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Thread: Peoples Of The Caucasus

  1. #1
    J Man
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    Peoples Of The Caucasus

    I am starting this thread to discuss the various ethnic groups that are indigenous to the Caucasus as I have always found this region of the world to be very interesting. Human beings settled the Caucasus region a very long time ago and human migration into the Caucasus region continued for quite some time as well right up until modern times really. In this topic I wish to focus on the history and origins of the various aboriginal peoples of the Caucasus such as the Nakh peoples and Dagestanis (Northeast Caucasians), Circassians (Northwest Caucasians) and Kartvelians (Georgians). Many also consider Armenians to be native to the south Caucasus area as well although some may dispute this I am not completely sure. Also discussion about later comers such as Turkic peoples and Slavs is welcome. Here are some links to get things started.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peoples_of_the_Caucasus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakh_peoples

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adyghe_people

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kartvelian_peoples

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  3. #2
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    Some maps of the Caucasus have certainly done their rounds on various forums. I've sought out some of the more specific and fresher ones:

    North Caucasian and Kartvelian Branches In The North Caucasus




    Recent Population Movements In The Caucasus 1988-2004)


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  5. #3
    J Man
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    ^Those are some excellent maps indeed. It is good to understand where in the Caucasus certain languages are spoken since they may relate to very old population movements and then at times to other more recent movements. Also it is very interesting to see that within the Caucasus certain genetic markers seem to match very well with certain linguistic/ethnic groups. For example Nakh speakers such as the Chechens and Ingush are dominated by Y-DNA haplogroup J2a3b* (old J2a4b*). The other Northeast Caucasian speaking peoples of Dagestan are dominated by haplogroup J1*. Northwest Caucasian speakers such as the Adyghe (Circassians) are dominated by haplogroup G2a while Kartvelian speakers such as Georgians seem to be a pretty good majority mix of G2a, J2a and J1 types. There is also a minority presence of other haplogroups such as L that are found in smaller yet significant frequencies in the Caucasus. These three haplogroups that is G2a, J2a and J1 account for the vast majority of indigenous Caucasian Y-DNA lineages and tend to correspond quite well with certain language families. Dienekes has a nice write up about this.

    http://dienekes.blogspot.ca/2011/05/...-caucasus.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by J Man View Post
    ^Those are some excellent maps indeed. It is good to understand where in the Caucasus certain languages are spoken since they may relate to very old population movements and then at times to other more recent movements. Also it is very interesting to see that within the Caucasus certain genetic markers seem to match very well with certain linguistic/ethnic groups. For example Nakh speakers such as the Chechens and Ingush are dominated by Y-DNA haplogroup J2a3b* (old J2a4b*). The other Northeast Caucasian speaking peoples of Dagestan are dominated by haplogroup J1*. Northwest Caucasian speakers such as the Adyghe (Circassians) are dominated by haplogroup G2a while Kartvelian speakers such as Georgians seem to be a pretty good majority mix of G2a, J2a and J1 types. There is also a minority presence of other haplogroups such as L that are found in smaller yet significant frequencies in the Caucasus. These three haplogroups that is G2a, J2a and J1 account for the vast majority of indigenous Caucasian Y-DNA lineages and tend to correspond quite well with certain language families. Dienekes has a nice write up about this.

    http://dienekes.blogspot.ca/2011/05/...-caucasus.html
    One point we must bear in mind is that language does not equal genetic heritage which does not equal material culture.

    Certainly, at present, specific Y-DNA Haplogroup subclades have a very tight correlation with language (e.g. Ossetian with G2a1a-P18). The ancestral languages of Ossetian, namely Late Indo-Iranian, likely did not carry this subclade based on distributions elsewhere. That the Iranic-speaking Ossetians carry Y-DNA G2a1a-P18 doesn't inform us of much concerning the manner it was introduced to them.

    Much of what is purported online, such as the association between the Maikop culture and Proto-Kartveli, is built on suppositions that are tied either out of convenience or the presumption of geographical continuity.

    The Caucasus is an extremely diverse physical knot of isolated villages and communities who speak different dialects, let alone languages. The first chart I posted shows the linguistic diversity within North Caucasian and omitted the plethora of other languages that have or continue to exist there.

    It is the lack of direct hard evidence of a relationship between any Caucasian language and Y-DNA subclades dating back specifically to earlier times that makes me hesitant to presume any one of them is a diagnostic marker for a given language.

