Identification and Location. The Karachays inhabit the northern Caucasus in the Karachay-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast (AO) of the Stravropolski Krai, in the following districts (raions ): Karachay, Malo-Karachay, Zelenchuk, Ust'-Jegutin, and Prikuban. In 1990 the Karachay-Cherkess AO became an autonomous republic, the Karachay-Cherkess ASSR. Contemporary Karachay occupies three ecological zones. The first is the high mountain zone, Great Karachay, containing one of the major peaks of the Caucasus, Mount Elbruz (5,133 meters), rich alpine pastures, and the source of one of the major rivers of the western Caucasus, the Kuban. The second zone, the Little Karachay, is comprised of low mountains and hills, with a mild climate and land suitable for cultivation. The third zone consists of plains with a dry climate and winter pastures.
Demography. There were 55,000 Karachays listed in the 1926 census; this had increased to 125,800 by 1979.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Karachay language belongs to the Kipchak (Qïpchaq) or Northwestern Group of the Turkic languages. Specialists have noted numerous borrowings from the Ossetian language. In the past, when their language lacked a writing system, the Karachays used Arabic (also the language of instruction in the Muslim schools), whereas Russian was used for business purposes. (The first Russian school was opened in 1879.) A Karachay alphabet with Latin characters was devised in 1924 but was replaced in 1939 with a Cyrillic-based script. There is some discussion at present (1992) of returning to a Latin-based alphabet.
History and Cultural Relations
Various points of view exist in contemporary scholarship regarding the origin of the Karachays. Some think that the primary role was played by the Kipchaks or Polovtsians—groups which, under pressure from the Mongols in the thirteenth century, went into the mountains of the central Caucasus, where the Iranian-speaking Alans were living. Groups of Alans, assimilated by the Turkic Polovtsians, constituted the nucleus of the Karachay people. In the opinion of other scholars it was earlier Turkic-language groups that took part in the formation of the Karachay ethnic group: Hunns, Bulgars, and Khazars, who were living in the northern Caucasus in the ninth to twelfth centuries. The historical territory of the Karachays is located on the upper reaches of the Kuban: the settlements of Kart-Jürt, Uchkulan, Jazlïk, Khurzuk, and Duut. In the nineteenth century the Karachays began to migrate to lands on the middle course of the Kuban and its tributaries, such as the Teberdï River in Little Karachay. In the 1920s Karachays with little or no land began to settle on lands that had been assigned to them after the October Revolution. These are the settlements of Uchkeken, Tereze, El-Tarkach, Kichi-Balïk, Kumïsh, Sarï-Tüz, and others, a total of over twenty. In 1943 the Karachays were deported to regions of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, and their autonomous oblast was liquidated, not to be reestablished until 1957 as the Karachay-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast. After the return to the northern Caucasus, part of the Karachay community remained in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.
The deportations, many believe, dealt a serious blow to Karachay ethnic identity, weakening the transmission of language and culture. Another tragic consequence of this event was the destruction of Karachay graves and sacred sites by those who resettled the territory during the time of exile. With the rise of nationalism in the early 1990s, the deportations, as an event experienced by all strata of society, have considerable resonance as a rallying point for the Karachays.
The settlements in Great Karachay were large and included several quarters (tiyre ), each of them settled by the members of one familial-kinship commune. Houses in the settlements were laid out haphazardly, abutting closely on one another. There were no gardens. Livestock were kept at camps, that is, at the temporary dwellings of herdsmen outside the settlement, and, in summer, in the alpine pastures. Around the settlements were plow lands and irrigated hay fields. The settlements in Little Karachay were not as compact nor divided into patronymic quarters.
