21 MayResearchAcademic studiesWar and genocide2009 | Henze, Circassian Resistance to Russia

Paul B. Henze 
Circassian Resistance to Russia, ‘The North Caucasus Barrier’, edited by Marie Bennigsen Broxup, Hurst & CO.  2009.

The long struggle of the North Caucasian Mountaineers against Russia in the mid-nineteenth century attracted broad European sympathy and admiration. Among prominent writers who championed the cause of the Caucasian Muslims we find Karl Marx, whose writings about this and other freedom struggles of subject peoples in the Russian empire, such as the Poles, were a constant source of embarrassment to the Soviets. Marx and even professional historians described the struggle primarily in terms of the leadership and personality of the Imam Shamil. Shamil is unquestionably one of the most colourful and effective anti-colonial resistance leaders of the nineteenth century.

The late-twentieth century resurgence of Islam as a dynamic political force in many parts of the world, including the Soviet empire, has generated new interest in Shamil's religious motivation and techniques of leadership. But Shamil is only part of the history of North Caucasian resistance. His successes were all in the eastern Caucasus. The resistance of the Circassians in the western Caucasus is at least as significant began earlier, lasted longer and ended more disastrously for those who were fighting to defend their freedom.

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