Upper Balkaria

If you zoom in to Verkhnyaya Balkariya using satellite imagery on Google Maps or Bing, you notice, like a palimpsest, the history of past settlement around the modern planned town with its regular and rectilinear grid-like layout. As at the time of writing (January 2018), the Microsoft satellite imagery used by Bing is clearer than Google’s as it was taken in good light. Below are screenshots showing five of the vanished villages and hamlets of Upper Balkaria.

Glashevo:

Glashevo

Kospart:

Kospart

Kyunlyum:

Kyunlyum

Mukush:

Mukush

Sauty:

Sauty

The accompanying Google Map shows the main villages (blue pins) and various hamlets and neighbourhoods (grey pins) of this part of the Cherek river valley in Upper Balkaria. Until Nov-Dec 1942, these were entirely populated by Balkars, a Turkic and Muslim people of the north Caucasus. At that date, these Balkar villages were razed and the population decimated – men, women and children were brutally killed by the Red Army on the orders of the NKVD. As you can see from the images above, the villages were completely destroyed and only a ruined archaeology remains.

In March 1944 the balance of the inhabitants of Upper Balkaria, together with all other Balkarians (37,103 in total, according to NKVD head Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria’s official report), was deported en masse to Central Asia (mostly the Kazakh and Kyrghyz Soviet Socialist Republics). There they remained in exile until a decree of March 1957 permitted the survivors to return to their homeland.

According to the 2010 census, Balkars make up  12.7% of the population of the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (being outnumbered by the indigenous Kabarday, who comprise 57%, but also by ethnic Russians, who make up 22%).

 

Armenians in Turkmenistan

The Google Map shows known Armenian communities in the Central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan. This corrupt and repressive state was ruled by the vainglorious dictator Saparmurat Niyazov from the break-up of the Soviet Union until his death in 2005 and since then by another narcissistic autocrat, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

There are perhaps 30 to 40,000 Armenians in the country, living mostly in the major cities indicated on the map. Armenians arrived in Turkmenistan during Imperial Russian times, others during the Soviet era. More recently, more arrived following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Minorities have limited rights in Turkmenistan and, as might be expected, many Armenians with the means to do so have emigrated to Armenia, Russia or USA in recent years .

There is no registered Armenian place of worship in Turkmenistan. The state recognises only Islam and the Russian Orthodox Church (the churches of which are used by some Armenians).

Of the five pre-Soviet-era Armenian churches (one per city shown on the map, except Balkanabat), the last standing was the one in Türkmenbaşy (Turkmenbashi – Russian Krasnovodsk), which was demolished in 2005. The former Armenian Apostolic church here was founded in 1904 but seized by the militantly atheist Soviet authorities in the 1920s and used as a warehouse. According to accounts on the internet, the church stood, decommissioned, at the junction of Pushkin and Lermontov streets. Street names in Türkmenbaşy have, for the most part, been renamed, although the street name Puşkin Köçesi survives in the old town (which was primarily Russian). However, Soviet-era Russian language maps do not show Ulitsa Pushkina and Ulitsa Lermontova as intersecting. Ulitsa Pushkina street was a short road joining Ulitsa Gogolya and Ulitsa Budennogo, both of which ran down to the square Ploshchad Privokzalnaya and the railway station by the waterfront. Ulitsa Lermontova, on the other hand, was further north, beyond the Russian cemetery (in which Armenians were presumably buried, it being the only Christian burial ground in the city) and running off 1 Maya (now Azadi Köçesi). Perhaps, therefore, Gogol rather than Lermontov was meant. Accordingly, the pin on the Google Map has been placed where the former Ulitsa Gogolya (now called Adalat Köçesi) joins Ulitsa Pushkina. In any event, the church survived until 2005, when it was demolished by the Turkmen authorities, despite repeated requests for it to be returned to the Armenian community.

The Krasnovodsk street plan below shows the old Russian town, with Russian street names, during Soviet times. Ulitsa Pushkina can be seen (as “ул. Пушкина”) towards the left-hand side of the map.

 

Krasnovodsk

 

 

 

The Terek Kumyks

The Google Map shows the main locations of the Terek Kumyks in modern times.

