Posted: June 30, 2012 in History


Before Timur’s invasion, Ichkeria was populated by Vainakhs (Chechens and Ingushs)  and Turks, descendants of Kichak-Polovtzi, who fled from the Mongols into the mountains. After the march of the Central Asia emir it was devastated and its inhabitants were largely annihilated.  Small pockets of inhabitants were sparse.

A large part of the names of  northern Ichkeria  and the Jalka river valley is traced to Turk origins. This is evident from the names of Chechen villages: Agyashta (in the woods), Egyashbatoi (woods endge), Geldigen (aliens), Germchiga (small castle), Tevzana (mountainous river, gorge), the mountain of Pyut-Kort ( pasture), the river Base (estuary), Jalkh (lazy one), Guyms (lukeward), Akhsai (white river), Yaman-Su (bad water), Iskayark ( internal) and others. The very origin of Ichkeria (Turk – Ichkiri) is traced to the Turk language and before the 20th century, the name had no currency among Chechens. It is translated as ”internal space of something”.

The Chechen language itself bears consequences of contacts with the Turk ethnos and includes many words Turk origin (atagya, guym, gyullakh, gyundalgi, itu, yovlakh, yish, kyuzga, okhlu, yurgya and many others).The fact that descendants of Polovtzi made up the Turk component of Chechnya is evident from the area’s origins, which is actually a Kypchak branch of Turk languages.

Reconqista (Re-conquest )

This name is not accidental. This term was used in Spanish history to denote recapture of Spanish lands previously conquered by Arabs. In our case the population of Ichkeria could be viewed as return by Vainakhs of their original territories, which belonged to them from the bronze ages. For a little more than a century and a half these lands were largely inhabited by Turk tribes, whose traces remained in the names of the region. The Vainakhs, of course, did not wipe out the former masters of these lands. The mountaineers never waged such ruthless wars. Familial lineages of some Ichkeri are traceable to the progenitors of Turk origin. There are even names of Avari origin and they are traceable for 2-3 generations. Naturally  the process of assimilation of the remnants of the previous  population was limited to just one or two decades. The vast majority of original names has Vainakh roots.

At the end of the XIV and the beginning of the XV centuries with the departure of Tamerlan’s army, Vainakhs from the   mountainous communities of Chaberloi , Nashkhoi and other places, moved into semi-devastated Ichkeria. The Chechen lore relate the whole process of the region’s population in great detail and with accuracy.

Before moving into Ichkeria, the Chechen people number 59 tribes (teips), located to the east and west of Argun ( ”The Chechen Tribe” by U. Laudayev, 1872, p.11). The Chechens called these territories Dain-Yartash – paternal villages.

Quite intriguing  is another matter. Some of the villages in Ichkeria have identical names as the villages and areas in Nashkha. Is this a coincidence. Hardly. An ancient Chechen custom should be recalled here according to which the land remains in private property of the tribe (teip) or family, even if they do not reside on it and till it. Possibly, the Chechens, who for various reasons left their lands, remained their nominal owners. With Tamerlan’s raids on Ichkeria , the Chechens were able to return and settle on their property. Such conclusion dovetails with the Chechen tradition to give names to the villages. All the villages set up in later time, have a formula – the founder plus Yurt or Evla. For example, Ali-Yurt, Alkhan-Yurt and so forth, or a family name. – Benoi-Yurt, Belgatoi and others. All the ancient villages of Ichkeria bear either Turk names, or names that are so ancient that they hardly yield any explanation. Moreover, all the names of villages are formed in the original form — – Bena , Tzyaontara, Tallara, Khorocho, Kurchala, Engana and so forth. Many are formed as designations of the places well-known to Chechens – Yallra, (winter pasture), Tzyontara (holy place), Gyordala (a place of weapon-makers), Sirdi-Mokh (saber-bearers). And only a small part bears the names of the founders – ezkhalla, Albag-Evla, Cherma. And the names do not have Vyusu-Yurt, Molkh-Evla, Ki-ki kheli and others. Why is it that such renowned ancestors did not leave their names in the toponimics of the region? It is all very simple: they might have been just inheritors of the lands which they repossessed what previously belonged to them 5-6 generations back, rather than the founders. This is only a hypothesis, which needs to be properly researched.

The main core of the settlers was made up of residents of the Nashkha community, located on the territory of the modern Galanchjski region. Well protected by natural conditions and powerful fortifications, Nashkha never suffered from the invaders. Nashkha population increased constantly, which eventually resulted in overpopulation and scarcity of lands. The excess population needed to look for other places of habitation. Naturally, it was no surprise for the residents of the western part of mountainous Chechnya that there was plenty of land to the east of them. But they stopped of resolute action in previous years for reasons of military and political nature. Ichkeria was part of the state of Simsim.

