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Krasnaya Polyana: Breaking the 150 Years of Silence
Krasnaya Polyana: Breaking the 150 Years of Silence (Part One)


By: Ibragim Gukemukh

Franz Roubaud's painting, "Scene from the Caucasian War" (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

After the Crimean (a.k.a. Eastern) war of 18531856 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1856 ending that war, the Russian Empire began to turn toward the final conquest of the Caucasian mountaineers. Russia was finally able to turn an army of 200,000 men with over 200 cannon against the rebellious peoples of the North Caucasus. This episode began when the new viceroy of the Caucasus, General Aleksandr Baryatinsky, managed to destroy and capture the noted resistance leader Imam Shamil in the village of Gunib in mountainous Dagestan in three years, thereby establishing full control over Chechnya and Dagestan giving Russia control of the Eastern Caucasus. With Shamils capture, Russia could revert back to the conquest of the Western Caucasus and its indigenous inhabitants, the Circassian and the Abkhaz tribes who resided in the littoral areas of the Black Seathe same area where the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be held next February, and the location of the battlefield of Krasnaya Polyana, the final battle of Circassian resistance against Tsarist Russias imperial advance southward.

Dashed Hopes

After the defeat and capture of Shamil in 1859, the Cherkess and the Ubykhs sensed that Russia would renews its efforts to subjugate the Circassians and began to prepare feverishly for the new offensive by the Tsarist army. Turkish small sailing vessels frequented the harbors of the eastern shores on Black Sea, bringing gunpowder and other ammunition to Circassian units for the coming Russian offensive.

Simultaneous with these efforts, the valiant leaders of the mountaineers in the Western Caucasus continued to make desperate diplomatic efforts to receive protection from the European powers, particularly, England and France, which had participated in the Crimean War against Russia. Focusing on the British consulate, which was established in the city of Sukhum (prior to that the consulate was situated in the capital of the Caucasus vice regency in Tbilisi), the mountaineers maintained contacts as the English representatives appeared to favor the mountaineers aspirations. The noted Abkhaz historian of Soviet times, Professor Georgy Dzidzaria wrote in his seminal research, Muhajirs and the Problems of Abkhaz History of the 19th Century: In August 1861, the Ubykh elders Izmail Barakai-ipa Dziash and Haji Kerentukh-Berzek addressed the British Consul Dixon in Sukhumi with a letter through the Sadzian noble Abich Samekh. The elders asked the Consul to bring to the attention of the British government that Russian armies were encroaching upon their independence and that the Russian General Yevdokimov was besieging their homeland. After a short while, the participants of the meeting of Mejlis (a.k.a. The Great Free Assembly) decreed to dispatch a special mission to Constantinople, Paris and London to ask for protection. To cover the expenses incurred by the mission, all households living between Tuapse to Adler were required to contribute funds to finance the trip to Europe. The same Izmail Dziash headed the mission...

The so-called Circassian Committee was then set up in England at the time. Politicians and other leaders became members of the Committee, but the British government was forced to remain neutral as it did not want an open a military conflict with Russia. As a result of this position, members of the Circassian mission that relied on Great Britains generosity were bitterly disappointed. The mission reportedly received only modest contributions to cover the expenses of their travel. The failure of the diplomatic mission of the Circassians in London was followed by similar failures in Paris and Constantinople. Nevertheless, the British and, especially, the Turkish emissaries in Western Circassia tried to keep the Circassians hopes high. Their message was that the European powers would become involved after the tsarist armies intrude then-still-independent Circassia and would provide support not only with ammunition, but also with manpower. As the subsequent developments indicated, these were just empty promises. The Russian government realized this even earlier, so it set out to implement the plan of attack proposed by General Nikolai Yevdokimov.

Yevdokimovs Plan and the Resumption of War Against Circassians

Since Russia could not have military bases on the Black Sea due to the conditions of the 1856 Treaty of Paris, Russian commanders altered their military strategy to emphasize retaking the Circassians through ground operations in the Western Caucasus rather than attacking the strongholds of the resistance on the Black Sea coasts and highlands adjacent to these areas. Instead, Yevdokimov developed another option. The essence of his plan was to blockade the unconquered Circassian and Western Abkhaz regions. Kuban Cossack and regular Russian army units advanced on the Circassians and quickly constructed new fortified lines, gradually squeezing the Circassian-populated areas, forcing them to retreat back toward the Black Sea coast. According to this strategy the mountaineers would become deprived of both manpower and food supplies to prevent them from effectively resisting the onslaught of Russian forces. To implement this plan, the Russian armies captured Sukhum and Gagry on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea. On the northeastern shore of the Black Sea, they captured Anapa and Tsemess harbor (now known as Novorossiysk). The garrisons stationed in these strongholds played the role of the anvil, while the Russian armies that advanced from the northern slopes of the Main Caucasus Range were to play the role of the hammer. The advancing Russian forces were supported in these operations by the fortified lines known as the Belorechenskaya (named after the river Belaya) and Adagumskaya (named after river Adagum).

