The Portrait of a Menshevik Highlander… Akhmed Tsalykkaty

  • 02/09/2023
Akhmed Tembulatovich Tsalykkaty (Tsalikov in Russian), an Ossetian Muslim, was born on December 27, 1882, in the village of Nogkau, in the Terek region. He graduated from the Stavropol Gymnasium. Then, he left for Moscow for a university education in 1900. He attended the law faculty of Moscow University, where he participated in the student movements and had the first revolutionary ideas. Then, he joined the Russian Social-Democrat Labor Party (RSDLP) and became a Menshevik and the leader of several student circles. Since Menshevism has no grounds among the North Caucasian Highlanders, we may assume that Akhmed Tsalykkaty is one of the very rare profiles from this perspective.

In March 1901 he was exiled from Moscow to Stavropol, where he was under secret police surveillance. In February 1902, he was arrested for participating in student riots and sentenced to six months in UFA prison. He was among other participants in an insurrection and returned from Ufa to the Caucasus on July 22, 1902. In 1903, he was sent from Moscow to the Caucasus for his revolutionary activities, where he continued to organize social democratic committees in the Terek region and conduct revolutionary work in his native Ossetia. His activities soon swept Dagestan, and as a result, the Terek-Dagestan Committee of the RSDLP was created, and Tsalykkaty became a member of the Social Democratic Committee, which was formed in Vladikavkaz in the summer of 1904, and he became the leader of the Mensheviks in Ossetia.

Akhmed Tslykkaty in the early 1900s
In 1904, returning to Moscow, he was elected representative of Moscow University at the All-Russian Congress of Students in Kyiv (illegally). In 1906, Tsalykkaty passed the state exams and graduated in March 1907. For a short time, he tried to engage in the bar, but soon returned to political activity, coordinating, in particular, the activities of the Terek-Dagestan and North-Caucasian unions of the RSDLP, the Vladikavkaz, Kuban, and Armavir committees of the RSDLP, as well as collaborating in the Menshevik publications such as "Our Cause", "Revival". After his speech in Vladikavkaz for the convocation of a non-party workers' congress and the creation of a broad class-political organization of the proletariat on the eve of the Fifth (London) Congress of the RSDLP (1907), he was sharply criticized by V.I. Lenin.

In April 1908, Tsalykkaty, while in Vladikavkaz, was accused of possession of illegal literature. But he fled from the police and went to Moscow, where he lived until the summer. In June 1909 he was arrested in St. Petersburg and sent to Vladikavkaz, in November. He was sentenced to imprisonment for one year. The sentence came into force in March 1910, and he was kept in the Armavir prison, from where he was released in March 1911.

He returned to Moscow in October 1911.  He visited the editorial office of the Moscow newspaper “Russkoye Slovo” on November 29, 1914, and the “Derevenskaya Gazeta” on November 30. In 1914, the Moscow magazine "Living Word" (No. 10) published his enthusiastic article "In Memory of the Great Fighter", dedicated to Karl Marx. His works touching on the acute issues of Muslim life were published also in other publications such as "Early Morning", "Morning of Russia", and "Herald of Europe".  In May-September 1915, Tsalykkaty collaborated with the liberal Moscow magazine “National Problems”. In addition, he was the author of several books on the national policy of tsarism towards the Muslim population. He participated in publishing the Muslim newspaper "Söz" ("Word"), which began to be published in December 1915, but in the summer of 1916 was closed by the authorities.  Tsalykkaty became a member of the bureau created in Petrograd in February 1916 (consisting of several expert intellectuals representing the North Caucasus, Turkestan, Crimea, and the Volga region) under the Muslim faction of the State Duma. He arrived in Petrograd on April 19, 1916, and began to live in 10 (apt. 68) on Saperny Lane, in which many celebrities lived. As soon as he was in the capital, he was placed under surveillance by the police. By the spring of 1917, the well-educated Tsalykkaty was not only a theoretician but also an experienced politician who played an important role in the political life of the Muslims of Eurasia.

