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    Kabardino-Balkar Republic

History

The Kabardinians are native to the northern Caucasus Mountains. They were known as the Zikhi in the 1st to 6th centuries ad, then as the Cherkess in the 13th to 15th centuries. The Balkar ethnic group formed when the Kipchak Turks fled to the Caucasus Mountains to escape from invading Mongols in the 13th century. In the mountains the Kipchak Turks mixed with local Alans and eventually formed the Balkar people.

The region passed into the hands of the Georgians from 1295 to 1505 before falling, briefly, into the orbit of the Persian Empire between 1502-1516. It was then ruled by the Ottoman empire from 1516-1557. From 1557, it became a protectorate of the expanding Russian state first Muskovy, then the Russian Empire. The lowland-dwelling Kabards allied themselves with the Russians, but the mountain-dwelling Balkars resisted the Russians for many years.

Kabardia gained independence briefly between 1739-1774, before being annexed by Russia in 1827. The Russians established a number of forts in the region, notably at Nalchik (the republic's present-day capital), to secure their control over it. A significant number of Russians many of Cossack descent also settled there.

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In 1921 the Kabardian Autonomous Oblast was formed within the Soviet Russia, and the next year a unified Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Oblast was established. This oblast became an autonomous republic in 1936. In 1944 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin exiled the Balkars to Central Asia for allegedly collaborating with the German invaders during World War II (1939-1945), and the republic was renamed Kabardino Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR). The Balkars returned in 1957, and the republic's name was restored as the Kabardino-Balkar ASSR in 1957. After the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in late 1991, the republic became part of newly independent Russia.

In March 1992 it became one of the constituent republics of the Russian Federation. The republic's economy was very hard hit by the fall of the Soviet Union and the outbreak of war in neighboring Georgia and Chechnya. The instability produced by the conflicts led to a collapse in tourism in the region and produced an unemployment level estimated to be as high as 90%. The republic's mainly Muslim population has become increasingly radicalized by the region's instability. In October 2005, Kabardino-Balkaria's capital Nalchik was the site of fighting after an attack on the city by Chechen militants.

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