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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Russia: 108,426 (2002) (in Kabardino-Balkaria only: 104,951),[1] Kazakhstan: 1,798 (2009)
Karachay-Balkar, Russian
Sunni Islam, Nondenominational Muslims, Muwahhid Muslims
Related ethnic groups

The Balkars (Karachay-Balkar: sg. таулу - tawlu, pl. таулула - tawlula) are a Turkic people of the Caucasus region, one of the titular populations of Kabardino-Balkaria. Their Karachay-Balkar language is of the Ponto-Caspian subgroup of the Northwestern (Kipchak) group of Turkic languages.

History and cultural relations

Balkars were part of Alania and one of the Vainakh tribes who were influenced by Turkic culture after the Mongol invasion's split of the lowlands of Nakh tribes and adopted the language; genetically they are closely related to Chechens and Ingush.[2] Elements of Balkar culture indicate a long association with the Near East, the Mediterranean, the rest of the Caucasus, and Russia. In the pre-Mongol period (before the thirteenth century) the Balkars were part of the Alan union of tribes, but after the Mongol invasion they retreated into the canyons of the central Caucasus.

According to native ethnogenetic traditions, the Balkars originally settled in the basin of the main Balkar canyon, where the hunter Malkar found success and called his companions Misaka and Basiat of Majar (or Madyar) to join him. The oldest written information about this canyon dates from the fourteenth century and can be found in a Georgian epigraph on a golden cross in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tskhovati, South Ossetia: the text refers to the canyon in question as "Basianian".[citation needed]


In 1944, the Soviet government forcibly deported almost the entire Balkar population to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Omsk Oblast in Siberia. Starting on 8 March 1944 and finishing the following day, the NKVD loaded 37,713 Balkars onto 14 train echelons bound for Central Asia and Siberia. The Stalin regime placed the exiled Balkars under special settlement restrictions identical to those that it had imposed upon the deported Russian-Germans, Kalmyks, Karachais, Chechens and Ingush. By October 1946 the Balkar population had been reduced to 32,817 due to deaths from malnutrition and disease. The Balkars remained confined by the special settlement restrictions until 28 April 1956. Only in 1957, however, could they return to their mountain homeland in the Caucasus. During 1957 and 1958, 34,749 Balkars returned home [3]

Language and literacy

In the Cyrillic alphabet as used by the Balkars there are eight vowels and twenty-seven consonants. In the past the official written languages were Arabic for religious services and Turkish for business matters. From 1920 on Balkar has been the language of instruction in primary schools; subsequent instruction is carried out in Russian. Until 1928 Arabic letters were used to write the Balkar language; after 1937 Cyrillic was used. Ninety-six percent of the population is bilingual in Balkar and Russian. Organs of mass culture, secondary school texts, newspapers, and magazines in both Balkar and Russian continue to increase in number. In the 2015 number of bilingual population had increased by 1,3 percent do 97,3 are now speaking both Balkar and Russian which is due to the globalisation of urban areas and the impact of the Russian education. Children are more likely to be taught in Russian.

An example of a Balkar author is Kaisyn Kuliev who is emphasising the love towards the Balkarya land and Balkar traditions.

See also


  1. Russian Census 2002: Population by ethnicity(Russian)
  3. N. F. Bugai, ed., Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat;": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: "Druzhba narodov," 1992). Doc. 64, pp. 279–280.


  • Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (London: MacMillan, 1970) (ISBN 0-333-10575-3)
  • Alexander Nekrich, The Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978) (ISBN 0-393-00068-0)