Schamyl, The Prophet-Warrior of the Caucasus

Westminster Review 1854
T. H. Huxley


1. Der Kaukasus und das Land der Kosaken, in den Jahren 1843 bis 1846. Von Moritz Wagner, Arnold: Dresden und Leipzig, 1848. (The Caucasus and the Land of the Cossacks, in the Years 1843 to 1848. By Morris Wagner.)

2. Die Völker des Kaukasus, and ihre Freiheitskàmpfe gegan die Russen. Von Friedrich Bodenstdt. Zweite Ausgabe. London: D. Nutt, 1849. (The Peoples of the Caucacus, and their War of Freedom against the Russians. By Friedrich Bodenstedt.)

3. Die Gegenwart. Heft 5 (1848.) Art. Schamyl und der heilige Krieg im Osten des Kaukasus (Schamyl and the Sacred War in the Eastern Caucasus); and Heft 43 (1850) Art. Der Kaukasus (The Caucasus.). Leipzig: Brockhaus.

4. The Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East. An Historical Summary. Third Edition, continued down to the present time; with a Map by Arrowsmith. London: Murray, 1854.

5. Schmayl als Feldherr, Sultan, und Prophet; und der Kaukasus. Von Dr. Friedrich Wagner. Leipzig: Remmelmann. March, 1854.. (Schamyl as General, Sultan, and Prophet; and the Caucasus.)

6. The Caucasus. By Ivan Golovin. London: Trubner and Co., 1854.

7. Karte von dem Kaukasischen Isthmus on Armenien. Von Prof. Dr. Karl Koch. Berlin: Reimer. 1850. (Map of the Caucasian Isthmus and Armenia.)

"In the name of Allah, the all-merciful, whose gracious Word flows like the spring before the eyes of the thirsty wanderer in the desert, who has made us the chief pillars of the temple of his faith, and the bearers of the Torch of Freedom! Ye warriors of great and little Kabardah, for the last time I send to remind you of your oaths, and to inspire you to war against the unbelieving Muscovites. Many are the messengers I have already sent to you, and the words that I have spoken: but ye have scorned my messengers, and have left my commands unfulfilled. Therefore hath Allan given you over into the hands of your enemies, and your aouls (villages) to the sword and the spoiler; for the Prophet hath said, ‘The unbelievers, who will nowise believe, shall God deal with as with the worst of his beasts.’

"Say not: we believe, and have always kept holy the teachings [481] of the prophet. Verily, God will punish, ye–liars! Say not: we faithfully perform our washings and our prayers, give alms, and fast, as it is written in the Koran. Verily, I tell on, for all this ye shall appear black-faced before the judgment--seat of Allah. The water shall become mud in your hands; your alms, the wages of sin; and your prayers, curses. The true believer has the faith in his heart, and the sword in his hand: for whoso is strong in faith, is strong in battle. But ye are more accursed than our enemies, for they are ignorant, and wander in darkness; but the light of truth has been kindled before you, and ye have not followed it. Wherefore have ye doubted the truth of my mission, and listened more to the threats of the enemy than to my admonitions? Was it I who united together the tribes of the mountains, or was it the power of God working through me in wonders? Believe not that God is with the many. He is with the good, and the good are always fewer than the bad. Look about you, and see if my words are not true. Are there not fewer good horses than bad? Are there not fewer roses than weeds? Is there not more mud than pearls? more lice than cattle? Is not gold scarcer than iron? And are we not nobler than the gold, and the roses, and the pearls, and all the horses and cattle put together? For all the treasures of the earth pass away; but we are immortal. But if the weeds be more than the roses, shall we, instead of hoeing them out, suffer them till they choke the noble flowers? And if the enemies be more than we, shall we, instead of hewing them down, suffer them till they take us in their snares? Say not: the enemy has conquered Tscherkei, and destroyed Akhulgo, and taken possession of Avaria. When the lightning strikes one tree, do all the others therefore bow their heads and cast themselves down, lest it strike them also? 0 ye of little faith! would that ye might take example by the green wood! Verily, the trees of the forest might shame you if they had tongues. Wonder not that the unbelievers increase so fast, and send more and more fresh troops into the field to replace those we have slaughtered, for I tell you that thousands of mushrooms and poisonous weeds shoot out of the earth, while one good tree is growing to maturity. I am the root of the tree of freedom, my Murids are the trunk, and ye are its branches: do not believe that the whole tree will die because one branch rots. Verily, God will hew off the rotten branches, and cast them into hell-fire; for he is a good husbandman. Repent, therefore, and return to the warriors of the faith, and my mercy and protection shall overshadow you. But if you continue to trust to the enticements of the flax-haired christian dogs rather than to my warnings, I will surely fulfil what Khasi-Mollah once promised you. Like dark clouds my troops shall overshadow your aouls, and take by force what you refuse to kindness blood shall mark my path, and fear and desolation shall follow me: for where words suffice not, deeds shall."


Such is the translation of a proclamation issued, ten years ago from his fastnesses in Daghistan, by the Melchisedek of tile Caucasus–Sultan Schmayl, "the second prophet of Allah." The "flax-haired christian dogs" are the Russians; and what we propose at present is, to explain who Schamyl is, and to show what way we are interested in helping him to put down "the mushrooms," and to cherish "the good tree to its maturity."

The isthmus which separates the sea of Azov and the Euxine from the waters of the Caspian, stretches, for some five hundred miles, from the Don and the Volga in the, north to the Araxes and the heights of Ararat in the south. The sister continents united by this broad neck of land, and each contributing her share to its formation, yet seem to delight in preserving the most marked and opposite characteristics up to their very line of junction. The fertile hills and valleys of Mongolia, Imeritis, and Georgia, represent Asia in all her richness and magnificence; and the vast chain of Caucasus, which forms their northern boundary, appears to be only their natural continuation.

Nothing can be more utterly different than the aspect of the European division of the isthmus. From the Don to the Kuban which flows on the west along the northern face of the Caucasian range into the Black Sea, and from the Volga to the Terek and the Sulak, affluents of the Caspian on the east, there is one vast and dreary plain–all dust in summer and all mud in winter where no greater elevations than the hillocks thrown up by the steppe-rat and the mole, or at most tile molillles–funeral mounds raised by the Mongol tribes, who wandered over these plains before the laws of Czardom–meet the eye of the traveller. The central portions of the steppe are just sufficiently elevated to yield a watershed eastward and westward to the Caspian and to the Euxine seas; so slight, however, that the muddy streams meander in all directions, spreading out here and there into marshes and inland lakes. No trees enliven the grassy desolation, but the morasses which fringe the rivers are disguised by dense thickets of reeds, tall enough to hide a horseman.

Such is the aspect of the country northward of the Kuban. Southward, the snowy chain of Caucasus–"the thousand-peaked"–rises abruptly in all its magnificence. Far as the eye can reach to the north-west and to the south-east, jagged, fantastic cones and columns, separated by profound ravines, stand out sharply against the Asiatic sky. Westward, the twin snow-covered peaks [483] of Elbrus, surrounded by a circle of vassal mountains, rise to a height of sixteen thousand feet; the Caucasians call it Dsching Padischah, "The King of Spirits;" and the legend runs, that the Ark grounded there before reaching Ararat. Eastward, the no less majestic mass of the Kasbek rears its head above its fellows, and indicates the direction of the great road between the Cis- and Trans-Caucasian provinces, which traverses its spurs.

Kasbek and Elbrus mark the line of the central snowy range of the Caucasus–"the White Mountains;" but on the northern face of the chain, between this range and the Kuban, there rises a lower range, uncovered by snow, and thence called "Black -Mountains." In the plateaux and gorges between the Black and the White Mountains, on the north, and between the latter, the Georgian hill-country, and the shores of the Black Sea in the south, lie the fastnesses of the western tribes of the Caucasus–the Tcherkesses proper–-whom we call Circassians, a name which has very improperly been extended to the entire inhabitants of the mountains.

The Kuban, which rises at the foot of Elbrus, and flows at first northward and then westward to the Euxine, may be taken to indicate the country of the Tcherkesses, which may be said roughly to include the Caucasus west and south of its origin. The Terek, whose source is close to the Kasbek, will serve us equally well to mark the residence of the other great people of the chain, who, from the name of the predominant tribes, have received the appellation Tchetschenes and Lesghians: while the whole country, from Kasek to the Caspian, is often called Daghestan. It is this country, east of the sources and south of the course of the Terek, which especially concerns us at present; and we shall only be able to comprehend the thirty years war for freedom which its inhabitants have maintained against the gigantic forces of Russia, exclusively devoted to their subjection, by paying some attention to its physical geography. From the Kasbek the Caucasian chain runs in a south-easterly direction until it terminates in the land of everlasting fire–Baku and the promontory of Apsheron, the holy land of the followers of [title?] Zerdusht ; on the other hand, the Terek takes a more north-eastern course to fall into the Caspian. Between the shores of the latter, the Caucasus and the Terek, therefore, there is a large triangular space of country. Thirty miles from the Kasbek the peak of Borbolo forms the origin of an offset of the great range northward, which, under the name of the Andi Mountains takes a north-easterly course, nearly parallel to the distant Terek, and terminates in the escarped cliffs of the Ssolo-Tau, thirty miles from [?] the Caspian. Opposite the Ssolo-Tau, rise the steep sides of the Tiouss-Tau, and in the gorge between them runs the river [484] Koissu, which afterwards takes the name of the Sulak, and flows parallel with the Terek, but separated from it by the peninsula Agrachan, into the Caspian. The Tiouss-Tau is connected southward with the Kaitach range, high mountains which run southward to join the main range of the Caucasus. Between the Kuitach and the Andi ranges lies the country of Lesghistan, an elevated highland, forming a second irregular triangle whose base, of a hundred and fifty miles in length, is constituted by the main chain of the Caucasus. This country is for the most part treeless, but the north-western flanks of Andi, which form a part of Tchetchenia, are clothed by dense forests of magnificent beeches; twining creepers bind the trees together, and vast boulders, stripped by thousands of winters from the granite and porphyry of the upper ranges and borne along by the fierce mountain torrents to the valleys and passes which form their beds, afford every advantage to the lightly-equipped mountaineer–every obstacle to an invading force.

The whole interior of the highlands of Lesghistan is one mass of ridges and ravines, at the bottom of each of which, a brawling stream, fed by the snows and rains of the upper regions, rushes to gain the affluents of the Koissu. Of these. there are four main trunks: one runs at the foot of the north-eastern declivity of the Andi range, joining the main Koissu near the pass of Ssolo-Tau, at Akhulgo. On the lower part of this Andi-Koissu the hills on the Andi side have the name of Gumbet, while on the opposite bank is the country of Koissubui. The heart of the highlands is formed by the country of the Avars, whose valley’s are drained by the Avarian Koissu. Eastward of this lie the districts of Andalal and Karach, whence flows the Kara-Koissu; while the western face of the Kaitach hills–the country of the Kasi-Kumucks–furnishes the last affluent, the Kasi-Kamuck Koissu.

The legend that the Caucasus has been the cradle of the human or at any rate of the Indo-Germanic race, may, in point of evidence be allowed to rest with that which fixes Mount Elbrus as the prison of Prometheus; for, in truth, nothing definite is known of the origin of the peoples who now inhabit it. From time immemorial, the Caucasus has been the refuge of those inhabitants of its southern or northern neighbourhood who have been driven, by the oppression of the Mongols on the north, of Arabs, Osmanlis, or Persians on the south, from their native homes, until at last the task of deciding ethnological characters are primary, and what derivative, has become almost hopeless. 1 Nor is the matter [485] practically of much importance, for these tribes, of which at least seven exist in the Caucasus, speaking widely different dialects, are characterized by a singular uniformity of habits and customs, and, to a great extent, of religion, also.