The dwelling, or yuy, was constructed of pine, which grows in abundance in the Karachay Mountains. The traditional dwelling was oblong and of cut timber. The roof had two sloping surfaces to allow the heavy rains to run off, and an earthen cover a meter thick. Along the front side the inhabitants attached an awning on supporting pillars. Light penetrated the dwelling through a smoke hole above the fire. Small windows could be closed with sliding shutters. Within the house there was a large space, to which was adjoined a storeroom for food. For heat there was a fireplace built into the wall, with a wide chimney fashioned out of withies and daubed with clay, which rose high above the roof. The more archaic sort of hearth consisted of an open fire that was kindled in the middle of the dwelling on the earthen floor. This hearth was used for a long time in the older buildings and in the camps. The inner space of the Karachay house was divided into two halves. Farther from the door, behind the hearth, was the honored male half (tër ), where the men and the male guests were seated (unless there was a special guest area or guest house, the qonoq yuy ). The bed or couch of the head of the family, resembling a wooden sofa with three backrests, was located here as well. Closer to the door was the half for women and children, where household jobs were performed and the dishes and kitchen utensils were kept. In a large undivided household, a special dwelling for the married sons with a separate exit into the yard was constructed next to the main dwelling in which the parents, unmarried young people, and children lived. This special building, the otoú, was used for sleeping and for preparing food, whereas the main house served as the center of family life.
Farm buildings were either separate from the dwellings or added on to them. As late as the nineteenth century, covered courtyards (bashï jabïlghan arbaz ) with towers, dwellings, and byres, like a closed-off polygon, were common. The closed-off courtyard was covered with an earthen roof supported by thick pillars; its main exit to the street had massive doors. The arbaz could be 4 or 5 meters high. There were no windows, although sometimes openings were made in the roof. Within these covered yards hay, firewood, wool, felt, felt coats, and other property were stored. During family festivals, dances and reception of guests took place there. The arbazes were occupied by individual family groups with many members and, when necessary, served as fortresses. Formerly livestock were kept in the arbaz during winter, for which it was divided with poles into sections, each serving for one type of livestock. In the nineteenth century separate houses for married sons began to be built, which did not always adjoin the arbaz.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century the traditional Karachay dwelling began to change. Large glass windows and wooden floors and ceilings were introduced, and within the house Russian cooking ranges replaced fireplaces. There also appeared a new type of house, built of wood and stucco with an iron roof, not infrequently two stories high with a porch running around the entire house. Even when the dwellings include a modern house with a gas stove, rural Karachay women do most of their cooking on the hearth, in the room with the earthen floor.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional economic base of the Karachays was distant pasturing of livestock (sheep, goats, cattle). In summer the livestock were taken to mountain pastures; during winter they were kept in the forested fields of the southern slopes or on pasturelands rented in the valleys. Livestock were sold in Transcaucasia. Dairy products were prepared at home—cheese, ayran (sour milk), kefir, and butter. Agriculture was weakly developed because of the inadequacy of arable land (used, in general, to raise barley and maize). Wheat was purchased in the valley settlements.
Clothing. Karachay clothing was, for the most part, of the traditional northern Caucasian type. One component of both female and male apparel was a tunic-shaped undershirt and underpants. Men's outer clothing included a quilted overcoat (qabdal ), beneath which was worn a long narrow collarless Circassian coat (chebken ) and cotton pants. The chebken was worn with a leather belt with silver ornamentation, from which a dagger was hung. Shepherds had a special outfit: a long felt cloak or wrap with a hood. In winter at the camps or on the road during rainfall they would don a felt greatcoat (jamchï ). The headgear (bërk ) was a sheepskin winter cap, and in summer a felt hat with a brim (except in bad weather, when a cloth cowl was worn). Footwear was fashioned out of rawhide, like a peasant bast shoe, with stitching down the middle of the sole. This shoe, the chabïr, was worn on the bare foot with a cushioning layer of dried grass. The more prosperous Karachays wore footwear of morocco leather with a soft sole. Women's outer clothing consisted of a dress worn open near the top, like the men's chebken, and a long gown, like a man's quilted coat. Women girded themselves with a silver belt (kämar ), although poorer folk wore a sash of ordinary weave. In winter the older women wore a sheepskin coat or a long quilted coat, whereas young women threw a warm shawl over their shoulders. Headgear varied according to social status and age. Women of the more privileged classes wore high velvet caps decorated with gold or silver stitching or low caps with flat tops. Over the cap they would tie a kerchief. After the birth of her first child the woman donned a black kerchief instead of a cap, tied around the head by a special knot (chokh ). Above this the woman put on another kerchief, the manner of binding depending on the time of year and her age. Their footwear was of rawhide, although upper-class women wore shoes with wooden supports. Depending on social class and condition, dresses were sewn from domestically produced cloth or expensive purchased fabric—calico, velvet, or silk. A costly holiday dress would be decorated with galloons, gold stitching, and silver bosses, and the caftan gown was fastened with silver clasps over the breast. At festivals women wore long embroidered appendages (jeng uch ) attached to the sleeves.
