The Karachay live in the republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia.
Located in the north-western part of the North Caucasus highlands. In the east separated from the Balkars and the Kabards by Mt. Elbrus, in the north and west they border with the Cherkess, Nogay and Abaza, in the south with the Abkhazians and Svanetians.
Language: Karachay-Balkar, related to Turkish group
Religion:Sunni-muslims of the Hanafi school, trad. animist beliefs.
Diaspora: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Siberia, USA
The Karachay are closely related to the Balkars, and also to Nogay and Kumyk.
Descendants of local Caucasian tribes settled since the Bronze Age and in-migrated tribes (the Alans, Bulgarians, Kypchaks), traditionally transhumant people.
After the Mongolian invasion Karachay ancestors were driven to canyons in the North Caucasus. In the 16-18th c., they resisted Crimean khans and had contacts with Dagestan, Transcaucasia, Greater Kabardia, and Russia.
The Karachay came under Russia's control in 1828 and many left for Turkey after the land reform of the 1870s which gave the Karachay land to tsarist officials. The Soviet administrative policy separated culturally and linguistically related peoples to prevent any resistance in the North Caucasus. Administrative units after the Revolution: Karachayevo Okrug (1920), Karachayevo-Cherkessiya AO (1922); Karachayevo Oblast (1926) had 55,000 Karachais and was liquidated in 1943 in connection with Stalin's deportations of the Karachay to Central Asia and Kazakhstan (tens of thousands died).
After the return of Karachay to their historical homeland in 1957, the Karachayevo-Cherkessiya AO was re-established. In 1991, the Karachay were completely rehabilitated and the AO assumed the status of autonomous republic. Karachay identify themselves according to the clan/canyon where they live (four clan groups) rather than with the whole ethnic group. Strong anti-Russian and anti-Soviet sentiment.
Karachay have perceived themselves as victims of prejudicial treatment, particularly with respect to entrance to universities and employment. They have been unable to assume socially or politically sensitive positions. The directors of many Karachay schools have been Russians. The Karachay have announced their desire to secure their separate autonomy and to secure "complete rehabilitation". The Karachay-Cherkess Supreme Soviet supported the Karachay demands and potentially conflicting territorial claims appear to have been resolved peacefully.