? - Ad?g? X?ku
|Established as centralised state in:|
c. 1427-1453 (Grand Principality of Circassia)
1861-1864 (Confederate Republic of Circassia)
Ps?m yip? nap?
"Honor before life"
|Capital||aç? (modern-day Sochi)|
|Administrative center||Adyghe Xase|
|Common languages||Circassian languages, Abazin language|
|Religion|| Xabze philosophy and Circassian paganism|
Orthodox Christianity (6th century-1717)
|Government||Feudal kingdom; reestablished as a Confederate Republic|
o Prince of Western Circassia
Sefer Bey Zanuqo
o King of all Circassia
Inal the Great
o Prince of Eastern Circassia
c. 1490-c. 1500
c. 1500-c. 1525
c. 1525-c. 1540
Atajuq II Kurgoqo
Jankhot II Qushuq
|Established as centralised state in:|
c. 1427-1453 (Grand Principality of Circassia)
1861-1864 (Confederate Republic of Circassia)
|82,000 km2 (32,000 sq mi)|
|1.625.000 (pre-Circassian genocide)|
86.655 (post-Circassian genocide)
|Today part of|
|Part of a series on the|
Destroyed or barely existing
|Languages and dialects|
Circassia (; Adyghe: ?, , romanized: Ad?g? X?ku, Ad?gey; Russian: ; Turkish: Çerkesya) was a country and historical region in the along the northeast shore of the Black Sea. It was destroyed and devastated after the Russian-Circassian war (1763-1864) as 90% of the Circassian people were either massacred or exiled from the region in the Circassian genocide.
The Circassians also dominated the north of the Kuban river in the early medieval and ancient times, but with the raids of the Mongol Empire, Golden Horde and the Crimean Khanate, they were withdrawn south of the Kuban, from the Taman Peninsula to North Ossetia. During the Medieval Era, Circassian lords subjugated and vassalized the neighboring Karachay-Balkars and Ossetians. The term Circassia is also used as the collective name of Circassian states established on Circassian territory.
The name Circassia is a Latinisation of Cherkess, the Turkic name for the Adyghe people. This Latinisation first emerged in the 15th century with the medieval Genoese merchants and travellers to Circassia. The name Cherkess is traditionally applied to the Adyghe by neighbouring Turkic peoples (principally Crimean Tatars and Turkish people).
Circassia was located in Eastern Europe, north of Western Asia, near the northeastern Black Sea coast. Before the Russian conquest of the Caucasus (1763-1864), it covered the entire fertile plateau and the steppe of the northwestern region of the Caucasus, with an estimated population of 1 million.
Circassia's historical great range extended from the Taman Peninsula in the west, to the town of Mozdok in today's North Ossetia-Alania in the east. Historically, Circassia covered the southern half of today's Krasnodar Krai, the Republic of Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and parts of North Ossetia-Alania and Stavropol Krai, bounded by the Kuban River on the north which separated it from the Russian Empire.
On the Black Sea coast the climate is warm and humid, while being moderate in the lowlands and cooler in the highlands. Most of Circassia is frost free for more than half the year. There are steppe meadows in the plains, beech and oak forests in the foothills, and pine forests and alpine meadows in the mountains.
Sochi is considered by many Circassians as their traditional capital city. According to Circassians, the 2014 Winter Olympic village is built in an area of mass graves of Circassians after their defeat by the Russians in 1864.
Genetically, the Adyghe have shared ancestry partially with neighboring peoples of the Caucasus, with some influence from the other regions. The Circassian language, also known as Cherkess, is a member of the ancient Northwest Caucasian language family. Archaeological findings, mainly of dolmens in Northwest Caucasus region, indicate a megalithic culture in the Northwest Caucasus.
The ancestors of present-day Circassians are known as the Sind-Maeot tribes. Findings obtained as a result of archaeological research show that these tribes were the indigenous people of the Caucasus. Some researchers have claimed there may be links between Circassians and Indo-European-speaking communities, and some have argued that there are connections between Circassians and Hatti, who are from ancient Anatolian peoples, but these theories have not been addressed further and are not widely accepted. Within the scope of genetic tests performed on Circassians, the closest relatives of Circassians were found to be Ingush, Chechens and Abkhaz.
