The Balkars and Karachay are a Turkik people who arrived and settled in Central Caucasus around the XII century. Although having their own Turkik languages, they adapted to local Caucasian culture – dressing, dance, customs; also, values like hospitality and honor, prevalent throughout the Caucasus, are essential part of Karachay-Balkar culture.
Karachay-Balkar language is divided in 2 dialects: Karachay-Baksan-Chegem and Balkar. The Kumyks, their ethnic cousins who speak the same language live in today’s Dagestan.
The Balkars live in Kabardino-Balkaria republic, mostly in the high mountainous regions which are also some of the highest in the world.
The Karachay live in neighboring Karachay-Cherkessia, at the foothills of the Caucasus mountains.
The Karachays and Balkars are followers of Islam.
Both the Karachay and Balkars were deported in 1943-1944 at Stalin’s order, together with the Ingush, Chechens and Digor people (muslim minority of North Ossetia). Like all other deportees, many perished due to unbearable conditions (cold, starvation, hard labor, lack of medical help etc). The survivors were allowed to return in 1957 after Stalin’s death.
A particularly bloody episode took place in 1942, when over 1.500 villagers were killed in Upper Balkaria by NKVD – Stalin’s secret police.
TV report on the Balkar people
Karachay dance called “Abezek”
Dance ensemble “Balkaria” live performance
Balkar dance (couple)
Upper Balkaria is a historic region and rural settlement in Cherek district, Kabardino-Balkaria republic. It is located in Cherek-Balkaria valley of the Western Caucasus mountains and it’s rich in medieval dwellings, stone towers and castles which make up the archaeological and tourist complex “Upper Balkaria“. Sadly, most were destroyed by the Soviets after the deportation of the Balkars in 1944.
In 1942, the NKVD (Stalin’s secret police) lynched up to 1.500 people in 2 villages from the Cherek valley in Upper Balkaria – mostly women, children and elderly, as the men were fighting on the front.
In 1944, the Balkars were deported by Stalin to Central Asia and about half of them died due to the unbearable conditions. The survivors returned in 1957 after Stalin’s death but found most of their villages destroyed.
Ruins of Kyunlyum village and its rock battle tower
Medieval pagan crypts
Medieval pagan crypts
Amirkhana rock fortress
Boziev castle ruins
View from rock castle
Kyunlyum village 1936 before deportation and destruction – although some towers has been destroyed by Tsarist armies one century earlier, the residences were still intact. They were blown up by soviets in 1944.
Balkar women of Kyunlyum
Chegem river valley is situated in the Central Caucasus mountains, in Chegemsky district of Kabardino-Balkaria.
Tyrnyauz (which means”narrow gorge” in Balkar language) is a small city located at the foothills of western Caucasus mountains, 40 km from Elbrus mountain (the highest of Europe).
It first appeared on the map as settlement built around Tyrnyauzsky mine, which is no longer operating and sits in ruins. In 1955, the settlement received town status.
In July 2000, a succession of three massive mudslide virtually buried the city, but the media reports on the incident were scarce – a move taken most probably in order to not discourage tourism in the area. The authorities were blamed for negligence in alerting the local population. More info here Rescue Workers Fear Mudslide Death Toll Could Rise
The town’s infrastructure was restored quickly as it is the main stopover on the way to Elbrus mountain.