In order to disrupt the sea lines of communication between the Circassian resistance forces and the civilian populations of Circassians situated along the Black Sea, which included the western Abkhaz tribes of the Sadz and Jigets as well as supporters in Turkish Anatolia, the Russian fleet constantly cruised along the eastern coast of the Black Sea seeking to interdict their lines of communication and supply routes. The Russian fleets cruising and patrols in these areas were in breach of the Treaty of Paris. Britain and Frances failure to enforce this aspect of the treaty greatly assisted Russia in its strategy of conquest. Tsarist naval forces constantly intercepted supplies that flowed in from the Turkish coast to the Circassians, and Russian commanders repeatedly landed troops in suitable bays and estuaries in order to deprive Circassian forces of much-needed supplies. Heading these naval operations was the well-known Russian researcher of the Antarctic, Admiral Mikhail Lazarev, who was placed in charge of the Black Sea fleet. Later, one of the four districts of Sochi was named after him, Lazarevsky; the other three are Tsentralny, Khostinsky and Adlresky, altogether occupying 150 kilometers along the coast.

An important element in Russian strategy was the role of pro-Russian Abkhaz Duke Mikhail Shervashidze (Chachba), who advised the Russian high command and who recommended that the key to destroying Circassian resistance was the capture of two other important points in the lands of the Ubykh and Shapsugs and then offer to have negotiations with these important tribes of the Circassians in order to undermine the cohesion of the resistance. Sharing a nationality with these peoples, Shervashidze expected that if the mountaineers professed loyalty to Russia, the latter would not exterminate and deport them from their homeland. The duke, however, did not grasp the fact that the Western Circassians had antagonized the intruders so much, not because those branches of the Circassians were particularly implacable, but because they occupied lands that were particularly fertile and extremely beneficial to Moscow from a geopolitical point of view. The tsar needed these lands but did not want its freedom-loving population. The Abkhaz Dukedom itself was also abolished immediately after the war ended in 1865. It must be noted that the mountaineers were caught off guard by these developments. Many of the tribes did not believe that Russia would be able to restore its military might so quickly following the Crimean War.

Within the period of 18601863, the Circassian tribes of Bzhedugs and Natukhais were partially exterminated and partially deported to the Ottoman Empire. The Natukhais were disheartened after two hungry winters that were accompanied by epidemics and the death of their old leader Seferbey Zan. By August 1862, General Grigory Orbeliani observed that the Cossacks had captured most lands of the Natukhais and that the highlanders were so constrained that it is actually hard to find sustenance for them in the remaining land (The Acts of the Caucasus Archeogeographic Commission. Volume: XII, part II, p. 844).

Meanwhile, the Shapsugs, the Ubykhs, the Sadz and the Jigets were still putting up a desperate resistance against the Russian ground offensive. The Shapsugs engaged in a defiant fight after General Babich entered their lands. The Tsarist Russia historian Semyon Esadze in his book, The Conquest of the Western Caucasus and the Ending of the Caucasus War (Moscow, 2004), noted that these tribes were well prepared for the guerrilla war fighting in the forested mountains and could courageously and steadfastly defend themselves in their land. The Ubykh and the Sadz stepped up attacks on the coastal Russian garrisons in response to these attacks. The General-Governor of Kutaisi, Georgy Eristov (a.k.a. Eristavi) wrote in a report for General Baryatinsky: These mountaineers constantly emerge on the highlands that are adjacent to the Gagry fortress and seem to be watching what is going on inside the garrison, with the purpose of making use of any mishap on our side... Moreover, the coastal Cherkess and Ubykh tribes used small rowing-sailing vessels in their operations. The head of Gagrys garrison wrote in one of his reports: In Sochi, the mountaineers are equipping with up to 25 galleys or sailing boats with the intention of landing troops between Gagry and Cape Pitsunda... The garrisons head asked for reinforcement of these points.

