, 1798?–1871, imam (religious and political leader) of the E Caucasus. From 1834 to 1859 he led the Muslim tribes of the E Caucasus in their holy war to resist Russian conquest, waging guerrilla warfare with great skill.
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(also Shamyl). Born 1797 in the aul (village) of Gimry, in Dagestan; died March 1871 in Medina, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Head of a Muslim military and theocratic state in Dagestan who led the struggle of the Dagestan and Chechen mountaineers against the tsarist colonialists (seeCAUCASIAN WAR OF 1817–64).
The son of an Avar peasant, Shamil was raised among Muslim clergy. In the 1820’s he became an associate of Gazi-Magomed’s and later of Gamzat-Bek’s; in 1834 he was elected imam. Through his organizational abilities and force of will he succeeded in uniting the mountaineers and in subjugating the local Dagestani feudal lords. His personal bravery and remarkable eloquence made Shamil an extremely popular figure. In 1848 his rule was declared hereditary. Supported by the free peasants and the clergy, he established an imamate, that is, a military theocracy in which secular and religious power was invested in him (seeIMAMATE).
Shamil, who proved to be a skilled military commander, successfully warred against the tsarist forces and achieved several major victories in the 1840’s. In the 1850’s, however, his movement declined, owing to the superior numbers of the tsarist troops, growing internal social contradictions, the ruin and exhaustion of the people, a food crisis, and the treachery of his vicegerents.
On Aug. 25, 1859, Shamil, with 400 Murids (seeMURIDISM), was besieged in the aul of Gunib, and on August 26 he surrendered under honorable conditions. He and his family were resettled in Kaluga, and in 1870 he was permitted to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Dagestan and Chechnia were annexed by force, a method typical of tsarist policy. At the same time, the incorporation of these peoples into the Russian Empire contributed to their economic, political, and cultural development.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed. (See index, p. 252.)
Gadzhi, Ali. “Skazanie ochevidtsa o Shamile.” In Sb. svedenii o kavkazskikh gortsakh, fasc. 7. Tiflis, 1873. (Translated from Arabic.)
Mukhammed-Takhir al Karakhi. Khronika o dagestanskikh voinakh v period Shamilia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941.
Runovskii, A. Zapiski o Shamile. St. Petersburg, 1860.
Bushuev, S. K. Bor’ba gortsev za nezavisimost’ pod rukovodstvom Shamilia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
O dvizhenii gortsev pod rukovodstvom Shamilia: Materialy sessii Dagestanskogo filiala Akademii nauk SSSR, 4–7 oktiabria 1956. Makhachkala, 1957.
Dvizhenie gortsev Severo-Vostochnogo Kavkaza v 20–50-kh gg. XIX v.: Sb. dokumentov. Makhachkala, 1959.