The proposal to create a single parliament for the entire Muslim population of the country was voiced by him during the All-Russian Muslim Congress, which was held in Moscow on May 1-11, 1917.  meeting. The congress was attended by 900 delegates - representatives of all the Muslim peoples of the empire. On May 11, the last day of work, the congress elected the All-Russian Muslim Council (VMC) from 30 people, who elected their Executive Committee consisting of 12 persons. Tsalykkaty was elected chairman, he also managed the executive committee. Tsalykkaty also became the editor-in-chief of the Petrograd newspaper “Izvestia” of the All-Russian Muslim Council, which began to be published on June 30, 1917.

In May, according to G. I. Safarov (Voldin), a member of the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP (Bolsheviks),  Tsalykkaty was a right-wing Menshevik whose leaders supported the Provisional Government. At the end of May, the Executive Committee delegated Tsalykkaty as the representative of the Committee to the Petrograd Soviet of Peasants' Deputies, to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, to the Commission on Spiritual Affairs under the Department of Heterodox Confessions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and others. 

In the newspaper "Den" edited by the right-wing Menshevik A.N. Potresov

On July 13, the appeal of the Executive Committee "To the Muslims of Russia!" compiled by Tsalykkaty was published:

“Our fate is inseparably linked with the fate of the country's revolutionary democracy, and our consciousness says that we must all unite in a firm force around what is called the government of salvation of the revolution. It is the duty of all our organizations, the duty of each conscientious citizen individually, to direct all efforts to ensure that Muslims continue to sweep away anarchy in every possible way. It is the duty of each of us to strengthen the revolutionary government, and then we will get everything, or, if the government falls, we will lose everything.”

On July 22, 1917, in Kazan, at a joint meeting of participants in three all-Russian congresses (military, mullah and general), the national-cultural autonomy of the Muslims of European Russia and Siberia was proclaimed, the bodies for its implementation were created - the National Parliament and the National Administration (government), consisting of three departments (education, finance and religion), as well as the Collegium for the implementation of cultural and national autonomy of Muslims in inner Russia. Thus, Tsalykkaty's proposal for a Muslim parliament was implemented, however, only in a limited territory.

Assessing the results of the 2nd All-Russian (General) Muslim Congress in Kazan, Tsalykkaty wrote that it was decided to go to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly with socialist parties in the election campaign. "And at first glance, this decision of the congress may seem unexpected ... But at this time, the reasons of a national and political nature ... gave the revolution the support of 30 million Muslim citizens". As a result, the Socialist-Revolutionaries received many Muslim votes in the elections. During this election campaign, the Crimean Mensheviks, having received instructions from their Central Committee, even included Tsalykkaty in the same list as such leaders as M.G. Tsereteli and Y.O. Martov. However, in the end, Tsalykkaty entered another list - the Muslim Socialist Committee in Kazan, which was established there at the beginning of April 1917.

Akhmed Tsalykkaty (sitting in the middle) with other Muslim leaders of the Russian Empire
After the fall of the Provisional Government and the coming to power of the Bolsheviks, Tsalykkaty had some hopes for a new government and hoped for the Menshevik internationalists led by Martov. On November 30, the Petrograd newspaper “Novaya Zhizn”, which was published by the Mensheviks-Internationalists, published his "Open Letter to the Council of People's Commissars", where he publicly declared: “... We do not doubt the good feelings of the Bolshevik commissars towards the oppressed Muslim world. But good feelings and promises are one thing, and the ability to bring them to life is another. Without exaggeration, we can say that the current government of the Bolsheviks is pursuing a policy that, in the end, may have an opposite meaning for the Muslim population of Russia and the East ...”

Tsalykkatı was also among the Mountain Intelligentsia who suppressed the interference of the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division (Wild Division) in the Kornilov Affair.  He had convinced the commanders of the Wild Division not to obey the orders of General Kornilov and safeguarded the February Revolution and the government of Alexander Kerensky.

Akhmed Tsalykkatı (sitting 8th from the left on the second row) with the officers of the "Wild Division" (September 1917)
On January 1, 1918, seven socialist deputies of the Constituent Assembly from the Kazan and Ufa provinces arrived in Petrograd, and at the first meeting held on the same day, they unanimously decided "in the name of preserving the continuity of the idea of Muslim representation in national institutions and its independence to form an independent Muslim socialist faction, which included Tsalykkaty.

