Sunday 1 March 2009

Ubykhs, by T. Tatlok - Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958)


Born in Northern Caucasus. Philologist. Until World War II he worked in various academic and educational institutions, both in Moscow and in the Caucasus. Published monographs and articles on Northern Caucasus. Editor of the Vestnik of the Institute of Study of the USSR.

''The Ubykhs'', Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958), pp. 100-109 (Munich)

The Ubykhs were a Circassian people, closely related, linguistically and ethnically, to the Abkhazians of the present-day Abkhazian ASSR, but who occupied a place quite apart in the western group of the peoples of the Caucasus. At the same time, they were not ethnically absolutely homogeneous but were split up into a number of tribal communities which differed from each other territorially, economically, and politically and had preserved certain linguistic peculiarities. Among these separate groups were the tribes known as the Vardane, Sasshe, Khize, Subashi, and Alani. Of these, the first two were the most progressive, economically and socially, and inhabited the valleys of the Vardane and Sochi Rivers and possessed a more advanced agriculture and horticulture.

The Ubykhs inhabited the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus from the Shakhe River to the Khosta (Khamysh) River. In the east they were contiguous with Dzhigets (Sadzy) and Akhchipsou, Abkhazian tribes living in the present Gagry and Sochi areas, and in the west, with the Shapsugs whose territory stretched along the sea as far as the Pshada River. The Abdzakhs (Abadzekhs) were neighbors of the Ubykhs on the north, occupying the northern slopes of the main mountain range within the confines of the Belaya River and Pshish River basins. It is difficult to estimate the number of Ubykhs existing at the time of their subjugation by Tsarist Russia in the middle of the last century, but some Russian sources have given a figure of forty to fifty thousand.

Until 1830 the Ubykhs did not have any serious clashes with the Russians as the Tsarist government did not wish to become involved with Turkey. However, the Adrianople treaty of 1829, in which Turkey ceded to Tsarist Russia all rights to the Black Sea coastal area of the Caucasus, opened the way for the Russians to attempt a conquest of the western Caucasus. These plans were already well advanced by 1830 and involved the occupation of the Abkhazian coast and the establishment of direct land communications between Sukhum and Anapa by the so-called “Abkhazian expedition.” The task of executing the plan, devised by Paskevich, was entrusted to Major General Gesse who, in July 1830, sent his force of two thousand infantry and cavalry from Redut-kale to Sukhum, from whence a part of it was dispatched by sea for a landing operation in Gagry while the remaining troops were moved along the coast from Sukhum via Lykhny to Pitsunda. Although the Russians occupied a few points along the coast of Abkhazia, they were forced to abandon the major portion of the campaign due to lack of familiarity with the local terrain and thus the Ubykhs were temporarily spared the “blessings” of Russian civilization.

The Ubykhs, however, did not remain indifferent to the approach of the Tsarist forces toward their frontiers and actively supported their neighbors in the struggle which had developed in the western Caucasus. There were Ubykhs in the ranks of the Sadzy (Dzhigets) who, in August 1830, resolutely stormed the Gagry fortifications erected by General Gesse. They also fought in the Kuban, where they came in answer to an appeal by the Shapsugs, Natukhais, and Abadzekhs to take part in the raids on the Georgievsko-Afonskoe and Alekseevskoe fortifications built by General Emmanuel in the summer of 1830.

From 1831 until 1836 the Russian command in the Caucasus refrained from any ambitious attempts to advance along the coast of the Black Sea and confined itself to the defense of Gagry in the south and Anapa and Gelenzhik in the north. However, the Ubykhs soon came face to face with the Russians when, acting on direct orders from Nicholas I who visited the Caucasus in 1837, construction was commenced on a series of fortifications along the coast, three of these, the Golovinskoe, the Navagiriskoe, and Svyatoi Dukh, situated on the territory occupied by the Ubykhs. This dealt a fatal blow to their coastal trade with the Turks and brought the danger of invasion by Tsarist forces into the interior of their land itself It is therefore hardly astonishing that these acts provoked the unanimous protest of the Ubykhs and drove them into a bitter struggle against the invaders. The resistance encountered by the Russian forces in the Ubykh land was so fierce that the Russian commander was constantly forced to reinforce these three garrisons and to give up all thoughts, temporarily, of advancing into the interior and to concentrate on defending the coastal areas and fortifications.1

The military organization of the Ubykhs at this time was described by General N. Dubrovin, the official historian of the Tsarist government:

Before undertaking an expedition... the Ubykhs chose a leader. He could only be a man noted for his bravery... During the expedition, the leader could rely on the complete obedience of his party... It was left to the leader to act on his own imitative and not to disclose his intentions to anyone beforehand... An uninhabited pass usually served as an assembly point for the party. Only decrepit old men and small children did not take part in the expedition. Everyone undertook to provide the necessary clothes… and food. When a force of from eight hundred to three thousand had assembled, the leader went to the assembly point to inspect the clothes and provisions of those present... After inspection, the force was split up into a vanguard and a rearguard. Men from the same village were formed into units of ten to a hundred men. Each unit had its own commander who gave orders, led his men, and, in important cases, reported to the leader to obtain instructions and to confer... The Ubykhs marched in files of two. They raided only at night, before dawn. Before a raid, the leader divided his force into three parts, the first two, consisting of the most able, for the attack and the third, consisting of the old and young, cooks, treefellers, etc, formed the reserve.2

The Berzek [Berzeg -- editor] family provided the military and political leadership during the first stage of Ubykh resistance against the Russians. Members of the Berzeg family were among the most frequently chosen to lead military raids. The well-known Khadzhi-Berzeg hailed from this family. He enjoyed great authority, not only among the Ubykhs, but throughout the western Caucasus In 1839, the Tsarist government placed a substantial price on his head.3

From the very beginning, Khadzhi-Berzeg did not confine himself to the defense of the territory inhabited by the Ubykhs, but set out to organize the joint resistance of all the neighboring nations and tribes. Together with the Shapsugs, he and his Ubykh forces attacked the Mikhailovskoe fortification on the Vulan River in 1837. With the Abkhazian tribe of Akhchipsou, he threatened the Sadzy (Dzhigets) in 1839 for not resisting the Tsarist troops. He conducted negotiations on joint action with the Pskhuvs and sent couriers to Pabal and Dal, whose inhabitants were threatening Sukhum-Kale.

This urge to unite in resisting the Tsarist invaders found an echo in the hearts of the West Caucasian peoples. The liberation movement became general in the spring of 1840 because of a terrible famine caused by a poor harvest and the loss of their cattle due to a particularly hard winter. Cut off from the coast by the Russian fortification, the inhabitants were unable to improve their lot by the usual trade with Turkey and hence had cause to resent the encroachment of the invaders. They rose against the Russians in early 1840 and, within a period of six weeks, stormed and captured four fortifications, the Lazarevskoe, Golovinskoe, Velyaminskoe, and Mikhailovskoe. Read more...

No comments:

Post a Comment