Reviews

In quest for new methods and approaches to an appraisal of the history of the Caucasian peoples for the years 1917-20, an first important step was made in the first conference, held in Makhachkala in May 1992, on the “History of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus (1917-20) and of the Independent Mountain Republic of May 11, 1918.” Since then, the issue has been provided with a scientific status. Already two years later, in 1994, came to light in Makhachkala the invaluable collection of documents and materials entitled “The Union of the United Mountaineers of the Northern Caucasus and Dagestan (1917-1918) and the Mountain Republic (1918-1920).” Afterwards articles and monographs began to appear in growing numbers on earlier ‘forbidden’ subjects — viz. to the national movements of the peoples of the Northern Caucasus, to the pan-Caucasian idea, to prominent spiritual and political leaders of the time, to tentative constructions of a statehood that was alien to the Soviet framework, to role played in this process by the religious factor. So the ethno-political history of those years has come to focus the researchers’ attention. However, in this rich decade and a half the publication of Timur Muzaev’s book has been an exceptional exclusive event. On the basis of extensive archival and documentary materials, verbatim records, newspaper reports and memoir literature, the author has been reconstructing in details the events that took place in the region between the Revolution of February 1917 and March 6/19, 1918, when on a platform of the station of Vladikavkaz stopped a train with Bolshevik passengers who would slightly later proclaim the Popular Republic of Terek as a component of Soviet Russia. The work is interesting not only from the viewpoint of the description of events and processes but also from that of historical psychology, since its content is saturated with the emotional reactions, impressions and moods of those on which was depending not only the evolution of specific situations, but also of the further course of history. Comprehending this epoch-making period, T. Muzaev distinguishes its different stages and outlines each of them in six chapters. The first deals with the “feverish thirst of revolutionary activity” that seized local society after February 1917, with the formation of national committees in different North-Caucasian regions, with the formulation of the “Mountain idea,” and with the preparation of the pan-Mountainous Congress. The author emphasises that the social movement for national revival and self-administration initially arose at a pan-regional level and with a confederative dimension, with the notable exception of the Ossets (15). The second chapter is devoted to the First Congress and its results, amongst which: the creation of the Union of Joined Mountaineers of the Northern Caucasus and Dagestan as a self-administered unit of a future federal and democratic state of Russia. The socio-political and economic situation and the first difficulties met by the national movement are in focus in chapter 3 — especially the anti-Caucasian pogroms by ‘revolutionary’ soldiers and Cossacks, the non-resolution of the agrarian issue, the destructive activity of the socialists, and the growth of revolutionary disorder. In these pages T. Muzaev also analyses the gradual division and “decomposition” of the initially united democratic movement. The reasons for the crisis of the North-Caucasian democratic movement, considered in Chapter 4, were aggravated by the October Revolution, leading to a new coil of crisis and further inner conflicts within the Mountaineers’ movement (analysed in Chapter 5). The rapid propagation of Bolshevism, on the one hand, and on the other hand the powerlessness of the leaders of the Mountain government (who “feeling no support of the people, lost political will and accepted defeat,” 364) annulated the authority of national democracy. Chapter 6 deals with the establishment of the Soviet power in the Terek region, and evokes the posterity of the Mountain idea in spite of the emigration of North-Caucasian leaders in March, 1918. T. Muzaev’s work is scrupulously documented, based on the requirements of modern history writing, and offers answers to many debatable questions. The book is still enriched with telling illustrations and appendices (a selection of documentary materials for the history of the Union of Mountaineers, of the national committees, and of biographic data on the figures who appear in the course of the author’s narrative).

Julietta Meskhidze, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St Petersburg
CER: II-3.3.C-219