Some Aspects Of Russian Transformations In Chechnya (Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries)


In the late XIX – early XX centuries, in Chechnya, where people were employed in agriculture, the land issue was the most acute, and stability depended on its fair solution. The completed annexation of the peoples of the North Caucasus to Russia coincided with the abolition of serfdom and accelerated capitalist transformations in the Russian economy. Russian transformations in the North Caucasus began with a series of administrative-territorial reforms, which indicated a crisis in the management policy of the tsarist administration. The beginning of the agrarian reform was marked by the adoption of the "Regulations on rural societies ..." in the North Caucasus in 1870. Undoubtedly, the agrarian reform contributed to the development of capitalism in Chechen agriculture, formation of a national bourgeois class, but the mountaineers were forced to pay unbearable taxes, which led to the impoverishment of the vast majority of the mountain population. A decisive role in the development of agriculture in Chechnya belonged to a variety of natural and climatic zones: cattle breeding prevailed in mountainous regions, and agriculture – in flat regions. It should also be noted that the communal form of land tenure extended only to flat Chechnya; in mountain auls, many farms were at various stages of transition from a patriarchal structure to the small-scale one. Agrarian overpopulation, the communal form of land tenure contributed to the growth of landless mountaineers and revolutionary sentiments among the poor. Our conclusions are based on a broad analysis of research materials and archival funds.

Keywords: North Caucasus, Terek region, Chechnya, agrarian reform, community, patriarchal clan structure


In the late XIX – early XX centuries, in Chechnya, where people were employed in agriculture, the agrarian issue was the most acute, and stability in the region depended on its fair solution.

A lot of research has been devoted to the transformations during the post-reform period. Khasbulatov (2001) made a huge contribution to the research of reforms in Chechnya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some aspects of the issue were reflected in the works by Gritsenko (1972), Popov (1976), Efanov (1979), Akhmadov (2006), and Alishanova (2016).

These works use a wide range of sources, statistical data; at the same time, they do not fully cover this problem, some aspects related to the contradictory phenomena in the agrarian sector of Chechnya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been properly studied.

Problem Statement

The completed annexation of the peoples of the North Caucasus to Russia coincided with the abolition of serfdom, the end of the Caucasian War (1817–1864). The tsarist government began transformations in Chechnya. In 1860, by the decree of Alexander II, the Terek region was formed, the Chechens were assigned to three out of eight districts: Chechen, Ichkri, and Argun ones. Haste and ignorance of regional peculiarities have become the reason for inefficient management and the need for a new administrative-territorial reform. In 1861, Terek serfs were liberated; in 1869, "dependent people" were liberated in the mountainous areas. Redemption payments were established for the liberation of peasants, half or a third of the property of the liberated peasants remained with the owner. Quite often, the rest of the property went to the owners by paying off debts. The dependent classes often found themselves without rights to allotment lands, in the position of temporarily residing (or nonresidents). This led to the growth of a landless, poor stratum. The Terek authorities reported that the dependent categories of peasants were dissatisfied with their owners, who harshly exploited them (Khasbulatov, 2001).

Research Questions

The research subject is the reforms implemented by the tsarist administration in Chechnya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which influenced the historical choice of Chechens in the whirlwind of revolutionary changes in the 20th century.

Identification of the methods and reasons for Russian transformations in Chechnya in the late 19th – early 20th centuries.

Purpose of the Study

The goal is to study the reforms of the tsarist administration in Chechnya at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries, focus on the administrative and agrarian reforms and analyze measures implemented by the tsarist government.

Research Methods

The fundamental principles of research on the agrarian relations in Chechnya in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are historicism and scientific objectivity. Involvement of a wide range of sources will allow us to study the facts in specific historical conditions.


The agrarian reform aimed at the development of capitalist production in Chechnya exacerbated the situation with unbearable taxes, and increased the number of landless, poor mountain people. As a result, in 1877 a major uprising began in Chechnya. It was guided by by A-Kh. Aldamov.