According to Chechen lore, a large part of Ichkeria belonged to Avari Khans and was sparsely populated. The Khans were interested in increasing the tax-paying population, and therefore by benefits and various concessions sought to attract as many people as possible. The Chechens voluntarily joined the Avar Khans, as in keeping with their mutual agreement they took part in his military campaigns and received part of the loot.

According to lores, the first to arrive in Ichkeria were representatives of the Dishni tribe. The lands they began to inhabit, belonged to Sadoi and Peshkhoi princes. Orseli, the settlers’s leader, challenged the lands’ owners. In the battle at mount Elan-jyarankort, the Dishnis routed the troops of the Sadoi and Peshkhoi princes. In memory of this victory, Orseli set up a large wooden cross on this mount. The victorious settlers grabbed these lands and laid out villages Elistanja and Dishni-Vedana.

Soon Biki, who had set up the village of Khorocho upstream Khulkhulau moved into Ichkeria. The resettlement was accompanied by bloody clashes with neighboring tribes, who also laid claims on these lands. Andians from the Zilo village permanently bothered Khorochoyevs by their raids and stealing of cattle. In response, Biki raided Andian settlements. In order to safeguard themselves, Khorochoyevs put up a two-tier tower at mount Schenberd. The construction of the tower did not resolve their strife. Then the two sides decided to end their strife over the land by horse-riding. Two riders, one Khorochoyev and the other a Ziloyev, would start riding from their respective village toward each other. The point where they meet would be the border line of their communities. The riders met near lake Charkhi- Yam, where the arguing sides decided to delineate the border, declaring Khyarame -a no-man’s land.

The founder of the Chermoi village became Chermi who came originally from the Chaberloyev community. In search of hunting grounds, he stopped on a mount, not far from the village of Khorocho; he liked the place and moving here with his family, he became the progenitor of a new tribe (teip) – Chermoi.

The main bulk of the settlers originated from the Nashkha community. The migration was begun by Molkh – the chief of Nashkhoi mekh-khela. Molkh with his name move to Tzyesi and later to Ichkeria, where he founded the Ersan village. Molkh’s wife’s brother, Mayasha son, migrated to the north of him, originating the beginning of the Egyashbat village.

Molkha’s grandson, Tinin Vuysu originated the village of Tzyontara. Here descendants began to proliferate and settle  nearby areas. Vuyusu himself stayed behind in Tzyontara and the other brother settled on the ridge of Gurduk, while the younger settled the village of Engan. One of Vyusu’s son – Eji — stayed in Tzyontara and the other brother settled – Tezi settled in the village of Tez-khayalla, and the younger brother became the progenitor of the settlers in the Albag Evla village Moreover, his grandson of Vyusu, Koysteg, founded the Kumyk settlement of Kosteki.

Two brothers arriving from Nashkhoi, settle the village of Kurchala. Subsequently the newcomers from Kurchaloi founded two villages – Gendargan and Gyun.  Ayat who arrived from Nashkhi occupied the gorge of Jagyain, where a new village – Ait-Khayalla.

Not only Chechens but other ethnic people arrived in Ichkeria. Kabardini Gezi, appealed to Vyusu and received a land plot from him, which became known as Gezin-Chu.

Apart from the enumerated settlements, a number of large village communities appeared, which included Belgyata, Bena, Bilta, Gyordala, Zandakya, Sesana, Shirdi-Mokh, Shona, Ena-khalla, Yalkhoi and Yallara. All of them represented different tribes. According to lore, all of them arrived from the Nashkha community and settled Ichkeria’s territory simultaneously. The time difference in settling the villages did not exceed 1-2 generations.

According to scribes, the Chechens who were reinforced with the arrival of new inhabitants, stopped paying taxes to the Avari Khans. Unfortunately, it is unknown for certain when the split between Ichkeria and Avaria occurred but it is certain that that by the mid-XVI century, the Ichkeri tribes represented the Nokhchimokh union of communities independent of the Avari Khan.

All this data is based on Chechen lore and nevertheless it reflects the true picture of Ichkeria’s settlement.  The Nart epos of Chechens is quite consistent with this narrative. Thus, according to lore, Narts lived in the Nojai-Yurt region. The Chechens who arrived from Nashkhoi, gave them 7-days notice to leave the land they occupied. When the Narts refused to comply with this demand, the Chechens forced them out across the Terek on the 8-th day. Thus in the XVth century, the Chechens once again won over and resettled their original territories which they forfeited previously.


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