The Little Kabardian With a Big Mustache, Pshemakho Kotse

  • 08/01/2024
62 years have passed since Pshemakho Kotse’s death. The first Minister of Internal Affairs and the second Head of Government of the North Caucasus Republic, Pshemakho Kotse who was called by his close friends “The Little Kabardian With a Big Mustache” had died on January 8, 1962, far from his fatherland, in Istanbul. On this day we remember him with gratitude, I want to share a document that has never been published before.
While part of the Government of the North Caucasus Republic was conducting diplomacy in Trabzon, Istanbul, and Batumi in 1918, Pshemakho Kotse remained in the homeland and fought against the Bicherakhov gangs on the one hand and the Bolsheviks on the other. Without weapons, ammunition, and money, under extremely difficult conditions, he traveled from one edge of the Caucasus to the other and spent an enormous effort to secure the existence of the young state.
The report he typed regarding the results he obtained under these conditions reveals the climate of that environment of those days very clearly. This document, which is among our new archival findings, is very important for researchers focusing on the World Wars and Revolutionary period of North Caucasus history. You can read the text of the document that I translated from Russian to English here, and you can access the original Russian image from the Primary Sources section of our archive or by clicking the link below.

The first page of Kotse's Report (Click on the image to access the original document in our archive)
"Tbilisi, September 16, 1918
Delegations of the Union of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus.
Two weeks ago I arrived in Tiflis, having returned from a long absence, during which time I visited the Kuban, the Don, Ukraine, and the Crimea; came directly from Kyiv via Sevastopol-Poti.
That is why I have been instructed to inform our delegation about what I have heard and done in these places, and what I found when I arrived here.
My stay in Kyiv coincided with the stay of the Don and Kuban delegations. At the same time, Prince Tundutov returned from Germany, not directly from Emperor Wilhelm and Hindenburg, with a representative from the main German headquarters. By the directives received directly from the German General Headquarters on behalf of the South-Eastern Confederation, it was insisted that the South-Eastern Confederation should not be re-established as a state based on a federation of its fiefs or a confederation. To discuss all this, we all went to Novo-Cherkassk, where the entire Kuban Government was then breaking through. It took a long time to discuss this issue. The Kuban people were divided into two groups - supporters of reunification with Ukraine and supporters of the South-East. There was no representative of the Terek Army at all, I took part in the discussion of these issues semi-officially, referring to my lack of authority to do so; General Alexeyev, the chief leader of the Volunteer Army, was indirectly an ardent opponent of this alliance, seeing in it a German desire to break up Russia; The representative of Germany strenuously insisted on the imminent formation of an alliance, immediately avoiding the recognition of this alliance by the Central Powers and Turkey as a new independent state formation. The Dons and Astrakhans, headed by General Krasnov and Kniaz Tundutov also insisted on an alliance, but they failed to create it for the reasons stated. At that time, each individual began to establish a certain relationship both with the Germans and with each other. For example, the Kubans and the Dons made a liar between them, and almost the same agreement was concluded by the Dons and Astrakhans (copies are attached). I was also offered to conclude a similar and not a contract with them separately, but I, referring to formal obstacles, declined. With the Germans, although the above-mentioned regions, as far as I know, have not yet had a written agreement, they have established the most friendly relations, and, moreover, Gen. Krasnov, through his "Loan Ataman" (ambassador) Prince of Leuchtenberg, a relative of Emperor Wilhelm, appealed for the latter from a letter to a request to recognize the "Great Don Army" as an independent state. In general, the Donets have the best relations with the Germans. The Don people also concluded a treaty of alliance with Ukraine, and the latter has already recognized the Don as an independent power (this was the end of the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Soviet Russia). I also talked for a very long time back in the days of Field Marshal Eichhorn with the Germans. At first, I was treated very coldly, and even before Mr. H. Bammatov sent his last report to Tapa, I knew approximately about all this, since it was pointed out to me more than once that the behavior of our delegation and our representatives of Germany in general seemed strange, that for some reason ours were only talking to the Turks, but that, of course, as long as such behavior continued, nothing would come out of the negotiations. Gradually, I was able to establish an attitude and win over the Germans with the promise of real services in case of need. With a letter of this content, General Kress passed on the profits here.