Akhmed Tsalykkaty at his office in Petrograd in January 1918
On January 23, 1918, in Petrograd, a meeting of representatives of the socialist factions of the dissolved parliament was held, which was also attended by a representative of the Muslim Socialist Party, Akhmed Tsalykkaty. He had participated in the meeting of the same representatives on January 31, 1918, as well. His further political career was related to the North Caucasus. Later he ended up in Tbilisi and published programs of the Social Democratic Party of the Republic of the Union of Mountain Peoples of the North Caucasus.  

After returning to the North Caucasus, he headed the “Terek Region People's Council”, and was among the members of the Provisional Central Committee of the Union of North Caucasian Highlanders. He was one of those who strongly opposed the Central Committee's tendency towards rapprochement with Turkey. He claimed that the Caucasian Highlanders were mistaken in their warm feelings about Turkey, but they needed an alluring illusion because the reality was too heavy and unattractive.

Akhmed Tsalykkaty 1919
Tsalykkatı also opposed the Central Committee’s decree to join the South-East Union with the Cossacks. He categorically condemned the cooperation with the Cossacks and he paraphrased such a cooperation as a betrayal of the Russian Revolution in one of his interviews published in Kaspi Newspaper dated October 29, 1917.  Under beguile of his Menshevik tendencies, from time to time he even stood against the independence and made speeches that would benefit a unitary democratic Russia. He blamed the Liberal Nationalist cadres of the Central Committee for being the puppets of Germany, Turkey, and England. He accused them of being unscrupulous, opportunistic, and adventurous. He was saying that now Russia would become a center for liberation and that the hopes of all oppressed Eastern peoples were with Moscow.  Tsalykkaty came to the crossroads with his comrades in Social Democrat and Bolshevik groups when General Denikin’s armies started to invade the North Caucasus.  When he was elected the chairman of the Provisional Committee of the Highlanders in Tbilisi, his comrades neither attended the meeting nor took posts in the committee. Tsalykkaty had also become a member of the Defense Council in October 1919.  Despite how the events develop Tsalykkaty’s Turcophobia has never changed.  Tsalykkaty continued to criticize the Turcs categorically in his article entitled “The Turkish Moor” published in the newspaper Borba in Tbilisi on May 13, 1920. In his article, he claimed that Turkey was the sole responsible for all the turmoil in the Caucasus. This time his claims were not unjustified. Because the Ankara Government was trying to facilitate the Bolshevik victory in the Caucasus through the agents in the region.

Akhmed Tsalykkaty’s qualifications also attracted the French High Commissioner in Tbilisi.  In his report to the Foreign Ministry in Paris, Abel Chevalley stated that Tsalykkaty was the most talented and active personality among the profiles of the North Caucasian Revolutionary Committee in Tbilisi.

After the Bolshevik victory, Tsalykkaty was among the ones who immigrated to Turkey.  He actively joined the underground work for rebellious movements in the Caucasus.  His activities were under close surveillance of the Turkish security forces and once he was about to be deported and handed over to the Soviets.  He maintained his relations with the Georgian and Azerbaijani Mensheviks also in the immigration.  French intelligence reports proved that he was the sole person among the North Caucasian Highlanders who preserved contacts with the Trans-Caucasian Mensheviks groups.

Similar to all other Caucasian rebel organizations Akmed Tsalykkatı could not find suitable grounds for a life and work in Turkey.  He moved to Prague under an organization of the International Red Cross under the sponsorship of the Czechoslovakian leader Thomas Masaryk.  He founded the first official political immigrant movement of the North Caucasian émigré groups.  Besides the establishment of the Union of Caucasian Highlanders (SGK), he also circulated a periodical entitled Kavkazskiy Gorets (Caucasian Highlanders) as the official publication of SGK. He also founded “The Popular Party of the Free Highlanders of the Caucasus” which is accepted to be the preceding body of the “Popular Party of the Caucasian Highlanders” which was initially headed by Said Shamil and operated in Warsaw.  The most striking aspect of Tsalykkaty’s immigration life was his rapprochement with the right wing of the émigré groups. There are still a lot of critical questions to be clarified in Tsalykkaty’s activities in immigration life. The letter communication between him and the other members of the Caucasian émigré groups will shed light on the dark spots of the battle of power among the émigré fractions.  After completing my ongoing task at IRCICA on the private archive of Haydar Bammat, I will be concentrating on this topic as well and share Tsalykkaty’s letters in the context of political struggle within the North Caucasian émigré organizations. During my archival work, I have also figured out an unpublished groundbreaking manuscript work penned by Akhmed Tsalykkaty but not known to any of us until today.  I have figured out that Akhmed Tsalyykaty wrote a very detailed work entitled “The Mountain Republic” as a study of the geographics, statistics, ethnographics, linguistics, economics, and politics of the Republic of the Union of the North Caucasian Highlanders from the day of independence declaration until the invasion of the Bolsheviks.  I hope next year we will have the opportunity to transcribe this manuscript and prepare for publication in several languages.