Despite these efforts, the situation of the Cherkess, their ethnic kinthe Ubykhand the western Abkhaz tribes was becoming progressively more hopeless by the day. Hunger, epidemics and Russian canister shots reaped rich harvest in these lands. Yet, the Ottoman Empires agents and European adventurers who pretended to be Englands representatives, continued to convince the mountaineers of the imminent arrival of help from the West. Their efforts had substantial success even among the mountaineers that were completely surrounded from all sides. Sometimes the promises of these people actually materialized. Georgy Dzidzaria notes one case, for example, where he describes one of these instances in his research: ...in August 1863, the commander of the Kuban region was informed by telegraph that a boat with a barge loaded with ammunition and agents, bound for the Caucasian coast, had departed from Constantinople. These vessels indeed landed on the shore of the Ubykh [tribes territory] and carried with them five rifled cannons, boxes with arms, gunpowder and artillery shells, and also there were eight adventurers onboard. The latter told the Ubykh that a large force was coming to their rescue and that they would receive back all their lands, while Russia would not cope as it would face fighting all powers (Dzidzaria, Muhajirs and the Problems of Abkhaz History of the 19th Century).

The Great Free Assembly

Emboldened by these deceitful promises (not for the first time) and contemplating no other ways for their survival, the mountaineers of the Western Caucasus firmly decided to protect their independence by establishing a parliamentary assembly. Back in 1861 the Ubykhs, the Shapsugs and the Abadzekhs established a semblance of a parliamentary body that was designed to coordinate all their activities against the invaders. This body received the title majlis (from Arabic: a place of sitting, as in council) or the Great Free Assembly as it is known in Circassian historical literature. The Ubykh chiefs led the effort of molding a united force out of the Circassian and Western Abkhaz tribes and those leaders exercised quite a high level of authority.

Circassians widely remembered the famous elder and leader, Haji Berzek who was the uncle of the above named Haji Kerentukh Berzek. Haji Berzek swore that he would dress in females pants if a single gavur (infidel) were to enter the Ubykhs land in his lifetime. The elder indeed was able to keep his promise, as the Russian invasion of Ubykh territory occurred only after his death. The Ubykhs and their allies had also other outstanding military leaders, but not all of them were as firm in the decision to fight to the end. Semyon Esadze wrote that, for instance, part of the Sadz tribe that was under the influence of its Duke Rashid Gechba remained unresponsive to the majlis calls for a long time (Esadze, The Conquest of the Western Caucasus and the Ending of the Caucasus War, Moscow, 2004).

Assessing the actions of the mejlis, Georgy Dzidzaria noted in the previously mentioned monograph that: it must be pointed out that the Ubykh Constitution that was created at the time of grave danger appeared to be a sample of democratic governance only at first sight. First of all, the constitution was a project of social reforms. Even though it represented the highest level of the mountaineers political thought, it was illusory at the same time. The majlis was unable to overcome the Circassians tribal differences and their fragmented resistance. While invoking the slogan of Gazavat (holy war) was ineffective The attempt to reconcile internal social contradictions was even more futile.

The building of the mejlis, a large log house, was constructed in the valley of the river Psakhe, in the vicinity of the river Sochi, not far from where the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games will be held next February. Apart from the Ubykhs, the Akhchipsou, the Sadz and the Jigets took part in the construction work. The assembly consisted of 15 members, the ulemas and the respected chiefs. According to the majlis decree, the whole area was divided into 12 districts and each of them had two legislators, a mufti and a qadi, who were obliged to communicate the decisions of the Great Assembly to the people and local leaders. Military conscription was imposed, with a decree calling for five armed horsemen from every 100 households, and a tax system primarily to be used for defense purposes.

The Great and Free Assembly also adopted an official symbol, a Circassian flagthree crossed arrows embroidered with gold thread in the center of a green space, and 12 stars that were also embroidered with gold thread were positioned above the arrows. The green color of the flag symbolized the Circassians adherence to Islam. The crossed arrows showed the unity of the unconquered tribes. The twelve stars stood for the twelve districts that the majlis established in the area. Currently, the Republic of Adygea has this flag as its official symbol. The majlis also maintained contacts with the Circassian Committee in Constantinople, which was set up by the Circassian muhajirs (refugees) in Turkey after the Circassian committee in London. But no efforts of the mountaineers could change the Tsarist plan of systematic conquest of the Caucasus. According to the Tsarist historian Rostislav Fadeev, the war in the last four years was about expelling the mountaineers from their slums and settling Russians in the Western Caucasus. The war continued with unrelenting ferocity. Circassian villages were burned down by the hundreds; fields and food stores were destroyed. Those who expressed their loyalty to the Russian Empire were resettled in the areas that were uninhabitable and were subject to be governed by Russian officers. Those who did not surrender were either exterminated or sent to the rocky shores of the Black Sea coast for the subsequent deportation to the Ottoman Empire. Another author, Alexander Geins, who was an eyewitness to the terrible events of the time recalled: In bright days the sun was often covered by the [smog coming from] countless fires...

