• Who are they?
Life in Circassia Today
• Why haven’t I ever heard of
• My family
• Music and culture
Who Are They?
Circassians are a group of
clans indigenous to the Northeast Caucus mountain range, near the Black Sea in
Russia. They are mistaken for Caucasians (???????) and Georgians because their traditional
clothing is similar and as is their music.
They were known for their
soldiers’ fierce skills in battle and their beautiful women, as many were
imprisoned to be concubines during the reign of the Ottoman empire. They were
also known for their steel (light and durable for sword-fighting), and
subsequently for their wood.
Georgian Vs Circassian Traditional Clothing
autonomous as a set of mountain warrior tribes, until the 12th or 13th
century, when their lands were reduced to a province by Georgian princes.
Before that point, their influence and trade reached the Black Sea, engaging in
trade with Ancient Greeks.
In 1234, Mongols invaded Circassian lands and
Crimean Tatars became the rulers of it until the 17th century, when
Circassians asked Russia for help, and Russia claimed them as their own.
In the beginning,
Circassians were pagans, with a rich mythology. They also had an epic, said to
be nearly as old as Gilgamesh, named Nart, which means demigod or half-giant.
Circassian priests were not unlike Celtic druids.
In the sixth century,
Christianity came to the Caucasus, and had a small number of followers. After
the forced migration of 1864, many Circassians adopted Islam, and reverted to
Christianity, or vice versa, suiting their own needs. Most Circassians today
The Russian-Circassian war
lasted for a century, between a gargantuan titan of war and an agrarian society
without an organized army. Historians mostly agree the war started in 1763 and
lasted until 1864, ending with the mass exile of Circassians.
Russian aggression started
with Prince Sviatoslav in 985, and continued until Peter the Great ordered the
invasion of the area in 1711. Russia had been gaining strength as the Ottoman
Empire and Iran were weakening, and so launched a full-scale war on Circassia
and won due to a scorched earth policy. It exiled most of the Circassians.
Most of those exiled Circassians were killed
or drowned in what is known as the Sochi massacre of 1864.
As a result of their
exile, Circassians are divided between Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Russia and
USA. Only 1 in 7 Circassians currently live in the Homeland.
During the Ottoman Empire, many Circassians
were owned as slaves and were part of Turkish royalty harems. In Egypt, they
were named Mamaleek (singular: Mamluk), and proceeded to rule after the fall of
the Ottoman Empire.
The Mamluk rulers finally
gave up power after the invasion of Napoleon, via an ambush set up by the
deposed governor Mohamed Ali, who then seized the throne.
Circassians are made up of
12 different tribes, divided upon 3 self-ruling republics, the
Karachay-Cherkess region, the Adyghe region, and the Kabarday-Balkar region. A
fourth autonomous republic existed between 1920s and 1941, named the Shapsugh
Currently Circassians are
farmers or factory workers, as the area is relatively poor in modern luxuries
but rich in raw materials. There is a lot of organized crime as well, as police
is corrupt (as is most of Russia).
During the Syrian War,
Russia extended its welcome to Syrian-Circassians, and offered them citizenship
and farming land to help them survive.