From all antiquity, the western extremity of the Caucasus, both its northern and southern faces, has been inhabited by Tcherkesses proper–the great tribes of the Adighé and Ubighé, and the Kabardians. Eastward of them, and principally inhabiting the south face of the chain, are the people of Abhasia, also a very ancient race, and like the former Mussulmen. Between the Elbrus and the Kasbek, the Ossetes now inhabit the mountains–only, having been driven from the northern steppes by Timur: they profess Christianity, but the accounts of travellers would lead one to believe that it consists rather in faith than in works, inasmuch as they are pre-eminent as liars and thieves. Eastward of the sources of the Terek and the great military road which follows its valley to the foot of the Kasbek and the pass of Dariel, the Tchetchenes occupy all the country from the Terek to the Andi-range, while the inhabitants of the highlands of Leghistan go by the name of Lesghians. All these people are zealous Mahammedans, having been converted from idolatry by the exertions of the Arabs in the tenth century, and having been but little exposed to the influence of Christianity. On the other hand, the Tcherkesses are said to have been once christianized by the celebrated Georgian queen, Tamar, the wooden crosses fixed to the ancient oaks, the memorials of her progress, being still shown and regarded with great reverence by the Adighés; and though they at present profess Mahommedanism, it is of a somewhat lukewarm description, while the Ossetes, who separate the western from the eastern Caucasian tribes, are, as we have said, professedly Christian. In addition to this barrier between the Tcherkesses and the Lesghians and Tchetchenes, there is another still more important one in the mutual unintelligibility of their ordinary dialects. The Tcherkess language is not particularly mellifluous, but, according to Wagner, the Tchetchene dialects are quite impracticable to the throat of any but a mountaineer. Tartar is the general medium of communication among the higher classes of the different tribes, and Arabic is understood by the Mollahs.

As in language, so in their institutions, there is a considerable difference between the Eastern and Western Caucasians. The social organization of the latter is essentially feudal; that of the former was to a great extent democratic, and is at present theocratic. In the west each tribe or clan has its chief of Pschi; its nobles, the Vork; their freedmen, the Tschokotl; and their serfs, the Pschilt. The profoundest reverence is paid to the chiefs, their [?] being never disputed by their clansmen, who have often in [486] their contests with the Russians sacriflced themselves by hundreds to recover the body of a slain Pschi; but the utmost independence, amounting, indeed, to extreme jealonsy prevails between the heads of different clans, so that it is very rare for the Western Caucasians to combine for any common end. Even when a meeting is held for the purpose of arranging a general attack upon the Russian outposts, the chiefs will sometimes spend a week or a fortnight in discussing and opposing one anothers’ plans, until, not unfrequently, the Russians have had time to learn their plans and prepare them a warm reception. In the Eastern Caucasus, on the other hand, each valley of Lesghistan was, until late years, when the strong hand of Schamyl levelled all distinctions, a perfectly communistic confederacy, whose members were equal and sworn brothers–the property of all being held in common. Such, for instance, was the well-known confederacy of Dargo. 2 Avaria, Kasi-Kumuck, and the Caspian provinces, however, appear to have been always ruled by khans.

The valleys of the Caucasus afford abundance of detached rocks and overhanging cliffs., bathed by the foaming mountain torrents. On these or other almost inaccessible spots. are perched, like eagle’s nests, the aouls or villages of the natives. Each consists of a number of saklias–houses built of loose fragments of rocks without mortar, and arranged in an amphitheatrical form. Those of the chiefs are larger, and are distinguished by the addition of high towers; the last refuge of the inhabitants in attack.

The hardy and frugal mountaineers support themselves by patronage, and by the cultivation of barley, wheat, and maize, making the best of the scanty soil by caieful1y terracing and irrigating it. In the more favoured districts, the vine is grown with success, and cherry, apple, and pear orchards, form no inconsiderable part of the wealth of the inhabitants. Some auols are celebrated for the manufacture of weapons and mail-shirts; and throughout the mountains the greatest attention is paid to the breed of the horses, hardy, sure-footed animals, as much valued by their active enemies, the Cossacks, as by the Caucasians themselves.

The Caucasian character has all the good and all the evil features common among semi-savage mountaineers. Possessed of the most daring courage, and capable of self-devotion to their chiefs altogether without parallel; chivalrous in open warfare, and true to the last to any engagement by which they consider themselves fairly pledged, frugal and temperate in their ordinary habits, honourable and affectionate in their domestic relations; they are, [187] nevertheless, to an enemy, or, indeed, to an outsider of any kind, both ruthless and bloodthirsty, seeming to be actuated by but two motives–love of bloodshed and love of gain. A story of Wagner’s well illustrates this. A Tcherkess made his appearance before the commandant of one of the forts on the Black Sea and stated that for a consideration, he was willing to give some important information. This turned out to be, that an attack on the fort had been arranged by a large body of his countrymen to take place on an appointed day, and as it was totally unexpected by the Russians, it would probably have resulted in their destruction. . The commandant agreed to pay the reward, but retained the Tcherkess until his statements were verified. Sure enough, on the very day a large body of mountaineers attacked the fort, but found their enemies on the alert, and were repulsed with loss. The Tcherkess received his reward the day after, and was dismissed with thanks. Not many yards from the fort, a Russian soldier, unarmed, was busied in some occupation The Tcherkess could not resist the opportunity, but shot him, and bounded away into the hills!

In mind as in feature, there are considerable differences between the Eastern and Western Caucasians. The Western is distinguished by the beauty of his form and features, the fairness of his complexion, the open, dashing, careless, European cast of his character. The Asiatic element, on the other hand, predominates in the Eastern tribes. Darker in skin, the eagle eye is deeper set, and its uncertain glitter suggests the suspicion that the passions of a fierce fanatic lie beneath the imagination of a mystic.

The wall-known Circassian slave-traffic is carried on by the western tribes only; though how far the abstaining from it may be the result of virtue on the part of the eastern clans, and how far the effect of their geographical position, and the less desirability of their women, are points worthy of consideration. The trade is doubtless inexcusable enough, but it must be remembered, that it is a very different affair from the slave-dealing with which England and America have been polluted. Among the Circassians themselves, as among most semi-civilized people (some say among the civilized too), matrimony is an affair of traffic, and the lover buys his wife of her respectable parents. With the Circassian girls, therefore, it is a question whether they are bought to work hard and live miserably at home, or whether they are bought to have an "establishment" at the expense of some Turkish pasha. They are not sold to slave or to be ill treated; and it is said that they almost invariably look forward to their Turkish prospects with great delight, [188] [488] and for that end brave the miseries of the Black Sea passage, with pleasure.

For a long time the slave-trade was nearly at an end. Russians objected, not to the morality of the traffic, but to the supplies of gunpowder and salt to, the Circassians in which it resulted; and by the treaty of Adrianople, the Sultan was made to cede to them all the Western Caucasus (which did not belong to him) and the adjacent coast of the Black Sea. Here they built a line of forts, where those of their soldiers who escape the bullets of the Tcherkesses (die of fever; and the garrisons require. to be replaced every three years. On the land side, the unfortunate dwellers in these outposts dare not venture five hundred yards from their own walls, and during the winter months nothing which brings them supplies regularly during the summer, nothing occurs to relieve the dreariness of their solitude. The steamers which bring them supplies regularly during the summer, do not care to face the fierce winter storms of the Euxine, so that they subsist on salt stores. During the summer, however, a constant consciousness is kept up by preventive boats, which each day scour the coast from fort to fort, the sharp eyes of the Cossack-crew strained to catch the least indication of the little Turkish smuggling cruisers, which contrive, in spite of them, to carry away many a cargo of Circassian beauties to Trebizond.

Not long since, however, the Russians, in effect, withdrew their prohibition of the slave-trade, though they nominally retain it. Their mode of proceeding was essentially Russian. Turkish vessels are allowed to come to Anapa to purchase and carry away young Circassians to any extent, but under the condition that they are all entered as Russian subjects travelling to Trebizond or Constantinople, and provided with Russian passports. They have, therefore, a right always to claim the protection of the Russian ambassadors or consuls in Turkey. The philanthropic Muscovites had, of course, no other view than the providing for the good usage of the slaves, otherwise it might have been esteemed a clever stroke of policy to spread persons who should regard Russia as their natural protector, through every harem and in many high offices of state, to which the Circassian and Georgian youths often rise in Turkey.

A people such as we have described; poor but warlike, greedy of spoil, and, in addition, fond of fighting for the mere sake of the excitement which it affords, are not likely to be very pleasant neighbours; and from the earliest periods, we find them levying black mail upon the plains of the Kuban and Terek and the richer vallies of Georgia. The Georgian rulers did their best to introduce Christianity among the western tribes, by precisely the same methods–fire and sword–that the. Arabs followed to con[489]vert the eastern to Mahommedanism, but the efforts of the followers of the Prophet were more lasting; and at the time of Peter the Great, a lax Mahommedanism, mixed up with fragments of the idolatrous practices, of their ancestors, and introduced morsels of. Greek Christianity prevailed among most of the tribes of the Caucasus. Split up into an. infinite variety of tribes, decimated by incessant blood-feuds, drawn from their Mountain fastnesses by no stronger motives than the love of plunder and devoid of any great principles of action, the Caucasian tribes might have remained to this day of as little political importance as the New Zealanders, had it not been for the widely-grasping and gigantic plans of the great but unprincipled Czar Peter. Russian aggression has caused Caucasian organization.

"Peter the Great," says the author. of the ‘Progress of Russia in the East;," 3 "eleven years after the battle of Pultawa, established a line of. posts from the Volca to the Don, to protect his country from the incursions of the unsubdued tribes to the south. The Russian frontier posts are now on the banks of the Araxes, and beyond it; seven-hundred miles in advance of the position.

When Peter drew this cordon, the Saporogue Cossacks dwelt in the rich border country of Poland, the Ukraine. Russia protected the Cossacks against their legitimate sovereigns, the kings of Poland; and now the fertile Ukraine is a part of Russia, and Saporogue Cossacks find themselves converted into the Tchernomorsky Cossacks on the: Kuban, doing battle for Russia, against their own blood relations, the Tcherkesses.

Peter failed signally in obtaining a port on the Sea of Azov: but by the treaty of Kainardji, in 1771, Catherine acquired the steppes of the Don and Dnieper; and the shore of the Sea of Azov, with the free navigation of the Black Sea, while she took the Crimea, declared independent, under her protection. Curiously enough, nothing but disorder followed. At last, the Khan finding himself no match for the Turks, called in the assistance of his friends. A Russian. army promptly occupied the peninsula; but having done so, their bayonets were turned, .not against the Turks, but against the Tartars themselves, who were unpleasantly surprised at the turn affairs had taken. Potemkin pacified the country by the massacre of thirty thousand men, women, and children; the ruling Khan was pensioned off, and the Crimea is now one of the richest districts of Russia

. In the absence of sea-ports, Peter the Great saw that the only [490] channel of mercantile prosperity for Russia, was the overland route to the East Indies. There are two roads from Russia to India; one by way of Astrakhan, across the Caspian, and through Khiva–the other by way of the Caucasus, Georgia, Persia, and Heart. The steady perseverance of Peter and his successors, to possess themselves of the command of these two great channels of commerce, would deserve every praise, had their sagacity in the perception of the end been accompanied by more scrupulousness: as regards the means. Unfortunately, at every step, bloodshed has been at their right hand, and falsehood at their left. Peter’s vile and treacherous attempt upon Khiva, in 1717, failed, as it deserved to do. But he took possession of the western shore of the Caspian, as far as Derbend, and sowed dissension and civil war among the Persians. Here, however, the rise of Nadir Shah checked the pretensions of Russia, and in 1739 the treaty concluded with Turkey secured only the independence of the province of Kabardah, at the foot of the Caucasus. As in the case of the Crimea, however, the next treaty–that of Kainardji–converted Kabardah into a Russian province. Two years afterwards the first line of fortresses was erected between the Black Sea and the Caspian.

