By definition, the North Caucasus refers to the area lying north of the Caucasus Mountains and stretching from the Black Sea in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. Today, this region of the Russian Federation encompasses Rostov oblast, the Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, and the republics of Adygea, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan. This volume covers only those areas that fell under World War II Nazi German occupation, which stopped short of Chechnya and lasted, with some local variation, for around five months, from summer 1942 until early 1943. We also touch on events in occupied Kalmykia, insofar as it was part of the same wave of German advance and killing operations.
Here we address a topic—the Holocaust—that might at first glance seem foreign to the Caucasian mosaic. After all, with all the ethnic and religious heterogeneity of the Caucasian population, Jews have never figured prominently. Their destruction was carried out by a foreign power bent on realizing its ideas everywhere, irrespective of local circumstances. In fact, in terms of sheer numbers and the relatively condensed time and place, the Holocaust in the North Caucasus seems to pale in significance next to the many violent events that befell and continue to befall this region. Suffice it to remember the most prominent among them. In the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, the long Russian-Caucasian war ended in Russian victory in 1864 and was followed by the mass expulsion of the Circassian people. The twentieth century saw the fighting between the Bolsheviks and their numerous adversaries during the Civil War, the Soviet de-Cossackization campaign of the 1920s and 1930s, famine and collectivization in the 1930s, and, after the German occupation, the deportations of several non-Russian ethnic groups (in particular, the Balkars, Chechens, Ingush, Kalmyks, and Karachais) from the region in 1943–44. More recently, the two Chechen wars began in the 1990s and continued into the early twenty-first century. In and of themselves, some of these events have been cited as examples of ethnic cleansing or genocide by both local and Western scholars, although this is not a position shared by most Russian scholarship.