A major turning point in the war occurred in 1863. On June 19, 1863, the general-governor of Kutaisi, Nikolai Kolyubakin landed his troops at the mouth of the river Sochi and inflicted damage of mostly moral character by burning down the majlis building. Kolyubakins incursion also had a specific military and tactical purpose, namely to draw away the Ubykh and the Cherkess forces from the Kuban region. History has retained the names of the Circassian traitors of their own people who participated in the war against their own brethren. These were the Abkhaz Duke Mikhail Shervashidze and the Jiget Duke Tsanba.

Krasnaya Polyana: Breaking the 150 Years of Silence
Krasnaya Polyana: Breaking the 150 Years of Silence (Part Two)


The following is the conclusion to the two-part historical series in EDM by Ibragim Gukemukh of the end of the road to Krasnaya Polyana and the last stand of Circassian resistance against Tsarist Russias conquest of the Northeast Caucasus. To read Part One, see EDM, May 31.

The Agony

In the beginning of 1863, the new Russian commander-in-chief and the governor to the region, the Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, arrived in the Caucasus. The Russian Minister of Finance and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Witte described him in his memoirs in explicitly scathing overtones: This man was a fairly narrow-minded person, narrow-minded statesman, unbooked [not learned] statesman... Mikhail Nikolaevich doubled the efforts of his predecessor Duke Aleksandr Baryatinsky to remove the last of the Circassian resistance from the area.

By the end of 1863, General Nikolai Yevdokimov wrote in his report for the new governor: ...on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Ridge, there is no armed enemy left. Another military leader, General Alexander Kartsov also boastfully wrote to the governors headquarters: Thus, no single mountaineer is left on the northern slopes of the western part of the Caucasus mountains; the southern slopes, including the sea shores, starting from Novorossiysk (Tsemess) Bay to Tuapse has been cleaned out of any population. It was here, in the valleys of the rivers Sochi, Vardana and Mzymta where the last acts of the tragedy of the dying people unfolded. A. Fonville in his memoirs, The Last Year of Circassias War for Independence, described these heartbreaking scenes: ...We had the opportunity to observe the amazing impoverishment of this wretched nation from a close distance; on a daily basis we encountered new groups of mountaineers that were on the move to the areas that were not overtaken by the army, yet...the latest rains and floods killed many of those settlers and we constantly saw corpses on our way. The famine was terrible; many unfortunate people died of it...sometimes people came out to meet us in the villages, but we run away from them, because we were afraid of getting infected with the diseases that were killing off whole villages...

According to General Yevdokimovs plan, at the beginning of 1864, the Russian military moved to the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Ridge. The military campaign resumed in the early spring with a single practical purpose that was described in detail in the book, The Last Years of Russians Fighting with Mountaineers in the Western Caucasus, by one of the champions of Tsarist Russias imperial policy, A. Lilov. According to Lilov, the offensive did not start at the beginning of the year during the winter by chance. The colonizers expected to maximize their success. Since the destruction of food supplies and settlements has a devastating effect, the mountaineers remain entirely homeless, with fewer means to protect themselves and extremely low on food.

The so-called Dakhov unit under the command of General Vasily Geiman should have played a pivotal role in the final military actions against the Cherkess and the Ubykhs. The Dakhov unit received its name after the strategic Dakhov Pass, which connects the northern and the southern slopes of the mountains in this part of the Western Caucasus. Several days after the start of the spring campaign, the commander of the Caucasus, Grand Duke Nikolaevich, wrote in his report to the Tsar that Geimans unit having cleaned out...the area between the rivers Tuapse and Psezuape and having exterminated all villages that lay along these rivers, captured Fort Lazarev (now known as Lazarevsky settlement) on March 16; on March 19, the former fortress Golovinskoe was captured (now known as Golovinka settlement).

