Kundukhov Mussa (Mussa-Pasha)
Russian army Major-General.
Later became a Turkish army General as well.
In the splendid galaxy of the Ossetian generals of czarist Russia a special place belongs to Major-General Mussa Kunduhov. Being a courageous warrior, he also proved himself an astute diplomat and a real enlightener of his people.
In early spring of 1818 the fifth son was born in the family of a Tagaur noble Alkhast Kunduhov. He was named Mussa. At the age of 12 the surprisingly bright boy was taken to Petersburg and placed at the Pavlovsk military school from which he graduated at the rank of cavalry cornet within the Detached Caucasian corps. Very soon Mussa was distinguished among the same-aged, got popularity and became one of the few mountaineers in the retinue of Nicholas I while the latter was visiting the Caucasus in 1837. Clever, acute, thoughtful and with great military bearing the handsome man drew His Majesty’s attention and got “monarchic benevolence”.
Then Mussa’s military service became combined with responsible diplomatic activity. “In this role, – wrote B.P.Berezov in his work “The way that equals a century”, - Kunduhov was entrusted with exceptionally important tasks”.
As we know, the czarist attempt to spread its influence over the whole territory of the Caucasus faced resistance of the people in Dagestan, Chechnya and Adygeya. In 1834 Shamil became the leader of resistance. He managed to unify vast masses and carry out a number of successful operations against the Russian troops. In the fall of 1843 Shamil passed to the offensive. He almost destroyed the entire Russian garrison in Avaria and seized 27 guns. Russia lost Avaria and the whole of mountainous Dagestan for long 16 years.
It was in these years of imam Shamil’s peak of might that Kunduhov got a very important diplomatic mission. This mission involves Mussa’s going to see Shamil in order to hold talks with him.
By this time Mussa Kunduhov had already been holder of the Orders of St.Vladimir (4 degree) with the bow, St.Anne (3,2,1 degrees), St.Stanislav (2 degree) and owned the Cavalry Cross of Leopold of Austria. But his life was in no way limited to his military service. His civil activity as the head of the Voenno-Osetinsky district should be paid attention to for it was entirely dedicated to helping the Ossetians arrange their public and civil life.
However, general Kunduhov’s life, his activity and decisions being made were not easy and sometimes unpredictable. In 1865 he was directing the mountaineers’ resettlement in Turkey. There are several suppositions which may have induced the 44-year old general to make this move after 29 years of serving in Russia. The version uttered by the army commander of Terskaya region in the letter to the Head of the Caucasian Army Headquarters seems the most probable: “The motives guiding general Konduhov in this affair were articulated by him directly: easing the government burden by moving to Turkey…by this move he hopes to save the native population from miseries which would inevitably strike these tribes in case of rebellion. I hope Your Excellency knows about his long-standing belief of inevitability of such a rebellion in the Eastern Caucasus”. Now the “highest blessing” had to be received in order to leave.
In June 1865 Kunduhov arrived in Istanbul to negotiate the resettlement of part of mountaineers on the Turkish territory. In Istambul he met with the general Nazir Mahmat Emin-pasha, and two weeks later the Turkish government authorized the resettlement of five thousand Chechens and Ossetians.
In 1866 he was appointed commander of the 4th Army and came to be called Cherkes Mussa Kunduhov (or Mussa-Pasha). He won military fame and was deeply respected by the Turkish government (as well as by the Russian government earlier).
In 1877 the Russian-Turkish war broke out. Its aim was to liberate the Slavic population from the centuries-old yoke of the Ottoman Empire. Cruel suppression of the Bulgarian rebellion and the unparalleled brutality of the Ottomans gave rise to resentment of all European community. The volunteer flow from Russia was so enormous that the numbers had to be limited, so only people with military training were sent. Many soldiers, officers, doctors and nurses rushed to the Balkans. All progressive mankind stood up for the rescue of the Balkan people. Considerable contribution to the liberation war against the Turkish yoke was made by the Caucasian regiments which included hundreds of courageous sons of Ossetia. In this circumstance the general Kunduhov’s position in the war was discordant as he was supporting the Turks. But his fortune let him down. On May 13th the Turkish cavalry commanded by general Kunduhov (Mussa Pasha) was defeated near Magardzhi, and on May 17th “our horse patrols reported a huge Turkish army camp, - it was the 25-thousand cavalry of Mussa-pasha. Our young cavalry under personal command of the cavalry head lieutenant-general Chavchavadze at dawn of May 18th dispersed the entire cavalry of Kunduhov located near Begli-Ahmet”. (“Elisovetpoltsy. The history of 156th infantry Elisovetpol general, the duke of the Tsitsian regiment (1863-1913)”. Tiflis, 1913, p.73).
It was the end of the general’s military fame. He left the army and got settled in the mountainous Erzerum. There he died and was buried on the territory of the Harmanli mosque.
Based on “SONS OF MOTHERLAND” by G.T.Dzagurova
Vladikavkaz, “Proekt-Press”, 2003.
Translated by Andrei Varava