with a dummy vaults constructed of overlapping stones. The deceased were placed on the special shelves in the crypts, in clothes and decorations and arms.

The general Islamic rituals established burials with the further penetration of Islam inside the mountainous regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Stone steles, churts, inscribed with prayers and epitaphs, began to be erected at the graves and more prosperous mountaineers were honoured with mausoleums after death. The Borgha-Kash Mausoleum dating to the very beginning of the 15th century and built for a Noghai prince is a good example of this.


A 2011 study by Oleg Balanovsky and a number of other geneticists showed that the Y-DNA haplogroup J2a4b* (a subclade of J2, located mainly in the Middle East, Caucasus and Mediterranean) was highly associated with Nakh peoples.[52] J2a4b* accounted for the majority of the Y-chromosomes of Ingush and Chechen men, with the Ingush having a much higher percentage, 87.4%, than Chechens, who had 51–58% depending on region (the lowest being in Malgobek, the highest in Dagestan and Achkhoy-Martan). In their paper, Balanovsky et al. speculated that the differences between fraternal Caucasian populations may have arisen due to genetic drift, which would have had a greater effect among the Ingush than the Chechens due to their smaller population.[52] The Chechens and the Ingush have the highest frequencies of J2a4b* yet reported (other relatively high frequencies, between 10 and 20 percent, are found in the Mediterranean and Georgia).

Hypotheses of origins[edit]

The Vainakh have been referred to by various names, including Durdzuks in medieval Arab, Georgian and Armenian ethnography.

Historical linguists, including Johanna Nichols, have connected ancestral Nakh languages and their distant relatives to a Neolithic migration from the Fertile Crescent.[53][54][55]

Another view, not necessarily contradicting the previous one, posits a migration of Nakh into their present location in the North Caucasus during the classical era, following the collapse of Urartu.

Igor Diakonoff and Sergei Starostin have suggested that Nakh is distantly related to Hurro-Urartian, which they included as a branch of the Northeastern Caucasian language family (which were dubbed Alarodian languages by Diakonoff).[56][57][58] Several studies argue that the connection is probable.[59][60] Other scholars, however, doubt that the language families are related,[61][62] or believe that, while a connection is possible, the evidence is far from conclusive.[63][64] Various interpretations of the Nakh-Urartian relationship exist: another, held by Kassian (2011), is that Urartian and Nakh's common vocabulary instead reflects a history of intense borrowing from Urartian into Nakh.[65]

According to Amjad Jaimoukha, the mythological Gargareans, a group who migrated from eastern Asia Minor to the North Caucasus mentioned by Greek writer Strabo,[66] are connected to the Nakh root gergara, meaning "kindred" in proto-Nakh.[67] However, Jaimoukha's theory is unlikely as Strabo and other ancient Greek writers considered the Gargareans to be Greeks.[68]

List of Nakh peoples[edit]


Group portrait of Chechen men and young woman in traditional costumes, 19th century
  • Vainakh (Chechen-Ingush dialect continuum)
    • The Chechen people are a Caucasian native ethnic group, they refer to themselves as Nokhchiy (pronounced [no̞xtʃʼiː]). Their worldwide population is around 2 million, approximately 75% of which live in the Republic of Chechnya, a subdivision of the Russian Federation. Most Chechens are Sunni Muslims of the Shafi'i school.
    • The Ingush people are a Caucasian native ethnic group of the North Caucasus, mostly inhabiting the Russian republic of Ingushetia. The endonym they use for self-designation is Ghalghai. The Ingush people are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak the Ingush language, which, according to some authors, is mutually intelligible with Chechen, despite popular misconceptions, and they are closely related.[69] Their total population is estimated to be ca. 700,000 worldwide.
    • The Kist people are a Chechen sub-ethnos, belonging to Chechen teips, living in Georgia. They primarily live in the Pankisi Gorge, in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti, where there are approximately 5,000 Kist people. Majority of Kists are Sunni Muslim, however, there are still remaining small pockets of Christian Kists in Pankisi, Tusheti and Kakheti.
  • The Bats people or the Batsbi are a small Nakh-speaking community in Georgia who are also known as the Ts'ova-Tush after the Ts’ova Gorge in the historic Georgian province of Tusheti (known to them as "Tsovata"), where they are believed to have settled after migrating from the North Caucasus in the 16th century. Their population is estimated to be ca. 3000. Unlike the other Nakh peoples the Bats people are overwhelmingly Orthodox Christians.


The following is a list of historical or prehistoric peoples who have been proposed as speakers of Nakh languages.


According to Georgian scholars I.A. Djavashvili and Giorgi Melikishvili the Urartuan state of Supani was occupied by the ancient Nakh tribe Tzov, the state of which is called Tsobena in ancient Georgian historiography.[70][71][72] Sophene was part of the kingdom of Urartu from the 8th to 7th centuries BCE. After uniting the region with his kingdom in the early 8th century BCE, king Argishtis I of Urartu resettled many of its inhabitants to his newly built city of Erebuni. However, Djavashvili's and Melikishvili's theory is not widely accepted.


