The outcome of the Battle of Kanzhal and eternal consequences

The project of the monument to Kurgoko Atazhukin

At the Kanzhal plateau, the troops of the Crimean Khan Kaplan I Giray suffered a crushing defeat. The khan himself only miraculously survived and fled from the battlefield, taking with him the remnants of the once mighty, but arrogant army. The Kabardians rejoiced at the site of the slaughter. Over the years, the enemy who had ravaged their lands over and over again was finally defeated. Kanzhal was strewn with thousands of corpses. For several days, the Kabardians, exhausted by the battle, wandered around the battlefield, looking for trophies and survivors, both their own and their enemies.

According to Shora Nogmov, this is how they discovered Alegot Pasha, who, in unconsciousness and despair, fled from the battlefield and fell off a cliff. Halfway to death, Alegot got caught in a tree and ended up head down. Later researches showed that under the name of Alegot the noble Nogai murza Allaguvat was hiding.

Death statistics are scary, albeit vague

The concrete results of the battle in terms of dry statistics are no less vague than the course of the battle itself. The participant in the battle, Tatarkhan Bekmurzin, indicated the following data:

“And the troops of the Crimeans were beaten, eleven thousand. The khan himself left in the same caftan with small people, while others were killed from the mountains without a fight. Soltan was taken prisoner and many of their Murzas and ordinary Crimeans, a lot of four thousand horses and armor, 14 cannons, 5 bombs, a lot of pishchal and all their powder was taken. And the tents that they have were all taken away. “

No less disastrous consequences of the defeat of the Crimean Khan in Kabarda are described by a French traveler, writer, and at the same time an agent of the Swedish king Charles XII, who closely watched the events on the southern borders of Russia:

“Porta gave its consent to these events (punitive expedition), and the great emperor (sultan) presented the khan with 600 purses, along with a hat and a saber adorned with diamonds, as is practiced at the time when he undertakes any large campaigns. After that (the Crimean Khan), having collected an army of more than 100,000 Tatars of all kinds (exaggeration – author’s note), which I mentioned above, moved to Circassia …

The moon, which some Circassians adore and worship, revealed their enemies to them, and they chopped to pieces such a large number of people that only those who jumped on horses the fastest and reached the steppe managed to escape, clearing the battlefield for the Circassians. The khan, who was at the head of the fugitives, left his brother, one son, his field tools, tents and luggage. “

The Kalmyk khan Ayuka, who had close contacts with the Russians and even met with the boyar Boris Golitsyn and the governor of Astrakhan and Kazan, Lieutenant General Pyotr Saltykov, in a personal conversation with the Russian ambassador said that in battle the Kabardians killed up to a hundred of the best murzas of the khan and captured khan’s son.

One way or another, but now the numbers of direct personnel losses vary from 10 thousand soldiers to absolutely fantastic 60 and even 100 thousand. The latter figures are extremely unlikely, because the terrain itself could neither feed the cavalry with its pastures, nor accommodate all the fighters.

Sultan Ahmed III

Soon the news flew around the Black Sea coast and reached Constantinople. Sultan Ahmed III was angry. He was preparing to go to war with Russia and in fact was an ally of the Swedish king Charles XII, who was waging the Northern War. Naturally, after such a campaign, Kaplan I Giray, who had fled from the battlefield, was immediately deposed. And the reason was not even that the campaign, which was supposed to bring considerable benefits to the Crimean Khanate and the Port, turned out to be a failure. And not that the Kabardians profited from Turkish gold and killed part of the army. The trouble for Constantinople and the vassal Bakhchisarai lay in the very fact that Kabarda not only rebelled, which happened more than once and was suppressed, but showed that it could successfully defeat the Turkish-Tatar army. In addition, for at least the next year, the Porta lost the flow of slaves and slaves who enriched the Ottoman treasury.

Sensitivity of international politics

Naturally, the defeat that led to the immediate change of the khan, the son of Selim Girey, respected among the Crimean Tatars, could not but have serious geopolitical consequences. Just at the very time when Kaplan lost part of his army in Kabarda, the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate were already negotiating with the Swedes about the time to enter the war. Such a contradictory alliance of the Christian king with the Crimean khan and the Ottoman sultan should not embarrass anyone. Porta and the Crimean Khanate have always been extremely sensitive to the possibility of attacking Russia.

For example, back in the 90s of the 16th century, the Crimean Khan of Gaza II Girey, with the knowledge of the Ottoman “authorities” with might and main, was in active correspondence with the Swedish king Sigismund I, and later, assuring the Russian tsars of friendship, he invaded the Russian lands with ruinous raids. The “friendship” did not weaken even later, when Khan Dzhanibek Girey supported Poland in the Smolensk war. True, the same Swedish Sigismund I, who ruled under the name of Sigismund III, was then sitting on the throne of Poland.

However, even in 1942, when Germany was destroying people in the camps and rushing to Moscow, Turkey helped the Nazis in every possible way, including in the transfer of saboteurs and spies across the border. In addition, the Turks concentrated over 20 divisions on the border with the USSR, awaiting the arrival of the allied Nazis or hoping to stab the Russians in the back.

With the beginning of the Northern War, Russia tried with all its might to maintain peaceful relations with the Ottoman Empire, approved by the Treaty of Constantinople. It was clear to everyone that sooner or later Porta would, of course, strike from the south, but in order to postpone this moment, everything possible was done. Count and Russian ambassador to Constantinople, Pyotr Andreevich Tolstoy, for the sake of preventing war in the south, was forced to bribe the greedy Ottoman dignitaries-intriguers. But the temptation to strike at Russia was still great. And for this they wanted to use the same Crimean Khanate.