In the Soviet and post-Soviet periods clothing styles have modernized. Urban dwellers wear European-style clothing, as do men in the countryside. Rural teenage and adult women, without exception, cover their heads in public. Only the elderly women continue to wear the traditional black head scarf. It should be noted that rural Karachay women take great pride in their long, thick hair. They say that keeping the hair of girls very short, until about age 7, subsequently causes the hair to grow thick and strong.
Food. The products of animal husbandry always constituted the base of the traditional diet. Sour milk (ayran) from goats was especially prized. (Ayran was also prepared from cow's and sheep's milk.) It was eaten every day, either as a separate dish or with cornbread. Often the Karachays would crumble a flat cake into a cup of sour milk, to which they added sour cream, honey, or sugar. This dish was called chanchkhan. Ayran was also eaten with grits (kak ). Another popular dairy product was kefir (gïpï ). Cheese from sheep's, goat's, or cow's milk was an everyday food, and sour cream, curds, and cream could be purchased in the urban markets of the northern Caucasus. The Karachays also churned butter. They prepared a dish known as mereze from curds fried in butter, to which maize flour was added. Meat dishes were important in the diet, especially mutton but also beef and game. A traditional type of sausage was made from liver. Meat was boiled and fried, and mutton and goat meat were dried and jerked for winter consumption. Bread was prepared from wheat flour, maize, millet, and barley, which were purchased from the inhabitants of the valley settlements. Of these, wheat was the most prized. In addition to unleavened bread, a type of leavened dough (ekmek ) was commonly made, which the Karachays learned about from the local Russians. Pies (khïchïn ), filled with cheese, meat, beet greens with cheese, or potatoes with cheese, were often baked, as were short-bread pies stuffed with eggs, rice, and raisins. To celebrate the end of springtime field labor, the Karachays baked a special so-called spring pie (khïchaman khïchïnlï ). Wild fruits, berries, and herbs were collected in the forests. In the Soviet period store-bought goods such as groats, sugar, and candy entered everyday life. The traditional drink was the beerlike boza, which the women prepared from barley or zïntkhï, a type of millet.
Industrial Arts. The production of woolen goods, such as hats and shawls, remains an important cottage industry, performed by women in the home. Some Karachay women claim that in winter, when yard work is minimal, a woman can knit up to twenty-five shawls a month, using homespun hand-dyed wool. In 1991 a woolen shawl, sold through middlemen in urban markets, could fetch up to 250 to 300 rubles (the average Soviet monthly salary). The Karachays generally perceive themselves as a people distinguished by their diligence and industriousness.
Division of Labor. There was traditionally a gender division of labor: the men worked in animal husbandry, agriculture, and wood carving; women took care of the home, prepared dairy products, made felt and cloth, embroidered, wove galloons and other adornments, and raised the children. Only women cooked food, but only men were permitted to slaughter sheep.
Land Tenure. Land ownership was of several kinds: feudal, communal, mosque property (waqf ), and private. The prominent feudal families had large plots of land of up to 1,000 hectares. Arable lands were held by families and could be sold and inherited. Forests, pasturelands, and hay fields constituted communal property. At the present time there are state farms, collective farms, and privately held property.
Kin Groups and Descent. Each Karachay belongs to a familial kinship group (tukhum ), the members of which have a common name. Earlier the tukhum occupied a section of the settlement and had common hay fields and a cemetery. Marriages are forbidden within the tukhum. The members of the tukhum are obligated to help one another. A kinship group has its own brand for marking cattle and horses. If a member of the tukhum wanted to sell a plot of land, the land had to be offered first to other relatives within the tukhum, and only if they refused to buy it could it be offered to more distant relatives, neighbors, or strangers. Around the beginning of the twentieth century the tukhums lost the characteristics of a kinship grouping; existing social structures were dissolved and the functions of the tukhum—defense, distribution of land, and general decisions concerning the village—passed to the village commune, which maintained possession of the forests and specifically communal pasturelands. The lands of families that had left Karachay passed into the possession of the communes. The commune helped its members with irrigation projects, saw to defense, organized the upkeep of trade routes in the mountains, and so on. After the annexation of Karachay by the Russian Empire in 1828, the basic form of government became the assembly, replacing the popular gathering.
