Laudaev “The Chechen Tribe” Part II


The names of communities of the Chechen tribes and their meaning

In former times, the primacy over all the communities of the Chechen tribes was always held by the inhabitants of the old Chechen territory, both in terms of numbers and social development, by audacity and courage.

The Chechens call themselves Nakhchoi; the Kumyks call them Michikish; the Tavlins, Burtel, the Kabards, Shashan, and the Russians [call them] Chechens. Why is it that one and the same people are called by different names by neighboring tribes? The tribe, as we will see, was formed under the snowy mountains near to the source of the river Argun. It began to spread out from it to different places, as it had need of land. It occupied the mountains of the old Nazran province and Chaberloi, afterward settling in Ichkeria and Aukh. Finally, after the exodus of the Russians from the flatland of Chechnya to beyond the Terek, it occupied the flatland and finished its expansion.  Typical of primitive peoples, the Chechens were engaged primarily in animal husbandry as a central means of their existence out on the flatland. Their livestock multiplied on the wide-open and virginal land. [The livestock] gave milk, cheese and butter in abundance. In a primitive state, still unfamiliar with cereal cultivation, [and] lacking bread, for the most part they relied on cheese as food.  Noticing their own abundance compared to their countrymen living in the impoverished Argun mountains and over-populated Ichkeria, they named themselves ‘those with cheese’, Nakhchoi in Chechen. Cheese is called nakhchi in Chechen. This word in the plural is nakhchiy. From this comes the national name nakhchoi, i.e. the people with lots of cheese.

It’s possible that this name was given in mockery to the flatland Chechens, they being called cheese-eaters, in the way that currently the Terek Chechens are mockingly called kaldashiui nakh, i.e. the people who eat cheese. That the Chechens received the name Nakhchoi from cheese is confirmed by the example of the Nazranians, who speak an impure Chechen language. They call cheese nachkhi, and the Chechens Nachkhoi. The name is given by [the Nazranians] to [the Chechens] because of cheese.  The Kumyks call the Chechens Michikish, from the words michik and gishi. The Michik is a river in Great Chechnya neighboring on the Kumyks. This river at some time served as a boundary between the two peoples. Gishi means person in Kumyk. Together they form michikgishi or michikish, i.e. someone who lives on the Michik, a Michikian. The Kabards name the Chechens based on the aul of Chechen, on the banks of the Argun, at the foot of the Khankal Mountains.  This aul was the first place in the flatlands settled by the Chechens. The Kabards refer to the Chechens by the name of this village, pronouncing this word “Shashan” with their national pronunciation.  The Russians took the name for the Chechens from the Kabards. From these different names, given to the Chechens by [their] neighbors, it can be seen that originally they were an insignificant and weak people, because a strong people are known by one name amongst all [their] neighbors. Strictly speaking, Nakhchoi is the name of the community of the old province of Chechnya.  The other societies are only superficially known by this name. Each one has a particular name for themselves. Aukhovians are called Akkiy. They received this name because, having lived earlier in the Argun okrug, they constituted the members of the Akki clan. The meagre quality of the land belonging to this clan forced half of the clan to resettle in Aukh, where the Kumyks and Russians called them Aukhovians. [But] they preserved for themselves the name of the primeval clan Akkiy, and [were called so] by the Chechens. Ichkerians are called Nakhchoi-Mokhkkhoi. This name was given them by the flatland Chechens, who had left Ichkeria and had already received the name Nakhchoi, and it means land of the Chechens or cheese-eaters. Settling on the flatland, they didn’t consider it their property because it belonged to the Russians. In order to not be landless, the Ichkerian immigrants kept as property their own family plots of land [in Ichkeria]. Thus, the Chechens in the flatland, having already been called Nakhchoi, called Ichkeria Nakhchoi-mokhk in relation to themselves, i.e. the country of the cheese-eaters or the country where the flatland Chechens have their own plots of land. Ichkeria is a Kumyk word. Ich-eri means the inner land, i.e. amongst the mountains. Indeed, it is located amongst the bald and black mountains.  The inhabitants of the old Argun okrug are called shotoi, from the word shu meaning heights, in other words, those who live in high places.  The inhabitants of the northern slopes of the bald mountains all the way to the flatlands themselves are principally called shotoi. This name they received from the flatland Chechens.  The primeval inhabitants of this country live further south in the mountains at the foot of the snowy range and are called, in Chechen, Lamoroi, i.e. of the mountains, from the word lam, which means mountain. The Lamoroi occupy the southern part of the old Argun province, Chaberloi and the south of Ichkeria. The Nazranians, comprising many clans, were earlier called by their clan names: Galgai, Galoi, Ingush (Angusht) and so forth. When, at the end of the last century, they settled in the aul of Neser (Nazran), they began to be called Neserkhoi, i.e. Nazranians. When the Russians established the Nazran fort, the name Neserkhoi became the official [designation] for them. In addition to these broad designations, the Chechens have many subdivisions amongst themselves, taking their names from locales, rivers, mountains and elsewise.


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