Reviews

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 intended for the representatives of the federal establishment and the general public, in order to acquaint them with the North Caucasus’ present situation 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, the sources of instability and disorder, some ways to promote development and pacification, the building of governance, 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 ancient times and the early mediaeval period, through the first mediaeval polities; the Arab incursions and the introduction of Islam; the peoples of the North-West Caucasus after the disintegration of the Khazar Qaghanate; the social organisation of 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 with 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 century, disrupted by the 1917 revolution and the Civil War leading to the creation of Soviet autonomies and national-territorial delimitation; the policy of korenizatsiia (“indigenisation” of government institutions) in the 1920s-30s; the mass repressions and deportations in the 1940s; the after-war developments and the rehabilitation of deported nations; and, finally, the North Caucasus in the 1960s to 1980s.

The next section devoted to the land’s historical and cultural traditions is centred on the clan organisation, the family, and the tukhum (larger patriarchal lineage) before the Russian expansion; their material attributes and their place in the traditional societal hierarchy; the suppression of social differentiation and the transmigrations of the nineteenth century; the custom 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 to the sharia; 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 [dealt with through the current myths on the warlike mores of the Mountaineers and the underlying reality, 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-economical circumstances, such as the level and the quality of life and the activities of state organisms in securing stability. After 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 ethnic 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 1990s to our days ― a period termed 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, ancient beliefs of the North Caucasian aboriginals, ideas connected with Islam, and Wahhabism are successively analysed. The everyday ethics of the peoples of the North Caucasus is closely examined in the following section where notions like the much evoked Mountaineer moral code, as well as general principles of the ethical complex, norms of family life, morals of public existence, customs of hospitality, convivial gatherings and pre-modern ethics in modern conditions are discussed. It concludes with the 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-7.3.B-595