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KC: May 21, 1864 - the end of the First Russo-Caucasian war

posted by eagle on May, 2010 as CIRCASSIA ADIGA

May 21, 1864 - the end of the First Russo-Caucasian war

Last update: 20 May 2010, 20:30 
Publication time: 20 May 2009, 20:30 

According to Russian historians, May 21, 2010, in the Gregorian calendar, marks 146 years since the end of the active phase of the First Russo-Caucasian War, which started around 1763, becoming the longest war in the history of mankind.


The war that once began as a Russo-Chechen War (Russo-Caucasian War usually refers to the period 1817-1864) has returned with its remarkable ferocity in December 11, 1994, evolving into the Second Russo-Caucasian War.


Historical reference of KC


After the Crimean War, the Caucasian (Russian Invasion) Army was brought, according to General Bulgakov, to 300,000 men. The enemy's decisive attack to get hold of the occupied territories on the mountainous areas of Chechnya has begun. The troops of General Yevdokimov forced to retreat the mujahideen under the command of Imam Shamil into the mountainous areas of Dagestan breaking apart their logistics network connected to the provisional base in Chechnya.


Under the intensive pressure imposed by the Russian invaders the determined to resist army of the Imam, with suffering severe hunger and dramatic decrease in their ranks, continued the retreat deeper into the mountains.


In July 1, 1859 Russian troops drove them out of Vedeno. The Imam with four hundred mujahideen retreated through the mountain ranges of Dagestan further to their last stronghold, a well-fortified aul (village) Gunib, situated on a high mountain.


A vicious battle was expected. In August 22, 1859 the adjutant general, commander of Russian troops, Prince Aleksandr Ivanovitch Baryatinskiy strengthening his deployment, sent a letter to the village, in which he wrote:


  • "... In order to avoid new bloodshed in the final establishment of peace in the whole region, I demand Shamil to lay down his arms. If he complies with my demand, I will grant (!) him amnesty on Gunib ..."


But the Baryatinskiy proposal was rejected by Imam Shamil. Three days with a small group of mujahideen and just one cannon, he fought fiercely against the siege of the well-armed Russian troops.


In August 25, 1859 Imam Shamil was called for negotiations with the prince, but upon his arrival at the Russian camp he was surrounded and captured. Aul Gunib fell under Russian control. Later, rumors invented by the Russian military command were spread among the highlanders that Imam Shamil surrendered himself receiving ‘an honorable captivity'.


‘In 30th of August, the cannon volleys from the castle of Metekh announced the capture of Shamil and the fall of the Eastern Caucasus' - Armenians wrote to General Baryatinskiy - ‘and we, young and old alike, were delighted with the delighting success of Russian arms.'




In July 15, 1860 Emperor Alexander, sealing the ‘landmark victory', issued a decree to establish a medal for the subjugation of Chechnya and Dagestan in 1857, 1858 and 1859 (in the image).


The observe of the medal showed an imperial crown with a monogram of Alexander II, depicted below the crown, while the reverse showed four lines of the inscription indicating the period of Russian military engagements IN 1857, 1858 AND 1859 surrounded by another inscription FOR THE CONQUEST OF CHECHNYA AND DAGESTAN with an eight petal flower between the beginning and end of the inscription.


The medal ‘For the Conquest of Chechnya and Dagestan' was presented on a combined tape of two Orders - St. Alexander Nevsky and St. George, and awarded to all ranks from an ordinary soldier to a general of the Caucasian Army and puppet police forces who were directly involved in the war against Imam Shamil in the years 1857-1859 ‘at the former left wing of the Caucasian line and in Dagestan'; various volunteers (or ‘mercenaries' by today's standards) and non-combatant lower ranks, who served in military detachments during the deployment and participated in the battles; military and civil officials, who used to run military affairs within the army; as well as doctors and priests, who carried their responsibilities during the military expeditions of the emperor's forces against the people of Chechnya and Dagestan.


There were 145,000 silver and 2,000 bronze medals minted (!) for ‘the Conquest of Chechnya and Dagestan'. And, in accordance with a new instruction issued in August 13, 1911 which suggested that persons, who suffered injuries and/or concussion in the ‘historical battles' to pin on their chests those medals with a bow made out of Alexander, St. George's ribbons.