Similar to many other North Caucasian immigrants, Tsalykkaty moved to Poland as well and lived in a village Otwock, located in the southeast direction of Warsaw.  Suffering many serious health problems, Tsallykaty passed away at the age of 46 in Otwock on September 2, 1928.  He was buried in Otwock.

On the one hand, A. Tsalykkaty is an undoubted modernist and progressive, on the other hand, he attaches great importance to the spiritual factor, especially the preservation of national and religious traditions and institutions. In many ways, his views were formed as a reaction to the crisis state in imperial society - increased social differentiation, mass impoverishment of the population, and a drop in living standards. He was a prominent representative of the democratic community of the Muslim peoples and he became a theorist and leader of the Muslim movement of Eurasia, in 1917.

To commemorate the 95th anniversary of his death I share his open letter to the Conference of the Caucasus Republics about the joint fight against Denikin's volunteer army published in Tbilisi Newspaper.


The Decisive Hour,                                            Tbilisi, 7 May 1919

An open letter from a member of the conferences of the Caucasian republics;

On April 27, the conference of the Caucasian republics began: Georgians, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Union of Mountain Peoples.

In the conference program published in the newspapers, there are several extremely important issues. The Caucasian press, which discussed this program, has high hopes for the conference. Indeed, the conference can play a historic role in the fate of the Caucasus and, perhaps, not only in the fate of the Caucasus, but of the whole of Russia, if it does not confine itself only to those questions that are posed in the program, although very important, but kicking of secondary importance, but firmly and boldly solve the main problem of the existence of an independent free Caucasus, the problem of the so-called volunteer army's stay in the North Caucasus on the territory of the mountain peoples. Under the heel of this army, which has resurrected the worst times of Cossack oppression in the North Caucasus, the mountain peoples and Russian democracy are suffocating.

At the moment when the sword of Denikin's reaction is high on the peoples of the Caucasus, when this sword is already abundantly stained with the blood of the freedom-loving sons of the Caucasus Mountains, and not today, tomorrow will fall on the heads of the Transcaucasian peoples, the development of all sorts of trade, postal, telegraph, railway conventions is certainly a respectable occupation, but not the main one that the conference of the Caucasian republics should deal with.

If it is correct the fate of Transcaucasia will be decided at the foothills of the North Caucasus and whoever triumphs there will decide the fate of Transcaucasia as well. Then, it is clear that the main task of the moment must be to resolve the question of the expulsion of Denikin and his volunteer army from the territory of the mountain peoples.

The cause of the mountain peoples is the common cause of all the peoples of the Caucasus.

To the mountain peoples, who are dying unequally, the struggle of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia must provide immediate armed assistance.

Let the proud and free voice of the peoples inhabiting these republics, in the person of their representatives, be delegated to the conference to courageously declare before the whole world that from now on all the Caucasian peoples have bound themselves to an inseparable mutual responsibility in the common cause of upholding common freedom and common independence.

Let all those who encroach on the independence and freedom of the Caucasian peoples, wherever they may be, know that the peoples of the Caucasus will not give up the great gains of the Russian revolution for anyone's beautiful eyes!

If, on the other hand, the mountain peoples and the Russian democracies of the Shvorny Caucasus are left to their own devices in a nightmarish struggle against the reaction carried by General Denikin's bayonets, and the Transcaucasian republics do not find the determination to courageously act in this historically important part, we do not doubt that all these railway and postal conventions will be of zero importance.

Dear Members of the Conference of the Caucasian Republic!  Do you hear the twelfth part beat in the destinies of the Caucasian republics?! Make up your mind! Otherwise, no national shells, diplomatic tricks, or international combinations will save you from the historical Nemesis!

Akhmed Tsalykkaty

Cem Kumuk
Istanbul, 2 September 2023