The Ossetians, as we have seen, occupy the country about the great pass of Dariel, one of the only two roads between Russia and Georgia. In 1745, the Christian bowels of Russia yearned towards these unhappy people, and she sent missionaries to convert them. The success of the worthy priests was so great 4 that, although at the present time they are among the greatest miscreants of the range, yet they would hardly sell Mortiz Wagner a little meal during Lent and they are entirely devoted to Russia.

Georgia had long been connected with Persia, but the Georgian princes, harassed by the continual attacks of the mountaineers, and weary of the incessant struggle between Turks and Persians, of which their country was the scene, appealed in 1722 to Russia for her protection. Russia at that time could only afford fair promises of assistance; but she did all she could in the way of taking the most lively interest in Georgian affairs. In fact, when, in 1760, a struggle arose between the then king and his son, a Russian army crossed the Caucasus, and, true to Russian policy, supported the rebel. In 1783, the Georgian ruler entered into a [491] treaty with Catherine at Georgievsk, by which "he recognised the permanent sovereignty of Russia for himself and his heirs, while she engaged to protect not only his present possessions, but any he might thereafter acquire, and to guarantee the kingdom to him and his heirs for ever." It is worthy of remark, that the general 5 who carried the ratification of this treaty to Tiflis, was also charged with the construction of a good road over the Dariel pass. Nothing like a good military road for maintaining the entente cordiale. Need we add that in 1800, the weakness of the reigning sovereign giving rise to a favourable opportunity, the King of Georgia, like the Khan of the Crimea, was pensioned off and Tiflis became the seat of a Russian governor-general. The Araxes and the mountains of Ararat are now the southern limit of the Russian territory. Nearly the entire line of the western coast of the Caspian is in her possession–the northern shore is wholly hers, and two Russian forts command the eastern coast–-where Khiva is as yet "independent;" unless, indeed, the late accounts of the successes of a Russian army in that quarter be correct. 6 The southern shore still belongs to Persia; but the Shah may launch no vessel of war upon the sea which once entirely belonged to his predecessors. May not the unquiet spirit of Czar Peter look down upon his successors, and cry "Well done"?

The Russians have inundated the south as the dull and muddy river of the steppe overflows its marshy borders. Silently, slowly, irresistibly, the dark and filthy fluid overspreads its weak banks, and the variegated flowery carpet becomes obscured by one vast monotonous sheet of mere ditchwater, still drifting slowly in obedience to the impulse of the higher stream. So are all the varieties of human intelligence and activity which once lived and worked between the Don and the Araxes, swamped in the Russ mud-bath, with its fourteen orders of corrupt officials and its innumerable thousands of convict soldiery, which, like a second deluge, has destroyed the nations, even to the summit of Ararat; and still drifts slowly towards the Himalayas.

This gradual advance of the Russian frontier, however, filled both the Sultan and the Circassian tribes with extreme alarm. The former found himself robbed of some of his richest possessions, shorn of political influence, and obliged to yield his religious sway as head of Islam, to the degraded idolatry of the Greco-[492]Russian Czar-worship, misnamed Christianity. The latter, which rage and fear, beheld themselves gradually shut out from the source of their riches, and threatened in their cherished independence by a cordon of Cossack lances and Russian bayonets, united for their oppression with the forces of their old enemies, the Christian Georgians. It was not unnatural, then, that these mountain tribes kept day after day in continual excitement by the reports of those who had fled from the oppression of a brutal soldiery, should have been ready to placed implicit faith in the first hot enthusiast who should cry, "Ye have forgotten Allah and Mahomet the Prophet, therefore he has given you over into the hands of the Giaours."

This "Sower in the Field of the Faith," as he is called in the songs of the Rhapsodists, who still celebrate his deeds at the feasts of the Caucasian chiefs, was the Dervish Mahommed, better known as the Sheik Mansur, who made his appearance among the Tchetchenes about the year 1785, and is said by some to have been an emissary of the Sultan of Turkey. Frugal and even ascetic in his habits, as befits a holy man; carrying the whole Koran in his head, and it is said, 10,000 verses besides; endowed with marvellous activity and energy, the Sheik lost no time in spreading his gospel over the lands of Tchetchenia and Lesghistan. Nor, in the words of the poet Kuli-Khan, did he fail "with his sword to show forth the deeds of the faith," as his sanguinary attacks upon Kislear and Naur testified. Finding little success, however, in the Eastern Caucasus, he turned his efforts to the West; but here his short career reulted in little more than the extinction of any remains of Christianity among the Tcherkesses, and the complete conversion of their rulers to Mahommedanism. Shut tip at last in Anapa, the Russian general, Budowitsch, succeeded, in 1791, in storming the place, and in carrying off the Sheik, who ended his life in the fortress of Ssolowetyskoy. With his death, the outbreaks of the Caucasian tribes for a time ceased.

When, however, some years later, the Russians sent an army to "protect" Heraklius, king of Georgia, against the Persians, Omar, Khan of Avaria, collected a large army of Lesghians and Tchetchenians, and devastated Kachetia, a Georgian dependency on the southern flanks of the Caucasus. The mountaineers had not yet learnt to understand the force of bayonets, artillery, and discipline; and throwing themselves upon the auxiliary Russian column, who had already routed the invading Persians, in open ground near Karugutsch, they were utterly defeated, leaving their leader dead upon the field. So the Georgians were relieved from all apprehensions on either the Caucasian or the Persian side, [493] but from that time forth the Russian army has never left them, and as we have already said, they were annexed in 1800.

After this defeat, the Caucasians appear somewhat to have lost heart, for General Zizianoff, the firs governor-general at Tiflis, succeeded in bringing the Abbasians under, the Russian sway. General Yermaloff, the most celebrated of the governors of the Caucasian provinces, succeeded to this important post on Zizianoff’s assassination in 1806, and pursued with great energy and ability the course of conquest which his predecessor had commenced. Yermaloff appears to have been singularly fitted for the post he occupied.. Of a most commanding aspect, so that it is said even the proud and indomitable chieftains of the Tcherkesses trembled before his eye–his abilities for both military and civil administration were of the highest order; kind, generous, and thoughtful for the interests of those who submitted to his rule, he exterminated without mercy, and inflicted the most frightful tortures upon all recalcitrants. During his time, the Tcherkesses were quiet; but the restless Lesghians, sensible neither to fear nor to love, broke out under Amulad Beg into open insurrection. The rebellion was put down; and Amulad Beg, who was taken prisoner, was only spared at the intercession of a Russian staff-officer, who promised to be responsible for him. The wild Lesghian, however, murdered his benefactor, fled, and raised his clansmen in revolt once more. Yermaloff set a price upon his head, marched into Tchetchenia, destroyed every aoul in his course with fire and sword, and erected the fort of Groznaia at the boundary of the Lesgbian: highlands.

From the capture of Sheik Mansur to that of Amulad Beg, the revolts and incursions of the Caucasian tribes, though incessant, had not been very important, and had more the nature of predatory attacks than of combined and serious warfare. The measures taken by Zizianoff and Yermaloff, and by their predecessors, upon the Cis-Caucasian frontier were amply sufficient to keep the mountaineers in check, and there was every hope of their ultimate subjugation. Along the northern frontier, the so-called "Line" of the Caucasus, a continuous series of Cossack colonies were planted from the mouth of the Kuba to that of the Terek–these rivers forming a natural defence for the chain of stanitzas or villages along their banks. Each stanitza, inhabited by a number of Cossack families and a small body of infantry, is provided with a krepost or rough fort, having a ditch with a mud or stone wall, and sometimes a few pieces of artillery, into which its defenders can retreat if hard pressed. Wherever the river is passable, a high post is raised, provided with a seat. at the top, with the means of making signals by day and of [494] kindling a beacon by night. Day and night, a Cossack may be seen perched on the seat, watching with intent eyes the river and the reedy thickets upon its opposite banks. His horse is tied below, and his long lance leans ready against the post. The instant he espies signs of a troop of Tcherkesses lurking among the reeds, or making preparations to cross, he kindles his beacon, descends with all haste, and gallops to the stanitza. The infantry, women, and children, hasten into the krepost, but every Cossack jumps upon his horse, and in a few minutes the troop is galloping on its way, joined by those of other stanitzas roused by the signal, to oppose the crossing of the enemy, or drive him back.

If the Tcherkesses have not already crossed, they now rarely attempt it–but if they have, a hand-to-hand fight ensues, and the result depends very much on the numerical superiority of either side. It frequently happens, however, that the Tcherkesses cross the Kuban–aided either by darkness, or by the fogs which at times prevail–unseen, and the first intimation of their presence is the wild shout which rouses the unhappy inhabitants of the stanitza from their slumber. It is short work–in an hour a cloud of smoke, and the gashed bodies of Cossacks mark where the stanitza was; and the infantry if they have had the good luck to save themselves in their intrenchments–yiew over their palisades, the retreating horde dashing at full speed over the steppe, their wiry horses laden with spoil, goods, women and children, to the banks of the Kuban. Once across, the whole Russian force dare not follow them. Mischievous and harassing as these attacks were, they had more the character of black-mail levies than of any organized and serious attempts against the Russian power. On the banks of the Kuban more especially, they were unconnected with religious influences; usually some festive solemnity, a marriage, or the like, had brought together a number of chiefs and their followers. Full of good cheer and warmed with wine, the kikoakoa, or bards of the clans, raised their songs in praise of past or present heroes, Scheik Mansur, Guz-Beg, or Dschimbulat. Emulous of their deeds, the assembled warriors decided upon attacking the Giaours. The particular stanitza was selected by the majority, but the choice of the point of passage was left to the chief elected for the occasion. Each Vork summoned his Tchokotls and Pschilts about him, and that night perhaps, the horsemen swept like a storm over the Kuban, and the rising sun saw them returning in triumph to their aouls. The Russians, however, soon established a wide system of espionage among the greedy mountaineers, and many a troop on reaching the left bank of the Kuban found a goodly body of cavalry and artillery drawn up on the right, or were intercepted and destroyed on their return.

[495] Such was and is the style of warfare in the Western Caucasus; but the year 1823 saw a new epoch dawn upon the Eastern tribes–the Tchetchenians and Lesghis.

The khanate of the Kurin is a small province lying at the south-eastern limit of the highlands of Lesghistan towards the Caspian, whose chief place is the aoul of Jarach. The inhabitants are agricultural and pastoral in their habits, and famous for the arms and mail-shirts which they manufacture. Here, in 1823, lived Mohammed the Mollah, the wisest of the Ulema of Daghestan, and cadi or judge of the place. It is an old custom for the Mosle, priests to train up disciples, as their successors in the ministry, to spread the doctrines of the Koran far and wide. The Mollah Mohammed was so celebrated as a teacher or "Murschid," and his fame had extended so widely, that disciples or "Murids" gathered about him from all parts. Among these, was a young Bokharian, Khas-Mohammed, whose zeal had led him to remain seven years at the feet of the holy Murschid, and whose character had endeared him to all the people of Jarach. But the time had come when the Murid was declared by his teacher to be proficient in the learning of the Arabs and Persians, and worthy of the dignity of an Alim; and he was dismissed to his own country, with the warning verse of the poet Saadi–

"The worst of men is the wise who puts not his wisdom into practice."

