Abrechestvo as a Form of Social Protest
The article is devoted to the study of the phenomenon of abrechestvo in line with a complex of scientific problems related to the history of the national liberation struggle of the peoples of the North Caucasus against the colonialist policy of the tsarist administration. The methodological basis was the principle of evolutionary development applied to social processes. The author used a set of methods inherent in historical science (historical-chronological, historical-comparative, diachronic, and others), as well as methods related to the interpretation of texts and concepts. The materials for the research were archival sources, studies of historians and data from explanatory and encyclopedic dictionaries. The term abrek is analyzed in detail, its variations in the languages of different peoples of the North Caucasus are given. Further, the author traces the evolution of the meaning of this concept in the Russian language for more than 120 years—from the dictionaries of the mid-19th century to the last edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. The development of abrechestvo as a phenomenon of social life is investigated. The factual material relating to the activities of one of the most famous abreks of Mountain Ingushetia, Zelimkhan Gushmazukaev, is involved. The author comes to the conclusion that the term abrek, originally meaning a robber and an outcast, changed its meaning over the century, acquiring, in addition to a romantic connotation, the meaning of a freedom fighter against the tsarist troops and administration. Similarly, over time, the essence and inner content of abrechestvo evolved: from a forced exile and vagrancy to activities of social protest and of fighting for justice. These ideals were supported by the majority of representatives of the North Caucasian ethnic communities, who openly supported abreks, not fearing the possible reprisals from the authorities. At the same time, public consciousness quite clearly separated true abreks from those who did evil under their name and authority. The author claims that abreks resorted to robberies only selectively and avoided murders. They used the stolen property for buying weapons, for helping the needy and families who lost their breadwinners. Abreks had society’s support, which led the author to the conclusion that it was a response of the highlanders’ society to political lawlessness and economic problems that constantly accompanied its development during the pre-Soviet period.