The Russian military approached the border of the Ubykh lands, the river of Shakha. Here, General Geiman met the deputies of the Ubykh chiefs that came to his camp for the last time. In response to the proposal for a truce he ironically noted: Where are your troops in European uniforms that you cried so much about? Where are your rifled cannons and ammunition? Where are your allies? The mountaineers responded: We have seen that all our hopes for the help from outside are a dream... But we still remain the Ubykhs, we are still a people and we can enter negotiations for our benefit and state our demands. The general arrogantly responded to this: There are no concessions for you and will not be! After these words the Ubykhs realized that their lot had been decided irreversibly. Semyon Esadze wrote in the book, The Conquest of the Western Caucasus: In their posture and in their look each Ubykh showed complete self-dignity; not a trace of humiliation or fear. However, it was clear that they were hurt in their weakest spot, their pride...

The Ubykh deputies decided to fight to the last man. The Akhchipsou, the Aibga and the Pskhu, who belonged to small tribes that received their names according to the mountain gorges where they resided, also stood by the Ubykhs in their fight. However, no resistance could have stopped the advancing Russian armies that covered the strip of land between the sea and the mountains as if they were a flood. Having crossed the river Shakhe, the Russian troops advanced further and soon all numerous villages of Vardane society were burned down (see Semyon Esadze, op. cit.)

On March 25, Russian armies captured Sochithe heart of the Ubykhs land. That was the end of the proud and warlike people. On April 8, 1864, the Russian Tsar Alexander II, called the Tsar Liberator by the people of Russia, sent a telegram to the governor of the Caucasus that said: I sincerely rejoice in the happy turn of events with the Ubykhs. It remains to thank God for the attained result (Central State Archive of the October Revolution USSR, fund 728, 18621881, case #2732, sheet 69). On March 26, after the Ubykhs loss, representatives of the Sadz (Jigets)one of the western Abkhaz tribescame to Geimans camp. They also tried to secure a truce. Their duke, Rashid Gechba, stated: We are Jigets. We are a free people; we have never been subject to anyone. Now we see that everyone around us is bowing to the Russians and we already consider our land to be the property of the Russian Emperor. They were graciously allowed to leave for Turkey along with the Ubykhs and the Shapsugs, having given them a month to prepare with all their families to come to the shores and embark on the Ottoman ships. The governor who came to Geimans camp told them that if anybody did not comply with this demand, they would be treated as prisoners of war and more troops would arrive to deal with them (Semyon Esadze, the Conquest of the Western Caucasus and the Ending of the Caucasus War, pp. 166167). By April 19, the military did not meet any Ubykhs or Jigets in the mountains; they all had gone to Turkey.

Kbaada

The Caucasus War could have been considered over by then. Only a few, numerically small western Abkhaz tribes, such as the Aibga, the Pskhu, the Akhchipsou and the remnants of the Shapsugs who refused to surrender, still resisted, relying on their natural fortresses in the mountains to deter the Russian invaders. The Shapsugs resided on the high plateau in the upper reaches of the rivers Mzymta, Psou and Bzyb. In order to destroy the last stronghold of the mountaineers, the Russian commanders decided to use four lines of offense, in order to make the disobedient comply immediately with all the requirements and clear the country in the earliest possible time, in the words of the Russian governor and commander-in-chief, Nikolaevich (Journal Kavkaz, # 44, June 11, 1864).

The first line of offense under the command of General Pavel Shatilov moved from Gagry fortress up the Aibga River, located in the Bzyb Gorge. Having captured it, the unit should have advanced on Akhchipsou from the south. The second line of offense, under the command of General Pyotr Svyatopolk-Mirskoi, landed in the upper reaches of the Mzymta River (where currently the city of Adler is situated) and advanced through the lowlands. The third line of offense under the command of General Geiman advanced from the so-called Kuban outpost that was situated in the upper reaches of the Sochi River. The third military unit should have also reached Akhchipsou at the end. The fourth line of offense was led by General Pavel Grabbe. It advanced from the northern slopes of the Main Caucasus Ridge, the upper reaches of the Laba River. Grabbes unit was to join the unit under the command of Svyatopolk-Mirskoi in the Mzymta River valley. Thus, the advancing Russian armies divided the lands of still unconquered peoples into several more parts.

The Russians encountered the fiercest resistance in the gorge of the Psou River, in the lands of the Aibga people. The Psou River currently is an official border between Abkhazia and Russia. The tribe residing there had great hopes for the inaccessibility of its territory, most of which was covered with steep cliffs. Also the Aibga relied on the assistance of neighboring tribes who, according to the Caucasus governor, gathered from the entire Eastern shore...gearing up to fight for the last time. The Aibga decided to defend their lands to the last man. They fortified the only path to their land that passed along the Psou River with the debris of boulders and felled trees. Firing their flintlock rifles and throwing boulders and logs at the Russian army, the Aibga managed to hold their ground against the unit of General Shatilov for four days. As Grand Duke Nikolaevich admitted, Shatilovs unit suffered heavy casualties. Women defended their homeland along with the men. One of the eyewitnesses to these clashes, Ivan Averkiev wrote: When taking over Aibga, two girls came out with rifles on their shoulders that were determined to defend their homes ashes (Journal Kavkaz, # 74, 1866).

