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Bitter ChoicesLoyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus$
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Michael Khodarkovsky

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449727

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449727.001.0001

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From Semën Atarshchikov to Hajret Muhammed

From Semën Atarshchikov to Hajret Muhammed

(p.147) 10 From Semën Atarshchikov to Hajret Muhammed
Bitter Choices

Michael Khodarkovsky

Cornell University Press

This chapter details events following Semën Atarshchikov's second desertion in November 1842. Atarshchikov had resolved to end his life as a military officer and Christian subject of the Russian emperor. His decision to desert took place in the context of the turbulent developments in the region. The war in the Caucasus was at its most intense, and its outcome was far from certain. Russian troops were sustaining heavy losses in incessant raids and ambushes by Shamil and his new ally, Haji-Murat, whose defection in 1841 had dealt a heavy blow to Russian interests in northern Daghestan. The nearly simultaneous success of the Adyges against Russian troops and garrisons in the northwest convinced Shamil that the time was right to extend the Imamate. The most aggressive and numerous people among the Adyges were the Abadzekhs. It was among Abadzekhs that Atarshchikov chose to settle on his second and final desertion. In the high mountains the Abadzekhs welcomed thousands of Kabardins, Besleneys, Nogays, and others who had fled the lands that had been colonized and settled by Russians. The local people referred to such fugitives as hajrets, that is, warriors committed to raiding the Russian frontier. Atarshchikov adopted the term as part of his new name: Hajret Muhammed. The decision to take a Muslim name no doubt was part of Atarshchikov's official conversion to Islam.

Keywords:   Semën Atarshchikov, desertion, Russian military, highlanders, Hajret Muhammed, Abadzekhs, Islam

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