Balkarian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

by Kevin Alan Brook

Family Tree DNA - Genetic testing service
Family Tree DNA: Genetic Testing Service
Genetic testing will reveal your relationships to other families, other tribes from the Caucasus, and ethnic groups outside of Russia. Balkars are eligible to join the "Karachay-Balkar DNA" project.

The Balkarian people of the north Caucasus currently form part of the Russian Federation. Most of them live in Kabardino-Balkaria. Balkars may very well descend from the medieval Bulgars, as we see a similarity between their tribal names. In the seventh century, the Bulgars were scattered in several directions by the Khazars and that's why they've interested me for a while. The Bulgars also spoke a Turkic language (but apparently of a different variety), and some of them did settle in the Caucasus region. But it might be simplistic to view the Balkars as merely modern Bulgars as they may also have ancestry from Alans (an Iranian-speaking group of the Caucasus) and other Turkic tribes like Kipchaks and/or Khazars. Other theories suggest that Balkars may descend from Huns, Zikhs, Brukhs, Vengrians, Chekhs, Mongol Tatars, Crimean Tatars, or others. In any case, genetics proves that the Balkar people are an amalgam of several ancestries, just as is the case with other populations of the Caucasus.

That a Bulgar element is present in Balkars seems to be demonstrated by how we may interpret Bayazit Yunusbayev, et al. in their article "The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads across Eurasia" in which they say genetic admixture from Turkic-related South Siberian/Mongolian people took place in the 8th century. That is much earlier than the approximate dates of admixture they found for some other Turkic-speaking tribes of the Caucasus, the Kumyks and Nogais.

The Karachay-Balkar language is part of the Northwestern (Kipchak) subdivision of the Turkic linguistic family. It's currently written with a Cyrillic alphabet, but in the past was written with the Arabic script.

In terms of Y-DNA (paternal DNA), haplogroup J2 (in several subhaplogroups) is found among about 23.7% of Balkar men, making it one of the most frequent haplogroups they have. Most other Balkars fall within G and R subhaplogroups.

Major studies of Balkars

M. A. Dzhaubermezov, Natalya V. Ekomasova, Sergey Litvinov, Rita I. Khusainova, Vita L. Akhmetova, N. V. Balinova, and Elza K. Khusnutdinova. "Genetic characterization of Balkars and Karachays according to the variability of the Y chromosome." Russian Journal of Genetics 53:10 (October 2017): pages 1152-1158. First published electronically on February 11, 2017. Abstract:

"The genetic diversity in two ethnic groups of the central part of the North Caucasus (Balkars and Karachays) using 50 diallelic loci in the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome was analyzed. For the first time, an analysis of distribution of frequencies of Y-chromosome haplogroups in Balkars considering different subethnic groups (Baksans, Chegems, Kholams, Bezengiyevs, and Malkars) was conducted. The major Y-chromosome haplogroups in the studied groups of Balkars and Karachays were G2a-P16 and R1a-Z2123. In addition, for a better understanding of genetic relationship between the male lineages in the studied populations and other populations of the Caucasus, we performed an analysis of R1a-M198 subhaplogroups in 22 populations of this region. The principal component analysis demonstrated that a greater difference was observed between Kholams and the other Balkar subgroups. According to the Fst analysis, Chegems, for which the prevalence of haplogroup R1b-M478 (32.2%) was reported, demonstrated the maximum difference from the other subpopulations of Balkars and Karachays."

Roza Arambievna. "Genogeografiya tyurkoyazichnikh narodov Kavkaza: analiz izmenchivosti Y-khromosomy." Dissertation. Moscow, 2013.
      193 Balkar men from Kabardino-Balkaria were tested. 33% of Balkars have the Y-DNA haplogroup G2a-P15.

