Imam Baisungur (Boiskhar) Beno
Imam Baisungur (Boiskhar) Beno (1794-1861)
Baisungur and his companion Zoltamurad were from Benoy, the bulwark of anti-Russian resistance. From youth onwards they participated in every battle and urged Chechens to fight. After the defeat in Akhulgo in 1839 Shamil fled to Benoy, where he was welcomed into Baisungur’s house and granted refuge. It was thanks to Baisungur’s reputation and influence that Shamil, an Avar, was elected Imam of Chechnya. When he summoned them to ghazavat (holy war), Chechnya and Dagestan rose together against the Russian expansionists. Shamil made Baisungur Naib (commander) of the Benoy region, and Zoltamurad was his deputy. In 1842 Baisungur and Zoltamurad helped to surround and decimate General Grabbe’s troops and in 1845 they participated in the victorious battle against General Voronzov, when over 3000 Russian soldiers and officers met their death. But the price for this victory was high, as many warriors fell. Baisungur lost his left arm and left eye. His left leg was shot from underneath him as he defended the village Gergebil, and he was taken prisoner by the Russians.
Zoltamurad managed to buy his friend’s freedom during a transport operation. Hardly had his wounds healed, bound to his saddle by a leather strap, when the one-eyed, one-armed and one-legged Baisungur helped to defend the village of Salto.
Legends began to surround him while he was still alive. When a Cossack army stood facing Shamil’s troops, a strong Cossack called upon him to duel. Baisungur responded at once and rode towards him at a gallop. When he returned wounded in the chest, Shamil angrily asked: “What is the matter with you? Why do you bring shame upon us? You are wounded and the Cossack is astride of his saddle.” Baisungur answered: “Wait until the horse moves.” As the horse took a step, the Cossack’s head rolled to the ground…
In 1859, when the Tsar’s army of 240,000 set out to meet Shamil, more and more naibs were abandoning the Imam. Apart from Benoy all Chechnya had fallen to the Tsarist troops. Baisungur accompanied Shamil to Dagestan, where he stood beside him as the fortress of Gunib, Shamil’s last bastion, was under siege. When Shamil surrendered and left the fortress, Baisungur called: “Shamil!” – for it was inadmissible to pronounce the Imam’s name. But Shamil did not turn back. He knew that if he did he would be met by a deadly bullet to protect his name from shame. When Shamil wrote to Baisungur under instructions from the Tsar, asking him to give up his resistance, Baisungur replied: “You have exchanged the struggle for freedom against a life of imprisonment and servitude. I shall fight until my life’s end for the freedom of my people!”
Baisungur and Zoltamurad managed to organise one last uprising in 1860/61, but it was crushed with great loss of blood. On 17 February 1861 Baisungur was ambushed, captured and sentenced to death by hanging. Hundreds of Caucasians gathered on the square outside the church in Khazav-Yurt to murmur the death prayer Yasin. The drum roll stopped, the sentence was read out. The Tsar’s executioners wished to humiliate the Caucasians and shouted provocatively to the crowd that one of them should come forward to perform the execution and he would be duly rewarded. After a long silence a man from Dagestan spoke up who had probably been recruited in advance. But before he could proceed Beisungur himself leapt from his stool into immortality…