Kabardia (Kabardian: Къэбэрдей) was a historical region in
North Caucasus corresponding partly to the modern
Kabardino-Balkaria. It had better political organization than its
neighbors and a somewhat ‘feudal’ social structure. It existed as
a political community from the fifteenth century or earlier until it
came under Russian control in the early nineteenth century.
Geography and Peoples
Kabardians were the eastern branch of the Circassians, to use this
word in its broadest sense. They occupied the central third of the
North Caucasus piedmont. To the north were the Nogai steppe nomads. To
the south, and deeper in the mountains, were, from west to east, the
Karachays, Balkars, Ossets, Ingush and Chechens. They interacted with
these peoples because the mountaineers usually drove their livestock
to the lowlands for winter pasture. The first three of these seem to
have been originally steppe-dwellers who sought refuge in the
mountains during the Mongol wars, while the Ingush and
inhabited the Caucasus for as long as anyone knows. To the west were
the Abazins, the Besleney, a branch of the Kabardians, and the
Circassians proper. In the east the
Kabardians were sometimes in
contact with the Kumyks. The country's boundaries fluctuated, as did
its political unity and degree of control over outlying areas. The
Kabardia was Great
Kabardia which extended from somewhat east
of the north-flowing part of the
Kuban River to somewhat east of the
north-flowing part of the Terek River. To the east was Lesser Kabardia
between the Terek and Sunzha Rivers in what is now Chechen country.
According to the Russian historian V. I. Potto, in the eighteenth
Kabardians were greatly admired and copied by their
neighbors, such that the phrase “he dresses, or rides, like a
Kabardian” was an expression of high praise. Yermolov said that the
Kabardians were the best fighters in the Caucasus but in his day they
were much weakened by plague.
Kabardians and their western relatives, the Circassians, have
inhabited the north flank of the Caucasus as far back as anyone knows.
Kabardia is said to have been founded by the semi-legendary Prince
Inal. Without a native tradition of written history, most of what we
know of their history comes from their contacts with the Russians.
This contact dates from 1475 then the Turks captured the Genoese ports
on the Black sea and the part-Circassian Zakkaria Gizolfi appealed
unsuccessfully to Moscow. When the Golden Horde broke up about 1500
the steppe nomads became organized as the Nogai Horde. They and the
Crimeans began or continued to raid the north Caucasus. Richmond
reports raids for the years : ‘no later than 1476’, 1491,
1498, circa 1500 ‘every spring’, 1521, 1518, a 10-year break after
1519, 1539, 1547, 1554, 1567, 1578, 1606-1635 “seven times’,
1670s, 1708, 1720, 1735, 1740s, 1760–61 and  1777.
A brief alliance around 1560: Since the Crimeans were also raiding
Russia (see Crimean–Nogai raids into East Slavic lands) the two
peoples were natural allies. There had been an isolated group of
Cossacks on the lower Terek from perhaps 1520. In 1552 a Kabardian
embassy reached Moscow. In 1556
Kabardians and Cossacks took the
Turkish Fort Temryuk on the Taman peninsula. When Astrakhan was
captured in 1556 Russia had a base 250 miles northeast of Kabardia. A
Kabardians entered Russian service. Temryuk came to power some
time before 1558 and in 1561 his daughter married Ivan the Terrible.
In 1567 Russia founded Sunzha Ostrog at the junction of the Terek and
Sunzha in Lesser Kabardia. In 1569, after the Turks failed to take
Astrakhan, their retreating troops were killed by the Kabardians. In
1570 Temryuk was killed fighting the Crimeans. In 1588 there was
another treaty of alliance. With the death of Temryuk and losses in
the Livonian War Russia disengaged from the Caucasus for about 200
years. Sunzha Ostrog was abandoned in 1571, rebuilt in 1578 and
abandoned a year later.
1600-1753: In 1645 a regiment was moved to Tersk (it has been
re-established early in the century).
Kabardia split into two
factions, the pro-Russian Baksan and pro-Crimean Kashkatau (originally
the alliances were opposite, but they switched sides some time after
1722.). One side brought in Russians from Astrakhan. The Nekrasov
Cossacks settled on the Kuban about 1711. More Cossacks settled on the
Terek and Kizlyar was founded in 1736. In 1739
Kabardia was declared a
buffer state between the Russian and Ottoman empires. In 1744
Koltsov and 400 Cossacks arrived to support the Baksan faction.
Another force was sent in 1753.
Kabardia came under Russian control between about 1769 and
1830. They moved west from the Terek country, southwest from Astrakhan
and to a lesser degree southeast from Azov. From 1769 Russia
intervened in Georgia south of the mountains. This required them to
Georgian Military Highway
Georgian Military Highway which passed through Kabardia.
Georgia was annexed in 1800.
Mozdok was established in 1763 and in 1769 Russia attacked Kabardia
for the first time. The 1774
Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca
Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca declared
Kabardia a vassal of the Crimean Khanate. In 1777 the Mozdok line
was begun which was to run from Mozdok northwest to Azov. From 1779 a
line of forts was run west along the
Malka River cutting off Kabardian
pastures. In 1779 von Shtrandman was sent to the north Caucasus and
Kabardians at a place called Fort Pavolosk. There was a
major battle on the
Malka River and later 3000
defeated in the Baksan country. This led to a treaty but there was
more fighting in 1780. By 1783 the
Georgian Military Highway
Georgian Military Highway had been
improved sufficiently to be used by wheeled traffic. In 1785-91 Sheikh
Mansur attempted to lead an anti-Russian holy war in the north
Caucasus. During the
Russo-Turkish War (1787–92)
Russo-Turkish War (1787–92) Russian forces
thrice crossed Circassian territory attempting to take the Black Sea
fort of Anapa. Late in this war Batal Pasha invaded the north Caucasus
and was defeated. In 1791 Ustlabinsk was established in Circassia at
the junction of the Kuban and Laba Rivers. By 1793 25000 Cossacks were
settled along the Mozdok line.
In the early nineteenth century a plague struck the north Caucasus
which lasted until the 1830s. It is estimated that
Kabardia lost 90%
of its population, falling from 200,000 in 1790 to 30,000 in 1830. In
1804 there was a general uprising all over the north Caucasus. The
Russians won at least three battles mainly because of their artillery.
One involved 13000 men on both sides and another involved 7000
Kabardians. Around 1810 Russia destroyed 200 villages. In 1822 new
forts were built on the
North Caucasus Line. In the 1820s Yermolov led
a campaign which is said to have completely depopulated Lesser
Kabardia. After about 1830 the
Kabardians had been subdued by plague
and war and the Russians turned their attention to the
Murid War in
the east and the
Russo-Circassian War in the west. For more on the
North Caucasus line.
Walter Richmond, The Northwest Caucasus, 2008
^ Richmond @kindle1342 'In 1777 Greater
Kabardia was invaded by both
Russians and Crimeans.' The last Crimean raid on Russia seems to have
been in 1769. It became a Russian vassal in 1774. Was this the last
Crimean raid before it was annexed in 1783? Richmond does not pursue
^ Richmond has Treaty of Belgrade here. Other sources have Treaty of
Nish. The diplomatic status of the north Caucasus was always vague.
^ Richmond, @kindle 1327. This is contradicte