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Luigi Villari

FIRE AND SWORD IN THE CAUCASUS


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CHAPTER I

THE CAUCASUS, ITS PEOPLES, AND ITS HISTORY

THE history of Russia has been a series of expansions to the west, the south, and the east, towards the open sea. Each territory occupied was, sooner or later, absorbed into the Empire of which it became in every way an integral part. The fact that Russia was not separated from her colonial possessions by the sea made the process of absorption easier, and the line of demarcation between the mother-country and her colonies is therefore less definite than in the case of Britain or France. Moreover, the fact that the Empire has hitherto been governed despotically made the question of the forms of government to be adopted in the various provinces less important than it is in constitutionally governed States. The general aim of the ruling classes has been to assimilate as far as possible every part of the Empire, from Poland to the Pacific Ocean and from the Arctic Sea to Mount Ararat. Yet as a matter of fact the conditions are very different, and while we have a central mass of Russian-speaking peoples, numbering more than half the entire population of the Empire and inhabiting a vast, monotonous

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zone of plains, on the borders there are provinces as different from Russia proper and from each other as any in the dominions of England. Of all these border-lands, none exceeds in interest that region known as the Caucasus. Its giant mountains, its magnificent scenery, its rich and varied vegetation, its extraordinary collection of different races, speaking countless languages, and representing almost every branch of the human family, its strange history and the beautiful monuments of its art, make of it a wonderland of romance, exercising a fascination on all who visit it.

Caucasia is a broad isthmus between the Black Sea and the Caspian, traversed by a great chain of mountains rising to a height of 18,000 feet. North of the range is a region of interminable plains, known as the Northern Caucasus, or Ciscaucasia, merging imperceptibly into the steppes of the Don and the Volga. Southwards is Transcaucasia, a semi-tropical country intersected by many smaller ranges of mountains, of which the most important are the so-called Anti-Caucasus and the Armenian group. The Caucasus divides Europe from Asia as by a great barrier of ice and snow and rock ; at no other point are the two continents so sharply separated. Yet historically and ethnographically the separation is not so absolute as it appears. The barrier, like other mountain chains, has not proved an insuperable one, and Asiatics have poured across it into Europe from time immemorial, and Europeans have entered Asia by the same route; at the same time some Western elements have come to the Caucasus by sea or overland through Asia Minor,

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and Eastern peoples have penetrated from the north to the south. The two continents overlap, as it were, and we find Christian races of Indo-European stock south of the mountains, and Moslem Turanians in the northern steppes; sedentary and civilized peoples in Asia, barbarian nomads in Europe. But geographically the character of the two regions is quite distinct; the Northern Caucasus is a continuation of the great plains of Russia, while the fertile valleys of western Transcaucasia and the arid deserts of the eastern provinces are redolent of the Asiatic East. In the north the chief rivers are the Terek and the Kuban, while in Transcaucasia the principal streams flowing into the Black Sea are the Rion (the ancient Phasis) and the Ingur, and into the Caspian flows the Kura, with its tributary the Araxes. The watershed separating the tributaries of these two streams marks the division of Transcaucasia into a western and an eastern province.

The natural resources of the Caucasus are enormous, and hitherto little more than tapped ; under an orderly and progressive government it would be one of the richest countries in the world, and as it is it offers a striking contrast to the blighted lands beyond the Turkish frontier. Every kind of cereal and vineyards flourish on both sides of the range, and Transcaucasia—the Colchis of the ancients—produces, in addition, fruit of all sorts, tobacco, cotton, tea, and other tropical plants in abundance. Immense tracts of virgin forest cover a large part of Georgia, as well as the slopes of the Caucasus, ill-preserved and neglected, but still of immense value. Besides agricul-

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tural wealth, the mountains teem with precious minerals ; coal exists in Georgia and in the Kuban territory, and the manganese mines of Chiatury, near Kutais, produce half the world's supply of that mineral ; the Elizavetpol mountains are rich in copper, and those of Armenia in salt. Most important of all are the vast oil-fields of Baku, producing 600,000,000 puds of naphtha per annum, and other smaller fields are beginning to be developed.