I came here at the time of the liquidation of the Cossack-Ossetian attack on the city in Vladikavkaz, where the fighting in the streets went on for 11 days, and from where the Ingush Cossacks and Ossetians (all the time it must be understood as Ossetian Christians) were finally knocked out and the city is occupied to this day by the Ingush, who behave decently. As I have mentioned, relations with the Germans began to improve, but one small event happened that almost ruined everything: in my presence, a certain Colonel General Zekki Bey came here from Nuri Pasha for a trip to the North Caucasus for information. Before he departed for Tiflis, Tapa suggested that he invite a representative of the German and Austrian missions with him; to this Zekki Bey replied that General Kress did not think it necessary to send his men. It was in my presence, we believed, and Zekki Bey departed. A day later we were astonished at the excited arrival of a representative of Germany and Austria to help them to go "where Zekki Bey had gone and why Zekki Bey," and they reported that the latter General Kress had not thought of giving any account of his trip or of its purpose. Tapa took measures for the German and Austrian officers to catch up with Zekki Bey, but due to the delay in leaving, they did not catch up with him. While Zekki Bey was both beyond Vladikavkaz and in Nazran to the National Council of the Ingush, where he talked with the members of the National Council headed by Vassan Girey Dzhabagiev, and there he said that Turkey could not give a wave, but that the mountaineers should not let the Germans in, and so on. He conducted agitation among the mullahs, both against our Government and against the Germans, and contributed to the fact that when two days later the German and Austrian officers reached the camp "Kazbek", then an unfriendly demonstration was struck or staged at their address. They returned and reported to their superiors; all this was ascribed to slight connivance on the part of Tapa, and we received two letters from the German Mission:
(1) that the Mission is suspending all communication with us until the incident is satisfied;
(2) that the promised payment on the documents from Kyiv can in no case be fulfilled until the satisfaction is given.
After a little investigation and through personal discussions with the victims themselves, I was able to find out and convince them that our Government had nothing to do with it. Then, I wrote letters to the heads of missions, and in this way put an end to this case, and our good relations have been restored and we are engaged in personal negotiations.
19 September. When I reached this place, I received both letters from Gaidar Bek at the same time. I will try to answer all your questions. First of all, the situation on the ground: after the expulsion of the Cossacks from Vladikavkaz, the Ingush in hot pursuit began to liquidate the stanitsas and cleared the stanitsas of Sunzhenskaya, Terskaya, Vorontsovo-Dashkovskaya, and Tarskiye khutor. The residents of these stanitsas obediently surrendered all their weapons (1,700 propellers, 20 machine guns, 4 guns, and about 15,000 cartridges) and the entire population, having sold their tangible assets, moved in from their villages to the last soul. Thus, about 40 thousand dessiatines of land and forest have been liberated, and now there has been relative calm and fighting.
No, but because of the Cossacks' eternal threat to attack Vladikavkaz, news has recently been received that the village of Arkhonskaya has also been besieged. In this way, the Cossack streak has been eliminated to some extent. In this work, the Ingush acted together with the Bolsheviks in favor of the Ossetian Muslims. Relations with the Cossacks, of course, are completely ruined, just as relations with the Ossetian Christians are bad.
Now the moment has come when it is necessary to put an end to Soviet power in the mountainous territory, so recently a delegation from the Ingush headed by the chairman of the Ingush National Council Vassan Girey Dzhabagiev arrived in Tbilisi. They declare that the Ingush, of course, are not Bolsheviks, but that the tasks of the moment demanded, secretly, a policy that would turn the Bolsheviks away from the Cossacks and help the Ingushs and other mountaineers to put an end to the eternal painful land question with their help -- the Bolsheviks -- which has now been partially done. They declare that their Cards are about to be revealed by the Bolsheviks and that then undoubtedly there will no longer be a division into Bolsheviks and Cossacks, and the same Cossacks who brought the Bolsheviks to us will flow into the arms of the latter, and with united forces will beat the highlanders, who are already strongly suspected of a huge, Turkophilia. Because of this, although the city of Vladikavkaz is now in the hands of the Ingush and the Mountain Government could roll the ax there, this cannot be done until another external force is found that could ensure order in the region and protect against the attacks of the Russian forces committed up to and including Alekseev. Dzhabagiyev works here as a member of the government and will not leave until the government itself moves.
