BALKARIA AND KARACHAI IN XV–XVII CENTURIES
Despite massacres and genocide from Mongols and Timur’s troops in XIII–XIV centuries, Balkaria and Karachai appear on the historical scene in XV century as well-formed, original and independent ethnocultural area of Caucasus on the edge of state-formation stage, with a wide-spread possessions of national aristocracy, with military units subordinated to the supreme ruler, Oli (Vali), with the national court Tцre subject to him realizing control over all aspects of everyday life and military matters, establishing and institutionalizing national customs and traditions, specifying and realizing the ways of punishment and encouragement and so on.
The first written indication of that was the inscription on the golden Tskhovati cross dated by XIV–XV century, which tells how one of Georgian eristavis (princes) was taken in captivity in Basiani (the Georgian name of Balkaria) and was ransomed on the money of Tskhovati church.
The Southern frontiers of Balkaria and Karachai were protected by a natural barrier of Caucasian ridge. Much less strong were the northern boundaries facing the valleys and steppes of Fore-Caucasus.
The Kabardin population of Fore-Caucasus
The campaigns of Mongols and Timur made the northern boundaries of the ethnic territory of Balkarians and Karachais even weaker. Seizing the opportunity after the tragic events in Central Caucasus in XV–XVI centuries, the greatest and most mobile part of Adyg tribes, Kabardins, began rapidly spread over all the Central For-Caucasus, up to river Sunja. But soon, as a result of the return of Vainakh tribes, the ancestors of Ingush and Chechens, from the mountains to the plain, to their former lands, the possibilities of Kabardin population on the banks of Sunja were considerably reduced, and their Eastern boundaries were pushed to the Mozdok steppes.
Here is what Kabardin scientists of XIX century wrote: “According to the traditional tales, Kabardins met Tatar (Balkarian — aut.) settlements in the new country, moved them to the steppes or locked in the mountain canyons, occupying their place… Only one conclusion can be derived with certainty from all the diverse tales: Kabardins were not the original inhabitants of Kabarda, moving there from elsewhere… To all appearances, Kabardins did not come to this territory until XV century, or the beginning of XVI century.” (V. N. Kudashev “Historical data about Kabardin people”, Kiev, 1913, pp. 6–10).
The relations between Balkaria and Kabarda
The history of mutual relations between Kabarda and Balkaria does not know a single anything serious ethnic collision or war. There never were any boundaries between them, in the present sense of the word. The boundaries were determined by peaceful communications and were completely transparent. Kabardins and Balkarians could moved through both Kabarda and Balkaria without obstacle. People’s relations were peaceful and friendly, which lead to numerous cases of consanguinity, interethnic marriages. Such marriages occurred not only between aristocratic families, but also among simple people. As a result of these contacts, many Balkarian names appeared in Kabarda, such as Kushhov, Balkarov, Kelemetov etc., as well as such names in Balkaria as Cherkessov, Kabardokov and others.
Any contradictions between Balkaria and Kabarda, or between individuals and families, were resolved, by mutual consent, by the council of the elders within the common right of Balkarians and Kabardins. Often people found shelter at the neighboring country, Balkaria or Kabarda, when there were personal or communal dissension inside Kabarda or Balkaria respectively. Sometimes, there were conflicts between particular families of Balkaria and Kabarda, but it never came to wars.
Numerous peaceful and friendly relations grew between separate families and kins. Thus, such tight contacts established between Abayevs and Kaitukins, Atajukins and Balkarukovs, Urusbiyevs and others. There was a Caucasian habit among the peacefully coexisting peoples to give their children in education (atalik) to their closest friends. Thus, for example, it is known, that, in 1747, Balkarian prince Azamat Abayev was “emchek” (foster-brother) of a prince from Great Kabarda Kasai Atajukin. The documents show that, in 1768, Balkarian prince Muhammat Biyev similarly was a foster-brother of Kabardin prince Kazy Kaisanov. The century-old peaceful relations also influenced the development of the economy in Balkaria and Kabarda. Kabardins were free to graze their herds in Balkaria, to get the products of mining from there, as well as wood and stone for construction, fur and skins of wild animals. During too cold years, Balkarians used to rent winter pastures and camps in Kabarda. Some scientists try to present these rent relations as political and economic dependence of Balkaria on Kabarda. Such attempts have no ground under them, being based on the superficial sights of the travelers of XIX century, who could not and did not want to consider the actual nature of rent relations between Kabardins and Balkarians. If Balkarians paid certain price for using the winter pastures, can it really be called a tribute or dependence? Such things must be well discriminated, when it comes to the relations between two peoples.
Mutual relations between Balkaria and Kabarda significantly promoted the development of the economy of the both countries. Buying bread and salt in Kabarda, Balkaria made up its natural deficiencies; Kabarda served as an intermediary between Balkaria and Russian market, where various fabrics, household articles, decorations, industrial products and other things were purchased.
The relations between Karachai-Balkaria and Georgia
Established already in medieval time, the relations with Georgia strengthened and extended with every century. In the same time, consanguinity became deeper, starting from the old marriage of queen Tamar with the son of an As princess and Kiev prince, Andrey Bogolyubsky. However, it should be indicated that that these relations were not always that easy, as a vivid example of the abovementioned Tskhovati cross shows.