But the political disorders to which the country has been a prey since the earliest beginnings of history—wars, revolutions, and brigandage—have impeded its development. Even under the aegis of Russian rule, when the land should have developed at all events as much as Poland or Central Russia, the troubles continued and progress has been slow. Nor has the administration done all that it might have done to promote the welfare of the country. The few roads are ill-kept and allowed to fall into disrepair; there are only two or three lines of railway, badly managed and insufficient; the public services are disorganized ; public safety is a thing unknown. Trade has been hampered by vexatious fiscal regulations, and the influx of foreign capital is discouraged. Education has been neglected, and where the natives provided their own, actually hindered, so that the ignorance of large parts of the country is greater even than in Russia. In fact, in spite of certain elements of civilization, the Caucasus has remained for the most part a very barbarous land. Its mountainous nature and the savage character of many of the peoples inhabiting it are in part, no doubt, responsible for

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this state of things ; but Russia's efforts to dominate rebellious nature and rebellious man have not proved adequate to the task.

More interesting than its geographical features and material resources are the peoples of the Caucasus. In no other region of its size in the world are there so many different races and languages. Macedonia contains seven or eight nationalities, but in comparison with the Caucasus, with its fifty or sixty, it is but a poorly-stocked ethnographical museum. Since the earliest times this country has been famous as a meeting-place of many races and many tongues. Strabo tells us that there were seventy different peoples in the Caucasus; Pliny, with greater exaggeration, says that three hundred languages were spoken in the markets of Colchis. For over two thousand years the Caucasus has been in the pathway of numberless migrations of peoples; but the nature of the land was such that each people that passed left some of its members behind, some fragment which survived unchanged in secluded valleys and rocky fastnesses. Once a community was settled here it was very difficult for a new invader to expel it totally; some small part was sure to remain behind resisting all assaults, until the second invader in his turn was forced to defend himself against a third.

I shall not attempt to enter into the thorny path of Caucasian ethnography—one which has not really been properly explored even by those who are really competent, and many problems remain yet unsolved. But it is necessary to say a few words on the distribution

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of the chief races in order to make certain aspects of the political situation clear. The question of the Caucasian races and their division may be regarded from several points of view. If we consider it purely in its scientific bearings, we must divide them into white races and yellow or Mongol races ; the white must then be subdivided into Indo-Europeans, Semites, and pure Caucasians, and the Mongolians into Turkish peoples and pure Mongols. This is, of course, only one method ; others may adopt a different though equally scientific system. But from a political point of view divisions of this kind are apt to be confusing, for we find Russians, Armenians, Kurds, Persians, and Tates bracketed together as Indo-Europeans ; Georgians, Lezghins, and Abkhazians united among the pure Caucasians ; and Turks and Tartars treated as a single family. From a political point of view Tartars and Tates should be bracketed together, for although of widely different racial origin, they are both Shiah Moslems and practically form one nationality. Also Russians and Armenians, although both labelled as Indo-European, are widely separated by political considerations. Moreover, certain isolated fragments of peoples, perhaps not more than a few thousand strong, may have an immense scientific im- portance, and yet politically be a negligible quantity. For instance, the Ossets, inhabiting the western part of the Central Caucasus, offer many interesting problems to the ethnographer and the philologist; but they have never come to the fore in the recent political history of the country. The people of Daghestan, who are split up into several dozen different races and

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countless tribes, many of them as yet unclassed and of unknown origin, although they played a great part in former times, and under Shamyl resisted the Russian advance with desperate valour, their name is seldom even mentioned in the accounts of recent events. Politically we may divide the Caucasian peoples into the following groups : Khartvels or Georgians, Armenians, Tartars, Russians, Eastern mountaineers, and Western mountaineers; the mountaineers, however, have practically no political importance at the present time.

The Khartvel or Georgian group occupies the whole of Western Transcaucasia, spreading as far east as the Alazan valley and as far south as the Turkish frontier, but its chief centres are the valleys of the Rion and the Ingur. The Georgian population numbers about 1,800,000, and they are all Orthodox Christians, except the Adjars in the mountains near Batum, who were converted to Islam. They belong to the Aryan family, but form part of a group of peoples more or less autochthonous to the land, and having very little connection with other Aryan races. Their language, although Aryan, has peculiarities which distinguish it from all other tongues, even those of other autochthonous Caucasian races, to whom, however, it is probably allied; in the course of time it has been modified by infiltration of Persian, Armenian, Turkish, Greek, and Arabic elements. The Georgians are subdivided into Georgians proper, or Khartvels (Khartlins), inhabiting the central part of the country ; Kakhetins, east of Tiflis ; Imeretins, round Kutais; Mingrelians, between Kutais and the sea; Gurians,

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in the district of Ozurgety ; Pshavs, Khevsurs, and other highlanders, in the mountains north of Tiflis and along the Georgian road; Svanets, in the mountains north of Kutais. Each of these branches has its own dialect, but of late years the various local patois have been tending to disappear and a single literary language has been universally adopted. They form the largest and most compact racial mass in the whole of Transcaucasia.