A year had passed since Khas-Mohammed took his departure and a change had come over the people of Jarach. The Russians had taken possession of the neighbouring country of Kara-kaitach; had deposed the khan, who fled to Avaria, defiled the mosques, and ill-treated the women; and a strong feeling against the Muscovites had already begun to stir the people of Kurin, when Khas-Mohammed suddenly re-appeared in the house of his ancient teacher, bringing wondrous reports of the sublime doctrines of one Hadji Ismail, a holy man of Schirwan; listening to whom, Khas-Mohammed had forgotten his fatherland, and had returned with the sole wish of making his ancient teacher a participator in his good fortune. So Mollah Mohammed and a number of his disciples followed Khas-Mohammed to the aoul of Kurclonia, in the land of Schirwan, the dwelling-place of Hadji Ismail.

The tenets of Hadji Ismail seem to have consisted mainly in a development Sunnite Mahommedanism, strongly tinged with the mystic spiritualism of the sect of the Sufis, which some think to have arisen by the engrafting of the quietism of the Brahmins upon the Koran. It is hardly necessary, however, to suppose a foreign origin for Sufism, since similar doctrines have arisen in every church, and in every deeply religious nation.

[496] That a direct revelation of the Infinite in a state of ecstasy produced by the negation of self, is possible to every believer–that this direct union of man with the deity renders every other condition of no importance to those who have attained it–are doctrines which the Sufis share in common with the followers of Molinos and of Jacob Böhme. The state of ecstasy is called h’âl by the Sufis; whose has this is one with Allah and needs no further attention to the requirements of either faith or duty. "Whoso," say the Dabistan, "does not acknowledge that it is indifferent whether he is a Mussulman or a Christian, has not raised himself to the truth, and knows not the essence of being." Let no hasty reader, however, suppose that these doctrines are followed practically by either toleration or profligacy. The Sufi must pass through four stages of spiritual life. In the first, he must without fail keep the Scharyat the law which binds all Moslems alike. But to those stronger spirits whose aspirations are more lofty, a second stage is open, Tarykat (the path–the method), when the slavery of the exact performance of the law is exchanged for the freedom of a strict and spiritual faith. By this path the believer travels higher to the third stage, Hakykat (truth), by the strengthening of his powers of inward intuition, whereby he knows essentially things as they are. Hence, finally, he passes to the last and highest state, Maarisat, the immediate, actual confluence with the deity.

But it was not mere questions of doctrine which were discussed between Mollah Mohammed and Hadji Ismail. They were earnest and real men, whose faith had its application to the events around them; and when once Mahommedism had ceased in to be a matter of dead works, when the crushing narrowness of the mechanical performance of the obligation the Scharyat, was replaced by the infinite path, which promise scope for the action of all the highest faculties of their minds–then, indeed, they began to see the full meaning of the Russian slough which was gathering round the feet of their mountains, then the instinctive attempt to preserve their liberties was sublimed into an act of duty and of worship. To every acolyte the Hercules choice was offered on the one hand, of freedom and faith in the infinite progress of his own soul to the Almighty Allah by intellectual ecstasy; on the other, of slavery and faith in the fourteen orders of nobility, through which by the help of gew-gaw saints and bribery, he might attain to see the face of the Russian padischah, who besotted priests would teach him was God upon earth. It is to the honour of human nature, that when Mollah Mahommed returned to Jarach, his doctrines spread like lightning through the land. Two things the Mulllahs [497] taught were necessary for all believers–to keep the Scharyat, and to destroy the infidels. All your alms, all your watchings and prayers, all you pilgrimages to Mecca, avail you nought, so long as the eye of a Muscovite looks upon them. Your marriages are bad, your children are bastards, and the Koranis your destruction, so long as there is a Moscovite among you. Who can serve both Allah and the Muscovites?"

Pilgrims from all parts of the land thronged to Jarach; and those disciples into whose hearts the Mollah’s precepts sank most deeply, gradually acquired the special name of murids (pupils or strivers). The murids made wooden schaskas 7 for themselves, and in the corner of the Mollah’s house was an altar to which, hour by hour, a murid advanced, and turning his face to the east, cried aloud, striking upon the altar,–"Moslem! war against the Infidel!–war against the Infidel! Death and destruction to the Giaour!" And the streets were filled with murids shouting the same cry.

The rumours of these doings soon reached the ears of the ever-active Yermoloff, who ordered Arslan, khan of the Kasi-Kumucks and ruler of Kurin, to possess himself of the person of Mollah Mahommed. Unwilling, however, to sacrifice his popularity by violence to so great a saint, Arslan khan allowed the Mollah to escape into Avaria. In the meanwhile, the war that has raged ever since, broke out. The people of Tchetchenia, incited by the murid emissaries of Mollah Mahommed, fell by night upon the fortress Amir-hadshi-jurt, on the Terek, and slew every Russian inhabitant. General Grekow, in command of the district, joined by General Lissanéwitsch, hastened with a considerable force to cut off the Tchetchenes, and surrounded them. They defended themselves as long as their powder lasted; and then cutting their way, schaska in hand, through the Russian troops, made good their retreat into the woods. The Russian generals, not strong enough to chastise the Tchetchendans, sought to put an end to the outbreak by a convention with the chiefs, whom they summoned to a meeting. About two hundred appeared, headed by a Mollah, who was alone admitted to the conference. Grekow was so ill-advised as to insult him. The Mollah drew his dagger, killed both Grekaw and Lissanéwitsch, and wounded several others, before he was ‘bayoneted and cut to pieces by the Russian soldiers.

When these events were reported at head-quarters, Yermoloff put himself at the head of a column, and destroyed all the aouls he could reach in Tchetchenia; but having, by the perpetration [497] of frightful cruelties, reduced the Tehetchenians to a state of quietness, he was, in 1826, recalled, as it is said, in consequence of a personal spite entertained against him by Nicholas, who had just assumed the Czarship.

Among the most active disciples of-Mollah Mahommed was a native of the aoul of Himri, in Avaria, Khasi-Mohanmed, better known since as Khasi-Mollah. Himri lies on the right bank of the Koissu, in the district of Arrakan, not far from the mouth of the deep gorge formed by the Tiouss-Tau and Ssolo-Tau, perched on a steep rock, whose base is washed by the rapid stream, and surrounded by a threefold wall. Himri seemed a fitting centre of operations, and therefrom, on his return from Jarach, Khasi-Mollah carried out his operations, soon attaining so great an influence, as to render himself the actual chief of the movement, gathering round him troops of murids, and sending them in all directions to rouse the neighbouring tribes.

The task which Khasi-Mollah had set himself was no easy one. The chiefs were jealous of his temporal power; the Mollahs of his spiritual influence; nor could the more cautious and worldly-wise of the Tchetchenians fail to perceive with what frightful odds against them the contest with the Russians would commence. Khasi-Mollah, however, had remedies for both these difficulties. In Arrakan lived Sahid Effendi a Mollah of great repute, high in favour with the Russians, and opposed to the new doctrines. Khasi-Mollah could neither diminish the influence of the old priest, nor win him over. But one night, Sahid Effendi waked up with his house in flames, and found it advisable to be no more seen in that country.. After this the tribes of Gumbet, and Avaria came to Khasi--.Mollah’s side, but the Khaness of Chunsach, the most important place in Avaria, who ruled during the minority of her sons, refused to forsake the Russian cause. Khasi-Mollah, consequently attacked Chunsach; but was repulsed by the people, whose reverence for their prince–always a most prominent feeling among the Circassians–overcame their inclinations for the cause of the new leader. The latter was much discredited by these repulses, and still more by the advance of General Rosen into the valley, who, however, deceived by the apparently ready submission of the mountaineers, omitted to take possession of Himri, or to strengthen Chunsach; a circumstance which Khasi-Mollah turned to his own account by spreading among the people a report that Allah had struck his enemies with blindness and stupidity. Within a very short time he was at the head of a large army, and defeated Prince Bekowitch, who moved against him. In 1831, Khasi-Mollah destroyed Tarku, and besieged Burnaja, on the Caspian; the latter being only saved with great difficulty and loss by the Russians. He then ravaged the [499] country about the Sulak, defeated General Emanuel, and afterwards devastated Tabasseran. In the autumn, he besieged Derbend; the Russians, however, raised the siege. In November, he utterly destroyed Kuban, the principal town on the Terek.

. The year 1832 was destined to be the last of Khasi-MoIlah’s brilliant career. General Von Rosen, the Russian commander-in-chief, in the hope of putting an end to the war, moved with a strong column over the passes from Temirchanschura, on the eastern flank of Kaitach, and desended upon Himri, overpowering every resistance. Many of Khasi-Mollah’s followers, deceived by false messages, forged by the Russians and circulated among the mountaineers, withdrew, and among them was even Hamsad Beg, his chief supporter, and upon whose assistance he had most reckoned; but his Murids and a few other faithful followers shut themselves up with him in Himri, and awaited the onset of the Russians, well knowing that neither conquest nor flight were possible.

The Russian artillery began the attack by battering down the high towers, common in the Caucasian aouls, and burying beneath their ruins chanting verses of the Koran as they fell, their Murid defenders. But the Russians did not obtain possession even of the shattered stones of Himri until the desperate Moslems were cut down and bayoneted to the last man; and when, at last, they could call the day their own, they found only the corpse of Khasi-Mollah surrounded by those of sixty of his followers. The Mollah himself bore no arms; but the Russian bullets had found him as he sank upon his knees, stretching forth one hand to heaven in last appeal against the oppressors. At his feet lay his chief Murid, SCHMAYL, with two bullets and a bayonet wound in his body, apparently dead also. The Russians carried about the body of Khasi-Mollah in triumph, leaving the Murid where he lay.

A few months afterwards, we find him the active lieutenant of Khasi —Mollah’s successor; but the manner of his escape is a mystery which he himself has never explained, and his followers believe it to have been miraculous. After the death of Khasi-Mollah, the indefatigable Mollah Mahommed hastened to consecrate as his successor, Hamsad Beg, the most prominent of the chiefs who acted with him; but who, as we have seen, deserted him at Himri. Hamsad Beg, however, had neither the religious zeal nor the military genius of his predecessor or successor, and his short and stormy rule constitutes little more than an episode in the history of the war. His efforts were directed, not so much directly against the Russians, as against those tribes of his own people who were either lukewarm in their support, or openly hostile to him. Pachu Bike, the [500] Khaness of Chunsach, with her three sons, still held for the Russians: and it was impossible to undertake tiny important operations against the latter, while the chiefs of half Avaria were favourably disposed towards them. And there was another motive which strongly urged the expediency of striking a blow in this direction; it was time to decide whether the habitual reverence of this tribe for its prince, could not be made to give way to the spiritual authority of the Murschid. Hamsad Beg made the experiment by marching an army against Chunsach, and then enticing two of the sons of Pachu Biké Omar Khan and Abu Nunzal, into his camp, where they were treacherously murdered. Hamsad Beg took possession of the aoul without opposition, decapitated Pachu Biké herself. Her third son, Bulatsch Khan, a boy, was adopted by the father of one of the chiefs slain in the melée occasioned by the murder of his brothers.