Settlements in Chechnya are shown with green pins, those in Ingushetia are marked with red pins, and those in North Osseta-Alania with blue pins.

Germenchuk and Shali, in Chechnya, which lie away from the Terek river, are thought to be two of the sources of the Terek settlements. A few hundred Kumyks still reside in the town of Shali but Germenchuk now has an entirely Chechen population.

Kumyk place names are shown in brackets after the official (modern) Russian place names. For example, Predgornoye is known to Kumyks as Borasuv-otar.

 

The Udi

The Google Map shows the distribution of the Udi, an ancient relict ethnos of the Caucasus, the survivors of the formerly great Caucasian Albanian people.

Today, this Christian people is found primarily in two large villages in Azerbaijan (Nic and Oğuz, known until 1991 as Vartashen) and one small settlement in Georgia (Zinobiani). There are smaller numbers of Udi in a few other villages in Azerbaijan (and of course in its capital Baku) but most have assimilated or left the country for Armenia and, more especially, Russia. Most of the settlements in Azerbaijan marked with blue pins on the map therefore effectively show former rather than extant Udi communities.

As mentioned, there are numbers of Udi in diaspora dispersed across both cities and villages in southern Russia (shown with grey pins on the map) and elsewhere across Russia (not marked on the map).

Finally, there are also about 200 Udi refugees from Oğuz in a handful of villages in Armenia; these are marked with red pins.

 

 

The Tsakhur of Dagestan & Azerbaijan

The Google Map shows the main areas of settlement of the Tsakhurs. The Tsakhur are a northern Caucasian people or ethnos with their own Tsakhur language (one of the Lezgic family of languages in the NE Caucasus). The Tsakhurs will, of course, additionally speak the majority language, such as Azerbaijani or Russian, where they live. They profess Sunni Islam.

The Tsakhur territory was centred originally on a highland valley (that of the river Samur) in what is now the SW of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia. This is shown on the map by the line of 13 auls marked with blue pins. However, there was an expansion of territory over the mountains, extending it into what is now Azerbaijan, in the C15th – shown with green pins. The two capitals, as it were, were respectively Tsakhur aul itself in Dagestan, and İlisu village in Azerbaijan.

Place names on the Google Map are given in a standardised transliteration from the Russian for Dagestan, and in a modified Azerbaijani (using an ä instead of a schwa) for those in Azerbaijan. In some cases, alternative spellings or names are given in brackets.

One interesting place is Baş Suvagil, on the banks of the Qaraçay, which was flooded repeatedly, leading its inhabitants to establish a new Yeni Suvagil at a safer spot down on the plains. Satellite imagery suggests that people have again settled the site of Baş Suvagil.

The map also shows more recent dispersal by the Tsakhurs to the big cities of Dagestan and to a belt of Soviet era farming villages in the NE of the Republic.

 

 

The Mamkhegh of Adygea

The Google Map shows only a little of the history of the Mamkhegh. The Mamkhegh are a Circassian people and specifically one of the 12 Adyghe tribes, with their own eponymous dialect. They are Sunni Muslim.

Their historic villages were situated to the south of the town of Maykop. The approximate sites of the 12 largest of these are shown with blue question marks on the map. The exact sites are not certain but the distribution and spatial inter-relationship of them on the map is reasonably correct – or, at least, it follows the rough sketch map drawn up by local ethnographer Aleksandr Nikolayevich Dyachkov-Tarasov in 1901. Dyachkov-Tarasov uses the traditional Circassian and Caucasian word “aul” for each village and shows the borders of the Mamkhegh territory stretching south of Maykop in a dewdrop shape between Dagestanskaya and Abadzekhskaya villages on the rivers Kurdzhips and Belaya respectively.

These native villages were depopulated towards the end of the Caucasian War, circa 1862-63. At that time, most Mamkheghs, along with other Muslim Circassians, were deported from the Russian to the Ottoman Empire – presumably, their descendants live somewhere in Anatolia now. Those Mamkhegs who remained within Adygea were settled in the new eponymous village of Mamkheg and the other villages shown in yellow on the map.

 

The Archi of Dagestan

This Google Map shows the traditional villages of the Archi ethnos or people in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia.

