They recalled a story of the Caucasus I had told them long ago, and I told them again about abreks
, about Cossacks, about Khadzhi-Murat.
Though often violent, the raids initiated by abreks should be distinguished from other forms of aggression that took place between villages and clans.
If we read Bobrovnikov's characterization of the last stage of abrechestvo in light of the fact that none of the people whom he deems "political bandits" have ever in any interview called themselves abreks, and that he cites absolutely no evidence for his claims, his conclusions come across as rather disturbing:
Until Chechnya was conquered, abreks were "Byronic types": they could not live alongside the people of their circle and therefore cut their ties with them as they continued to hate society in general.
When the Russian conquerors appeared in the Caucasus, then the people transferred their terror of the abreks onto their uninvited guests; and therefore during the war, abreks became the leaders of the Chechen resistance.
Then they began to take their revenge on the authorities: abreks killed officials, robbed the post and Cossacks, as well as other official institutions .
Power terrorized the peaceful population, and abreks terrorized those in power.
Avtorkhanov's appropriation of this term to characterize his people indicates the prestige that abreks enjoyed in Chechen and, more broadly, mountaineer culture.
The most honored abreks in Caucasian society fought against an unjust power structure, which usually was connected to the Russian state.
In spite of all the heroism of the abreks," according to Notes on the History of the Chechen-Ingush Republic (1: 218), their rebellions often bore the character of banditry [razboi], terror.
Along with the code of honour, the stubbornness of Chechen insurgency is rooted in the historic tradition of abreks [bandits of honour]--members of Caucasian desperado bands who fought the Russian authorities in the nineteenth century.
The great Russian poet Lermontov, who served in the Caucasus as an officer with the Russian army, so described the final hours of a besieged abrek group: 'When our troops surrounded them and it became apparent that they had to choose between surrender and death, the abreks struck up a death-song, while continuing to fire back to the last bullet'.