But, although Hamsad Beg had effectually dissipated the notion of the inviolability of the persons of the princes of Avaria, he fell a sacrifice to the still more deeply-rooted prejudice of the blood feud, the vendetta. Osman and Hadji-Murad, foster-brothers of Omar Khan, excited a formidable conspiracy against Hamsad Beg, and assassinated him in the mosque of Chunsach. A general massacre of the Murids followed, and only some thirty contrived .to escape to a wooden fortification–the Castle of the Khans–where they desperately defended themselves. Their opponents, however, fired the place and all perished, save Schamyl, who again mysteriously escaped; and placing himself at the head of the scattered forces of Hamsad Beg, attacked Hadji Murad, who, seeking alliance with the Russians, had strengthened himself in Chunsach. The first assault, however, failed, and, in a second, Schamyl was again obliged to withdraw with loss; but Hadji Murad finding it would be impossible to hold out, despatched pressing messages for help to Rosen, the Russian commander, who immediately made the necessary arrangements for supporting him. Schamyl’s counter measure was to send half-a-dozen of his emissaries with orders to seek out Bulatsch Khan, cut off his head, and cast it into the Koissu–a mandate which they punctually performed. Russian help could not now, at any rate, profess to replace the legitimate heir to the Khanate of Avaria on his throne.

And now the great hero of the Caucasus, who from this year, 1834, till the present time has baffled the whole force of Russia, took his legitimate place, and Schamyl, the devoted Murid, became Imam and Sultan of the Eastern Caucasus, ‘the second prophet of Allah.’ Like Khasi-Mollah, a native of Himri, and born in 1797, Schamyl grew up amidst all those influences which would best fit him to be the future leader of his people. From [501] his earliest childhood his silent earnest ways, intense determination and love of knowledge, distinguished him among his fellows, and Spartan habits and a strong will compensated the natural defects of a delicate physical organization. He would shut himself up for weeks in shame and rage if defeated in the games of the youth of Daghestan; and having once been set upon and severely wounded by a number of his rivals, the legend runs, that he brought himself to the point of death rather than reveal what he considered his disgrace. To one human being only is he said ever to have yielded his implicit confidence and obedience–Dschelal Eddin, the Mollah, his teacher in all sacred lore–who early instilled into his mind the philosophy of the Arabs:, and initiated him into the mysteries of Stifism. Dschelal Eddin still lives, at a great age, and receives from the Sultan-prophet the same obedience and reverence as he had from the boy.

"Schamyl is of middle stature has fair hair, grey eyes overshadowed by thick well-marked eyebrows, a regular well-formed nose, and a small mouth. A peculiar fairness and delicacy of skin distinguishes his countenance from that of his fellow countrymen, and his feet and hands are singularly well- shaped. The apparent immovability of his arms in walking indicates the determination of his character. His manner is noble and dignified. Perfectly master of himself, he exercises a silent influence over all who come into contact with him. A stern impassivity, which is undisturbed even in moments of the greatest danger, is his characteristic expression. A condemnation to death falls from his lips with the same calmness as he shows in conferring on a brave Murid the sabre of honour won in some sanguinary fight. With traitors or other offenders, whose death he has once determined upon, he converses without manifesting a shade of angry or vengeful feeling. He regards himself as simply the instrument in the hands of a higher power, and holds, with the Sufis, that all his thoughts and decisions are the immediate inspiration of God. His eloquence is as fiery and persuasive as his ordinary manner is calm and commanding. ‘Flames sparkle from his eyes and flowers are scattered from his lips,’ said Bersek Bey, with whom Schamyl lived a few days after the taking of Akhulgo, when he resided for a time among the chiefs of the Dschighé and Ubiché tribes, in the hope of raising the Western Caucasians against the Russians." 8

Schmayl did not acquire his present exclusive rule without some difficulty. The revered Mollah Mohammed–the Samuel of the tribes–had died before the assassination of Hamsad Beg, and the choice of his successor, therefore, was necessarily left to the popular voice. For a long time Schamyl’s ascendancy was imperilled by Taschaw-Hadji, a chief of great influence, but the [502] latter gave his final adhesion and submission to Schamyl in 18.38. The division in the Caucasian camp was, however, while it lasted, of great service to the Russians. General von Rosen, when Hadji Murad applied for assistance, sent a column under the command of General Lasskoi, who possessed himself of Himri, but his further proceedings were stopped by Schamyl, who stormed the place and utterly defeated him. Klüke von Klügernau, an Austrian in the Russian service, hastened upon this, over the mountains from Temirchanschura with a considerable force, gathered together the remnants of Lasskoi’s army, and having formed a junction with Hadji Murad in Chunsach, conferred the Khanate of Avaria upon a son of Arslan Khan; and leaving a number of Russian posts in Avana, returned to Temirchanschura. During the seven years that Hadji Murad remained on their side, the Russians thus retained a means of access into Avaria which was of the utmost importance for their operations; and, in fact, the great contest between Schamyl and themselves was for the possession of that country. An expedition of Schamyl’s for this end in 1836, failed. In 1837, General Fesi, who had strongly fortified Chunsach, destroyed Akhulgo, a fortified aoul on the Koissu, which was defended by Ali Beg, one of the chief Murids, and besieged Schamyl himself in Tiletli,, a strong aoul in Gumbet. The Prophet, however, defended himself so well that the Russians could only obtain possession of one half of the aoul, and winter coming on, General Fesi offered terms, whereby, on Schamyl’s swearing fealty to the Emperor, he, on the other hand, promised to evacuate Avaria.

Schamyl, who fully holds the great Romanist doctrine, that no faith is to be held with infidels, and who, furthermore, firmly, believes that the Russians are not men at all, but ferce naturae, and half devils, professed himself ready to swear anything, provided only, that neither Murids nor Russians were witnesses. The new Khan of Avaria, Arslan Khan’s son, therefore, was deputed by the Russian general to meet Schamyl on the highest rock which separated the Russian from the Caucasian half of the aoul, and there the ceremony, regarded by both sides as a mere convenient sham, was gone through.

Bodenstedt amusingly illustrates the manner in which this affair was turned into a great victory by the Russians.

"General Fesi, who, as we have seen, could, by force of arms obtain no decisive advantage over Schamyl, would, without the convention, have been obliged, as the winter approached, to retreat with nothing done, and his report to the general commanding, in chief would, in a few words, have ran thus:–I have, in the course of this campaign possessed myself, at considerable sacrifices, of various fortified places and aouls, only, unfortunately, I have been obliged to give them up [503] for want of provisions and stores, lest I and my brave soIdiers should die of hunger or be cut off by the enemy, &c.

"This report, somewhat trimmed and sweetened, would have been sent by the commander-in-chief to Petersburg, and the Emperor would have frowned over it, and said:–"This General Fesi is a useless fellow who knows nothing of warfare; he must be pensioned off, or made curator at some university."

"And the general would have found himself obliged to begin a learned career in his old age. 9 This he avoided by his diplomatic dealings with Schamyl, which gave affairs quite another turn.

"In his report to the commander-in-chief, General Fesi thus states the results of the campaign of 1837–‘A fortress had been built in Chunsach; all Avaria pacified; a number of previously unconquered mountain tribes subjected; many aouls and fortified places destroyed; Tiletli taken by storm, and Schamyl so hard pressed that he swore peace and fealty to the Emperor for ever and ever’…

"So in Tiflis and Petersburg every one believed that Schamyl had submitted, and that Daghestan was ready to be annexed; and General Fesi, who had performed this fine service, was duly loaded with orders and praises."

Schamyl, on his side, issued a proclamation to the various tribes, a part of which we subjoin:–

"Ye have seen how small was the number of our warriors in comparison with the hosts of the enemy, and yet they gave way to us, for strength is with the believers. The Russians have taken Akhulgo and have raized its walls. Allah permitted this, to chastise you for your unbelief, for he knows what you think and all your projects. .But I mocked the power of our enemies, and drove them from Aschiltach, and smote them at Tiletli, and turned their efforts into shame. When after that the Pacha (General Fesi) with his great army drew near Tiletli to revenge the slain and when, in spite of our brave resistance, he succeeded in taking possession of half the aoul, so that day after day we looked for the last decisive battle, then suddenly, Allah lamed his arm and darkened his sight, so that he could not use his advantages, but hastened away by the same road as he came. No one drove our enemies save their evil consciences, for their unbelief made them fear, and they fled because they dare not stay within sight of the believers . . . . .

"The looks of the Russians are falsehood and their words are lies: we must destroy the works of their hands, and slay them wherever we .find them, in the house or in the field–by force or by cunning–-so that their swarms vanish from the face of the earth; for they multiply like lice, and are as poisonous as the snakes that crawl in the steppe Muhan. Ye have seen that the anger of God follows them."

The sole real advantage which the Russians derived from this campaign,. was a better knowledge of the country than they [504] previously possessed. On the other hand, not only did the most important mountain tribes, struck with admiration and fear of Schamyl, join his standard, but even his redoubtable rival, Taschaw-Hadji, proffered his submission to the Imam in the presence of the whole army. Through the entire year 1838, the Russians remained inactive, while Schamyl employed himself in extending and consolidating his power over the northern part of the Lesghian highlands–Andi, Gumbet, Koissubui, and Tchetchenia. Schmayl took care to develop still further than his predecessors, the vast means of influence afforded by the corps of Murids, the favoured disciples, who immediately surrounded his person. Soul and body, these enthusiasts were at the disposal of the Imam–and there was not a district represented by one or more of these energetic enthusiasts, who not only were the means of affording exact information on all points to their leader, but directly, or by means of their blood-relations, could exercise an important influence in the councils of every tribe. If any soul resisted persuasion, sooner or later the hand of Schamyl was upon them and their lands wasted, their flocks and herds driven away, they lamented their obduracy in the ashes of their dwellings.

The Imam now established his head quarters in the Aoul Akhulgo, a place built upon rocks, so inaccessible and whimsical in shape, that Bodenstedt calls them "a fantastical conception of the devil, which God had allowed him to hew out in stone to terrify mankind." Here Schamy1 accumulated provisions and ammunition. Taught by the effects of artillery, by which the high towers of ordinary aouls are rendered more formidable to their defenders than to any one else, and, it is said, assisted by Polish deserters, Schamyl fortified Akhulgo with trenches, earthen parapets and covered ways, and improved upon the ordinary construction of the sakhas, or stone huts of the country which are commonly half sunk in natural excavations, by converting those of Akhulgo into regular casemates.

The year 1838 was employed in these preparations unhindered by the Russians, but in 1839, the severest conflicts which had yet occurred between the Caucasians and their enemies took place. General Grabbe, an active officer, had succeeded to the command of the left flank of the army of the Caucasus, and determining to strike a decisive blow, concentrated a force of nine battalions with seventeen pieces of artillery, and marched to attack Akhulgo itself A diversion which was attempted by the Tchetchenian; failed, and Schamyl was defeated in endeavouring to make a stand at Burtanail, on the north side of the Andi range. The Russians crossed the latter, and Schamyl fought a second bloody battle, in which he lost fifteen hundred men, at Arguani, on the southern slope of Andi. Followed by the invaders, Schamyl now [505] over the Andi Koissu and shut himself up in Akhulgo, accompanied by all his chief Murids and followers. An attack on the rear of the Russian force by the renegade, Achwerdu Mohammed, was repulsed, and Akhulgo was closely invested by the Russians, who, at the same time, possessed themselves of the rich village of Tcherkei, at the mouth of the valley of the Koissu, and of the right bank of that liver. Akhulgo was invested on the 12th June, but it was not until the 16th July, that Grabbe, finding the defenders were not to be starved out, determined on storming the place. The storming party came back with a loss of two-thirds their number. The inflexible Grabbe, however, kept up a hotter fire than ever, and when Schamyl in despair offered to [re]treat, told him that he would only take his submission on condition of his own son being given as hostage of his sincerity.