Some groups of nationalist Turks have claimed that the Circassians are of Turkic origin; no evidence however exists to support this claim, and is strongly denied by Circassians themselves, impartial research, linguists  and historians. Circassian language is not similar to the Turkish language except for borrowed words. According to various historians, the Circassian origin of the Sind-Meot tribes refutes the claim that the Circassians are of Turkic origin. The community, including Circassians, is today classified as "White Caucasian Peoples". Still, some Turkic groups have persisted in claiming Circassians are of Turkic origin, and argued that no proof is needed.
Miyequap (Maikop) civilization was established in 3000 BC. Circassians were known by many different names in ancient times. "Kerket" and "Sucha" are examples. In 1200 BC, Circassians fought alongside the Hittites against the Egyptians.
The Sindica state was founded in 500 BC. During this period, Greeks (Greeks) and Sind-Meot tribes lived in Circassia. Under the roof of this state, Sind-Meots in the region became the ancestors of the Circassian people. The Greek poet Hipponaks, who lived in the 5th century BC, and Herodotus later mentioned the Sinds. Strabo also mentions the city of Sindica, located near the Black Sea coast. Information on Sindica has been learned from Greek documents and archaeological finds, and there is not much detail. It is not known exactly when the Sindica State was established, but it is known that the Sindians had a state and trade relations with the Greeks before the establishment of the Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast. It is also known that the kingdom of Sindica was a busy trading state where artists and merchants were accommodated. Circassians could not establish a union for a long time after this state.
Feudalism began to emerge in Circassians by the 4th century. As a result of Armenian, Greek and Byzantine influence, Christianity spread throughout the Caucasus between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. During that period the Circassians (referred to at the time as Kassogs) began to accept Christianity as a national religion, but did not abandon all elements of their indigenous religious beliefs. Circassians established many states, but could not achieve political unity. From around 400 AD wave after wave of invaders began to invade the lands of the Adyghe people, who were also known as the Kasogi (or Kassogs) at the time. They were conquered first by the Bulgars (who originated on the Central Asian steppes). Outsiders sometimes confused the Adyghe people with the similarly named Utigurs (a branch of the Bulgars), and both peoples were sometimes conflated under misnomers such as "Utige". Following the dissolution of the Khazar state, the Adyghe people were integrated around the end of the 1st millennium AD into the Kingdom of Alania. Between the 10th and 13th centuries Georgia had influence on the Adyghe Circassian peoples.
In 1382, Circassian slaves took the Mamluk throne, the Burji dynasty took over and the Mamluks became a Circassian state. The Mongols, who started invading the Caucasus in 1223, destroyed some of the Circassians and most of the Alans. The Circassians, who lost most of their lands during the ensuing Golden Horde attacks, had to retreat to the back of the Kuban River. In 1395 Circassians fought violent wars against Tamerlane, and although the Circassians won the wars, Tamerlane plundered Circassia.
Inal is called the "Prince of Princes" by Circassians and Abkhazians, because he united all Circassian tribes and established the Circassian state. According to belief, Inal is the ancestor of Kabardian, Besleney, Chemguy and Hatuqwai tribes.
Inal, who during the 1400s owned land in the Taman peninsula, established an army consisting mostly of the Khegayk tribe and declared that his goal was to unite the Circassians, which were divided into many states at that time, under a single state, and after declaring his own princedom, conquered all of Circassia one by one.
Circassian nobles and princes tried to prevent Inal's rise, but in a battle near the Msimta River, 30 Circassian lords were defeated by Inal and his supporters. Ten of them were executed, while the remaining twenty lords took an oath of allegiance and joined the forces of Inal's new state. Inal, who ruled Western Circassia, established the Kabarda region in Eastern Circassia in 1434 and drove the Crimean Tatar tribes in the Circassian lands to the north of the Kuban River in 1438, and as a result of his effective expansions, he was ruling all of the Circassian land.
The capital of this new Circassian state founded by Inal became the city of Shanjir, built in the Taman region where he was born and raised. Although the exact location of the city of Shanjir is unknown, the most supported theory is that it is the Krasnaya Batareya district, which fits the descriptions of the city made by Klarapoth and Pallas.