Eastern Transcaucasia is inhabited chiefly by Armenians and Tartars. The Armenians or Haiks, number 1,200,000 in Russian territory, but the greater part of this people is still in Turkey. They are apparently of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European group, and their language seems to have considerable affinity with Zend, but it contains important Semitic elements, and many Georgian, Turkish, and Persian words. The Armenians are found mostly in the Governments of Erivan, Tiflis, Elizavetpol, and Baku, but that of Erivan is the only one in which they are a majority. By religion they belong to the Gregorian Church.*

The Tartars are a Mongol people closely allied to the Ottoman Turks, and their language is a patois of Turkish. They originally came from Central Asia, and invaded the Caucasus from Azerbajan (North-Western Persia); they are, in fact, described as Azerbajan Tartars, to distinguish them from the Kazan and the Crimean Tartars. Their habitats are the governments of Baku, Elizavetpol, Erivan, and certain

* Further details concerning the Armenians and the Tartars will be given in Chapter VIII.

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districts of that of Tiflis, and they number 1,200,000. They are divided into a number of tribes or clans; to them are allied the 50,000 Nogai Tartars in the Kuban and Daghestan provinces, and 100,000 Kumiks. In the Government of Baku there are also some 180,000 Tates, who, although of Iranian Stock, and speaking a Persian dialect, are Shiah Mohammedans like the Tartars, and are gradually adopting Tartar ways and even the Tartar language. Here, as in other parts of the East, religion is a stronger tie than race or nationality, and practically all the Shiahs of the Eastern Caucasus are, for practical purposes, Tartars. On the other hand, the Sunni Mohammedans, whether Tartars, Turks, Lezghins, Kurds, or others, form a separate community, who, save in certain cases, have taken no part in the Armeno-Tartar feud.

Other Moslem peoples are the Turks and the Kurds, both of them Sunnis. The former number 30,000 in the province of Batum, where they are more or less assimilated to the Adjars (70,000), and 50,000, or 60,000 in the province of Kars. The Kurds are mostly nomad shepherds of the Governments of Erivan and Elizavetpol and the province of Kars.

Next we come to the highlanders. In the Western Caucasus and along the Black Sea coast are the remnants of two autochthonous peoples, of great interest to ethnographers, who once played a large rôle in these lands, viz., the Circassians, to whom are allied the Kabardins, and the Abkhazians. The Circassians resisted the Russian advance with

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desperate valour, and when the country was finally subjugated the great majority preferred to emigrate into Turkish territory. At present there are only a few thousand Circassians left out of a gallant nation of half a million. The Abkhazians who dwell in the mountains behind Sukhum Kalé are reduced to about 60,000, and the Kabardins on the north-east slopes of the range are 190,000. The prevailing religion of these people is Islam. The Eastern mountaineers dwelling in Daghestan and part of the Terek province, are an extraordinary medley of several dozen different branches, mostly autochthonous, but many of them undetermined, and speaking numbers of different languages, whose connections with each other are not always established. The Chechens (280,000) are warlike high-landers living in the mountains south and east of Vladikavkaz. Then come the Lezghins, Andians, and Avars, the Dargo, the Kyurins, the Udins, and many others. There is one mountain in Daghestan on the slopes of which are seven villages each speaking a different language; to communicate with each other they use the Avar tongue, which is a sort of lingua franca of the district. Besides the native dialects Turkish and Arabic are also spoken. The Eastern highlanders are nearly all Sunni Mohammedans, and were almost welded into a single nation under the leadership of Shamyl, who held out against Russia in a long series of wars. The story of the Russian campaigns of Daghestan and Circassia is among the most romantic episodes of Muscovite history. They are still warlike and brave,

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but have remained quiet during the last thirty years.