Schamyl, who found he had no longer a General Fesi to deal with, carried the negotiation no further, but awaited the next assault, which took place on the 17th of August, when the Russians succeeded in. obtaining possession of the outworks of the fortress. For the ensuing four days, Akhulgo was a scene of horror. In a succession of attacks, the Russian soldiers displayed that ferocious bravery which they evince whenever sufficient blood has been shed to wash the serf out of their hearts–while the mountaineers, mad with rage and despair, and hopeless of life, made their last aim the destruction of as many as possible of the accursed Muscovites–the very women fighting like tigresses. A Russian eye-witness says:

Shortly before the end of the fight, following Captain (now Colonel) Schultz, the boldest among the brave, at the lead of the remains of my battalion, I climbed a steep ascent. The firing from above had ceased; the wind dispersed the dense clouds of smoke which, like a curtain, hung between us and the fortress, and over my head I saw a number of Circassian women standing on a little flat platform in the face of the rock. The closer and closer approach of our troops showed them too surely their fate, but determined not to fall alive into our hands they spent their last strength in destroying their enemies. Surrounded by the smoke, which grew clearer as we approached, they looked like avenging spirits born of the clouds, and scattering fear and destruction from the mountain side. In the heat of the fight, they had thrown off their upper garments, and their long, thick hair streamed in wild disorder over their half-bared necks and bosoms. With superhuman exertion, four of these women contrived to roll down a vast stone, which came thundering towards us, passing within a few feet of me, and crushing several of my soldiers. I saw a young woman, who till then had been, with fixed eves, a quiet spectator of the bloody tragedy suddenly grasp the little child that clung to her garments; I saw her dash its head to pieces against a projecting rock, and hurling [506] it, with a wild shriek, down the abyss, leap after it. Many of the other women followed her example." 10

Akhulgo was taken, but Schamyl was not to be found in it, dead or alive. The Russian officers, however, had seen him, surrounded by his Murids, in the thickest of the fight and knew he must be there. After awhile, intelligence was received that he and two or three of his Murids were concealed in a cave excavated in a face of the cliff overlooking, the Koissu, permitting of access only by a ladder, which they had drawn after them. A considerable body of men, horse and foot, was immediately set to watch the mouth of the cave, whence, on the first dark night, the guard observed a small raft of planks being very carefully lowered by a rope into the Koissu; a Murid followed, who, after appearing to look carefully in all directions, made a signal; then followed another; and at last came a third in the white garb of Schamyl. The raft was cut adrift, and the whole party dashed down the stream of the Koissu. In an instant, the Russians, who had carefully watched the whole proceedings, rushed upon them. The infantry fired from the bank, and the Cossack cavalry waded and swam their horses into the Koissu. The little crew of the raft after defending itself with tenacity, was soon cut and shot down; but when the Russians examined their corpses, Schamy1 was not there. While everyone’s attention had been drawn from the cave, he had lowered himself by the rope, and swimming the Koissu, had plunged into the forests of the opposite bank. The devotion of his Murids had saved the life and the cause of the prophet.

Fifteen hundred dead lay in the ruins of Akhulgo, and six hundred prisoners, mostly wounded, were taken by the Russians. Even Schamyl’s great heart appears to have given way under the weight of such calamities; for in September, we find him offering from his retreat in the forests of Itchkeria, on his own part and on that of Taschaw-Hadji and Schwaib Mollah, submission to the Russians, and willing to give two of his own sons as hostages in pledge of his sincerity. General Grabbe, however, refused to enter into any arrangement, unless Schamyl would consent to reside in some aoul named by him, and the negotiations ceased; the Russian, who does not seem to have properly understood Schamyl’s importance, contenting himself with setting a price of a hundred ducats on his head.

The taking of Akhulgo was the crisis of Schamyl’s fate. But an event which seemed utterly to annihilate his party, in reality served only to consolidate his power, and to render its foundation secure. The fifteen hundred slain in Akhulgo were the seeds of [507] so many blood-feuds between the Russians and every tribe in the Caucasus–the pledges of an unquenchable personal hatred, on the art of the mountaineers to the Muscovites for ever. The wanton brutality of the soldiers to the inhabitants, in their line of march, disgusted even those tribes who would have been willing to remain friendly; and all learned unmistakably what they had to expect from Russian rule. On the other hand, the skill and courage shown by Schamyl and his followers in the defence, and the severe losses which they inflicted upon the invaders, appealed to the inmost sympathies of the gallant Caucasians; while the escape of the Imam, the details of which he carefully kept secret, appeared, for the third time, to be due to nothing but the miraculous interference of Allah. Schamyl himself finding that no Courage could resist the "Czar’s pistols," as his people called the field-pieces, learnt to change his tactics and henceforward to confine himself to the guerilla warfare for which the country seems made. His wonderful energy soon revived the spirit of his people, and early in 1840, all Tchetchenia was in revolt again, even those chiefs who had served in the Russian army sending back the decorations which they had won, and renouncing their allegiance to the Russian Padischah.

The storming of Akhulgo, in fact, is the last real advantage of which the Russians have to boast. Schamyl, henceforward avoiding fortifications in the European style, set up his head-quarters at Dargo–an open aoul on the north-western flank of Andi, deep in the forests of Itclikeria. Here he organized a scheme of government, to which we shall advert presently and which converted the whole of Lesghistan and the greater part of Tchetcheniia into a vast military colony, and gave him the power of concentrating his forces upon a given point with the utmost ease. His system has been to avoid as much as possible coming into contact with the Russians in open ground; and, on the other hand, by terrible and unexpected razzias to check any disposition on the part of the border tribes to submit to the foreign rule. If the Russians make an expedition against him, he never opposes their entrance into the passes–no sign of life is, for the first day or two, to be seen in the mountains; but as the gorges narrow and the ground becomes more difficult, dropping shots from invisible enemies pick off the Russian officers. By degrees the dropping shots increase into a hot fire, and clouds of wild Lesghians and Tchetchenians, agile and surefooted as goats, hover behind trees and stones; the Russian skirmishers, heavily loaded, and unused to climbing, have no chance with them and are driven in. Then comes a charge. A small body of mountaineers, armed only with their schaskas, led by some white-turbaned Murid, dash madly against the solid wall of the advancing column. Nine [508] tenths of them are, of course, soon pinned down by the bayonets of their adversaries; but not before their sebaskas have been well -reddened in Muscovite blood. Harassed and discouraged by such unscientific proceedings as these, the invaders reach their bivouac–but not to rest. The energies of the enemy appear to increase tenfold at night: he is ubiquitous, and on all sides piquets are driven in, and incessant alarms destroy the possibility of sleep.

Following this plan, Schamyl, in 1842, bitterly revenged on Grabbe the defeat of Akhulgo. . The general, encouraged by his previous success, and wishing to justify his system of warfare to the Minister at War, Tschernicheff, who was about to visit the Caucasus, advanced with a large force through the forests of Itchkeria to attack Dargo itself. Schamyl allowed him to come within sigh of the aoul, and then upon his troops with such fury, that Grabbe made good his retreat to Gersel-aoul, whence he started, with great difficulty, leaving 2000 men and 36 officers to feed the wolves of the Caucasus. Prince Tschernicheff was at Gersel-aoul–where great preparations had been made to receive the victors–awaiting his arrival. Grabbe’s recall took place in the following year; but Schamyl held his own with equal energy against his successor, General Neidhardt, in 1844.

In 1845, the last great struggle between Schamyl and the Russians took place. The Czar, totally dissatisfied with the results of a war of twenty years, recalled Neidhardt, and nominated Count Woronzow, Governor of the Crimea, who had distinguished himself in that capacity, to the post of Governor-General of the Caucasian province;. The new Governor was’ invested with extraordinary powers–so great, indeed, that the Caucasians called him "the Russian half-king." Authority for life and death was given him over the inhabitants; he was empowered to remove or appoint officials up to the sixth grade, to bestow military rewards and distinctions without requiring the Emperor’s confirmation, and to order the trial of officers of every grade.

Greatly, as it is said, against his own judgment, but in accordance with express orders from St. Petersburg, Woronzow undertook, in 1845, to achieve the object in which Grabbe had failed in 1842, and to avenge the losses then suffered by the Russian army. Assembling a force of 10,000 men, he started from Wnessapnaia, through the gorge of the Koissu, intending to march along the eastern flank of Andi, and keeping the communication in the rear open by means of a chain of posts in Gumbel and Ssolo-Tau, to cross Andi, descending upon the aoul Dargo on its western flank, and then returning through Itchkeria. He was allowed to take possession of the pass of Retschel, which separates Gumbel [509] from Itchkeria, without any serious opposition, but as his vanguard moved into the dense beech-forests of Itchkeria, Schamyl’s skirmishers were upon them. As the Russian officer quoted by Wagner says–"They did not burn much powder, but their aim was sure, and almost every shot hit its man." At intervals were barricades of felled trees, which had to be stormed with the bayonet, and the ground was altogether .so difficult that the troops did not advance more than a mile an hour. Dargo was at length reached, but as the army approached, columns of smoke rose from its saklias: Schamyl had collected all the straw, wood, and corn he could find into the houses and set them in flames; and the bivouac fire of the Russian head-quarters was made of the stilt burning rafters of his residence.

Woronzow had indeed taken possession of Dargo, but that did not avail him much. Schamyl cannonaded his camp from a neighbouring height and was only dislodged by a sharp attack at the -point of the bayonet. In the meanwhile, the Russian provisions ran short, and Klüke von Klügenau was despatched, with a strong detachment, back over the pass of Retschel, for fresh stores. The cunning Schamyl opposed no great obstacle to the going of the column, but on its return with a large convoy, the onslaught of the mountaineers, urged by hatred of the Russians and love of plunder, was fearful. The Russian officer writes–

Up to this time, the mountaineers had usually confined themselves to keeping up a well-directed fire; but having been joined in the meanwhile by the rapacious tribes of Lesghistan and of Great-Tchetchenia, they now threw themselves on the unfortunate column with schaska and kinschal. Perhaps the revenge for blood mainly excited them, for they had suffered severe losses in the course of the previous days, and every fallen Caucasian has his avengers, who, according to old custom, dare not rest until the death of an enemy has atoned for that of their brother or friend; but it is probable that they were still more strongly actuated by a desire to acquire the stores and the animals which carried them. Officers who accompanied this unhappy column assure me that the enemy never before exhibited such fury and courage. They burst in dense masses through the skirmishers, and dashed upon the column. Schamyl–with his Murids who always form the strength of his army–led the attack in person. Two of our bravest generals, Wiktoroff and Passek, died the death of heroes, not Eke General Fock, some days before, in a shower of bullets, but pierced by Caucasian swords: even they were forced into the general mélée. Their corpses were left behind in the forest, though perhaps we may by and bye succeed in purchasing them from the enemy for honourable burial in a Russian fort. When General Klüke saw the impossibility of defending the convoy, he sacrificed a part of it, and a cannon was also left behind. The column was concentrated, in order better to [510] oppose the enemy; but a part of the light troops fell into an ambush in executing this movement; for the enemy had taken prisoner a Russian trumpeter whom they forced to sound in the depths of the wood, so that many of the skirmishers followed the false direction. The column reached Dargo in a sad condition, having left 1300 men in the woods. The column carried off many wagons and more than three hundred laden mules and horses."