Although he united the Circassians, Inal still wanted to include the cousin people, the Abkhaz, in his state. Abkhaz dynasties Chachba and Achba announced that they would side with Inal in a possible war. Inal, who won the war in Abkhazia, officially conquered Northern Abkhazia and the Abkhaz people recognized the rule of Inal, and Inal finalized his rule in Abkhazia. One of the stars on the flag of Abkhazia represents Inal.
Inal divided his lands between his sons and grandchildren in 1453 and died in 1458. Following this, Circassian tribal principalities were established. Some of these are Chemguy founded by Temruk, Besleney founded by Beslan, Kabardia founded by Qabard, and Shapsug founded by Zanoko.
According to the Abkhaz claim, Inal died in North Abkhazia. Although most sources cite this theory, researches and searches in the region have shown that Inal's tomb is not here. According to Russian explorer and archaeologist Evgeniy Dimitrievich Felitsin, Inal's tomb is not in Abkhazia. In a map published in 1882, Felitsin has shown great importance to Inal, and placed his grave in the Ispravnaya region in Karachay-Cherkessia, not in Abkhazia. He added that there are ancient sculptures, mounds, tombs, churches, castles and ramparts in this area, which would be an ideal tomb for someone like Inal.
In 1708, Circassians paid a great tribute to the Ottoman sultan in order to prevent Tatar raids, but the sultan did not fulfill the obligation and the Tatars raided all the way to the center of Circassia, robbing everything they could. For this reason, Kabardian Circassians announced that they would never pay tribute to the Crimean Khan and the Ottoman Sultan again. The Ottomans sent their army of at least 20,000 men to Kabardia under the leadership of the Crimean khan Kaplan-Girey to conquer the Circassians and ordered him collect the tribute. The Ottomans expected an easy victory against the Kabardinians, but the Circassians won because of the strategy set up by the Kazaniko Jabagh.
The Turkish-Crimean army was completely destroyed overnight. The Crimean Khan Kaplan-Giray barely managed to save his life, and was humiliated, all the way to his shoes taken, leaving his brother, son, field tools, tents and personal belongings and allegedly, the Circassian prince Hatekhushyque II sent him to Crimea tied backwards to a horse in this condition and said, "Khan, since you come here often, you must be very fond of the Circassian mountains. On the way, you can watch our beautiful country as much as you want."
Circassians celebrated the battlefield with the joy of finally destroying the enemy who had raided their lands many times over the years. The Circassians, exhausted from the war, wandered the battlefield for several days looking for survivors, both of them and their enemies. According to Shora Nogmov, they found Alegot Pasha, who unconsciously and desperately fled from the battlefield and fell off a cliff, hugged a tree at his feet and died on the spot. Recent research has shown that the noble Nogay Murza Allaguvat was hiding under the name Alegoth.
In 1714, Peter I established a plan to occupy the Caucasus. Although he was unable to implement this plan, he laid the political and ideological foundation for the occupation to take place. Catherine II started putting this plan into action. The Russian army was deployed on the banks of the Terek River.
The Russian military tried to impose authority by building a series of forts, but these forts in turn became the new targets of raids and indeed sometimes the highlanders actually captured and held the forts. Under Yermolov, the Russian military began using a strategy of disproportionate retribution for raids. Russian troops retaliated by destroying villages where resistance fighters were thought to hide, as well as employing assassinations, kidnappings and the execution of whole families. Because the resistance was relying on sympathetic villages for food, the Russian military also systematically destroyed crops and livestock and killed Circassian civilians. Circassians responded by creating a tribal federation encompassing all tribes of the area. In 1840 Karl Friedrich Neumann estimated the Circassian casualties at around one and a half million. Some sources state that hundreds of thousands of others died during the exodus. Several historians use the phrase "Circassian massacres" for the consequences of Russian actions in the region.