Kinship Terminology. Kinship in the patronymic group is reckoned in both the paternal and maternal lines. The kinship terminology is Turkic, the basic terms being ata (father), ana (mother), egech (sister), qarnash (brother); these could be combined to give atanï qarnashïdan tuughan (father's brother's son), ananï egechinden tuughan (mother's sister's son), and so on. Affinal kinship terminology, arising from marriage bonds between two families, uses the terms for blood relations with the addition of the word qayïn: qayïn ata (husband's or wife's father), qayïn qïz (husband's or wife's sister), and so forth.
Marriage. The marriageable age for men was regarded to be about 18 to 20, and for women, about 14 to 15; in practice, men married at age 22 to 23 and women at 18. An order of marriage was observed within the family: the younger did not marry before the elder. Several marriage arrangements were common: by agreement with payment of a dowry or bride-price (qalïn ), by abduction (without the woman's consent), or by elopement (with her consent, though staged as though it were an abduction). Agreements to marry contracted between underage people were not rare (including infant betrothals), and there were also leviratic marriages. The amount of the bride-price depended on social status. A large bride-price could ruin the groom's family and yet not enrich the family of the bride, since her father was obligated to spend a great deal on gifts and hospitality. On the other hand, giving a woman in marriage without a bride-price was considered shameful. During the courtship period negotiations took place concerning the amount of the bride-price and gifts to the bride's family—usually horses to be given to her father, brothers and "milk mother" (the woman who nursed her, not necessarily her real mother). The bride-price could also be paid in livestock, money, arms, and sometimes land. The bride was supposed to bring a dowry (berne ) to her new household: dress, plates and dishes, and domestic utensils. The parents selected the bride for their son, with trusted persons serving as matchmakers; the courtship could sometimes go on for years. When an agreement was reached, a meeting for formal betrothal was arranged, attended by persons empowered to act on behalf of the fiancé. During this meeting a marital pact was concluded according to Muslim ritual—in particular, the bride-price was agreed upon and the day of the wedding was set.
The wedding ceremony was presided over by the effendi in the presence of witnesses. For several days before the wedding designated persons notified the invited guests and prepared food: pies, beer, meat (mutton), and boza (a fermented beverage). Horsemen with banners met the bride at her home, although the groom himself did not participate in the procession. He met the bride at his home, where various rituals took place: a dagger was held above the bride's head, and she was showered with candy, money, and nuts. The bride, veiled by a silk kerchief, was taken to one corner of the room and remained standing there throughout the entire wedding. The wedding feast lasted three to seven days. Ten days later, the groom's family arranged a large banquet in honor of the bride's induction into their household. Before this banquet the bride was greeted by her husband's parents: the mother-in-law presented ritual pies, and the father-in-law a cup of boza or mead. One of the relatives cut off the bride's veil with the blade of his dagger, and she was again showered with candy, money, and nuts. The bride (kelin ) returned to her room; from then on she functioned as a member of the household.
The groom at first avoided his wife's parents: he kept out of their sight during the wedding and for a few days thereafter, remaining in the home of a relative or close friend. Only three or four days after the bride arrived in his home did the groom come to her, secretly at night, escorted by his friends. After that he still did not call his wife by name, addressing her by a nickname. She, for her part, observed certain obligatory avoidance practices: she could not speak to her husband's parents or elder relatives (in the case of her father-in-law, this prohibition might continue for a lifetime). After several months the bride, wearing a new dress, returned to her parents' home. Only after the son-in-law was invited by his wife's relatives to receive hospitality did his avoidance of them come to an end. The bride remained with her parents up to two years before settling permanently in her husband's household.
Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit was the nuclear family of parents and children; extended families comprised of three or four generations were rare. The head of such an extended family, the yuy tamada, was the oldest male (grandfather, father, oldest brother or son): he managed the economy and the family finances and assigned the family members their tasks. The activities of the head of the family were controlled by the family council, comprised of the men of the oldest generation and the oldest woman. The family group collectively owned the house, livestock, land, and movable property. The senior woman held considerable power within the household and was in charge of the preparation and distribution of food. Because traditions of hospitality constitute an important aspect of Karachay social relations, the senior woman plays a significant role in safeguarding family pride and honor.
Socialization. Education in necessary tasks was an important aspect of traditional upbringing. From the age of 6 children assisted their parents. Boys helped care for livestock, living in the camps with older men; girls helped with the housework and learned how to make kiyizï (cloth) and how to embroider. Great significance was attached to moral education, familiarity with Karachay traditions, the cultivation of attitudes of respect to elders, hospitality, and the ethical norms governing relations.
Social life was regulated by adat (customary law). Only in certain spheres—family and inheritance—was Muslim law (Sharia) given preference: the Sharia court reviewed cases of divorce, guardianship, division of property, and adoption. Adat allowed for punishment by fines and other sanctions: the guilty individual could be barred from the mosque, prevented from entering the home of a deceased person to pay condolences, excluded from attendance at village festivities, subjected to a general boycott, and deprived of Muslim burial rituals. In cases of murder, the commune attempted to reconcile the hostile parties and have the matter resolved by payment of a blood-price. After rendering this payment, the murderer—bareheaded, wearing a cerement over his shoulder, his hair and beard unshorn as a sign of mourning—crawled through the crowd of villagers to the parents of the victim. The latter, as a token of reconciliation, would cut his beard with scissors. If the victim's parents did not agree to the payment, then the murderer would try somehow to touch his lips to the nipple of a breast of the murdered person's mother (or of any woman of that family). Should he succeed in doing so, the murderer was considered a relative and the hostilities came to an end.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religion. The Karachays are Sunni Muslims. There was traditionally a mosque in every quarter of the village. The effendis were usually immigrants from Daghestan, Turks, or Kazan Tatars. Many pagan beliefs were maintained in the culture. There were cults associated with trees and stones, for example, the qarachaynï qadaú tashï ("fundamental stone of Karachay"), pieces of which are placed under the corners of a house during construction, and the sacred pine tree (jangïz terek ) near the village of Khurzuk (Narody Kavkaza, vol. 1, 263). The Karachays also made sacrificial offerings at the time of driving cattle to pasture, performed rituals to bring rain or sun, and believed in evil spirits (almastï ) and in Apsatï, the guardian of wild animals (a divinity widely known among the peoples of central and western Caucasia—the Abkhazians, Adygheans, Ossetes, and Svans). The Karachays also worshiped the god Aymush, the guardian of livestock. Among the old Karachay divinities are some deriving from an ancient Turkic stratum. The chief god, Teyri, can be equated with Tengri, the sky god of the ancient Turks. Traces of Christianity have also intermingled with pagan beliefs (e.g., the cults of saints Elias (Elia), Nicholas (Nikkol), and George (Gürge).
Arts. Among the applied arts, the most developed was the making of decorated felt with geometrical designs, stylized ram's heads, and horns. Floral designs were rare. The colors used included black, white, grey, and red. Other applied arts were gold stitching and the weaving of gold galloons for clothing. With the dissemination of factory-produced goods and the decline of traditionally made clothing, these highly artistic products passed out of the Karachay way of life. Today only the tradition of making decorated felt remains. Karachay folklore is diverse and includes the Nart epics (shared with neighboring tribes), tales, riddles, proverbs, and sayings. There is a genre of didactic poetry known as algïsh: in ancient times it functioned as a hymn to the god Teyri, but with time became part of the wedding ritual (the ritual of unveiling the bride in the presence of her parents-in-law). There are also several types of songs: work songs, prayers (for example appeals to Apsatï for a successful hunt), and the song of Inai to accompany the beating of felt. Epic songs recounted events in Karachay history, such as the struggle against the Crimean khan, Abazin-Kyzylbek raids, and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
Medicine. Magical techniques included various spells and rituals, but also more "rational" means such as herbal remedies. Dislocations and breaks were set with bone splints. Ayran was considered a remedy for burns, upset stomach, poisonous stings, and leprosy.