Woronzow staid a week in Dargo, and then set out to return by the way along which Grabbe had advanced. Schamyl treated him as he had Kldke von Khigenau, and the army was reduced to so miserable a condition that the Count found it impossible to advance further, and halted in the aoul Schaugal. Here he would infallibly have ended his days, with all his half-starved army, but Russian gold won over two Tchetchenians to carry despatches to General Freitag in Gersel-aoul; and the latter advancing, at the head of 6000 men, to Woronzow’s assistance, extricated him from his dangerous position, and the column reached Gersel-aoul in a pitiable state, with a loss of 3000 men.

The Russian accounts celebrate this "capture of Dargo," as a great victory, and Woronzow was made a Prince for his services, but one thing is certain, that in a personal interview with the Emperor, in the Crimea, towards the end of 1846, the Prince explained, in the strongest terms, the inexpediency of winning any more such victories, and endeavoured to obtain the Czar’s sanction to a totally different plan of operations. Overruled, however, by the imperial commands, Woronzow was, in 1846, preparing a new expedition, when Schamyl performed an exploit more brilliant even than any which had distinguished his arms. With an army of more than 10,000 horse and foot, he burst into Kabardah, treating with utter contempt the line of fortresses of the Sundscha .in his rear, stormed the Stanitza Uruch, laid waste the Russianized villages of the Kabardah, and forced multitudes of its inhabitants to join his standard. He then besieged for six days Naltschik, the chief fort of the centre of the army of the Caucasus, and though he did not reduce the place, the whole country round was ravaged and plundered. The Russians hastened to the defence of Naltschik; and Schamyl, finding his movements encumbered by his infantry, dispersed them in the forests, but with his fine cavalry carried fire and sword to the gates of Jekaterinograd. Laden with enormous booty, his host now turned their horses’ heads homewards, crossed the Terek and Ssundcha, and were back in their forests before the astounded Russians had well made up their minds what to do. As may be imagined, no expedition was undertaken that year. Nor have the efforts of the Russians since extended to more than the re-establishment of communications interrupted from time to time by Schamyl’s incursions.

[511] It is very difficult to arrive at any clear idea of what has occurred in the Caucasus within the last five or six years ; but it would appear that Schamyl again broke through the fortresses of the line and devastated Kabardah, both in 1848 and 1850 ; while M. Taillandier, 11 writing in 1853, states on the authority of an officer of the army of the Caucasus, that the Russians had just suffered a sanguinary defeat at the hands of Schamyl, who had carried off considerable artillery stores, and reconquered eight leagues of territory; where, is not stated. However, as our purpose is not a history of the war in the Caucasus, but the illustration of the character and influence of Schamyl, the incompleteness of our information is of no great importance. Enough has been said to show that to the most heroic courage and endurance he joins military abilities of the highest order.

But it is not alone on these grounds that the Prophet-Warrior claims our admiration. Of a mob of scattered tribes, divided by innumerable feuds, he has made a nation capable of the most complete unity of action, and animated by one faith; and his genius as a law-giver is as pre-eminent as his religious enthusiasm. With a strong hand he has swept away all the old boundaries of race and tribe, however consecrated by tradition, and has completely reorganized the country over which he rules. It is divided into twenty districts, each of which is governed by an officer termed a Naib, whose business is to preserve order; to superintend the proper raising of taxes and recruits; to limit and control disputes and blood-feuds; and to see that the Scharyat is strictly fulfilled. Every five of these districts, again, are under the superintendence of a Governor, uniting within himself the spiritual and temporal power, and answerable to Schamyl alone, who allows to certain of his favourites only, absolute power over life and death; while the others must refer to himself in such cases. Each Naib has a deputy or coadjutor. In every aoul there is a Cadi or Elder, whose duty it is to make regular reports to his Nalb of all important occurrences, and to carry out the orders which he may receive from him, while the local Mollah has the spiritual care of the aoul. Every man capable of bearing arms has right of access to his Cadi or Naib at a fixed time of the day, when audiences are held and business transacted. Rapid communication through all parts of the country is ensured by a sort of flying post. In each aoul several swift horses are kept saddled and bridled, and when a state messenger arrives, bearing a passport sealed by the Naib of the district, it is the business of the Cadi to furnish him instantly with a fresh horse and a guide to the next post. In this way [512] Schamyl’s messages and orders are transmitted with incredible swiftness.

The standing army of five or six thousand men is thus kept up: every ten houses of an aoul must maintain a warrior, one house providing the man, and the other nine his horse, accoutrements, and support. The family to which he belongs is, so long as he is alive, free of all taxes. but he must never be without his arms, and must be ready, day and night, to march at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, every male from fifteen to fifty is liable to be called out for the defence of his aoul, or, in extraordinary cases, to the general army; and in the latter case, each horseman of ten houses commands the men of those houses

Schamyl’s body guard is composed of a selection from the Murids, and its members are called Murtosigators. Only the hottest enthusiasts among the Murids, men of whose entire devotion Schamyl is well assured, are chosen for this post which is considered among the Caucasians to be in the highest degree honourable. The prophet puts the most implicit confidence in those whom he has once selected, and they on the other hand renounce every tie, and place their lives in his hand. If unmarried, they must remain so; and if married, they must strictly avoid their families during their period of service. Like Schamyl himself, they must live frugally, and carry out the Scharyat to the very letter. They wear peculiar insignia, and receive regular pay, with a share of all spoils; there are usually about one thousand of them, five hundred of whom always surround Schamyl’s person–access to which is very difficult. In time of peace, the Mustosigators are Schamyl’s apostles, and. considerable sums are placed at their disposal for the carrying out of their propaganda. At the same time, they form a most efficient body of police, whose accusations might at once destroy the most powerful Naib. In war, they constitute the heart of Schamyl’s troops and the terror of the Russians, who have never yet succeeded in taking one alive.

At first, Schamyl had no revenue but what was derived from his razzias; but, at present, all the tribes pay a yearly tithe, and if any slain warrior leaves no direct heir, his property goes to the state. Schamyl has also confiscated what might be called church property of Lesghistan, consisting in the gifts of the pious to the mosques and shrines; the Mollahs receive in exchange regular pay, and the wandering dervishes, who lived on these gifts, have been either incorporated with the army or driven away.

Schamyl’s financial rule is ordinarily distinguished by extreme economy and he is said to possess large concealed treasures–but if a valorous action is to be rewarded, or a hostile tribe won over, he will expend great sums. He has instituted a regular [513] system of decorations, consisting of medals, epaulettes, and stars; while, on the other hand. his criminal code contains a no less exactly proportioned series of punishments, from the rag tied round the right arm, which is the stigma affixed to the coward–to decapitation, shooting, and stabbing to death. A stern and even-handed justice characterizes all Schamyl’s judgments and he would long since, like Hamsad Beg, have fallen a victim to the blood-feuds thus created against himself, were it not for the watchful devotion of his body-guard, the Murtosigators, who constantly surround him in public. The Imam gave once in his own person a frightful earnest of his determination to know no distinction of persons among the violators of his laws. Early in his career, he made a solemn vow that he would put to death whoever, under any circumstances, proposed to him submission to the Giaour. The people of Tchetchenia were well acquainted with the Imam’s oath; but in 1843 finding themselves threatened on all sides by the Russians, and at the same time left without aid by Schamyl, who was otherwise occupied, they in despair sent messengers to the latter, begging him either to help them, or to allow them to submit, The office of the envoys was regarded as so hazardous, that their selection was made by the lot. It fell upon four men of the Aoul Gunoi, who accordingly set out upon their mission. Before reaching Dargo, Schamyl’s residence, however, the prospect of success appeared so slight, and the consequences of failure so appalling, that they determined to "eke the lion’s with the fox’s skin," and without making any direct proposition to Schamyl himself, to endeavour to influence him through his aged mother, the Khaness, who was known to possess great influence over her son, and at the same time to be, like all the mountaineers, by no means insensible to money. A large bribe engaged the Khaness to undertake the dangerous task; and in a private interview she opened the matter to the Imam. What occurred between mother and son is unknown, but when the men of Gunoi anxiously inquired the result of the negotiation, the Khaness, pale and trembling could only tell them that her son had determined to inquire of Allah concerning their request–and even as they spoke, it was proclaimed that the Imam had shut himself in the mosque, and commanded that all the people should gather about it and remain fasting and praying till he re-appeared. Three days and nights, it is said, did. Schamyl remain invisible, the prostrate multitude without, rising higher and higher in fanatical exaltation, as their bodily frames became exhausted. On the fourth morning, Schamyl appeared on the flat roof of the mosque, surrounded by his Murids. All viewed with dismay his usually impassive countenance, distorted and changed by the traces of some past [514] inward agony. After an interval of profound silence, he directed the nearest Murids to bring his mother into his presence, and when she had arrived, he thus addressed the people:–The will of the Prophet of Allah be done! People of Dargo, the Tclietchenes have dared to think of yielding to the Giaour, and have even ventured to send messengers hoping for my consent. The messengers, conscious of their sin, dared not appear before my faces but have tempted the weakness of my unhappy mother to be their mediator. For her sake, I have ventured, aided by your prayers, to ask the will of Mohammed the Prophet of Allah and that will is, that the first who spoke to me of this matter shall be punished with a. hundred blows of the heavy whip. It was my mother!"

With these words, Schamyl signed to his Murids, who seized the venerable old Khaness, and bound her to one of the pillars of the mosque. At the fifth blow, she sank dead. Schamyl, with a wild outburst of grief, threw himself at her feet; but suddenly rising again, cried solemnly–"God is great, and Mohammed is his prophet! he hath heard my prayer, and I may take upon myself the remainder of my mother’s expiation!" With that, stripping off his upper garments, he commanded the Murids to inflict the remaining ninety-five blows upon his own back. The punishment fulfilled, Schamyl gave orders that the envoys of the Tschetcheues, terror-stricken witnesses of the preceding scene, should be brought into his presence. The ready Murids half drew their schaskas, but Schamy1 raising the men of Gunoi from the ground on which they had cast themselves in an agony of fear, said only, in his calm, impassive way–"Go back to your people; and’ for my answer, tell them what you have seen to day."

Schamyl is simple and abstemious in the extreme in his personal habits. Contenting himself with a few hours’ sleep, he sometimes spends night after night in prayer and watching without showing the least symptoms of weariness. Not yet sixty, he is full of life and vigour; though at present he takes an active share in the war only rarely, and on great occasions. He lives in Dargo, where he has caused the enemy’s deserters to build him a two-storied house in the Russian fashion, and is said to have three wives, the chief of whom is an Armenian of great beauty.

Once, or at most twice, in the year, the Imam retires to some remote cave, or shuts himself up in his most private apartments, and a strong cordon of watchful Murtosigators prevents any person whatever from having access to him. In this solitude he spends three weeks–fasting, praying, and reading the Koran. On the evening of the last day of his seclusion, the principal [515] Mollahs and Murids, accompanied by a host of pilgrims, gathered in high expectation about the holy place, are summoned to meet him. He tells them that Mahommed has appeared to him in the form of a clove, revealing the mysteries of the faith, laying upon him such and such commands, and encouraging him to persevere in the holy war. Then showing himself to the throng without, he addresses them with the eloquence for which he is famed, rousing to the highest pitch their religious devotion and their hatred against the Muscovites. The whole assembly now joins in a solemn hymn. The men draw their schaskas, renew their oath to defend the faith and to destroy the Russians, and then disperse, shouting "God is great! Mahommed is his first prophet, and Schamyl his second!"