Another highland people, who cannot, however, be classed as autochthonous, are the Ossets, occupying the mountains between the Georgian road and the Adai Khokh. Their language is Iranian, and, in fact, they call themselves Iron, and many of their customs are very similar to those of the primitive peoples of Western Europe, which gave rise to curious but untenable theories as to their relationship with the Germans. They number 120,000, spread over the governments of Tiflis and Kutais and the Terek province; one half of them are nominal Christians, and the other half nominal Mohammedans, but both sections practise pagan rites.

Finally, we come to the Russians, who, although not an absolute majority, are the largest element of the population, and are, of course, the ruling race. They number about 3,000,000, but with the exception of some 150,000 they are all in the Northern Caucasus, in Transcaucasia they are merely soldiers, officials, small peasant colonies (chiefly sectarians) and a certain number of workmen at Baku, Tiflis, and Batum. In the Northern Caucasus the majority of them are in the Cossack colonies of the Terek and the Kuban. Other races are: Greeks (55,000), some of them descended from the ancient Greek colonies on the Black Sea, a few thousand German colonists, Jews, Poles, &c.

To sum up, we may divide the peoples of the Caucasus as follows :—

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Russians

3,000,000, or 30 per cent. approx.
Georgians 1,800,000, or 20
Shiah Moslems 1,300,000, or 13
Sunni Moslems 1,500,000, or 15
Gregorian Armenians 1,200,000, or 12½
Total 9.248,695      

To attempt to write the history of the Caucasus would not only be very difficult, but hardly profitable. Until the Russian occupation the Caucasus had no unity. Geographically it is divided into two distinct parts by the great range. Ethnographically it is but a collection of miscellaneous samples. Historically it has always been split up between a number of different foreign States, and more or less independent principalities and tribes. Alexander the Great, the East Roman Empire, and the Arabs at various times laid claim to rule the whole country, but in practice they never actually did so. Russia is the first Power which has succeeded in uniting these scattered fragments. At the time of the Russian conquest Western Transcaucasia was divided into the kingdoms of Georgia, Imeretia, and Mingrelia, which had at an earlier period formed a single State, The Eastern provinces (Baku, Elizavetpol, and Erivan) were under Persian supremacy; Batum and Kars belonged to Turkey, who also had a nominal suzerainty over the Circassians. The mountain ranges were divided among a number of practically independent clans. This state of things had existed in a more or less modified form for several centuries, and in the wildly chaotic conditions of the country frontiers were un-

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certain and sovereign rights but vain things. The only part of the Caucasus which had a more or less consecutive national history was the kingdom of Georgia.

A Georgian or Iberian State had existed long before the Christian era, but very little is known of its history. The country received its first lessons in civilization from the Greek traders who established commercial colonies in Colchis, the fabled land of the Golden Fleece. In the III. century b.c., Alexander the Great conquered Iberia and established a Macedonian administration. But a national hero, Pharnabazes, led the people to revolt, expelled the Macedonian Governor, and founded a Georgian dynasty. Subsequently the rights of his successors were disputed by tile Armenian Arsakid dynasty, and in the IV. century King Mirian founded the Sasanid house. During his reign Georgia was converted to Christianity by St. Nina. The Greek Emperor sent a bishop and priests to Georgia and the king and people were baptized in 332. Christianity was not, however, firmly established for some time, and in the V. century there was a religious war between the Christians and the fire-worshippers supported by the Persians. King Vakhtang Gorgoslan (446-499) completed the conversion of Georgia and expelled the fire-worshippers ; in spite of frequent inroads by the Persians and the high-landers, Georgia now became a considerable Power in the Middle East. In 458 the first Georgian bishopric was founded, that of Mtzkhet, and in 542 the Emperor Justinian recognized the independence of the Iberian Church, whose primate was henceforth

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styled Katholikos. In the VII. century the Arabs invaded Georgia, and the ancient kingdom was split up into several principalities. Kakhetia seceded in the east, Imeretia, Mingrelia, and Abkhazia in the west, so that the then reigning dynasty of the Bagratids only ruled the country round Tiflis, under Arab auspices, and Tiflis itself was held by the Arabs. Under David (1001) and Bagrat III. Georgia was reunited once more into an independent kingdom, but soon after it was invaded by the Seljuk Turks, who laid it waste.