Death and Burial. The effendi would be invited to read the Quran to a dying person. The deceased was covered with a white covering from head to foot and transported from his or her bed on a large piece of felt. News of the death was circulated by a "harbinger of sorrow." Within the village everyone put aside their work and went to the home of the deceased to express their condolences and participate in the funeral. The women wept loudly, keened, tore their clothing, and scratched their faces. The body, wrapped in a felt coat or piece of felt, was carried on a special stretcher to the patronymic cemetery (the privileged classes practiced burial in vaults). If possible the burial occurred on the day of death, before sundown. Six or seven days later the first funeral repast was held, with another on the fifty-second day and then another a year after death. Mourners wore black and men let their beards grow for a year.
Akiner, Shirin (1986). Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union: An Historical and Statistical Handbook. 2nd ed., 202-207. London: KPI.
Bennigsen, Alexandre, and S. Enders Wimbush (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide, 201-204. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Borovkov, A. (1932). "Karachaevo-balkarskii iazyk" (The Karachay-Balkar language), lafeticheskii Sbornik (Leningrad) 7.
Lavrov, L. I. (1969). "Karachai i Balkariia do 30-x godov XIX veka" (Karachay and Balkaria up to the 1830s). Kavkazskii Etnograficheskii Sbornik (Moscow and Leningrad) 4.
Tekeev, K. M. (1989). Karachaevtsy i Balkartsy (The Karachays and Balkars). Moscow.
NATALIA G. VOLKOVA (Translated by Paul Friedrich and Jane Omrod)
"Karachays." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 14, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/karachays
"Karachays." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved July 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/karachays
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
The Karachai are a small Turkic nationality of the central North Caucasus. They speak a language from the Kypchak group of the Altaic language family and are closely related to the Balkars. They inhabit high-elevation mountain valleys of the upper Kuban and Teberda river basins, and their pastures once stretched up to the peaks and glaciers of the northern slope of the Great Caucasus mountain range.
Their remote origins can be traced to Kypchakspeaking pastoralist groups such as the Polovtsians, who may have been forced to take refuge high in the mountains by the Mongol invasions in thirteenth century. At some point before the sixteenth century, the Karachai came under the domination of the princes in Kabarda. The Crimean khanate claimed nominal jurisdiction over much of the northwest Caucasus and, correspondingly, Karachai territories, until its demise in 1782. Conversion to Islam took place gradually, gaining momentum during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A series of military incursions into their territories motivated several Karachai elders to sign a capitulation agreement and nonaggression pact with Russian forces in 1828. Although they were officially considered subjects of the tsar from that moment, various forms of resistance to Russian rule continued until 1864. A Karachai-Cherkess autonomous region was established in 1922 and in 1926 was divided into two distinct units. Karachai territories were occupied by the forces of Nazi Germany between July 1942 and January 1943. While many Karachai men served in the Red Army, others joined bandit and anti-Soviet partisan groups. In the fall of 1943 the Supreme Soviet of the USSR ordered the deportation of the Karachai people for alleged cooperation with the Germans and participation in organized resistance to Soviet power. The Karachai autonomous region was abolished in 1944 and virtually the entire Karachai population was deported to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In 1956 party members and Red Army veterans were allowed to return to their homeland, and in 1957 others were legally given the right to return. In 1957 the joint Karachai-Cherkess autonomous region was reestablished and the mass return of the Karachai was initiated. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Karachai-Cherkess autonomous region became a republic of the Russian Federation.
Traditionally, Karachais subsisted on a combination of agriculture and stock-raising. As late as the first decades of the twentieth century, only one-fourth of all Karachai had adopted a completely stationary lifestyle. The rest of the population seasonally relocated from summer to winter pastures with their herds of horses, cattle, sheep, and goats. During the Soviet period, the Karachai remained one of the least urbanized groups: Less than 20 percent lived in cities. Clans were a central component of traditional Karachai social organization. Although some clans and their elders could be recognized as more prominent or senior than others, the Karachai did not have a powerful princely elite or nobility. In the twentieth century the Karachai population grew from about 30,000 to about 100,000. A Karachai literary language was developed and standardized in the 1920s.
See also: caucasus; cherkess; islam; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist
"Karachai." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 14, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/karachai
"Karachai." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved July 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/karachai