Some time ago, Chechnya was divided into two parts: supporters of the Cossacks and supporters of the Bolsheviks. Gradually, with the approach of Turkish instructors to Daghestan and under the bleating of vigorous agitation, the unification of Chechnya is now being established. Ali Mitaev has now arrived in Tiflis and describes the situation in Chechnya as favorable for the resurrection of the Union of Mountaineers. In general, it should be noted that in recent times the idea of a Union of Mountaineers has again become fashionable among the masses, but in more definite outlines, namely, that the people have almost realized the necessity of an independent mountain state organization, and will react with hostility to every attempt to transform our border into a province of any kind. At this point, there is a gradual rewinding of the masses of the people from the clergy. The same phenomenon is noticed in Dagestan, where Najmuddin's actions have almost fallen, and the idea of independence is beginning to triumph. The appearance of the Turks is and will undoubtedly be treated to a high degree of sympathy, but on condition that there is a guarantee that the Mountaineers’ independence will not be encroached upon. Delegates from Chechnya, the Ingush, and the Kuban and Black Sea Circassians have gathered here now, in connection with the need to eliminate Bolshevism in our region and the desirability of the speedy arrival of help from outside. They unanimously declared the need to defend independence, and the need to support their Mountain government, which is now presented here by Tapa Chermoev, Vassan Girey Dzhabagiev, and me. But, still crave help from the outside.
The Turks and Germans had almost decided to divide the North Caucasus into spheres of influence, or, to be more precise, into division. We received almost official statements from both Von Kress and Abdul Kerim Pasha (representing Turkey in Georgia). But, we made a categorical protest, with which the above-mentioned persons agreed, allowing only the division of the military instructors. Because Turkey has not been sending any help for 5 months. Perhaps through no fault of its own, the Germans and Georgians do not allow such assistance to pass along the Georgian military road. Besides, the appearance of some Turks will immediately unite all the Russians against us, and this help is also needed very quickly, we recently agreed that Turks and Germans would march together along the Georgian Military Road, the latter in the amount of 2 battalions. General Kress agreed to this, as did Halil Pasha, who was here yesterday. Now we are waiting for the arrival of Yusuf Izet Pasha from Batum.
As you can see, the Germans have established rather bad relations here, and we are now busy formalizing our relations with the Germans, which, of course, I think we will succeed in.
Now there are German troops on Kazbek. As soon as they reach there again, we with loyal units of Ingush and Ossetian Muslims, now stationed in Vladikavkaz in the number of 1,200 people, will liquidate the Soviet power. Then, in a few days, the united Turkish and German units will enter there. At the same time, we have stipulated complete non-interference in the state administration of both the Turks and the Germans.
Our relations with the Georgians are good, although we have said a lot of unpleasant things to them on the Abkhazian issue and the Circassian issue. Not only did they seize Abkhazia, but, from my point of view, the Abkhazians themselves got into the mouths of the Georgians with their ridiculous treaty. But they advanced further and occupied Tuapse and Circassian villages on the Black Sea coast. The Circassians sent their delegates to Tiflis. Before they had time to agree on anything, the Bolsheviks drove the Georgians out of Tuapse and threw them back to Sochi, and a few days later both were driven out by the Kuban Cossacks. The latter are sending their delegates from here in a few days, with whom we shall negotiate with the hope of success. In the struggle against the Bolsheviks, the Circassians have done a great service to the Kubans, and the Circassians are the most ardent supporters of the independence of the Union of Mountaineers. To Gaidar Bek's question about the South-Eastern Union, I have already answered the Abkhazian question. We do not yet consider it necessary to protest in writing, until we arrange the passage of troops, not to create friction. Yes, besides, such questions are now resolved by a real correlation of forces, and soon we will probably be able to support a written protest in reality.