Despite the religious factor and the influence of Turkey, which sought to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus in the conditions of the Russian-Turkish war, the main reasons for the peasant uprising of 1877–1878 were an increase in the number of landless mountaineers, a degradation of the economy and poverty of the population. The uprising was brutally suppressed. On March 8, 1878, the military court of Grozny sentenced 11 participants, including Alibek-haji Aldamov, to death by hanging (TsGA RSO-Alania).

To strengthen the military presence in the region, the tsarist government began to implement the fourth administrative reform, as a result of which three Cossack departments and four districts were created. The Chechens were united in two districts – Grozny and Khasavyurt (Chechens with Kumyks). In 1904 Grozny district was divided into two districts, and Vedensky district was withdrawn from it. As a result of all the administrative-territorial reforms, Vladikavkaz as the center of concentration of civil and military institutions did not change.

Management reforms carried out in the mountainous regions of the North Caucasus were not always consistent and did not take into account peculiarities of the region, history and traditions of local peoples (Arsanukaeva, 2016).

The "Regulations on rural (aul) societies ..." adopted in 1870 marked the beginning of the land reform in the North Caucasus. "Regulation ..." was used in the districts of Georgievsky, Vladikavkaz and Khasavyurt. In Grozny, Argun and Vedensky, the reform was implemented in stages and with some restrictions; it was assumed that after two years, the issue of local self-government would be finally resolved. However, this process lasted until the mid-90s (Alishanova et al., 2016).

According to the Regulations of 1870, rural self-government consisted of a village assembly, a village foreman, and a village court. The village assembly dealt with economic issues of the village (aul), it consisted of all adult householders; the heads had the right to vote and were engaged in economic issues: education of children and distribution of taxes. The autonomy of rural (aul) communities was limited. The head of the district was empowered to cancel decisions of the village assembly, dissolve the assembly and transfer its functions to the village foreman (Akhmadov, 2006).

Abuses were a frequent event among the elders. They caused discontent and unrest among the people, and the authorities blamed the population for "predatory tendencies", and used repressive measures in order to pacify them. To "pacify" the mountaineers, the administrative exile was used as a measure. It was allowed to flog the guilty with rods. In order to ruin the already impoverished population, punishment in the form of standing troops was often applied. On July 28, 1889 in Stary-Yurt, after the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Shid Elmurzaev, an "execution" began. By the order of the head of the Grozny district, on September 19, 1889, the village was surrounded, and the residents were ordered to surrender their weapons. After the surrender of weapons, a detachment consisting of 30 Cossacks and two officers punished the village where the murder took place. The obligation to accommodate and feed officers and horses was imposed on the inhabitants (TsGA RSO-A). Due to cold weather and good behavior of the inhabitants and in order not to jeopardize the health of the officers, it was assumed that it would be possible to withdraw the detachment from the village (TsGA RNO-A).

The rural community took various measures against the debtors: they were empowered to withdraw income, sell the debtor's movable property, etc.

The variety of natural and climatic zones, from the arid regions of the Terek lowland in the north to alpine meadows on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains played a decisive role in the development of agriculture in Chechnya. In lowland Chechnya, agriculture became widespread. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the share of rural societies with lands was 20 %. The size of arable plots ranged from 2 to 2.5 ha. At the same time, in the Cossack villages it was 20–30 ha per household (History of Chechnya from ancient times to the present day (Akaev, 2008)).

Distant lands, pastures and hayfields, as well as arable lands, which should be periodically redistributed, were in common use. However, in the rural communities of Chechnya, the overwhelming majority of residents have been farming on their plots for many years without land redistribution. Such a farm was named "muhl" farm (Khasbulatov, 2001). The expansion of the "muhl" economy reduced the area of communal lands and increased the number of poor peasant farms.

There were more and more immigrants in lowland villages. They were called “temporary residents”. Each community had a list of persons entitled to land plots. “Temporary residents” were not part of rural communities and did not have the right to use lands on an equal basis with the indigenous people, although they were taxed in favor of the rural community. Despite such a disenfranchised position of temporarily residing peasants, the communities sought to forcibly evict them. The position of this category of peasants was difficult.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Commission for monitoring the state of Land Use and Land Tenure in the Uplands of the Terek Region was created in 1906. According to the Commission, in every rural mountain community, there were people sufficiently provided with land plots, poorly provided and landless, "the most valuable lands were concentrated in the hands of private owners" (as cited in Gogolev, 1967).

