Sheikh Mansur

Not to be confused with Sheikh Mansour
Sheikh Mansur (Ushurma)
Шейх Мансур (2).jpg
BornJune, 1760 (1760-06-25)
Aldi, Chechnya
Died13 April, 1794 (1794-04-14) (aged 34)
Shlisselburg, Russian Empire

Al-Imam al-Mansur al-Mutawakil 'ala Allah,[1]:56 also known as Sheikh al-Mansur ("The-Victorious"), born Mansur Ushurma (1760–1794) was a Chechen Islamic religious and military leader who led the resistance against Catherine the Great's imperialist expansion into the Caucasus during the late 18th century. Sheikh Mansur is considered as the first leader of the resistance in Caucasus against Russian imperialism. He remains a hero of the Chechen and Caucasian peoples in general, and their struggle for independence.[2]

Biography

Mansur Ushurma was born in the aul of Aldi, centered in the Sunja River valley. Later on, he ventured to the Dagestan hill country for education, eventually settling for a madrasa following the Naqshbandi school of Sufi Islam.[1]:56

In 1784, Sheikh Mansur, now a clouted imam, journeyed back to Chechnya, became upset with the Russian encroachment in the North Caucasus. He ordered the remaining non-Muslim Chechens to stop practicing many of their old pagan traditions with the cult of the dead, to stop smoking tobacco, influenced Islamic concepts into social conventions (adat) and to attempt Islamic unity. This was not easy in a land where people had lived under ancient traditions, customs and religions. Islamic tradition in Chechnya, especially in the mountainous areas, was not as strong as it was in Dagestan. But the holy war that he declared was an attempt at unity among the teip clans.

As Mansur's message became popular with the Chechen people, the Russian Empire attempted to discredit him and ultimately arrest him. In 1785, the Russians sent a punitive expedition of up to 5,000 soldiers[1]:57 to his home in Aldi-aul, only to find the village bare and desolate. Angered, the Russian troops plundered and burned the village to the ground. Upon returning to Aldi-aul with others, Mansur proclaimed a holy war (gazavat) against the Russians. Soon, Chechen fighters won the Battle of the Sunja, killing and taking hundreds of Russian soldiers captive.[1]:57[3] After that, Sheikh Mansur rallied resistance fighters from Dagestan through Kabarda. Most of the forces were young Chechen and Dagestani men numbering more than 12,000 by December 1785. However, Mansur suffered a defeat when he tried to infiltrate Russian territory and failed to seize the fort of Kizlyar.

After this, the Russian people refortified their settlements and the Russian Empress Catherine the Great withdrew her forces from Georgia to the Terek River line. In 1786, Russian forces abandoned the new fort of Vladikavkaz, and would not occupy it again until 1803. From 1787-1791, during the Russian-Turkish War, Sheikh Mansur moved to the northwestern Caucasus region of Adygea, strengthening Islamic practice there. He led the Adyghe and Nogai peoples in assaults against Russian forces, but they were pushed back many times.

In June 1791, Sheikh Mansur was captured at the Turkish fortress of Anapa on the Black Sea when it came under siege. He was brought to Saint Petersburg and imprisoned for life. In April 1794, he died at the Shlisselburg Fortress.