Reviews

Tishkov, V., ed. Rossiiskii Kavkaz: Kniga Dlia Politikov. Presidium of the Fundamental Sciences Programme “The Adaptation of Peoples and Cultures to Environmental Change, Social and Technical Transformation” of the Academy of Sciences’. Moscow: FGNU “Rosinormagrotex”, 2007.

This manual compiled in the cadre of the Russian South sub-programme “Analysis and Modelling of Geopolitical, Social and Economical Processes in a Poly-Ethnic Region” is presented as a handbook destined for the representatives of the federal establishment and for the general public, in order to acquaint them with North Caucasian actuality and historical background. It consists of a range of thematic entries introduced by a general preface “The North Caucasus as a lesson and as an example,” which tackles essential points of practical importance such as ethno-cultural peculiarity, environment and resources, sources of instability and disorder, ways to development and pacification, governance building, as well as the cultural perspective and, last but not the least, the global context.

The section on the socio-political history of the North Caucasus gives a bird’s eye view of the country in Antiquity and early Middle Age; the first mediaeval polities; the Arab incursions and the introduction of Islam; the peoples of the North-West Caucasus after disintegration of the Khazar Qaghanate; the social organisation of the North Caucasians; the Caucasus and the great powers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the rise of the Terek and Greben Cossack armies accompanied by the Russian conquests of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, culminating with the Caucasian War and the final annexation of the region to Russia; the reform of territorial administration and the system of imperial rule in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, disrupted by the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War leading to the creation of Soviet autonomies and national-territorial delimitation; the policy of korenizatsiia (the “indigenisation” of government institutions) in the 1920s-30s; the mass repressions and deportations in the 1940s; the post-wwii developments and the rehabilitation of deported nations; and finally the North Caucasus in the 1960s-80s.

The next section devoted to the region’s historical and cultural traditions is centred on the clan organisation, the family, and the tukhum (larger patriarchal lineage) before the Russian expansion, and on their respective material attributes and their place in the traditional social hierarchy; the suppression of social differentiation and the transmigrations of the nineteenth century; the customary law (adat) as tribal and common jurisdiction; the “military tribal administration” (voenno-narodnoe upravlenie, a kind of indirect rule, from 1860 to 1917); the attitude of the Soviet power to the ‘adat and the shari‘a; the kolkhoz metamorphose of the village community; the vendetta (bloody revenge as a duty, vendettas in the Russian Empire and their transformation in the twentieth century); the abrek (“outlaw”) way of life ― viz., a re-examination of the current myths on the warlike mores of the Mountaineers, and of the underlying reality; a study of the masculine alliances and the warrior cult of the jigit (“manly youth”), the army reforms of the nineteenth century causing the multiplication of socially volatile outcasts.

The following section considers contemporary ethno-political processes, and turns around socio-economic circumstances like quality of life and the activities of state organisms in securing stability. After it, goes the section on movements of migration, in which special attention is turned towards the situation of the “Russian” subjects of the North Caucasus. The ethnical composition of the population forms the subject-matter of another section. The North Caucasian Cossacks supply material for yet another, separate section which meticulously examines the different stages of their genesis (first, from the mid-sixteenth century to the 1770s; second, from the 1780s to the 1860s; third, from the 1860s to the early twentieth century; fourth from 1917 to the early 1990s; fifth from the early 1990s to our days, a period called the “Cossack renaissance”). The religious situation forms the centre of a new section where such themes as Orthodoxy in the North Caucasus, North Caucasian Islam, the ancient beliefs of the North Caucasian aboriginal population, ideas connected with Islam and so-called ‘Wahhabism’ are analysed. The everyday ethics of the peoples of the North Caucasus is closely examined in the following section, where notions like the much evoked Mountaineers’ moral code, as well as the general principles of the ethical complex, the norms of family life, the morals of public existence, the customs of hospitality, the convivial gatherings and pre-modern ethics in modern conditions are discussed. The book is concluded with an excurse into the traditional ethics of the Russian population. In the last section, the authors ponder over the institutions of civil society and peace-making in local context.

Timur Koraev, Moscow State University
CER: II-6.3.B-503