The participation of the Slavs in the Arab-Khazar war
In the middle of the 7th century a new threat appeared from the south - the Arabs. Islam from scattered, weak tribes created a monolithic, unified force that began to conquer the world around it. Arab troops broke the resistance of the Persians and seized their power, seized the possessions of the Byzantine Empire in Africa and the Middle East. They invaded Central Asia and the South Caucasus: they captured Armenia in 640, Atropatena (modern South Azerbaijan) in 642, and Georgia in 654. Before 669, Agania (the territory of modern Azerbaijan) tried to maneuver, trying to maintain the status of an ally of the Arabs.
In the 643 year, when the Arabs approached Derbent (the “Iron Gate”), its ruler announced that “they are squeezed between two enemies, the Khazars and the Rus. The latter are the enemies of the whole world. Since we know how to fight them, let's fight them instead of collecting tribute from us, ”the Arabs agreed to accept such a military service. In general, the Arabs initially established a rather mild regime in the South Caucasus: they demanded payment of the tax “jizyas” that non-believers paid in the caliphate and the provision of military contingents, local authorities, dynasties retained their posts, the old laws and customs were in effect.
But the Arabs were not going to stop the run of their horses at the turn of the Caucasus - they were torn to the north. On their way was the Khazar state. The Khazars at that time were ruled by the Turkic pagan elite, the Turks were not the majority of the population - the common people were mostly descendants of the Scythian-Sarmatian population and the Slavs. The capital was at that time the city Semender on the Dagestan coast of the Caspian Sea. The Khazars made regular raids along the beaten path of their ancestors - the Scythians and Sarmatians - in Transcaucasia. Khazaria ruled the sacred priest-king of the Ashin (Wolves) clan, the golden head of a wolf was depicted on the banners of the Kaganate. The throne was not inherited, the heir was chosen from the Ashin race. The army in the battle led the military leader - Kagan Beg. Part of the elite adopted Christianity, part - Persian Zoroastrianism, but most were pagans. They honored the Father-Heaven, the Sun, spirits, ancestors. The Kagans obeyed - black Bulgarians, Burtases, Hungarians, Alans and other tribes. The Slavs mainly settled the lands of the Don and Kuban - the descendants of the Ants. Their army was strong, the Khazars themselves were accustomed to attack, and not defend themselves.
The Arab-Khazar war began, in which the Slavs, as the inhabitants of Khazaria, took a direct part. In 654, the Arabs broke through Derbent to the north, but near the city of Belendzher (in modern Dagestan) were defeated by an army of Khazars. In 660, the Khazars attacked themselves - they invaded Agvania, the Arabs defended this area, but their next attempt to break through to the north in 662 was repelled.
But in the end, the situation began to take shape not in favor of the Khazars, if the Arabs had enormous human and economic resources from the whole of the Middle East, Iran, Transcaucasia, Central Asia (this allowed them to wage wars on several fronts at once - to crush Byzantium, fight with the Franks and other nations ), a single ideology, then the Khazars conglomerate welded together only by military luck of different tribes. Slavs and Magyars-Hungarians fought on the side of the Khazars, vassal Alania took a wait-and-see position, in the rear a struggle with the Bulgarians developed. In addition, the rear of the Khazars began to disturb the Pechenegs. The cause of the conflict is unknown: the Bulgarians decided to seize the moment and become free or the Khazars, having a mobilized army, decided to expand their living space, and besides, the big army had to be maintained. The Khazars smashed the Bulgarians in a fierce battle - in 670, after the death of Khan Krovat, Black Sea Bulgaria was defeated, the Bulgarians fled, and were divided. Some went to the mountains, became the ancestors of the Balkars, others retreated to the Kama, creating a new state - Volga Bulgaria, others with Khan Asparuh left the Dnieper, Asparuh reached the Danube in 675 in the year, united with the local Slavs. There, the Bulgarians quickly assimilated, leaving the Slavs their name - the Bulgarians.
In the same period, the Khazars captured most of the Crimea, except for Chersonesos and other fortified cities. Most of these territories Constantinople, but he did not protest by donating these lands, because the Khazars were allies against the Arabs, who already in 673 year approached the Second Rome. In the 683-684, the Khazars again invaded the Transcaucasus, defeating the Arab forces in Armenia. The Arabs organized a new campaign, but were stopped at Derbent in the 692 year.
How Slavs found themselves in the ranks of the warriors of Islam
The psychologically unhealthy Byzantine emperor Justinian II, whose main feature was the cruelty that caused the hatred of the population of the whole empire, decided to bring order to the Balkans. The Slavs on the territory of the empire retained tribal self-government, did not want to pay taxes and go to military service, and after the formation of Bulgaria they began to glance in its direction. Justinian suppressed resistance in the empire, fought with the Bulgarians. And he decided to reduce the share of Slavs in the Balkans (where they prevailed), in addition, to gain a new foothold in Asia Minor, having deported the Slavs there. Slavs at that time were famous as excellent warriors, the emperor decided that they would have to defend their land in full force. As a result, 30 thousand families of Slavs were taken to Asia Minor for settlement and the creation of military settlements.
In 692, Justinian II broke the peace with the Arabs, before this the 30 thousand corps was formed from the Slavs (apparently, almost all of the adult male population of the mountain settlers) led by Prince Nebulos (named for the All-Time or Nevol, Slave?) And attacked them. Arab ambassadors reminded of the peace treaty and offered to keep it, but in vain. In the very first battle near the city of Sevastopol (now Sulu-Sarai), the Slavs showed their combat power - the Arab army was defeated. But Justinian triumphant early, the Slavs do not forgive insults, and soon Nebul-Nebulos switched from 20 thousand Slavic warriors to the side of the Arabs, the commander Mohammed, the emir of Mesopotamia. Justinian ordered to kill the Slavic families remaining in his rear — tens of thousands of children, women, and old men were slaughtered on the shores of the Nicomedia Bay in the Sea of Marmara.
