Shamyl, or Schamyl

Shamyl, Or Schamyl (i.e. Samuel), a celebrated leader of the Caucasus, was born at Aul-Himry, in Northern Daghestan. He belonged to a wealthy Lesghian family of rank, and early became a zealous disciple of Kasi-Mollah, the great apostle of Muridism, who brought together the various Caucasian tribes, and led them against the heretical Russians. After the assassination of Hamzad Bey, the successor of Kasi-Mollah (1834), Shamyl was unanimously elected imam; and being absolute temporal and spiritual chief of the tribes which acknowledged his authority, he made numerous changes in their religious creed and political administration. His military tactics, consisting of surprises, ambuscades, etc., brought numerous successes to the mountaineers. In 1837 he defeated general Ivelitch, but in 1839 the Russians succeeded in hemming Shamyl into Akulgo, in Daghestan, took the fortress by storm, and it was supposed that he perished, as the defenders were put to the sword. But he suddenly reappeared, preaching more vigorously than ever the "holy war against the heretics." In 1843 he conquered all Avares, besieged Mozdok, foiled the Russians in their subsequent campaign, and gained over to his side the Caucasian tribes which had hitherto favored Russia. In 1844 he completed the organization of his government, made Dargo his capital, and established a code of laws and a system of taxation and internal communication. The fortunes of war changed till 1852, when Bariatinsky compelled Shamyl to assume the defensive, and deprived him of his victorious prestige. Religious indifference and political dissensions began to undermine his power, and at the close of the Crimean war Russia again attempted the subjection of the Caucasus. For three years Shamyl bravely held out, although for several months he was a mere guerilla chief, hunted from fastness to fastness. At last (Sept. 6, 1859), he was surprised on the plateau of Ghunib, and, after a desperate resistance, was taken prisoner. His wives and treasure were spared to him, and he was taken to St. Petersburg, where he met with a gracious reception from Alexander II. After a short stay, he was assigned to Kaluga, receiving a pension of 10,000 rubles. From here he removed (December, 1868) to Kief, and in January, 1870 to Mecca, remaining a parole prisoner of the Russian government. He died in Medina, Arabia, in March, 1871.

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