Search for a common North Caucasian identity : the mountaineers' attempts for survival and unity in response to the Russian rule
Throughout the history, the North Caucasian region has hosted a number of peoples, whose numbers are occasionally limited to some hundreds, and whose mother tongues are quite different from each other. Beyond this ethnic and linguistic complexity, the religious pattern has been an additional factor to complicate the matters. Nevertheless, despite the existence of this great diversity, all the inhabitants of the North Caucasus have come to share the same way of life, traditions, customs, and even the costume dictated by harsh mountain conditions and thus they are unified by broad cultural similarities. It is believed that all these commonalities have created a mode of life, or a common identity encompassing the peoples of the North Caucasus called Gortsy or the Mountaineer identity. As a consequence, the Russians define all these peoples of the North Caucasus with the general name of Mountaineer and then it was accepted even by themselves. These peoples, until the arrival of the Russians to the region, had continued a life in an atomized state and never felt it necessary to form a common, comprehensive organization or state. The feeling of freedom, culture and the iv common way of life were transformed to a conscious bond by the emergence of an alien power –the Russians. By the late 16th century, the long-lasting struggle of the Mountaineers with the Russians had begun. The main concern of this study is, thus, to scrutinize the North Caucasian Mountaineers’ long-lasting struggle of establishing North Caucasian identity and independence, inside and outside their homelands. This thesis, which aimed to analyze the stages of this struggle, intends to be the first comprehensive study on the North Caucasian struggle of independence in this length.