The total population of the Caucasus does not exceed a million and a half, and Schamyl’s rule does not extend over more than 600,000 souls. The force under his command at any time, even taking the Russian accounts, has never surpassed 20,000 men.

In the last ten years the Russian army of the Caucasus has consisted of more than 150,000 men, provided with every appliance of modern warfare, flanked right and left by sea-coasts commanded by their own cruisers, and directed by a government utterly regardless of human life. Fevers and Caucasian bullets are said to cost the Russians 20,000 men yearly; and when the Czar sends a political offender into the ranks of the recruits for the Caucasus, he does not expect to see him again. The Russian ordnance accounts for the year 1840, show an expenditure of 11,344 artillery cartridges, and 1,206,575 musket cartridges! There has, therefore, been no parsimony in the conduct of the war; but it must, nevertheless, be confessed that Prince Woronzow 12 is considerably further from the subjugation of the [516] Caucasus than his predecessors, Jermoloff and Grabbe. The latter had allies, and even out-posts, in Avaria; but since his "Conquest" of Dargo, in 1845, Woronzow has not dared to invade the highlands of Lesghistan, and even experiences considerable difficulty in preserving intact the line of communication through Kasi-Kninuck, between Cis- and Trans-Caucasia.

On the line of the kuban, matters appear at present to be in the same state as at any time these thirty years. On the south face of the Western Caucasus, however, Woronzow had apparently, up to the outbreak of the present war, prospered better, the Abhasians being tolerably quiet, and even acknowledging the nominal sovereignty of Russia, but their fidelity was only retained at the price of constant presents and concillatory measures, one of which was the removal of the restrictions on the slave-trade. If, however, the intelligence in the Tintes of February 14th last, that almost all Abhasia had pronounced in Schamyl’s favour, be correct, the sterling results of the prince’s diplomacy would not seem to be great.

The people of the Caucasus are said to have a legend that some day a powerful Sultan will arise in the West, and finally deliver them from the hands of the Muscovite padishah; and it would, indeed, seem that the time has now arrived for the Western Powers seriously to consider how far it may be both their duty and their interest to aid a nation, led by one who might worthily take his stand beside our own Cromwell, in its struggle for that freedom it has shown itself so well qualified

Let us not, however, be misunderstood to join in the vulgar cry against the aggressive propensities of a great nation, whether Russia or any other. The maintenance of the much-lauded "Balance of Power," an admirable aim so far as it acts as a check upon mere selfish aggrandizement, is only the negative side of international morality, and can no more constitute the foundation of national virtue, than the determination to abstain from evil can, as a principle of action, supply the place of the love of [517] good in private morality. The aggression of a nation of higher social organization upon those of lower grade with which it may come into contact, whether by force of arms or otherwise, is not only an invariable and necessary fact, but one of the duties of nations, and one of the most essential conditions of human progress. That a nation has extended its frontiers from Prussia to China and from Norway to Persia, in itself seems to us no ground of reprobation. Nor can we object that Russia, brutal, enslaved, and corrupt as she is, when compared with the Western nations, should have extended her iron disciplilne over the wandering hordes of purposeless robbers and murderers who have roamed and pillaged at will over the Great Steppes. Order and organization, however imperfect, are better than anarchy; and so long as the Muscovite Czars were employed in bringing Tartars and Calmucks under government, Europe could but cry God-speed! to the backwoodsmen of her civilization; nor could she be so ungrateful as to look too closely into what ulterior dreams they may have entertained.

But it must not be forgotten, that that kind of influence which would make a Calmuck a better man might be pollution and degradation to Gaul or Anglo-Saxon; and twice within the last fifty years we have seen these rough pioneers, drunken with success and forgetful of their true mission, turning their axes against peoples of a nobler race, and having a higher organization than their own. Europe has stood by while the faith of Poland was supplanted by the grovelling idolatry of the Greco-Russian church, and has beheld unmoved, the constitutional liberties of Hungary trodden under the heels of the drilled forgats of Russia.

At this moment, the fate of the third and last great nationality which stands between Russia and her practical dominion over the whole of Eastern Europe and of Western Asia depends on the Western Powers. Will they once more refuse to see the true bearings of the question? Will they check and balance and hesitate, each jealous of the other, or will they gird on their armour, exulting that so righteous an occasion is offered them of retrieving past errors, and relegating the black and double-faced eagle to the wastes, where his claws may find exercise advantageous to humanity, instead of, at present, retarding of its progress?

For once, political expediency and plain moral duty are agreed; and the late deeds of the Turkish army on the banks of the Danube do but confirm the moral of Schamyl’s history, showing as it does what youthful vigour there is yet in Islam, and how much nobler is the nationality of the free Caucasian than that of the slavish Russ, at heart a savage, but knouted into order, chicaned into obedience, and whitewashed over with an outward semblance of civilization.

[518] It is not for us in this place to discuss what should be done for European Turkey, but a glance at the map is sufficient to show that, so far as the Caucasus is concerned, England must be utterly blind to her own interests if she fail to support Schamyl to the uttermost, or if she conclude a peace which shall leave the Russians in possession of Georgia. Whatever European power rules over Georgia commands the whole commerce of Central Asia and her influence must be predominant in Persia, and over the tribes north of Indus. The Russian government knows this right well; but there have been other and still more powerful motives for its annexation of the Georgian provinces. Its policy, says an able writer in the "British and Foreign’ Quarterly Review" (No. XIV., Oct. 1838)

"Has a twofold object,–the creation of a manufacturing industry which shall make her independent of other countries, and particularly England, and the establishment of her dominion in Asia, whence she expects, not unreasonably, to derive enormous advantages. She considers her Trans-Caucasian possessions, as is expressed in the project’ of her Minister of Finance which we have mentioned, as a colony which is to supply her with the raw material necessary for her manufactures, and at the same time open a profitable market for the produce of those manufactures. Some people may sneer at the idea of Russia’s making a flourishing and profitable colony of her Trans-Caucasian possessions; but we suspect that, with such capabilities as these regions possess, a little assistance, or even the removal of the intolerable burdens which now grind down their natural energies, would produce the most brilliant results."

Again, by the treaty of Turkmanschai, the Russians became possessed of Echmiadzin, the Rome of the Armenians, and the Czar now nominates the Patriarch of that church, whose members are spread all over Persia, Turkey, and India. Their abilities and wealth very commonly render them persons of great influence, and Russia does not fail to make use of the means thus offered of extending her authority still further.

Georgia has never been able to defend herself against the Persians on the one hand, or the Russians on the other, and fifty years of Russian domination are not likely to have improved her capabilities for self- government. But there is no reason why, the Russians once driven out, the Western Powers should not raise the country between the Caucasus and the frontiers of Turkey into a Protectorate. Schamyl, of whose co-operation they might be well assured, backed by a fleet in the Black Sea, and secure that the Porte would always leave the passage of the Dardanelles open to the ships of war and to the commerce of such a powerful ally against the Russians–the protectors of the Georgian provinces might [519] not only feel safe against all Russian attacks, but by fitting out a fleet upon the western shores of the Caspian to communicate with the eastern, and by throwing open their ports in the Black Sea to all nations, they might at a blow annihilate the influence Russia in Persia, and divert the whole stream of her present commerce into those channels which brought their riches to the Emperors of Byzantium.13

1 Dr. Latham and other high authorities, however, consider that the people of the Caucasus are one race, whose affinities are demonstrated by their language to be with the Tibetans.

2 Not Dargo in Tchetchenia, Schamyl’s seat, but Dargo in Kaitach.

3 An exceedingly clear and excellent account of the progress of the Russian empire in this: direction, and said to be, the work of an eminent diplomatist.

4 In fact, they baptized, according to the returns, six times as many proselytes as there were Ossetians; the secret being that each proselyte received something more substantial than a blessing in the shape of a piece of money and a shirt, and that the effects of conversion were not sufficient to enable the priests to distinguish those who had already been converted from genuine neophytes. So the pious Ossetians, thinking it impossible to have too much of a good thing, presented themselves six or eight times over for baptism.

5 His name, Todleben, might have been an augury to the Georgiaus of their future "Death-in-life" under Russian rule, if they had but understood German.

6 According to the latest intelligence (Marseilles, 7th March) the Khan of Khiva had been forced to take refuge in Bokhara, where he was summoning all the neighbouring khans to join in resistance to Russia.

7 Swords of the Caucasus.

8 Bodenstedt, p. 416.

9 Almost all the curators of universities and directors of gymnasia in Russia are invalid generals and colonels.

10 Bodenstedt, pp. 449, 450.

11 See his article, "La Guerre du Caucase," in the "Revue des deux Mondes," Nov. 1853.

12 It is but fair to the Russian commanders, however, to notice the obstacle which is presented to their plans by the disgracefully corrupt practices of all Russian officials. It was on this ground that the Emperor Nicholas, during, his visit to the Caucasus, in 1837, degraded with his own hands Prince Dadian, the son-in-law of General Rosen, the then commander-in-chief; and it, is said that Prince Woronzow has degraded hundreds of officials for venal practices. Mr. Oliphant, in his interesting work,, "The Russian Shores of the Black Sea," is in agreement with every traveller whose works we have read, in saying that:–

"In addition to the natural impediments presented by the configuration of the country, the absence of roads, and the rigour of the climate, all military operations are crippled by that same system of wholesale corruption so successfully carried on in the naval department; indeed, it would be most unfair if one service monopolized all the profits arising from this source. The accounts I received of the war in the Caucasus, from those who had been present, exceeded anything of the sort I could have conceived possible. The frightful mortality among the troops employed there amounts to nearly twenty thousand annually. Of these, far the greater part fall victim to disease and starvation, attributable to the rapacity of their commanding officers, who trade in the commissariat so extensively that they speedily acquire large fortunes. As they are subject to no control in their dealings with contractors for supplying their requirements, there is nothing to check the ardour of speculation; and the profits enjoyed the colonel of a regiment are calculated at 3000 to 4000 a year besides his pay. It is scarcely possible to apprehend at a glance the full effect of a process so paralysing to the thews and sinews of war, or at once to realize the fact, that the Russian army, numerically so superior to that of any European power, and supplied from sources which appear inexhaustible, is really in a most inefficient condition, and scarcely worthy of the exaggerated estimate which the British public seems to have formed of its capabilities."–p. 262.

13 Among the works whose titles we have prefixed to this article, those of Moritz Wagner and of Bodenstedt, must be regarded as the most important, inasmuch as they are founded upon direct knowledge of the Caucasian country and people, and contain much information supplied to the travellers themselves by Russian eye-witnesses of the facts. Wagner’s book is particularly interesting, as the author had already travelled in Algeria, and could compare the struggle of the French with the Kahyles, with that going on in the Caucasus; and it contains, in addition, an exceedingly graphic picture of the Crimea, and of the Cossacks of the Line. Bodenstadt, on the other hand, has furnished us with the fullest picture of the eastern Caucasians. The articles in the appendix to the Conversations Lexicon, "Die Gegenwart," are also very good, and appear to be derived from original sources, which is a great deal more than we can say for the pamphlet fifth on our list, and just published. The admirable essay on "The Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East," has already been noticed with the praise it deserves. Ivan Golovin’s book, compiled from various sources, which he mentions, is the only one in English, from which even the most meagre account of Schamyl and his battles may be gathered. Written by a Russian exile, the style of the book is somewhat un-English, but readers unacquainted with German will find in it much valuable and interesting information. We are greatly indebted to Prof. Koch for his large and excellent map, without which we should have found it exceedingly difficult to understand the nature of Caucasian warfare.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University