According to the school textbooks of Russian historical science the day of August 25, 1859, when the troops of the Russian emperor had the alleged ‘remarkable victory' over the last stronghold of Imam Shamil in the Dagestan village of Gunib, came to be ‘the day of "the end" of the war' with the Imamate.


However, after the ‘conquest' of Chechnya and Dagestan, Russian colonizers still facing a fierce resistance of the Western Caucasus highlanders, especially in the coastal areas of the Black Sea, between Adler and Gagrynskiy Cape, had to dispatch their detachments instructed to ‘pacify' the brutalized region.


Historical reference on Russia's war in the Caucasus in 1859-1864:


In November 1859, after the capture of Imam Shamil, a major force of Circassians, counted up to 2,000 strong, led by Imam Shamil's Naib (emissary) Muhammad-Amin suffered a series of defeats. The lands of Adygs were cut by the Belorechenskaya security line with the fortress of Maikop in order to build a new colonial infrastructure. During 1859-1861, passageways, roads, and new settlements came into existence driving deeper into the mountains the violently suppressed populace disobedient to the ‘Russian Order'.


In mid-1862 the resistance of the Adygs had increased. Emperor Alexander II willing to get a closer look at the situation in the Caucasus arrived at Tiflis in September 11, 1862. The negotiations with the highlanders brought no agreement. In response to that the conquest of the Western Caucasus Mountain range and its surrounding areas was handed to General Nikolai Ivanovich Yevdokimov with the huge military forces under his command.


By the end of 1863 the entire Kuban region was subjugated. Only Circassians of the coast, who lived in the Adler valleys by the Mzymta River, Sochi, and the hollow gorges situated between the former and latter locations, kept stubborn resistance, prepared to experience the enemy's cruelty of any magnitude. Women from among the highlanders fought with particular fury, not yielding to the men in battles with the Russians. The rebels went so far that when there was no place to retreat, they, avoiding the capture, tied up themselves to each other by belts and leaped down from the mountains in terrible ‘human bundles'.


Driven away to the sea coast or into the mountains, the Circassians and Abkhazians were forced to resettle in the valleys under the supervision of the Russian colonial authorities or to immigrate to Turkey. Total number of Adygs, Circassians, and Abkhazians emigrated from the Caucasus was about 500,000 persons.


By 1864 the Russian authorities have installed control over Abkhazia, and in May 21, 1864 a detachment of General Yevdokimov defeated the last stronghold of resistance of Circassian tribe Ubykhs at the Kbaadu Tract (later renamed by the Russians to the village of Krasnaya Polyana) at the upstream of the Mzymta River.


The day of May 21, 1864 came to be ‘the last day' of the Russo-Caucasian War in Russian history statements, although active armed resistance in the West Caucasus continued until the end of 1864. And, the warfare in Chechnya and Dagestan against the Tsarist regime remained till the collapse of the Russian Empire (a large-scale military operation in Chechnya under the leadership of Imam Alibek Hajji Zandakskiy in 1877, for instance).


In July 12 1864, to honor the so-called ‘final conclusion' to the Russo-Caucasian War, Emperor Alexander II issued the ‘highest' decree to establish a special medal for subjugation of Western Caucasus in 1859-1864 (in the image).


The observe of the medal showed a left-facing bust of Alexander II with bushy whiskers, below the bust a fine inscription N. KOZIN R. (N. KOZIN was the name of the master, R stood for CARVED, which is REZAL in Russian), while the reverse showed one line inscription indicating the period of Russian military engagements ‘for full integration' of the Caucasus with Russia IN 1859-1864 surrounded by another inscription FOR THE CONQUEST OF WESTERN CAUCASUS with clover leaves between the beginning and end of the inscription.


Medals ‘for the Conquest of Western Caucasus' were awarded to all ranks, of the Caucasian Army, ‘the native police forces‘ from an ordinary soldier to a general, who took direct part in suppressing the highlanders of the Western Caucasus during 1859-1864; so-called ‘volunteers‘ from among the local murtads (apostates, or in other words, Muslims who turned away from Islam), traitors (non-Muslims who violated their covenant with Muslims, including murtads), all sorts of other mercenaries, combatant and non-combatant lower ranks, who served during the war with the army and participated in combat operations; military and civil officials, who maintained the military affairs; as well as doctors and priests, who carried out their duties during the military expeditions of the emperor's forces against the people of the Western Caucasus. And, from November 2, 1864 these medals were awarded to the ranks of the Navy Department, who took participation in the battles against the highlanders.