But all this resistance was in vain, as another strong unit was moving around Aibga. After a fierce fight, this Russian army emerged on the mountainous plateau where the defenseless villages of the mountaineers were located and destroyed these settlements on May 12. On May 18, Shatilovs unit joined with the unit that destroyed the villages in Aibga Gorge and passed on to Akhchipsou. The remaining Aibga started their final descent to the shores of the Black Sea where they would embark upon Turkish ships and boats. The defeat of the Aibga disheartened their neighbors. As Abkhaz historian Georgy Dzidzaria wrote: This military campaign decided the fate of all other mountainous Abkhaz tribes, too. All the Akhchipsu with their families and belongings left their homes and started to move to the shores of the sea, following the Aibga (Dzidzaria, Muhajirs and the Problems of Abkhaz History of the 19th Century, 1975).

By May 20, all four Russian military units joined in the center of the cleansed land of the Akhchipsu, called Gubaadvy, currently known as Krasnaya Polyana and sometimes referred to incorrectly as Kbaada or Kbaade. Gubaadvy consists of two plateaus that are connected with each other by a small pass. The plateau is situated at 1,730 meters above sea level and is surrounded by high mountains from all sides. This remote place lost among the high mountains was destined to become the place of the final celebration of the end of Caucasus War. A Russian military parade took place there on May 21, 1864, in the presence of the Caucasus governor, Grand Duke Nikolaevich.

Yet, the mountaineer tribes did not stop their resistance even after this. Russian forces invaded the lands of the upper Abkhaz (a.k.a. Abazin) tribes of Pskhu and Kudzh. These small tribes could not hold out against a regular army and an Abkhaz militia under the command of Duke Mikhail Shervashidze, fought alongside the Russians, and advanced from the south. The Pskhu were driven into the Khabyu and Gunurkhva valleys, where some 800 people from the Aibga and Akhchipsu tribes tried to hide. Mostly these were old people, women and children. After they refused to go to Turkey, their homes, stocks of corn and corn flour were destroyed; for resisting the deportation, their cattle, 220 units, were appropriated by the army (From the report by the commander of the military in Abkhazia to Kutaisi general-governor, August 20, 1864, Central State Archive of Georgia, case 63, sheets 256258).

The introduction to A. Fonvilles work, The Last Year of Circassias War for Independence, notes, They [the Russian military] had to exterminate half of the Circassians in order to force the other half to put down their arms. But those who fell from deprivation and harsh winters that were spent under the snowstorms in the woods and on the bare rocks hardly comprised a tenth of all who died. The colonial Russian forces hunted after those Circassians and Abkhaz who refused to relocate to the Ottoman Empire and hid in remote areas. According to a decree issued by Grand Duke Nikolaevich, a special unit was established to clean out remote plateaus between the Tuapse River and the Gagry Ridge of Circassians. The unit consisted of 12 companies and one hundred soldiers. In order to prevent the Circassians from running over to the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, in the upper reaches of the Pshish and Pshekha rivers, two other such units were stationed (Report of the commander of the Russian army in the Caucasus, June 14, 1865, Central State Military History archive, fund 38, inventory 30/286, case 21, sheets 12).

Even if several dozen families or homeless predators (abreks) are able to hide away from our military, we will not need another military expedition for their extermination, a reporter for the magazine Kavkaz cheerfully wrote in the summer of 1864.

Unable to avoid these final sweeping actions by the Russian forces, the Circassians valiant military resistance finally came to a close. Caught between a hammer and an anvil, deprived of long-awaited military support from Europe, and unable to halt Tsarist Russias determination to drive the Circassians into the Black Sea, the final chapter of Circassian resistance came to a close. Ironically, Russias earlier defeat in the Crimean war had actually created the reverse effect in the Caucasus and fueled Moscows taste for expansionthe Treaty of Paris of 1856 thus became a death warrant for the peoples of the Caucasus as the Western powers were unable to check Russias advance in this region. For the Circassians, that chapter in their 150-year struggle ended with their defeat on the fields of Krasnaya Polyana, the same site where the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will take place in February 2014.

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