The Balkars. Broadcast of the series 'Peoples of Russia'

The Balkars. Broadcast of the series 'Peoples of Russia'

The Turkic-speaking Balkars are one of the most alpine people among the Caucasian peoples. They occupy the canyons and foothills of the Central Caucasus along the river valleys of the Malka, Baksan, Chegem, Cherek and their tributaries. The territory of Balkaria is rich with mountains, forests, fertile valleys and alpine meadows.

 

The number of Balkars in Russia, according to the 2010 census, is 143,000 people. A certain number of Balkars live in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where they were sent as a result of Stalin's deportations. Balkars live in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, in Europe and America, where there are the descendants of the Muhajirs who left the North Caucasus in the XIX century.

 

The first mention of the ethnonym "Balkar" can be found in the IV century in Latin in an anonymous chronograph of 354 by March Abas Katya, the Rhethor chronicle of the VI century, the Shirakatsy Armenian geography of the VII century. In Russian documents the earliest references to the Balkars refers to the 1629-th year. In Georgian sources of the XIV-XVII centuries the Balkars are known as the Basians. Ossetians called them the Ases, Georgians - the Swann-Sauary, or mountaineers.

 

In 1657, Taube ("Mountain Prince") Aydabolov, together with the Embassy of the king of Kakheti, Teimuraz I, and representatives of other mountain communities of the Central Caucasus went to Moscow, where he was met in the Palace of Facets, generously endowed with sable fur by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and stayed there for about a year. Apparently, Aydabolov’s mission was to find ways to include Balkaria in the Russian sphere of influence. Later, some Balkarian communities repeatedly asked the Russian administration in the Caucasus to do that.

 

The Balkars officially entered Russia in 1827, when a delegation from all their societies petitioned Stavropol about acceptance of Russian citizenship on the condition they preserve their social class structure, ancient customs, the sharia court and the Muslim religion.

 

The leading branch of the traditional economy of the Balkars is distant-pasture cattle - sheep and cattle, goats, horses. They are also engaged in terraced mountain plow agriculture - barley, wheat, oats, from the end of the XIX century - potatoes and vegetable plants.

 

Homemade crafts include felt making, cloaks, leather and wood, salt production, extraction of sulfur and lead, manufacture of gunpowder and bullets. Of great importance were hunting and beekeeping.

 

The Islamization of the Balkars began in the XVII century, but in the XIX century their beliefs were a complex synthesis of Christianity, Islam and pre-Christian traditions (belief in Teyri). Belief in magic was maintained, along with sacred trees, stones. Currently, most Balkars are Sunni Muslims.

 

Traditional dishes of the Balkars are boiled and fried meat, dried sausage made from raw meat and fat (kyyma), fermented milk (ayran), different kinds of cheese. Popular flour dishes are unleavened cakes (gyrzhyn) and cakes (hychyn) with various fillings, fried or baked, soup with meat broth (shorpa), among sweets there are different kinds of halva. Celebratory drinks are Bosa and beer, which is called the sira, the everyday drink is tea of the Caucasian rhododendron.

 

The program has been prepared with the assistance of the History Faculty of Moscow State University and the information portal Vestnik Kavkaza.

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