In mountainous Chechnya, peasant farms were at various stages of transition from a patriarchal to a small-scale structure. The share of cattle breeding was insignificant due to the lack of meadows, hayfields and pastures. According to Dubrovin (2020), there was little hay, delivery from the mountains was extremely difficult, "to prepare a mowing place in the mountains and collect hay was as difficult as adapting fields for crops" (p. 46).

Disappointing figures are cited in the report of a member of the Commission: “In the Galanchozh community, there are 100 households with 206 males and 292 females, there are 3456 arpents including arable 3033 arpents, 9 arpents per male. And if we take into account that all arable fields are under black fallow every three years and a third part is sown with oats, we get no more than 5 poods per male, they can feed one male and one female during just 50 days."

He writes that “the Galanchozh community needs to add another 7608 arpents of mountainous land or 1144 arpents of flat land. Such an addition is required because the community deals with cattle breeding, whose products are exchanged for grain and used to pay taxes and duties" (AUP CHR).

Landlessness was the reason for the spread of migrant workers. From autumn to spring, they worked as hired workers in factories; among them there were many who ruined and remained in cities. 17 thousand seasonal workers, mostly local ones, including Chechens, worked in Kizlyar and Mozdok (Akaev, 2008).

Aggravation of the land hunger was also influenced by the fact that the tsarist administration believed that flat land occupied by the inhabitants is state-owned (Zagirov, 1988). In 1870, the Darginsky naib of the Ichkeria district Chomak Oyshiev was granted a plot of land in the amount of 210 arpents (RGIA).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Chechnya numbered 887 medium and large landowners who owned 165,700 acres of land (Efanov, 1979).

In the late XIX – early XX centuries, there was an increase in the share of Cossack lands in Chechnya. The Terek military Cossacks became a major land tycoon in the region. Tthe Chechens were forced to rent land from the Cossacks. Double renting was widespread. The annual amount of rent payments made by the Chechens was 450 thousand rubles (Ibragimov & Aliskhanova, 2014).

Due to the dissatisfaction with land taxes, on November 2, 1912bresidents of the village Bachi-Yurt adopted Verdict No. 43 on the election of two commissioners for filing a complaint. They were Gakay Dirakova (48 years old) and Dovlebayev (50 years old) (TsGA). However, numerous complaints to the Head of the Terek region remained "without consequences."

Despite the presence of a number of factors hindering the development of agriculture, there was an increase in sown areas: if in 1897 the sown area was 87,447 acres, by 1904 it amounted to 17 9067 acres, and the amount of gross grain crops was 640 thousand poods and over 3 million, respectively (Akaev, 2008). The areas for corn increased rapidly. In general, agriculture followed the extensive development path, using primitive technologies, which had been used two hundred years ago: plows, harrows, threshing boards, scythes, sickles, and hoes (Gritsenko, 1963).


The transformations in Chechnya in the late 19 – early 20 centuries were aimed at the gradual entry of the outskirts into the single Russian economic and political space. Despite administrative and territorial reforms, an effective model of regional management has not been developed. The agrarian reform aimed at the development of capitalist relations ruined and impoverished mountain peasants. The marginalization of the population became a revolutionary factor threatening stability in the region. The growth of Cossack landownership, which took place at the expense of the Chechen lands, strengthened nationalist sentiments in Chechnya. The highest dignitaries of the Caucasian administration and politicians sought to resolve the land issue, especially in the mountainous areas, was due to. However, the tsarist government remained indifferent to the needs of mountain peasants. A positive factor of the Russian transformations in Chechnya should be emphasized: the relative stability, the formation of a national bourgeois class, the entry into the all-Russian market.


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Alishanova, M. K., Khasbulatova, Z. I., & Mushkayeva, M. A. (2021). Some Aspects Of Russian Transformations In Chechnya (Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries). In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization - ISCKMC 2020, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1842-1847). European Publisher.