Jaimouka argued that the Vainakhs are descended from the Gargarei, a mythological tribe who are mentioned in the Geographica of Strabo (1st century BCE[73] and in Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder (1st century CE).[74] Strabo wrote that "... the Amazons live close to Gargarei, on the northern foothills of the Caucasus mountains". Gaius Plinius Secundus also localizes Gargarei as living north of the Caucasus, but calls them Gegar.[75] Some scholars (P.K. Uslar, K. Miller, N.F. Yakovleff, E.I. Krupnoff, L.A. Elnickiy, I.M. Diakonoff, V.N. Gemrakeli) supported the proposal that Gargarei is an earlier form of the Vainakh ethnonym. Jaimoukha notes that "Gargarean" is one of many Nakh root words - gergara, meaning, in fact, "kindred" in proto-Nakh.[76] If this is the case, it would make Gargarei virtually equivalent to the Georgian term Dzurdzuk (referring to the lake Durdukka in the South Caucasus, where they are thought to have migrated from, as noted by Strabo, before intermixing with the local population) which they applied to a Nakh people who had migrated north across the mountains to settle in modern Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Despite Jaimoukha's claims, Strabo suggests that the Gargareans were Aeolian Greeks and locates their homeland Gargara in Troad, in the far west of modern Turkey.[77]

Tsanars and Tzanaria

The Tsanars were a people of East-Central Northern Georgia, living in an area around modern Khevi. Tsanaria was their state, and it distinguished itself by the decisive role it and its people played in fending off the Arab invasion of Georgia. Their language is thought by many historians (including Vladimir Minorsky and Amjad Jaimoukha) to be Nakh, based on placenames, geographic location, and other such evidence.[78] However, there is opposition to the theory that theirs was a Nakh language. Others claim they spoke a Sarmatian language like Ossetic. The Tsanars, too, eventually were assimilated within Georgiandom.


Ghlighvi has been a historical name for the Ingush, possibly deriving from their ethnonym Ghalghaj. It was first mentioned by Vakhushti of Kartli in 1745, a Georgian noble, who noted that they split off from the Durdzuks.[79]

Dvals and Dvaleti

The Dvals were a historic people living in modern-day South Ossetia and some nearby regions, as well as the southern parts of North Ossetia (South and West of the Gligvs, South and East of the Malkh). They integrated themselves into the Georgian kingdom and produced a number of fine Georgian calligraphers and historians. They also produced an Orthodox saint: Saint Nicholas of Dvaleti. The language of the Dvals is thought to be Nakh by many historians,[78][80][81][82][83][84] though there is a rival camp which argues for its status as a close relative of Ossetic.[84] Another theory posits that the Dvals were of Karvelian (Georgian) origin.[85] Various evidence given to support the Nakh theory (Different scholars use different arguments.) includes the presence of Nakh placenames in former Dval territory,[84] taken as evidence of Nakh–Svan contact, which probably would have indicated the Nakh nature of the Dvals or of people there before them,[78] and the presence of a foreign-origin Dval clan among the Chechens.[83] The Dvals were assimilated by the Georgians and the Ossetians. It is thought that Dval did not become fully extinct until the 18th century, making the Dvals the most recent Nakh people known to have disappeared.


The Malkhs were a Nakh people[78] who were deemed to be the westernmost Nakh people, and made an alliance with the Greek Bosporus Kingdom.

Durdzuks and Durdzuketi

Durdzuk was the name used historically by Georgians for the Chechens. The Durdzuks constructed numerous kingdoms, notably Durdzuketi; and they were noted for their exceptionally fierce devotion to freedom and their ability to resist invaders, ranging from the Arabs to the Scythians to Turkic peoples to the Mongolian invaders. They seemed also to have been employed as mercenaries by various parties. They had a written language using Georgian script (It is not known whether they spoke that language however.), but most of these writings have been lost, with only a few pieces surviving. After the 14th-century Second Mongol Invasion of Durdzuketi and the destruction wrought by the two invasions (including, as Amjad Jaimoukha notes, the destruction of their memory of their past[78]), they radically changed their culture. They became known as the Ichkeri (Turkic for "freedom people"), and their land as Ichkeria. It was then (as the Ichkeri) that the teip system became formalized into its well-known modern form. The term Ichkeri was also used to refer to the Ingush (for the most part), until the Ingush broke off. The name Ichkeri is a cognate of the names used for "Chechen" and "Chechnya" in many languages at that time, including Michiki (Lak) and Mitzjeghi. Only after the Russian conquest in the 19th century did the name "Chechen" become the internationally accepted name for the people of Chechnya.


The Isadiks were an ancient Nakh people of the North Caucasus who were farmers.[86] They were probably undone by Scythian invaders. A remnant of them may have been absorbed by the Vainakh, as their name can now be seen in the Chechen teip Sadoy.


