By Andrew Andersen

Кавказские горы



Scytho-Vainakh warrior ca. 400 BC

Reconstruction by Angus McBride







Armored Vainakh warrior ca. 1600

Reconstruction by Angus McBride










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(Young Experts’ Think Tank) Chechnya






EARLY HISTORY:           ca 900 BC – 1555 AD

(Historical maps available here)


Very little is known about the early period of Chechen History. Their background is unclear and surrounded by legends rather than historical documents. The ancestors of modern Chechens were the Vainakh-speaking tribes (Durdzukians and Didoyans) that hypothetically inhabited the Northern slopes of the Caucasus range since the 9th century BC. Ancient Georgian sources state that some Vainakh tribes occupied certain areas to the South of the main Caucasus range where they were playing a significant role in the forming of ancient Iverian kingdoms. During the early Iron Age, (7th century BC) the territory of modern Chechnya and surrounding areas were conquered by the Scythians and Sarmathians. Scytho-Sarmathians dominated the area until the end of the 3d century BC.


Since the beginning of the 3d century BC, the Alan-speaking tribes seceded from the Scytho-Sarmatian confederation and became the dominant player in North Caucasia until the devastating invasions of the Huns (4th century AD) and Avars (6th century AD). The 5th and the 6th centuries were marked by the beginning of the spread of Christianity among the Alans and Vainakhs.


(Click here  for more information about Christianity among the Vainakhs)


Between 652AD and 790AD the Vainakhs successfully defended their lands from the Arab invaders from the south and the Khazars from the north, forming a new tribal confederation with the Alans who won supremacy over other tribes of North Caucasia and by the end of the 11th century managed to form a semi-state structure that some historians even tend to call “the Alan kingdom”.  In 1080 the Vainakh tribe of Kistin successfully repelled the invasion of Seljuk Turks who came from Central Asia and established a short-lived but vast empire covering most of the Middle East and the Caucasus. Between 1184 and 1240 most of the Vainakh tribes were nominally incorporated into a strong Georgian kingdom. The Georgian Queen Tamar organized them into three provinces, namely Didoyeti, Durdzuketi and Tusheti. However, Georgians did not interfere with the Vainakh lifestyle and tribal structure, rather finding satisfaction in collecting tribute and recruiting soldiers from Georgia's northernmost provinces.


During the middle of the 13th century the Georgian kingdom was defeated and partially destroyed by the Mongols. The Vainakh lands to the north of the Caucasus range were formally incorporated into the Mongol Kypchak Empire while those to the south of the range remained within the kingdom of Georgia but in fact were dominated by Mongolian occupational troops. However, the Mongol domination over the Vainakhs was nominal and in fact had no or little influence on their lifestyle. In the 14th century, the whole Caucasus was devastated by the hordes of Tamerlane. The Vainakhs managed to repel that invasion and remained outside the short-lived Tamerlane's empire.


The 15th century was marked by the decline and disintegration of the Georgian kingdom, as the Vainakhs of North Caucasia became politically independent of Georgian kings. On the contrary, the Transcaucasian Vainakhs (Tsova-Tushins and most of the Kists) became more and more integrated into political life of the new-formed Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kaheti. Disintegraton of Georgia. As well as the fall of Bysantian Empire (1453) and Genoese Black Sea coastal colonies (1475) significantly diminished Christian influence in North Caucasia.


Between 1475 and 1555 North Caucasian Vainakhs were successfully manipulating between Ottoman Turkey, Khanate of Crimea and the Astrakhan Khanate. That period was marked by swift Islamisation of the Vainakhs, caused not only by political influence of the new Islamic regional powers but also by the century-old competition of Roman Catholic and Georgian Orthodox versions of Christianity as well as Vainakh tribal Paganism. The beginning of the 17th century was marked by further expansion of the Ottoman empire growing into the dominant power in the area.


Vainakhs living both to the north and to the south of the Caucasus range, were united into several tribes, among them Aukh, Didoy, Durdzuk, Ichker, Kachkalyk, Kistin, Michik, Tushin, etc… Each tribe subdivided further into clans (or teyps in Vainakh). That clan system never disappeared from Vainakh / Chechen life and is as strong nowadays as it was 800 years ago.


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