David III. (1080), the Renovator, at last succeeded in expelling the Mohammedans and creating a new and greater Georgian kingdom, extending from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and from the Caucasus to Kars. He reorganized the country, suppressed brigandage and heresy, built churches, opened schools, and made Georgia a centre of culture and civilization. In 1184 the celebrated Queen Thamara came to the throne—a name still venerated as a glorious if half-legendary tradition wherever the Georgian tongue is spoken. Almost every church and every castle is attributed to her, and a whole host of legends has gathered about her personality. She does seem to have been a great woman, and to have raised her country to a high place among nations. She waged war successfully against both the Turks and the Greeks, and after the fall of the Byzantine Empire at the hands of the Crusaders she helped to form the Empire of Trebizond. But at her death in 1212 the edifice, laboriously raised, crumbled once more. Her incapable successors were unable to resist the

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ever-recurring onslaughts of the Moslems from the south and the highlanders from the north. First Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes, then the Persians, then again in 1236, the Mongols raided Georgia and made themselves for a time masters of the country. For the next three hundred years it is a prey to invasion, civil war, and Mongol oppression. In 1387 and 1393 it suffered at the hands of Timur the Tartar, who desolated the land with fire and sword. The XV. and XVI. centuries are one long record of Turkish and Persian invasions and occupations, as a result of which several of the native princes became Moslems, and Oriental customs penetrated into the country. Massacre, bloodshed, treachery, and cruelty are the staple elements of Georgian history during this period, lit up at rare intervals by flashes of heroism and sublime patriotism. The Persians were now the real rulers of Georgia, but they usually delegated their authority to native kings of proven fidelity. Some of these honestly tried, to better the conditions of the people, and aspired to ultimate independence. One of them, Vakhtang VI (1675-1737), although outwardly professing Islam—to which fact he owed his nomination as King of Georgia by the Persians—managed to re-establish a measure of order in the land, to unite the scattered provinces, and to promote an intellectual revival. It was in his reign that relations with Russia were first established, for with the help of the Muscovite Tzars he hoped to shake himself free of Persia and obtain protection from his various dangerous neighbours. The Moslem Powers, by

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their perpetual incursions and their savage oppression, threw the Christians of the Caucasus into the arms of Russia and led to their own eventual downfall. In 1722 Peter the Great concluded an alliance with Vakhtang, with a view to the expedition to Derbent and Baku. In the following year the Georgian king openly declared himself independent of Persia, and sent an army of 30,000 to assist the Russians. But to his surprise and dismay Peter concluded a separate peace treaty with Persia in 1724, acknowledging the latter's suzerainty over Georgia. Thus left to herself Georgia was overrun by hordes of Turks and Persians who came to wreak their vengeance on her for having helped their enemy. The highlanders profited by the enfeebled state of the country to pour down into the valleys and plunder the inhabitants. Revolts broke out, and Vakhtang was deposed and died in exile in 1737. The object of Russia was so to weaken Georgia that its absorption into the Empire should become inevitable, and this policy was consistently followed for nearly a century, and with ultimate success. Catherine II. instructed her agents and generals in the Caucasus “to do nothing likely to strengthen, Georgia.”

In 1736 Nadir Shah had succeeded to the Persian throne, and was friendly to the Georgians. He freed the country from the Turks, and eventually placed Irakli II. on the throne. Irakli (1744-1798) was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and excited the admiration of all Europe; under him Georgia revived and prospered, and became for the last time

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a powerful and independent State. Culture and civilization spread, order and unity were achieved, and the neighbouring Tartar khanates reduced to vassalage; Imeretia, however, remained a separate kingdom under King Solomon. On the death of Nadir Shah Persia fell into a state of anarchy and civil war, and Irakli declared himself independent. But the Turkish danger became menacing once more, and the two Georgian missions to Joseph II. of Austria, asking for help against the Sultan, having failed, Irakli was persuaded to ally himself with Russia in 1769, as that Power was meditating a new Turkish campaign in which Austria promised to take part. War was declared, and the Russo-Georgian armies met the Turks near Akhaltzykh, but Irakli, like Vakhtang, was left in the lurch by his treacherous allies, who retired from the field of battle. By a superhuman effort he succeeded in defeating the Turks single-handed; but they soon returned in greater force, and Persian hordes, under the ferocious Aga Mohammed Khan, also poured into the unhappy land. Again Georgia was fearfully devastated, and in 1795 the capital Tiflis was burnt and captured by the Persians. Irakli managed to recapture the city a short time afterwards and expel the Persians from the country, but he was weakened and broken, and in 1798 he died. His son and successor, George XIII., entered into negotiations with Persia, but the Tzar Paul outbid the Shah, and in 1799 a Russo-Georgian treaty was concluded and confirmed in the following year. By its provisions King George, the magnates, the clergy, and the people of Georgia declared that