And so, it seems, I wrote everything I could. It is only necessary to say that before moving to Vladikavkaz we need combined help, very large in the form of 2 Turkish battalions and 2 German battalions. We need money, and we don’t have it at all. It is necessary to address this issue there. Baku was taken by the Turko-Azerbaijanis, and their government moved to Baku. On September 23, Tapa and Vasan Girey will probably go there to get at least a round sum of money for the first setup.
In addition, in recent days, General Von Kress, obviously, according to instructions from above, is very interested in us. He is now insistently suggesting that we should not send our representative to Berlin, and say that as soon as we appear in Vladikavkaz, Germany and the Austro-Hungarians will send their representatives there. I told you in detail about what I did in the Don and Kuban, as well as Ukraine, but here I work as hard as I can and prepare the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The complaints about Tapa for his careless information are right. But now that there are three of us here. We will try to inform you about everything. It is impossible to assume that some of Tapa's appeals to the Turkish authorities, out of our delegation’s knowledge, were based on a lack of confidence in our delegation there. Because it was simply done, according to him, in a hurry, when he was overwhelmed with work.
We are waiting for Izet Pasha any day. As soon as we have him here, real steps will be taken immediately, of which you will also be informed. Greetings from everyone, I wish you happiness and success.
Signed, Pshemakho Kotsev"

In my monograph, which I plan to publish in the second half of this year by studying new archival findings, I aim to share many documents and letters from Pshemakho Kotse's immigration life with my readers. On the other hand, I am sharing with you below the reading links of some articles and books written by Pshemakho Kotse and some works published about him from our archive.

Enjoy Reading…

Cem Kumuk
Istanbul, 08 January 2024

[1] Pshemakho Kotse, “Kuzey Kafkasya Cumhuriyeti’nin Sabık Başbakanı’nın Demeci” (Turkish), Serbest Kafkasya, No.2, Munich, 1952 (The same article was published under another title, “Yeşil Mayıs” in various immigration periodicals such as “Islam”, “Mücahit” and “Birleşik Kafkasya” during the years the 1950s and 1960s.
[2] Pshemakho Kotse, “Revolution and Sovietization in the North Caucasus” Part 1,  Caucasian Review, No.1, Munich, 1955 (English)
[3] Pshemakho Kotse, “Revolution and Sovietization in the North Caucasus” Part 2,  Caucasian Review, No.3, Munich, 1956 (English)
[4] Pshemakho Kotse, Kuzey Kafkasya Hürriyet ve İstiklal Savaşı Tarihinden Yapraklar (Turkish), Istanbul, 1960 (Turkish)
[5] Pshemakho Kotse, “Свободы Без Жертв Не Бывает” (Russian), Наш Дагестан, No.172-173, Махачкала, 1994 (This article is the Russian translation of Kotse’s article “Yeşil Mayıs” that is shared in the first item.
[6] Sefer E. Berzeg, Kuzey Kafkasya Cumhuriyeti Devlet Başkanı Pşimaho Kotse (Kosok) Yaşamı ve Gurbet Yazıları (Turkish), Istanbul, 2018
[7] Amerbiy H. Karmov, Пшемахо КОЦЕВ – Общественно-Политический И Государственный Деятель Северного Кавказа (Russian), Нальчик, 2018
[8] Ruslan K. Karmov, Из Творческого Наследия Председателя Северокавказской Республики Пшемахо Коцева, (Russian), Нальчик, 2020
[9] Raisa Kh. Khaskhosheva, “Пшемахо Коцев”, Адыгская Публицистика Конца XIX Начало XX Века, (Russian), Нальчик, 2005
[10] Tugan H. Kumukov, “Пшемахо Тамашевич Коцев”, Культура, Общественно-Политическая Мысль И Просвещение Кабарды Во Второй Половине XIX Начале XX Века, (Russian), Нальчик, 1996