    On that note, I've found an interesting online publication by S.A. Arutiunov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences Caucasian Studies Department, on the ethnic developments in the North Caucasus. The entire article can be found in the link provided, while the section concerning Ossetians is shown below:

    Ethnicity in the Caucasus: Ethnic Relations and Quasi-Ethnic Conflicts
    S.A. Arutiunov
    To the east of Kabardin-Balkaria lies North Ossetia, the scene of some of the worst ethnic clashes in the northern Caucasus. Ethnic disputes in the region date back to the 1950s, when Chechens and Ingushes were repatriated to a newly reformed dual administrative region of Chechnya-Ingushetia. Unfortunately, a chunk of the Ingushes’ traditional homeland was not included. Thousands of Ingushes nevertheless settled in this core of their ethnic territory, now the Prigorodnyi Raion of the North Ossetian ASSR, and attempted to maintain a power base grounded in customary law (adat), while the remaining Ossetians and Russian Cossacks used the legal basis of Soviet law as a thinly veiled policy of discrimination. There were numerous ethnic clashes in the region from the 1960s onward. Riots in the capital, Vladikavkaz, in 1981 were so severe that the army had to be called in -- although this was largely unknown to the outside world. Renewed conflict in 1992 saw the burning and plundering of Ingush property and the eviction of 60,000 Ingushes from North Ossetia. When combined with refugees from the Chechen War, over half of the current population of Ingushetia are refugees.

    Ossetia as an ethnic territory consists of two parts: North Ossetia (or Ossetia-Alania), which is part of the Russian Federation, and South Ossetia, which is de jure part of Georgia but de facto an independent republic supported by Russian peacekeepers. South Ossetia has avoided any significant Russification or Georgification, maintaining a traditional cultural identity as well as an agriculture and cattle breeding economy. The territory is poor, but self-supporting. In contrast, North Ossetia is highly industrialized, urbanized, very significantly Russified, and the rural areas maintains Soviet-era forms of organization. Theoretically, Ossetians dream of reunification, but culturally northerners and southerners are very different and nurture many mutual prejudices.

    Among all of the nations of the northern Caucasus, Ingushes and Chechens suffer from the most ethnic conflict. They feel a common cultural bond and only the prestige of Ingush President Ruslan Aushev has prevented Ingushes from large-scale participation in the Chechen War or retaliation against Ossetians. The history of the Chechen War of 1994-96 is well known, but ironically it is not significant to consideration of future ethnic relations. Chechens on the whole, as well as Ingushes, do not harbor an inherent hatred towards Russians. The countless anti-Russian actions that occurred from 1991 to 1994 were not motivated by inherent hatred, but rather resulted from a generally chaotic political and social period.

    Of much more importance for both Ingushetia and Chechnya are the territories for economic development. Ingushetia has been declared an economic free zone. This helps to some extent, but their economic situation is particularly difficult: the territory is overcrowded with refugees for which the largely agricultural economy can provide few jobs. While it is too early to predict the economic future of Chechnya, it is likely to evolve as a dual economy -- urban areas will be reestablished as oil-based industrial economies while rural regions will remained laden with small-scale agriculture. Combined with the increasing influence of Islam, this will create serious social and cultural cleavages between the modern, industrial large cities and the tradition-oriented rural life of the southern highlands. That this split will largely correspond with teip (clan) differences indicates the crucial role of social stratification within Caucasian ethnic groups.

    Thus in the area of the Central Caucasus, only Ingush-Ossetian relations display a deep mutual enmity. Peaceful coexistence, as such, may only be possible through strict separations of the two groups into their respective territories (although a return of part of the Prigorodnyi Raion and its resettlement by Ingushes is also a necessary prerequisite of any coexistence). In all other cases, differences between various segments of the same ethnic group may be more decisive.
    [Link]

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  9. #5
    J Man
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    ^You are correct that language does not equal genetic heritage which does not equal material culture. It is just interesting to see that in the Caucasus among the indigenous ethnic groups there does seem to be a significant correlation between language and certain Y-DNA haplogroups.

    The Ossetians seem to be descended mainly from indigenous Caucasians who adopted the language of the Iranic Alans at some point in the past and underwent a language shift and cultural change as a result. It is hard to say exactly which Y-DNA haplogroups were carried by the very early Caucasians without ancient DNA testing but I would bet that all of the main haplogroups such as G2a, J2a and J1* were probably all present in significant frequencies. As you say the Caucasus is an incredibly diverse region an also very isolated. It is due to the isolation that certain Y-DNA haplogroups have come to peak frequencies there I believe.

    The ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus add to the interesting history of this region. I will read the article you linked above and comment later as I have to run for now.

  10. #6
    J Man
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    It does seem that of all the ethnic groups of the North Caucasus the Chechens are the ones who have fought the Russians the most and the most fiercely. Honestly I think it is pretty amazing that the Chechens actually defeated the Russians in the first Chechen war. I think the real strength of Chechen and Ingush cultures lies in their clan system. Of all the peoples of the Caucasus the Chechens may have the strongest love and want for freedom. It really is engrained in their culture. Here is a very interesting but short article about the Chechen clan system and it's use in modern warfare.

    http://cacianalyst.org/?q=node/353

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