"In a series of sweeping military campaigns lasting from 1860 to 1864... the northwest Caucasus and the Black Sea coast were virtually emptied of Muslim villagers. Columns of the displaced were marched either to the Kuban [River] plains or toward the coast for transport to the Ottoman Empire... One after another, entire Circassian tribal groups were dispersed, resettled, or killed en masse"
Circassians established an assembly called "Great Freedom Assembly" in the capital city of Shashe (Sochi) on June 25, 1861. Haji Qerandiqo Berzedj was appointed as the head of the assembly. This assembly asked for help from Europe, arguing that they would be forced into exile soon. However, before the result was achieved, Russian General Kolyobakin invaded Sochi and destroyed the parliament and no country opposed this.
In May 1864, a final battle took place between the Circassian army of 20,000 Circassian horsemen and a fully equipped Russian army of 100,000 men. Circassian warriors attacked the Russian army and tried to break through the line, but most were shot down by Russian artillery and infantry. The remaining fighters continued to fight as militants and were soon defeated. All 20,000 Circassian horsemen died in the war. The Russian army began celebrating victory on the corpses of Circassian soldiers, and so May 21, 1864, was officially the end of the war. The place where this war took place is known today as Krasnaya Polyana. "Krasnaya Polyana" means red meadow. It takes its name from the Circassian blood flowing from the hill into the river. The river ran red for weeks after the war.
The proposal to deport the Circassians was ratified by the Russian government, and a flood of refugee movements began as Russian troops advanced in their final campaign. Circassians prepared to resist and hold their last stand against Russian military advances and troops. With the refusal to surrender, Circassian civilians were targeted one by one by the Russian military with thousands massacred and the Russians started to raid and burn Circassian villages, destroy the fields to make it impossible to return, cut trees down and drive the people towards the Black Sea coast. It has been recorded that Russian soldiers used various methods such as tearing the belly of pregnant women and removing the baby inside to entertain themselves. Some Russian generals, such as Grigory Zass, argued that the killing of the Circassians and their use in scientific experiments should be allowed.
Although the main target of the genocide was the Circassians, some Abkhaz, Abazin, Chechen, Ossetian and other Muslim Caucasian communities were also affected. Although it is not known exactly how many people are affected, researchers have suggested that at least 75%, 90%, 94%, or 95% -97% (not including the other ethniticies such as Abkhaz) of the ethnic Circassian population are affected. Considering these rates, calculations including those taking into account the Russian government's own archival figures, have estimated a loss 600,000-1,500,000. It is estimated that the population of Kabardins in Circassia was reduced from 500,000 to 35,000; the Abzakhs from 260,000 to 14,600; and the Natukhajs from 240,000 to merely 175 persons. The Shapsugh tribe which numbered some 300,000 were reduced to 3,000 people. Ivan Drozdov, a Russian officer who witnessed the scene at Qbaada in May 1864 as the other Russians were celebrating their victory remarked:
"On the road, our eyes were met with a staggering image: corpses of women, children, elderly persons, torn to pieces and half-eaten by dogs; deportees emaciated by hunger and disease, almost too weak to move their legs, collapsing from exhaustion and becoming prey to dogs while still alive."-- Drozdov, Ivan. "Posledniaia Bor'ba s Gortsami na Zapadnom Kavkaze". Pages 456-457.
The Ottoman Empire regarded the Adyghe warriors as courageous and experienced. It encouraged them to settle in various near-border settlements of the Ottoman Empire in order to strengthen the empire's borders.
According to Walter Richmond,
Circassia was a small independent nation on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. For no reason other than ethnic hatred, over the course of hundreds of raids the Russians drove the Circassians from their homeland and deported them to the Ottoman Empire. At least 600,000 people lost their lives to massacre, starvation, and the elements while hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homeland. By 1864, three-fourths of the population was annihilated, and the Circassians had become one of the first stateless peoples in modern history.
As of 2020attribution needed] Russian nationalists continue to celebrate the day on May 21 each year as a "holy conquest day", when the Russian Empire's occupation of the Caucasus ended. Condemning this, Circassians, arguing that celebrating such a bloody war that resulted in genocide is a crime, commemorate May 21 every year as a day of mourning commemorating the Circassian genocide. In Abkhazia, May 21 was declared a national mourning day to commemorate the genocide. On May 21, Circassians from all over the world take to the streets to protest against the Russian government., Georgia was the only country to classify the events as genocide, while Russia actively denies the Circassian genocide, and classifies the events as a simple migration of "undeveloped barbaric peoples".[
There are twelve historic Adyghe (Circassian?, Adyge) princedoms or tribes of Circassia (three democratic and nine aristocratic); Abdzakh, Besleney, Bzhedug, Hatuqwai, Kabardian, Mamkhegh, Natukhai, Shapsug, Temirgoy, Ubykh, Yegeruqwai and Zhaney.
