Karachay in Kazakhstan

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

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Introduction / History

Over the past 600 years the Karachay people have experienced life much like a grape placed in a wine press. Formerly part of the once mighty Alan Empire (nominally Christian), the Karachay were defeated in the 14th Century and forcibly converted to Islam by the Turko-Mongol invader Timur. Conquered again in the 19th Century by Russian czarist imperialism, the Karachay people are all too familiar with distress brought about by defeat at the hands of invading nations.
During World War II they were swallowed up by the German advance through the Caucasus, only to be re-conquered by Stalin's Soviets shortly thereafter. Due to their forced "acceptance" of German rule, Stalin then deported the Karachay from their Caucasus homeland to remote parts of Central Asia 1943-1957.
Despite 35 percent of their population dying during the forced relocation, many Karachay have returned to their homeland and have begun repopulating their home area in the Russian province of Karachai-Cherkessia. Smaller populations live in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Karachay have preserved much of their heritage due to their Islamic cultural identity and their clan-organized communities, called Tukhum. Fiercely loyal within their Tukhum, Karachay have maintained strong family and cultural traditions best observed in weddings, funerals and over-the-top hospitality toward guests.
Nevertheless, realizing population growth and retaining cultural identifiers have not changed the Karachay's position on the global stage, or the state of well-being within their society. Karachay culture, on the one hand, is devoted to 'duty '—but, on the other hand, is plagued by cycles of vengeance, corruption and male drunkenness. Karachay Islamic traditions are a largely 'graceless' dynamic, with no clear understanding of forgiving grace and no indwelling Holy Spirit to revitalize.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Karachay people are Sunni Muslims who believe that the supreme God, Allah, spoke through his prophet, Mohammed, and taught mankind how to live a righteous life through the Koran and the Hadith. To live a righteous life, you must utter the Shahada (a statement of faith), pray five times a day facing Mecca, fast from sunup to sundown during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca if you have the means. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, slandering, and making idols. They gather for corporate prayer on Friday afternoons at a mosque, their place of worship.
The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah.
Sunni religious practices are staid and simple. They believe that Allah has pre-determined our fates; they minimize free will.
In most of the Muslim world, people depend on the spirit world for their daily needs since they regard Allah as too distant. Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well we live in our daily lives. For that reason, they must appease the spirits. They often use charms and amulets to help them with spiritual forces.

What Are Their Needs?

At present there are less than 50 known Karachay followers of Jesus and only one evangelical church. The New Testament and Psalms in the Karachay language was completed in the 1990s. It will be difficult for them to receive God's word. It is even more difficult for them to respond to God's offer of love and grace given the lack of workers.

Prayer Points

Pray that the Karachay New Testament and Psalms will spread throughout their communities and find open hearts.
Pray that the love of God will continue to "disturb" the Karachay people, inviting them away from sin and judgment and toward the marvelous grace of Jesus and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
Pray that in their distress the Karachay will turn to the Lord Jesus, not for political power, but for spiritual deliverance from the bondages of Islam and from the devastations of sin and past suffering.
Pray that Jesus followers will multiply as joyful lives are modeled by believers, and that numerous churches will be firmly established as the body of Christ grows amongst the Karachay. Pray for men and women of peace (Lk 10:6) in each Karachay town/village, to be keys to welcoming the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit into each community in the years ahead.
Pray that the beauty of Karachay culture will bloom as the Fruit of the Spirit enlivens the historical richness of the Karachay people.

Scripture Prayers for the Karachay in Kazakhstan.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  
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People Name General Karachay
People Name in Country Karachay
Pronunciation kare-uh-CHYE
Alternate Names Alan; Karachai
Population this Country 1,200
Population all Countries 250,000
Total Countries 4
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 12521
ROP3 Code 104628
ROP25 Code 303702
ROP25 Name Karachay
Country Kazakhstan
Region Asia, Central
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 47  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Country Kazakhstan
Region Asia, Central
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 47  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)

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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Karachay-Balkar (1,200 speakers)
Language Code krc   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Karachay-Balkar (1,200 speakers)
Language Code krc   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Karachay-Balkar
Photo Source Anonymous 
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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