Only In the Movies?

The October 1913 issue of National Geographic featured an article by George Kennan entitled An Island in the Sea of History, The Highlands of Daghestan. In it, he describes a scene you might think existed only in the fevered imaginations of Hollywood directors, but which in fact took place within a year or so of the beginning of World War I, not too distant from the far away places with strange-sounding names in our news today. Note the link in the second paragraph.

...while we were still a quarter of a mile distant a mounted sentinel, who had apparently been watching for our approach, chirruped to his horse and dashed away at a gallop for the village, firing his long silver-banded rifle into the air and brandishing it furiously above his head in order to attract the attention of his fellow villagers. The signal was promptly obeyed.

In a moment a large party of mountaineers, richly dressed and glittering with silver-mounted weapons and cartridge tubes, came galloping out of the stone gate of the village, lashing their horses with the hinged whips pictured on the monuments of Assyria; shouting, whooping, and yelling in what seemed to be the fierce excitement of battle, and firing at us incessantly as they dashed furiously down upon our escort. It stirred one's pulses to see the splendid impetuosity of the attack; but not knowing what it all meant, I almost instinctively reined in my horse and felt for the butt of my revolver.

On came the charging horsemen, like the Light Brigade at Balaklava, with a tumult of whooping, yelling, and firing that swelled into a great battle crescendo as they drew near. The distance between us narrowed to 50 feet, 30 feet, 10 feet, until the living thunderbolt of men and horses seemed actually to strike us. Then suddenly up went the hand of the leader, back went the trained horses upon their haunches as the sabers of their riders flashed in the air, and the whole attacking force in mid-career halted, slid a yard or two, and stopped within 6 feet of Prince Djordjadzi's saddle-peak.

For an instant the horsemen, with uplifted sabers, faced us in a superb battle tableau; then with a great cry of Asalaam alaikoum! (Peace be with you) they sheathed their weapons, dismounted from their high Tatar saddles, and advanced on foot to greet Prince Djorjadzi with the clasping fingers and upraised thumbs of Caucasian custom...