The St. Petersburg Mint coined 211,000 (!) silver medals for the subjugation of the Western Caucasus, not counting the tens of thousands of varieties of private coinage in silver and bronze. They were decorated combined ribbon of St. Alexander Nevsky and St. George. And in the new position from August 13, 1911, all persons who were injured and/or suffered concussion during those ‘historical battles' had to wear those medals with a bow of the same ‘Alexander, St. George's' ribbons.


The Russian invaders considered ‘the conquest' followed by ‘the pacification' of the Caucasus of a great value, evidence to this is the fact that in addition to the minted medals ‘for the Conquest of Chechnya and Dagestan in 1857-1859', and ‘for the Conquest of Western Caucasus in 1859-1864' they were not bothered to produce some other additional items to ‘decorate' their routine life with, such as the Georgian trumpets ‘for Excellence in the Conquest of the Eastern Caucasus in 1859', Georgian horns ‘for Excellence in the Conquest of the Western Caucasus in 1864', Georgian banners burdened with ribbons and ‘excellence' slogans stuck on them. Among those awarded with the mentioned above articles was Apsheron Infantry Regiment of His Imperial Highness, which was formed in 1724 as a musketeer regiment.


And, the events of the past seem to be actual at the present time. The Russian State Historical Museum of today, diligently, on regular basis exhibits the sabre (a cavalry sword, having a curved blade) once belonged to Prince Baryatinskiy with an engraved inscription IN THE MEMORY OF THE CONQUEST OF THE CAUCASUS. And one of the halls of the museum has a large painting attributed to the "conqueror" of the Caucasus with provocative, not inspiring happiness words: ‘Humble yourself, O Chechen: Ermolov is coming'.


The Russian imperial elite felt ‘final ending' of the Russo-Caucasian War of a great significance attached to it, evidence to this is the fact that, simultaneously with the medal ‘THE CONQUEST OF WESTERN CAUCASUS' a new cross called ‘FOR SERVICE IN CAUCASUS' came to light as a reflection to the decree of Emperor Alexander II issued on July 12, 1864 (in the image), which became ‘popular' by the name of ‘The Caucasian cross'.


A cross for the ‘Service' in the Caucasus represents a four-pointed cross with widened ends, in the centre of which the Russian Imperial Coat of Arms ‘double head eagle' was embedded into a round shield. The shield covered two crossed swords with their hilts down. On the left and right wings of the cross shown a divided inscription: on the left - FOR SERVICE, on the right - IN CAUCASUS. On the head of the cross shown the monogram of Emperor Alexander II, on the bottom of the cross stated 1864 which stood for the year of ‘completion' of the Russian subjugation of the Caucasus. The reverse side of the cross had a smooth surface with a pin attached to it.


There were four different types of the cross FOR SERVICE IN CAUCASUS. The first three had the same size, 48 by 48 mm, minted in gold, silver and white bronze, and the fourth type was smaller in size, 34 by 34 mm, minted in white bronze. Crosses differed in execution and quality. For example, golden and silver crosses were made in separately minted patches: swords, rosette and inscriptions with fixed threaded fasteners on reverse sides, while bronze crosses were minted out of a solid bronze piece each, with fixed safety pins on reverse sides.


A cross ‘for service in Caucasus' was pinned bellow of all other medals on the left side of the breast. The ‘favored' ones to do so were all ranks of the Russian Invasion Army, actively engaged in warfare with the highlanders from 1859 to 1864 years. But unlike the mentioned above medals, distribution of certain types of the crosses was in accordance with a rank and merit of the awarded invaders, and their stooges, who acted for the sake of ‘fatherland' or something else. For example, a bronze cross was awarded to all the lower Russian military ranks, Caucasian militia formed from the local puppets, collaborators, and numerous ‘volunteering' mercenaries, who participated in various military undertakings; as well as all sorts of government officials, priests and doctors, who performed their duties during combat operations with Russian colonizers against the freedom of the Caucasian Highlanders.


Later, the cross "FOR SERVICE IN CAUCASUS" had become an ‘honorable' regimental emblem for particular military units of the tsarist army, who ‘distinguished' themselves during the battles with the highlanders of the Caucasus, and in some cases the cross became an essential background element for other awards.


Vizirkhan Makhmadov
Kavkaz Center

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