In the next battle, the Byzantines will be utterly routed by the Slavic-Arab army. Muslim lords highly appreciated the abilities of Slavic warriors - they were settled in the cities of Marash, Duluk, Raban, women were given to create families, maintenance was laid, military service became their duty. They were not even required to abandon the faith of their ancestors, so appreciated their fighting qualities.
The war continues
Arabs strengthened their positions in Transcaucasia, the former tolerance ended, local rulers were displaced and replaced by Arab governors, in 705, they gathered Armenian princes for negotiations in Nakhichevan, locked them in churches and burned them. The population was deprived of their customs and laws. The battles were fought around Derbent with varying success, in 708, the Arabs were able to take the “iron gate” and invaded the lands of the Khazars, but eventually they were knocked out, in 711, the Khazars seized Derbent. In 713, the Arab commander Muslim made a trip to Dagestan and captured Derbent in 714. The Khazars made another invasion of the Transcaucasus in 717, when Arabs tried to surround Constantinople from land, fulfilling the duty of the Allies.
In 721, the Khazars invaded Armenia, scored a number of victories, but then they were knocked out; the Arab governor of Armenia, Abu Ubeid Jarrah, organized retaliatory attacks on the Khazaria’s North Caucasian possessions, and very successful ones: the capital Semender, Belenjer, were captured, and a huge booty was seized. In one of the campaigns, the Arabs ransacked the ancient mounds of warriors, the reserved relic of the descendants of the Scythians. The Khazars were forced to move the capital away from the front - to the north, it became Itil on the Volga. In 726, the Khazars again broke through in the Transcaucasus and took revenge on Jarrah - in the Ardebil Valley, in the lands of modern Azerbaijan a fierce battle took place that lasted three days. The Arabs were defeated and they flinch, but they were stopped by Jarrah himself: “To Heaven, Muslims, not to hell! Follow the path of God, not Shaitan! ”(A warrior who fell in battle with infidels, according to Muslim ideas, goes to heaven, a coward, respectively, does not get there). But this did not help, the Arab army was completely destroyed, the Khazars did not take prisoners, only a few dozen escaped. Only one of them was so brave (the eastern rulers did not like bad news — they executed such messengers) that they came under the eyes of the Caliph in Baghdad and told about the defeat. It was "Sakaliba" - Slav.
The tragedy of the Don Slavs
The Arabs bent their line, in 732, they again captured Derbent, deployed the 14-thousandth garrison there. True, Georgia rebelled in 735, the commander Mervan, the governor of Armenia and Azerbaijan, was sent to suppress the uprising with the army. Georgia was washed with blood, most of the cities and fortresses were destroyed, mass executions were carried out, the Georgians nicknamed Mercury “Ruthless”.
Mervan decided to solve the problem of the Khazaria, a huge army was assembled - 150 thousand, it also included detachments of the conquered Caucasian nationalities. In 736, the fleet crossed the mountains, occupied Alanya, subdued the kingdom of the Laks, and in 737, Mervan struck the Khazars. The Khazars were able to put 40-thousandth army, gave Semender, retreated to Itil. Mervan's army reached the Volga, the Khazars crossed to the other side and began to retreat to the north. For some time the army went in parallel on different shores. As a result, when the Khazars' vigilance weakened, they became accustomed to their inaccessibility, Mervan suddenly brought a pontoon bridge and sent selected Arab troops across the river - the Khazars were taken by surprise, the Khagan fled, 10 thousand people were captured. Kagan asked for peace, Mervan set strict conditions - to accept Islam and recognize the authority of the Caliph, the Khazars accepted them.
After that, Mervan decided to complete the conquest of the Khazars, and for this to strike at the Slavs; according to Arab sources, he reached the "Slavic River" (most researchers see the Don in it), using the "scorched earth" tactics, ruined it. 20 of thousands of Slavic families were hijacked. They were settled in Kakheti, the Muslim lords decided to repeat the experience gained with the soldiers of Nebul, but did not. They themselves came, voluntarily, but these were hijacked from their native lands, and they even ravaged it. No wonder Mauritius Strategus wrote about the Slavs: "This people can in no way be made slaves or forced into obedience ...". The Slavs soon revolted, killed the local ruler and his detachment, and moved to their homeland. But they failed to see the banks of the native river - the punitive detachments overtook the fugitives and they all laid down their heads in a foreign land. Unfortunately, Arab sources do not report this, we do not know where our ancestors took this last death fight ...
But we must remember this sad page. stories our ancestors who were forced to fight in the world wars of that distant time, on foreign fronts, for the interests of others. History tends to bring grief to those who are not taught the lessons of the past!
But the Arabs eventually lost this battle, the world caliphate did not work. Dismantling for power began within the empire, Islam began to break up, the conquered peoples raised one rebellion after another. More than the Caucasus Mountains such hordes did not break. There is in this the contribution of our ancestors of the Slavs, who fought in the troops of Byzantium, the Khazars. The peoples of Eastern Europe were saved from total Islamization. The Slavs, who remained in Asia Minor under the rule of the Muslims, were completely dissolved and assimilated.
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E. Belyaev. Arabs, Islam and the Arab Caliphate in the earlier Middle Ages. M., 1965.
Novoseltsev A. n. The Khazar state and its role in the history of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. M., 1990
Prozorov L. The Caucasian Frontier of Rus. M., 2011.
Shambarov V. The choice of faith. Wars of Pagan Russia. M., 2011.
Shambarov V. Rus: a road from the depths of millennia. M., 2000.
- Alexander Samsonov
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