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they wished to become Russian subjects ; but the crown was to be vested in George and his heirs, who were to retain the chief authority in the country but without legislative powers; the people were to enjoy immunity from taxation for twelve years ; the number of Russian troops in Georgia was not to exceed 6,000, and military service for the Georgians was to take the form of a national militia; the Georgian Church was to be independent; and Georgian was to remain the official and educational language. This is how the treaty was observed. On the death of George his son, Prince David, succeeded, and was waiting to be confirmed; but in the spring of 1802 General Knorring entered Tiflis with a Russian army. On May 8th he summoned the nobles to hear the Tzar's manifesto read in the Sion Cathedral. Every one expected merely that the treaty of 1800 would be confirmed; but the manifesto declared instead that the Russian administration was to be introduced “ for the good of the country,” and that an oath of allegiance was expected of the Georgian magnates. This they indignantly refused, and they were about to return to their homes when they found themselves surrounded by troops outside the church. A great uproar followed, and some rioting; David was deposed, and a number of prominent Georgians were arrested. The Russians treated Georgia like a conquered country, the officials and officers beat and ill-used the natives, and outraged their women. The result was that risings broke out in various districts, the people refused to pay taxes, and David was approached by a deputation of Georgians and Armenians who

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West Caucasian Types, Near Batum.

[caption] West Caucasian Types, Near Batum.

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offered to organize a general revolution ; but he refused, from fear of the Russians, and was eventually sent to live in Russia. The state of the country, however, became so alarming that the Government decided on a more conciliatory policy. Prince Tsitsiani, a Georgian noble of high rank related to the Royal house, was appointed Governor-General, and commissioned to introduce an aristocratic constitution on a national basis. This was done, and for some years Georgia enjoyed a more or less native and moderately liberal government. Freed from the danger of Mohammedan and highland raids, the people developed, commerce prospered, and literature and culture revived. It seemed as though the country would become one of the most loyal and peaceful as well as one of the most progressive provinces of the Empire. But under Nicholas I. reaction set in, the censorship became more severe, and the Government tended to curtail the privileges of the people. This produced discontent, and led to the conspiracy of 1832, which was discovered before it had time to achieve anything, and numbers of Georgians of the best families were imprisoned or exiled. Gradually every vestige of constitutional government was suppressed, even the Church was placed under the control of the Russian Holy Synod and a Russian appointed Exarch, and the country reduced to the status of a conquered province once more. Universal military service was introduced, and although it was never applied in its full rigour throughout the Caucasus, Georgians were sent to serve in Russian regiments in Europe and Siberia, while Russian army corps were quartered in

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Georgia. Russian became the official language, everything was done to expel the Georgian tongue from the schools, and an attempt made to Russify the country still further by settling Russian colonies in Transcaucasia. To-day the Caucasus forms a Viceroyalty divided into twelve provinces (seven gubernii, or governments, and five oblasti, or military territories) governed like any other part of the Russian Empire, with the same type of administration and the same bureaucratic machinery. But as in certain other frontier regions, the Governor-General or Viceroy has authority over the provincial governors, and even wider powers than those of ordinary Russian governors, and the zemstva, or elective provincial councils, have not been introduced, although there are elective municipal councils. A further difference is that the personnel of the bureaucracy is even worse than that of European Russia. According to a secret document of the police department, which was shown to me, during the period 1894— 1898 the following officials were convicted of robbery, peculation, murder, and other crimes, and punished: 19 district governors (Uyezdnye Nachalniki), 9 assistant governors, 83 pristavi (police commissioners), and two town chiefs of police! If these were actually punished one may be quite sure that a far larger number committed crimes which remained unpunished. Russia does not distinguish between the various levels of civilization, nor between racial and religious differences. In theory the Empire is one and indivisible, and every one has the same rights (or absence of rights) and the same duties, except in the case of the Poles and the Jews who are in

