Shamyl or Shamil (both: shäˈmĭl) [key], 1798?–1871, imam (religious and political leader) of the E Caucasus. From 1834 to 1859 he led the Muslim tribes of the E Caucasus in their holy war to resist Russian conquest, waging guerrilla warfare with great skill. During the Crimean War (1853–56) he became known to the European public as an exotic ally of Great Britain and France. After the war, Russia was able to send sufficient troops to the Caucasus to finally defeat the Muslims. Shamyl was captured in 1859. Taken first to St. Petersburg and later to Kaluga, he was allowed to make a pilgrimage (1870) to Mecca, where he died.
See L. Blanch, The Sabres of Paradise (1960).