Balkarians and Karachais had the most close contacts with the Georgian Kingdom of Imereti, with Mingrelia and Svanetia. Several patronymic branches of Karachai-Balkarians take their origin from Svanetia: Otarovs, Rakhayevs, Ebseyevs and others. Balkarians and Karachais gathered on the weekly markets in the cities Rachi and Oni, selling there various things made of wool and leather, the products of cattle breeding (oil, cheese, meat etc.).
Balkarians and Karachais served as a link in the relations of Georgia and Russia in XVII century.
Balkaria and Karachai in the system of Russian-Caucasian relations. The development of contacts with Georgia
In XVI–XVII centuries and later, Russia conducted its policy in respect to Caucasian peoples and states through Kabarda, which, at that time, occupied the most important, strategic, central part of Northern Caucasus. Kabardin princes well knew how to use this situation and got any encouragement from Russia, receiving honors, ranks and money for their support of Russian policy in Caucasus.
However, for successful promoting its contacts with Transcaucasus, and with Georgia first of all, Russia had to establish relations with Balkaria, which was then a quite consolidated political force called “Besh tau el”, i. e. “Five mountain peoples”, each of them having its own supreme authority in the form of a national assembly, Tцre. Every one of these minor Tцre was subordinated to the common uniform supreme Balkarian Tцre headed by the supreme ruler, Oli.
The name Balkarian was for the first time mentioned in Russian documents in 1629 year. In January of that year, Terek voivode I. A. Dashkov informed Moscow that there are the deposits of silver ore in the land of “Balkars”, and that this land belonged to the sons of the sister of Kabardin prince Pshimakho Kambulatovich Cherkassky. This document confirms the old kinship relations of Balkarians, Karachais and Kabardins: Pshimakho’s sister was married to a Balkarian leader. The land of “Balkars” belonged to her sons Apshi and Abdullah (their family name Tazrekov was sometimes mentioned, but it is difficult to judge whether this information is right—aut.).
In 1636, King of Imereti Levan II sent an embassy to the Russian court, and the ambassadors of Moscow Pavel Zakhariev and Fedot Bazhenov went to Imereti in 1639, in return. Such embassies usually had the official letters from the Russian Tsar to the Balkarian leaders, whose lands the ambassadors had to pass. Such letters were also given to Kabardin and other princes, which speaks about the independence of Balkarian rulers in the international relations in Caucasus and with Russia.
Having produced their official letters, Elchin, Zakhariev and Bazhenov spent 15 days in the hospitable family of Karachai princes from the Krimshaukhalov family, the young brothers of Kamgut, Elbuzduk and Giliaksan, who lived near modern city Tirnihauz in the Baksan canyon in aul El-Jurt. The mausoleum of Kamgut and the tower of his wife Goshayah-biyche have been found there. From here, Russian ambassadors went to Svanetia and further to the King of Imereti. The next embassy of Russian Tsar went to Georgia in 1651, through Upper Balkaria, by river Sukan-su and further. Ambassadors N. S. Tolochanov and A. I. Iyevlev were hospitably met and supplied with food, pack animals and guides by Balkarian prince Artutai Aidabolov, whose ancestors were mentioned in the document of 1629.
In one more document dated by 1653, it is told how the King of Imereti Alexander invited Russian ambassadors Zhidovinov and Poroshin to see “how he will christen Zhenbulat, the son of Balkarian ruler Aidarbolov” (Aidabolov—aut.). By the way, Christianity penetrated Balkaria from Georgia yet in XII century, which is illustrated by the ruins of a church near village Hulam, where Christian frescos have been found on the walls.
In 1658, an embassy headed by Georgian king Taimuraz went to Moscow for establishing Russian-Georgian relations. Taimuraz’ way ran through Balkaria, where a Balkarian delegation headed by abovementioned prince Artutai Aidabolov joined them. He was hospitably received in Moscow and given a gift of 40 sables, like Taimuraz. Artutai stayed in Moscow for about a year.
35 years later, Imeretian king in disgrace Archil made his way to Moscow. Just having left Balkaria and entered the plains, he was attacked by the detachments of Tark shamkhal Budai and the prince of Kabarda Minor Kulchuk Kelembetov on the road to fortress Terki. In the complicated international situation of that time, Budai preferred the Persians, while Kulchuk stuck to the Crimean orientation. They both wanted to give Archil away to their own patron. Archil was in Kulchuk’s captivity from September to November 1693. But, as the documents tell, “the beauty of Archil and his courage made such an impression on the wife of Kulchuk, that she supplied him the means of escape one night, and he ran to Basian, and his people went to Digoria”. On November 28, 1693, Russian administration in Astrakhan was informed that Archil had been in captivity and then found a refuge in “the country of Balkars near the source of Malka”. In his letter of April 15, 1694, Archil wrote to Terki voivode “that he was in Balkar, and that he needed to be taken from there”. In the letter of May 20, 1696, Archil described in detail to the Great Heirs of Russian Autocracy Iohannes Alexeyevich and Peter Alexeyevich all what he went through. Archil was taken from Balkaria in September.
Since the second half of XVII century, information about Balkarians and Karachais get into written sources more often. Among the authors who wrote about them, one should mention Archangello Lamberti (1654), Nicolai Witsen (1692), Engelbert Kempfer (1651–1716), Henri de La Motrais (1674–1743) and many others. Even more information about Karachais and Balkarians is provided by the documents of XVIII–XIX centuries.