Today, about 700,000 Circassians remain in historical Circassia in today's Russia. The 2010 Russian Census recorded 718,727 Circassians, of which 516,826 are Kabardians, 124,835 are Adyghe proper, 73,184 are Cherkess and 3,882 Shapsugs. The largest Circassian population resides in Turkey (pop. 1,400,000 - 6,000,000). A Circassian population also exists in other countries, including Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Serbia, Egypt and Israel, but is considerably smaller.
Circassia gradually went through following various religions: Paganism, Christianity, and then Islam.
The ancient beliefs of the Circassians were based on animism and magic, within the framework of the customary rules of Xabze. Although the main belief was Monistic-Monotheistic, they prayed using water, fire, plants, forests, rocks, thunder and lightning. They performed their acts of worship accompanied by dance and music in the sacred groves used as temples. An old priest led the ceremony, accompanied by songs of prayer, consisting of meaningless words and supplications. Thus, it was aimed to protect the newborn babies from diseases and the evil eye. Another important aspect was ancestors and honor. Therefore, the goal of man's earthly existence is the perfection of the soul, which corresponds to the maintenance of honour, manifestation of compassion, gratuitous help, which, along with valour, and bravery of a warrior, enables the human soul to join the soul of the ancestors with a clear conscience.
Some Circassian tribes chose Judaism in the past as a result of the settlement of approximately 20 thousand Jews in the 8th century Circassia, along with the relations established with the Turkic-Jewish Khazar Khaganate. Although Judaism in Circassia eventually assimilated into Christianity and Islam, Judaist influence on Circassian culture and language remained.
It is the tradition of the early church that Christianity made its first appearance in Circassia in the 1st century AD via the travels and preaching of the Apostle Andrew, but recorded history suggests that, as a result of Greek and Byzantine influence, Christianity first spread throughout Circassia between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. The spread of the Catholic faith was only possible with the Latin Conquest of Constantinople by the crusaders and the establishment of the Latin state. The Catholic religion was adopted by the Circassians following Farzakht, a distinguished figure who greatly contributed to the spread of this religion in his country. The pope sent him a letter in 1333 thanking him for his effort, as an indication of his gratitude. For Circassians, the most important and attractive personality in all Christian teachings was the personality of St. George. They saw in him the embodiment of all the virtues respected in the Caucasus. His name in Circassian is "Aushe-Gerge".
Christianity in Circassia experienced its final collapse in the 18th century when all Circassians accepted Islam. The ex-priests joined the Circassian nobility and were given the name "shogene" (teacher) and over time this name became a surname.
A small Muslim community in Circassia has always existed since the Middle Ages, but widespread Islamization occurred after 1717. Travelling Sufi preachers and the increasing threat of an invasion from Russia helped expedite the process of the Islamization of Circassia. Circassian scholars educated in the Ottoman Empire boosted the spread of Islam. Circassian elders saw some elements in Islamic tradition as the influences of foreign culture and rejected them, and while Circassians were Sunni Muslims officially, most Circassians were non-denominational and only accepted the Sunni practices after being exiled.
Under Russian and Soviet rule, ethnic and tribal divisions between Circassians were promoted, resulting in several different statistical names being used for various parts of the Circassian people (Adyghes, Cherkess, Kabardins, Shapsugs). Consequently, Circassian nationalism has developed. Circassian nationalism is the desire among Circassians all over the world to preserve their culture and save their language from extinction, achieve full international recognition of the Circassian genocide, globally revive Adyghe Xabze among Circassians, return to their homeland Circassia, and ultimately reestablish an independent Circassian state. There is also an effort among Circassians to unite under the name Circassian (Adyghe) in Russian Censuses to reflect and revive the concept of the Circassian nation. The overwhelming majority of the diaspora already tends to call itself "only Circassian".