The Khamekits were another ancient Nakh people of the North Caucasus who were farmers.[86] They were also probably undone by Scythian invaders. A remnant of them may have been absorbed by the Vainakh, as their name may now be reflected in the Ingush teip Khamki.


Before the 19th century, the Arshtins were a Vainakh tukkhum living in between the Ingush and Chechens, with vague affinities to both groups, along the Sunzha River's middle reaches and its tributaries.[87] The Arshtins were mostly known as Karabulaks, which they are called in Russian, from their Kumyk name. They also called themselves "Baloi".[88] They were variously considered to be an independent people, a subgroup of Chechens, or a subgroup of Ingush (further complicated by the fact that many in the 19th century, including many Ingush themselves, considered the Ingush to be a subgroup of the Chechens). Their language is thought to have been similar to Chechen and Ingush (not unlike today's Galanchozh dialect spoken by the Myalkhi tukhum).[87]

The Arshtins eventually were wiped out by Russian imperialism. The late 1850s saw the end of the Eastern and Central Caucasian resistance to Tsarist rule; and in 1865, the Deportation of Circassians occurred. Although the Russians mainly targeted Circassians for expulsion or murder, the Arshtins also were victims. In May–July 1865, according to official documents, 1366 Arshtin families disappeared and only 75 remained.[87] These 75 families joined (or rejoined) the Chechen nation as the Erstkhoi tukhum.[87][88]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malsagov, Zaurbek (1928). КУЛЬТУРНАЯ РАБОТА В ЧЕЧНЕ И ИНГУШИИ В СВЯЗИ С УНИФИКАЦИЕЙ АЛФАВИТОВ. Vladikavkaz: Serdalo. pp. 3–11.
  2. ^ Schnirelmann, Victor (2016). Be Alans. Intellectuals and Politics in the North Caucasus in the 20th Century. -M.: New literary review. p. 279. Но после их объединения в 1934 г. в единую Чечено-Ингушскую автономную область (Чечено-Ингушская АССР с 1936 г.) власти всеми силами пытались обеспечить слияние чеченцев и ингушей в единый народ, для которого было создано новое название «вейнахи/вайнахи». В 1960-1980-х гг. эта идентичность активно внедрялась в сознание чеченцев и ингушей и постепенно приобретала все большую популярность.
  3. ^ Dalgat, Bashir (1892). Родовой быт и обычное право чеченцев и ингушей / Подготовка издания и предисловие. Институт мировой литературы имени А. М. Горького. p. 382. ISBN 978-5-9208-0307-8.
  4. ^ Лаудаев, Умалат (1872). Сборник сведений о кавказских горцах Вып. VI. Тифлис.
  5. ^ Берже, А.П (1859). Чечня и Чеченцы. Тифлис. pp. 65–66. Вот исчисление всех племен, на которые принято делить Чеченцев. В строгом же смысле деление это не имеет основания. Самим Чеченцам оно совершенно неизвестно. Они сами себя называют Нахче, т.е. "народ" и это относится до всего народа, говорящего на Чеченском языке и его наречиях. Упомянутые же названия им были даны или от аулов, как Цори, Галгай, Шатой и др., или от рек и гор, как Мичиковцы и Качкалыки. Весьма вероятно, что рано или поздно все или большая часть приведенных нами имен исчезнут и Чеченцы удержат за собою одно общее наименование.
  6. ^ Услар, П.К. (1888). Этнография Кавказа. Языкознание. Ч. II. Чеченский язык. Тифлис. Предлагаемая азбука составлена для языка народа, который сам себя назвал "нахчуй" или "нахчий" (в единственном числе – "нахчуо"), а у нас называемо чеченцами или кистинцами (последнее название грузинское). Язык нахчуй дробится на множество наречий, которые возникли частью по уединенному положению некоторых обществ, частью под влиянием языков соседних народов, осетин, и в особенности кумыков». Далее П.К. Услар констатировал, что язык нахчуй демонстрирует «замечательное характерное единство» за исключением диалекта джераховцев, «которые говорят весьма измененным наречием»
  7. ^ Potto, Vasily (1887). Кавказская война в отдельных очерках, эпизодах, легендах и биографиях. pp. 63–64. Чеченцев обыкновенно делят на множество групп, или обществ, давая им имя от рек и гор, на которых они обитали, или от значительных аулов, обнаруживающих влияние на другие. Таковы алдинцы, атагинцы, назрановцы, карабулаки, джерахи, галгаевцы, мичиковцы, качкалыковцы, ичкеринцы, ауховцы и прочие, и прочие. Но это разделение чеченского народа на множество отдельных родов сделано, однако же, русскими и, в строгом смысле, имеет значение только для них же. Местным жителям оно совершенно неизвестно. Чеченцы сами себя называют нахче, то есть народ, и название это относится одинаково ко всем племенам и поколениям, говорящим на чеченском языке и его наречиях.
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External links[edit]