Rus Articles Journal

Who are you, the princess Bela?

One of the memorable female images created in the Russian literature are the princess Bela from M. Yu. Lermontov`s novel “The hero of our time“.

Reading the novel, it is necessary to pay attention to a little free and inexact use of ethnonyms. So, for example, Maxim Maksimych, remembering in conversation with the author of the novel of the friend - the prince living near fortress at the Stone Ford calls him the Tatar. The daughter of the prince, the beauty Bela, is called the Circassian.

“Time the old prince comes to call us on a wedding, - Maxim Maksimovich tells, - he gave the oldest daughter in marriage, and we were with it friends: so it is impossible, you know, to refuse though it and the Tatar. Went. In the aul the great number of dogs met us by loud bark. Women, having taken away us, hid; those whom we could consider in a face were not beauties. “I had much the best opinion on Circassians“, - Grigory Aleksandrovich told me...“ Later, fallen in love with the Circassian Bela Pechorin to have an opportunity to communicate with the girl, learns Tatar and employs for Bela`s service the woman able to speak on - Tatar.

Involuntarily there are questions: “Why at the prince - the Tatar the daughter appears the Circassian and why for communication with the Circassian by Bela Pechorinu it was required to employ the woman knowing Tatar, and most to learn Tatar though, as we know, the Circassian and Tatar languages belong to various language groups?“

Listed, from the point of view of modern ethnography, a contradiction it is possible to explain if to consider that in Russian of the 19th century of the word “Tatar“ and “Circassian“ had the specifics and meant not only names of concrete ethnoses.

It should be noted that domongolsky Russia did not know Tatars. Originally Tatars - one of those tribes which obeyed to Mongols. Mongols, being in minority, were dissolved in the Tatar environment, and at the right time when the Mongolian hordes reached Russia, the community Tatar - Mongols was formed. In turn, torn off from the homeland Tatar - Mongols, were dissolved among Turkic peoples of the Great steppe Desht - and - Kipchak. The community which became history as zolotoordynsky Tatars was so formed. After disintegration of the Golden Horde various nationalities belonging to Turkic language group began to be called Tatars.

So descendants Volga the Bulgar began to be called Tatars, also the part of the inhabitants of the Crimea who accepted Islam began to be called Tatars. In the 19th century when the Russian ethnography took the first steps on studying of the people of the Caucasus, Tatars called also the Turkic people of the Caucasus: Azerbaijanians were called the Transcaucasian Tatars, and Kumyks - the Caucasian Tatars. Later the pre-revolutionary ethnography allocated Kumyks from the Tatar environment, and Azerbaijanians began to be called as the Caucasian Tatars.

As for an ethnonym “Circassian“, this name of one of the Adygei subethnoses. However in the years of the Caucasian war the concept “Circassian“ was used not only as an ethnonym: Circassians called all mountaineers of the North Caucasus irrespective of an ethnic origin.

Here, in my opinion, the reasons so not strict, from positions of modern ethnography, use of words by Lermontov the Circassian and the Tatar lie . The princess Bela, being an inhabitant of the Caucasus, or, being expressed by a modern Newspeak, being a Caucasian, it is called in the novel the Circassian. However “Circassian“ Bela at the same time is the representative of the Turkic people and her native language is language which in the 19th century was called Tatar. Fortress in which there are events described in the story “Bela“ was as Maxim Maksimych noted, in Chechnya at the Stone Ford.

What it is possible to tell about it? It is quite possible that on the Russian cards of times of the Caucasian war the territory of Chechnya could differ from present and include regions of modern Dagestan. And from the people inhabiting Dagestan in the 19th century Tatars could call only Kumyks. So, there are certain arguments for the assumption: the princess Bela on a nationality was Kumyk.

The proof of a conclusion that the princess Bela was Kumyk, can be confirmed with additional arguments.

At a wedding of the sister Bela sends to Pechorin greetings. The address of the young girl to the unfamiliar man who for the first time visited the house - custom rather peculiar. The similar custom exists at Kumyks. For the Circassian girl the similar behavior could be considered as an inadmissible liberty. Besides, as it was noted in the period of one of lermontovsky anniversaries, in one of the regions of Dagestan, in places of compact accommodation of Kumyks, there is a district which in translation from Kumyk is called the Stone Ford. There are bases to assume that fortress at the Stone Ford - not an invention of the novelist, and really existing strengthening.

... It is thought, there are no reasons for serious reproaches to Lermontov for the fact that he Bela called the Kumyk the Circassian. On the one hand, Lermontov, being a person of the time, “Circassian“ and “Tatar“ within the time used ethnonyms. At the same time, perhaps, the problem is even beyond ethnography questions.

Mikhail Lermontov was a poet, and poets live life. In this regard it is possible to remember the poet Sergey Yesenin. Sergey Yesenin, having met Armenian Shagane in Batumi, turned her into the Persian and “moved“ it in the horosansky South...