As a result, a major defeat in the Battle of Kanzhal, which deprived the Khanate of Kabarda, significantly reduced the fighting efficiency of the Ottoman Crimea. In addition, in that situation it was hard to expect that Bakhchisarai would be able to recruit the same number of Nogais and other tribes of the North Caucasus for a raid on Russia, as before. As a result, it is the Kanzhal battle that is considered one of the reasons why the Crimean Khanate, always ready to respond to the European campaign against Moscow, did not take part in the legendary Poltava.

Elbrus from the Kanzhal plateau

Peter the Great also drew attention to the massacre at Kanzhal. Russian ambassadors began to penetrate into Kabarda, and a new stage of interaction between Kabardians and Russians slowly began. These relations could even become a full-fledged entry of Kabarda into Russia, if not for the internal discord of the Kabardian princes and some external factors.

The brave Kurgoko Atazhukin died in 1709, surrounded by the glory and love of the people. Kurgoko simply did not have time to realize the potential of victory in the battle with the invaders to rally all the princes of Kabarda. As soon as he closed his eyes, a deep split among the Kabardians began to mature. By 1720, two parties were even formed: Baksan (the new prince-valy of Kabarda Atazhuko Misostov, princes Islam Misostov and Bamat Kurgokin) and Kashkhatau (princes Aslanbek Kaitukin, Tatarkhan and Batoko Bekmurzins). The civil strife was so destructive that in turn the princes from both parties turned to Moscow for help in the struggle, then to the Crimean Khanate.

Are Bloody Kanzhal ready to repeat?

In the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, in September 2008, a group of Kabardians, participants in the equestrian procession in honor of the 300th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Kanzhal, headed towards Kanzhal. At night, in the area of ​​the village of Zayukovo, several cars of residents of the village of Kendelen drove up to a group of riders. Kendelen is located at the entrance to the Gundelen River gorge, which is the “road” to Kanzhal. The Kendelenians shouted that “this is the land of Balkaria” and “get out to the Black Sea, to Zikhiya.” In the morning, the road to Kendelen was blocked by a crowd of people, according to the participants in the procession, armed with fittings and carbines. The confrontation lasted a couple of days with the involvement of republican officials and employees of the Interior Ministry. As a result, the procession continued, but under guard.

The same situation arose in 2018, when the Kabardians gathered again to hold a commemorative procession, now for the 310th anniversary of the Battle of Kanzhal. Near the same village of Kendelen, they were blocked by local residents with posters “There was no Kanzhal battle.” Kabardians from other parts of the republic began to come to Kendelen. The confrontation was so tense that the arrived Rosguard soldiers were forced to use tear gas, there is also evidence of shooting in the air.

Clashes at Kendelen

The causes of these conflicts, which threaten to erupt into serious ethnic flames, are extremely deep. Firstly, the Balkars, who make up almost 100% of the village of Kendelen, belong to the Turkic-speaking peoples, and the Kabardians, to the Abkhaz-Adyghe peoples. In addition, back in 1944, the Balkars were deported, officially for collaboration. And in 1957, the people were returned to their native lands, which, of course, led to a heated alteration of pastures and other disputes.

Secondly, before the annexation of the North Caucasus to Russia, the Kabardian influence on neighboring peoples and tribes was enormous, they levied tribute and even considered many Chechen and Ossetian societies as their vassals, etc. As a result, the most freedom-loving inhabitants were forced to go higher into the mountains with their meager pastures and harsh climate. With the arrival of the empire, the highlanders began to be resettled to the flat part, where they occupied the lands that for centuries the Kabardians had considered their own – with all the ensuing consequences.

Thirdly, the Kanzhal battle, which plays a huge role for the Kabardian self-identification and is a symbol of heroism and the struggle for independence, is perceived by the Balkars as a promising threat of land acquisition in the Kanzhal region in favor of the Kabardians exclusively.

These long-standing grievances are extremely painful, therefore, the prejudice of some Balkars grows from here that there was no battle of Kanzhal at all. More moderate Balkars believe that Kanzhal was just one of the battles within the framework of the feudal war. The first ones refer to the absence of mentions of the battle in Kabardian folklore. The latter argue their position by the fact that even some Circassians took the side of the Turkish-Tatar army, although such situations were standard for that time. Even the conclusion of the Center for Military History of the IRI RAS, which, based on the analysis of historical documents, came to the conclusion that the Battle of Kanzhal not only took place, but also “is of great importance in the national history of the Kabardins, Balkars and Ossetians,” is not capable of shaking these weak positions.

Rallies in Nalchik

This tense situation slowly grows overgrown with characteristic ethnic claims. Increasingly, the Balkars are accusing them of “the dominance of Kabardians in leading positions,” and historians who claim Kanzhal as an undeniable accomplished event receive threats. Kabardians are not lagging behind either. In September 2018, after another conflict near the village of Kendelen, the confrontation continued in the capital – Nalchik. About two hundred young people gathered in front of the building of the government of the republic, who waved Circassian flags (not the flag of the republic!) And chanted: “Adyghe, go ahead!”

The fact that the Kabardians have been fighting for a permit to erect a monument to Kurgoko Atazhukin in Nalchik makes the situation piquant. At the same time, there is already a draft of the monument, and the initiators themselves propose to take all the expenses for the installation on themselves. Hope for a positive solution to this issue is inspired by the fact that the memorial stone of the monument has already been laid, however, hope is weak, since the stone was laid 12 years ago.

The appearance of the necessary number of provocateurs from our “peace-loving” neighbors to incite ethnic hatred is just a matter of time.

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