Discussion of the Functioning of Some Forms of Personal Dependence in the North Caucasus Mountaineers in the first half of the 19th Century
Authors: Sergey L. Dudarev, Dmitry S. Dudarev
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A widely known historical phenomenon in the North Caucasus in the first half of the 19th century was the capture of people with their subsequent sale to the markets of the East or within the region. This phenomenon has not received a stable definition from researchers: it is called slave trade, plenoprodavstvo (captives’ trade), "predatism", and so on. The task of this study is to clarify the meaning of the term "yasyr" and the scope of its functioning among the North Caucasians, especially with regards to the status of those who are called "Caucasian captives", i.e. captive Russians, captured by the mountaineers during their raids, etc. The authors of the article come to the conclusion that this term, which in principle covered Russian captives too, was spread throughout the North Caucasus, but was most common in its northeastern part. In the west of the same region it is known in isolated cases. Foreigners who visited the territory of Adygea (E. Spencer, J. Bell, J. A. Longworth, T. Lapinsky) and were able to get a good acquaintance with the social life of the local population, did not come across this term. The authors of the article believe that today it is impossible to unambiguously use the terms "slavery" and "slave-owning" as applied to the situation of the first half of the 19th century in the mountain environment, also with regard to Russian captives: slavery took place in the region not as a formation, but as a way of life, one of the possible names of which is a captive one. The status of captive Russians is closest to the term "yasyr." They were not strictly slaves but people with unstable status. The Russian captives who were waiting for ransom/ exchange in this temporary state sometimes acquired the "hypostasis" of a captive guest, or "a junior member of the family". If the ransom/exchange did not work out, the captives turned into a means of exchange, a kind of "currency" in the absence of the mountain people's developed monetary circulation and the dominance of the exchange of products and goods. The Russians did not play a serious role in production.