14 January 2004, 12:55

An Essay On the History of the Vainakh People. On the origin of the Vainakhs

The Vainakhs, as it is already known to the reader, are the ancient natives of the Caucasus. It is noteworthy, that according to the genealogical table drawn up by Leonti Mroveli(1) the legendary forefather of the Vainakhs was "Kavkas", hence the name Kavkasians, one of the ethnicons met in the ancient Georgian written sources, signifying the ancestors of the Chechens and Ingushes. As appears from the above, the Vainakhs, at least by name, are presented as the most "Caucasian"people of all the Caucasians (Caucasus - Kavkas - Kavkasians) in the Georgian historical tradition. According to the version of Leonti Mroveli Kavkas and his brother Lek (ethnarch of the Leks - common name of the mountainous Daghestan peoples) migrated from Transcaucasia to the uninhabited Northern Caucasus and occupied the territory from the mountains to the mouth of the Volga. According to archaeological data in the Bronze Age the ancient Caucasian tribes inhabited not only the mountains of the Northern Caucasus but also the lowland going far into the steppe.

As to the Chechens and Ingushes proper, they have various legends concerning their origin, two of which are most widespread that have come down to us in different versions. According to one of these legends the ancestor of the Vainakhs was a stranger who had to flee from Shama (Syria) to avoid a blood feud. As the saying goes, the stranger at first lived in Georgia and then settled in the Chechen Upland, in the locality of Nashkh. This legend is also interesting for containing the consideration that the Vainakhs come from the South. As regards the Syrian origin, it is evidently a late detail and is bound up with the spread of Islam. Ethnogenetic legends of other Caucasian peoples professing Islam also contain the versions considering them to be of Arabian extraction.

According to another Chechnyan story all Chechens come from the locality of Nashkh; hence the name "Nakhcho" the Chechens gave themselves. All "pure" Chechen kins (taipes) assert that they have come from Nashkh. It is also said that in the village of Nashkh there was a huge copper kettle riveted of separate copper plates, on which the names of all Chechen taipes and tukhums (allied tribes) were engraved. If anybody started an argument about the "purity" of any Chechen tribe, people could go to Nashkh and prove the correctness or incorrectness of the consideration.

When discussing the matter of the origin of Vainakhs it is also very important to take into consideration their genetic affiliation to the eastern branch of the Caucasian ethnolinguistic family. According to some scientists the tribes speaking the eastern-Caucasian (Vainakh-Daghestan) and the languages cognate to them, inhabited not only the eastern part of the Northern Caucasus and Transcaucasia but also the territory of Front Asia, right up to Zagros, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor, quite possibly, penetrating into certain islands of the Mediterranean(2). In particular, the thesis of kinship of ancestors of the Vainakh-Daghestan peoples with the Hurrits and Urarts, the cultural nations of ancient times who formed the powerful states of the Ancient East in the 2nd - 1st millenia B.C., carries more conviction. As it is supposed the proto-Hurrit-Urartian and other eastern-Caucasian languages are related to each other nearly the same way as the ancient written languages of the Indo-European family.

Eventually the Vainakh-Daghestan tribes, living in the south of the Caucasus Range, almost completely merged with the other nations. The people who lived mainly in the north-western part of the Caucasus retained their ethnic identity. It was here that the Vainakh ethnic group had been formed which much later was divided into the Chechen and Ingush peoples. In different historical periods the Iranian-speaking tribes, as well as those who came from Daghestan, Georgia and Turkic peoples assimilated here with the Vainakhs.


(1)  The work of Leonti Mroveli: "The history of the Georgian Kings"dealing with the history of Georgia and the Caucasus since ancient times to the 5th century A.D., is included in medieval code of Georgian annals "Kartlis Tskhovreba".

(2)  It is understood that nations and tribes of other language system also lived within the mentioned limits at that time.

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