Vincenza Battaglia, Simona Fornarino, Nadia Al-Zahery, Anna Olivieri, Maria Pala, Natalie M. Myres, Roy J. King, Siiri Rootsi, Damir Marjanović, Dragan Primorac, Rifat Hadžiselimović, Stojko Vidović, Katia Drobnič, Naser Durmishi, Antonio Torroni, Augusta Silvana Santachiara-Benerecetti, Peter A. Underhill, and Ornella Semino. "Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe." European Journal of Human Genetics 17:6 (June 2009): pages 820-830. First published online on December 24, 2008. (mirror)
      Y-DNA was collected and studied from 1206 males representing 17 populations, mostly from southeastern Europe. 38 "Balkarians" from previous research were included. The Balkarians' Y-DNA haplogroups and their frequencies were:
E1b1b1a1 among 2.6%
G2a* among 26.3% - their most prevalent haplogroup
G2a3c among 2.6%
H1a among 2.6%
I2* among 2.6%
J2a* among 15.8
J2a1b* among 5.3%
J2b* among 2.6%
L2 among 5.3%
R1a1* among 13.2%
R1b1* among 5.3%
R1b1b2 among 7.9%
R2 among 7.9%

Ornella Semino, Chiara Magri, Giorgia Benuzzi, Alice A. Lin, Nadia Al-Zahery, Vincenza Battaglia, Liliana Maccioni, Costas Triantaphyllidis, Peidong Shen, Peter J. Oefner, Lev A. Zhivotovsky, Roy King, Antonio Torroni, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Peter A. Underhill, and Augusta Silvana Santachiara-Benerecetti. "Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area." American Journal of Human Genetics 74 (2004): pages 1023-1034.
      Some "Balkarian" males have their genetic data reported here. Table 1 says one (1) of the Balkarians carried Y-DNA haplogroup E, specifically E subhaplogroup 78, and he was 2.6% of the Balkarians tested. Table 2 says four (4) Balkarians belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup J, and that was 25% of all Balkarians tested; this 25% broke down into the following subhaplogroups of J M172: 12.5% in 172*, 6.3% in 102*, and 6.3% in 67*.

Ivan Nasidze, E. Y. S. Ling, D. Quinque, I. Dupanloup, R. Cordaux, S. Rychkov, O. Naumova, O. Zhukova, N. Sarraf-Zadegan, G. A. Naderi, S. Asgary, S. Sardas, D. D. Farhud, T. Sarkisian, C. Asadov, A. Kerimov, and Mark Stoneking. "Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus." Annals of Human Genetics 68 (2004): pages 205-221.
      This is a comprehensive collection of data on the peoples of the Caucasus Mountains region. Table 1 indicates that they tested the mtDNA of 16 "Balkarians", and Table 2 says those Balkarians had 13 different mtDNA haplotypes resulting in a nucleotide diversity of 0.018 and haplotype diversity of 0.975. However, Balkarian Y-DNA isn't studied here; the text notes how "The number of Avarian, Balkarian and Karachaian male samples was insufficient for Y chromosome analyses."

Bayazit Yunusbayev, Mait Metspalu, Ene Metspalu, Albert Valeev, Sergei Litvinov, Ruslan Valiev, Vita Akhmetova, Elena Balanovska, Oleg Balanovsky, and Shahlo Turdikulova. "The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads across Eurasia." PLoS Genetics 11:4 (April 21, 2015): e1005068.
      Samples from 22 Balkars were included in this autosomal DNA investigation. The scientists analyzed identical-by-descent (IBD) segments and other techniques to determine that the Balkars received their Turkic ancestry in the 8th century and didn't subsequently receive more.

  • Family Tree DNA Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd. - This site is an affiliate

  • The Balkars of Southern Russia and Their Deportation (1944-57) by Karen Baker

  • Genetics of Russian People

    Other peoples of the Caucasus:

  • Genetics of Karachay People
  • Genetics of Kumyk People
  • Genetics of Azeri (Azerbaijani) People
  • Genetics of Circassian (Adyghe, Cherkess, Kabarda) People
  • Genetics of Ossetian People
  • Genetics of Georgian People
  • Genetics of Abkhazian People
  • Genetics of Armenian People
  • Georgian Jews
  • Mountain Jews of Daghestan and Azerbaijan