Kabardino-Balkaria: the union of steppes and mountains

Main facts:

  • Administrative center: Nalchik

  • Federal District: Caucasus region

  • Language(s): Kabardian, Balkar, Russian

  • Population: 865,000

  • Timezone: UTC+3

  • Main religion: Islam (70%), Orthodoxy

Top 10 attractions:

Sights map of Kabardino-Balkaria

Travel around Kabardino-Balkaria Republic

The Kabardino-Balkarian Republic is an unusual and interesting place. This republic is spread on the steppe plains and mountain ranges of the Caucasus, combining many friendly peoples. First of all, these are Kabardians - the ancestors of the Adygs who resettled here from the lands of Western Asia and Turkey at the beginning of the first millennium. Modern inhabitants of the Republic of Adygea and the Circassians were a single ethnos, but then history separated them. At first, the Tatar-Mongolian army that came to the Caucasian lands crushed most of the Caucasian peoples, including Kabardians (as merchants and travelers called them). And then the troops of Tamerlane invading the Caucasus from Central Asia finally defeated a large, prosperous people, who supported the Tatar-Mongol and eventually had to flee to the lands of the Central Caucasus and the mountainous regions. Most of them settled on the modern lowland lands of Kabardino-Balkaria, where their ancestors live to this day. The Balkars are the people of another mindset, they have lived since ancient times in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus and therefore are considered one of the mountain peoples. However, due to the difficult and harsh living conditions, they could never give a serious rebuff to the more numerous and powerful invaders, eventually remaining in the mountainous regions of Balkaria. At that moment, when Kabardians became their neighbors, the Balkars decided to negotiate with them for a mutually beneficial existence, which eventually happened. Since then (14-15 century AD), Kabardians and Balkars have closely maintained contact with each other, traded and supported in military conflicts. At the end of the 18th century, first Kabarda, and then Balkaria became part of Russia by peaceful means, and since then, prosperity has come to these lands. Russian masters and artisans came here, schools and state institutions were built, factories and agrarian manufactures were founded. By the beginning of the 20th century, Russian residents constituted the second largest national group in Kabardino-Balkaria.

After the October Revolution in Russia, Kabardino-Balkaria became part of the independent Mountainous Republic, which united the different peoples of the Caucasus, but a year later it withdrew from its composition and returned to Russia. During World War II, local lands were seized by German troops, and heavy fighting took place over the city of Nalchik and Mount Elbrus. However, after the liberation of the territory in 1944, the Soviet government issued a decree on the eviction of Balkarians (not Kabardians) from the territory of the republic, as a result was mass genocide of the Balkar people by analogy with the Ingush and Chechens. Although its consequences were not so terrible, this page of the history of the republic will forever remain blacked out of tragedy. In 1957, the Balkarians were allowed to return to their mountain settlements, as a result, since 1957, the Kabardian ASSR was again renamed Kabardino-Balkaria, which became the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today, Kabardino-Balkaria is a peaceful and prosperous region, where there are many business incubators and production centers, a very large agricultural sector (on the flat part near Nalchik, Cool, Baksan, etc.) and several mining industries in mountainous areas. There are not so many beautiful sights for tourism in the republic, but one of them stands out among them - Mount Elbrus. This famous mountain peak rises above the whole Caucasus and is the highest volcano in Europe (5642 m). It is in Kabardino-Balkaria that people come to climb it, as well as many other five-thousand-meter mountains which are the part of the highest mountain system of the Caucasus. Actually, almost all the highest mountain peaks and ridges of the Caucasus are located in Kabardino-Balkaria, and tourists from all over Russia and from abroad come to observe them. For visitors, all conditions have been created for a comfortable stay in the villages adjacent to the foot of Elbrus, and the excellent hotel infrastructure and cableways make it easy for people to get acquainted with the most beautiful places of the republic.

For a full visit to Kabardino-Balkaria, you need a great desire and a personal car. Because to see the breathtaking mountain landscapes, the archaeological remains of the ancient mountain settlements of Balkarians, the real "city of deads" in Eltyuby and many other beautiful places, you need to drive dozens of kilometers along mountain serpentines. Unfortunately, public transport here is underdeveloped, and excursion tours are mainly devoted to trips to the foot of Elbrus and walks through the capital of the republic, Nalchik. Therefore, for a complete journey you need a car. Most come to the republic to contemplate the majestic Elbrus, and it is worth it - the incredible harsh nature of the Caucasus nowhere else looks so exciting and majestic as in the Baksan gorge - the direct road to Elbrus. If the weather is good, be sure to try yourself in climbing this mountain - it's not as difficult as it seems, especially if you climb three quarters with the cable car. And what a landscapes open from a height ...

Although most of Kabardino-Balkaria is a small flat village-type settlement, with a dense one-story building, where there is nothing super-unique, every tourist should see the capital of the republic - the city of Nalchik. Once built as a Russian fortress for the defense of the Caucasian lands, today Nalchik is a large city with well-kept parks, cozy streets and a beautiful central square. I liked the House of the Republic Government most of all, as well as the view of the city buried in verdure from the observation deck of the colorful restaurant Sosruko, built in honor of the great hero of the Nart epos. In Nalchik you can definitely spend a day or two, but of course, it doesn’t compare with mountain landscapes. And in general, only for that sake, I invite you to visit the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, which weakly clings to its national roots, but to this day remains a hospitable land with ancient history and rich nature.

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