The Archintsy, who are Sunni Muslim, speak their own Archi language (a peripheral branch of the Lezgic group of Caucasian languages) and self-identify (apparently mistakenly, given their language) as Avars.

The Archi are usually described in internet sources as occupying eight villages, although all the accounts, at least in the English and Russian languages, then proceed to name a maxmum of seven. Only seven villages are visible on satellite imagery, including that of Bing Maps (which is often superior to Google Maps and its derivatives for the mountainous Caucasus region). The identity of the eighth village is unknown; it is neither Chitab nor Shalib, which are situate to the N and NE respectively of the Archi villages, and there are no evident settlements to the S. Only seven are marked on this Google Map therefore. Possibly the eighth village was very small and has been abandoned.

 

The Khvarshi of Dagestan

This Google Map shows the distribution of another minority ethnos or people of the Caucasus, namely that of the Khvarshi (or Khwarshi) of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia.

The seven historic villages of the Khvarshi are shown with green pins on the map. The Khvarshi speak their own eponymous Khvarshi language and profess the Sunni form of Islam.

In 1944, the community was deported en masse from their traditional villages to Ritlyab (in Dagestan) and Vedeno (in Chechnya), places shown with grey pins on the map.

After the Great Patriotic War, many Khvarshi returned to their native villages in the highlands. Others remained where they were or moved on to the five settlements in northern Dagestan shown with blue pins on the map, where they remain till today.

 

The Armenians of Krasnodar krai (the Kuban)

The Google Map shows places of Armenian settlement in the Krasnodar krai, or region, of Russia, also known historically as the Kuban.

The history of Armenian settlement in this region of southern Russia is both old and complex, with multiple layers of immigration. These date from the Middle Ages (with the so-called Cherkesogai or Circassian Armenians), through to C19th Hemşin/Hemshin migrants from Anatolia (both Christian and Muslim converts), to 1915 Genocide survivors and late C20th refugees from Azerbaijan, Chechnya and Georgia and even from Central Asia. For over 500 hundred years, the Krasnodar or Kuban region has been a safe haven for Armenians.

Over 60 cities, towns and villages with a significant Armenian presence are plotted on the map. However, there are many small towns and villages with a modest or minority Armenian population not marked on this map; it does not purport to be fully comprehensive and complete.

Churches are shown (indicated by a cross) only when known to exist and positively identified. This does not mean to say that other settlements do not have places of worship. As mentioned above, a proportion of the Hemshin Armenians are adherents of Islam rather than Christians.

 

The Hunzibs of Dagestan & Georgia

This Google Map shows the distribution of Hunzib settlement in the Caucasus. The Hunzibs are ethnically Avar and Sunni Muslim highlanders. They have their own Hunzib language, although the number of speakers is under 5,000 and quite possibly under 2,500.

The heartland of the Hunzib people is in Dagestan, in the cluster of three villages, shown in blue, near Tlyadal: Garbutl, Gunzib and Nakhada. There were or are smaller settlements in this vicinity, either hamlets or neighbourhoods of the main villages (small as they themselves are) also occupied by Hunzibs: these are Gelo, Khelada, Novaya Nakhada, Novo Garbutl, Rodor, and Todor. It is possible that one or two of these are alternative names for one of the main villages, just as Gunzib, or parts of it, seems to have been known as Darbal or Darbali and/or Rodol at one time (or perhaps in a different tongue).

There is no letter “h” in Russian; it is replaced by “g”. Dagestan, as part of the Russian Federation, officially uses the Russian language and hence Hunzib (the ethnos) is identical with Gunzib (the village).

Hunzibs live additionally in two large villages in the Kizilyurt district of north-eastern Dagestan (marked with purple pins on the map). These places were not settled by Hunzibs until the C20th, possibly as a result of disruption and displacement during Soviet times.

The three villages in Georgia, marked with red pins, are home to numbers of Avars including Hunzibs – the village of Saruso is a majority Hunzib settlement. These places are shown on the map under their official Georgian names followed by their Avar/Hunzib names – for example, Saruso is the Georgian and Khaladukh the Hunzib name.