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a position of exceptional disability, and of the Finns who, until a few years back, enjoyed a wide measure of autonomy which they have recently regained. The Russians have none of that feeling of racial superiority over their non-Russian subjects, even when the latter are of a different religion and colour, such as the English feel with regard to the natives of India. A Georgian, an Armenian, an Osset, even a Tartar or a Persian may aspire to the highest ranks in the army or the bureaucracy. Russian soldiers, officers, and officials have no repugnance to serving under a non-Russian chief, whether he be white, brown, or yellow, Christian or Mohammedan. Thus we find Georgian generals like Prince Chavchavadze and Prince Orbeliani, Armenian generals like Lazareff, Loris Melikoff, Argutinsky, and Tergukassoff, Tartar generals like Alikhanoff Avarsky, Georgian governors like Tsitsiani and Nakashidze, not to mention many officers and civil servants of lower rank. Nor is there even any objection to non-Russians receiving appointments among peoples of their own race. Socially, too, they are treated as equals, and Georgian, Tartar, and Armenian magnates are received in the highest circles of Russian society, and even intermarry with the Russian aristocracy, although intermarriage does not occur between Christians and Mohammedans. But in order to obtain these advantages, a native of the Caucasus must conform with Russian ideas and become more or less Russified, and almost forget his own nationality, not because the Russian is a chauvinist, but because he suspects the loyalty of every one who is not a Russian in sentiment if not by race.

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Consequently, efforts are made to introduce Russian as the general language of the Caucasus, and to discourage non-Russian schools in every way. Nor do the Russian officials ever trouble to learn the native languages of the provinces they are sent to govern. With regard to religion, the Georgian Church has been incorporated in that of Russia ; the Armenian Church has remained independent, but has been placed under strict Government tutelage, and the Mussulman religion is also controlled by Government's right of nominating the higher clergy.

Yet after a century of Russian rule, with more or less strongly accentuated Russifying tendencies, in spite of the spread of the Russian tongue and of Russian ideas and customs, and the supremacy of Russian bureaucratic methods, the Caucasus, or at least Transcaucasia, has certainly not become Russian. The Georgians, the Armenians, the Tartars, and many of the minor nationalities, civilized or barbarous, Christian or Mohammedan, peaceful or warlike, have preserved their languages and their racial characteristics intact, and in many cases are imbued with strong nationalist feelings. There is no hatred of the Russians such as there is in Poland, or such as there was in Italy against Austria, but there is a grim resolution to preserve language, nationality, and religion against all attacks, and at all events among the more civilized elements, a determination to put an end once and for all to Muscovite autocracy and bureaucracy. If the Caucasus is to continue to form part of the Russian Empire—and for the present it is impossible to see how it can be anything else— it can only be governed on a basis of popular autonomy.

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Gagry on the Black Sea. Hotel and Villa of the Prince of Oldenburg

[caption] Gagry on the Black Sea. Hotel and Villa of the Prince of Oldenburg.

 

Ardiler on the Black Sea Coast.

[caption] Ardiler on the Black Sea Coast.


Table of contents
Cover and pp. 1-4 | Prefatory note | Table of contents (as in the book) | List of illustrations
“Chronological table of recent events in the Caucasus”
1. The Caucasus, its peoples, and its history | 2. Eastward ho! | 3. Batum
4. Kutais and the Georgian movement | 5. The Gurian “republic” | 6. Tiflis
7. Persons and politics in the Caucasian capital
8. Armenians, Tartars, and the Russian government
9. Baku and the Armeno-Tartar feud | 10. Bloodshed and fire in the oil city
11. The land of Ararat | 12. The heart of Armenia | 13. Russia's new route to Persia
14. Nakhitchevan and the May massacres | 15. Alexandropol and Ani
16. Over the frosty Caucasus | 17. Recent events in the Caucasus | Index

 

Acknowledgements:

Source: Villari, Luigi. Fire and Sword in the Caucasus by Luigi Villari author of “Russia under the Great Shadow”, “Giovanni Segantini,” etc. London, T. F. Unwin, 1906
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Karen Vrtanesyan

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See also:
The Flame of Old Fires by Pavel Shekhtman (in Russian)
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