What is Circassia – Culture and History

Circassia is one of the places on earth we do not know much about. It is the ancestral home of the Circassian people.

This place or region is located in the North Caucasus which is along the shoreline of the Black Sea.

The Cherkess word has been latinised to Circassia. The word brieflt translates to the Turkish name for Adyghe people. It originated in the 15th century when travelers especially merchants and farmers moved here in this region.

They were mostly Genoese and inhabited most of the parts of region we know now as Circassia. T

he country has another historical name Zyx or Zygii and the ancient Greek intellectual Strabo described the region as a nation which was located to the north of Colchis. A Genoese traveler and ethnographer gave a detailed description of Circassia and its inhabitants.

Geographical location and borders

The Circassian people originally lived in areas located near the north western Caucasus.

They then moved to various parts of the world especially the Ottoman empire after Russian conquest.

These people have now settled in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Yugoslavia and Israel. These people can also be found in small communities in Europe and America. By race they are composed of several types of Europeans and other races which they mixed and breeded with. Some of them have blue eyes and blonde or red hair while other have dark hair with light complexions.

They have a very long and varied history and their physical variations attest to that. These people have a rich ethnic diversity due to their mixing with various groups over the years and this has given them certain distinct characteristics like round faces with fine features, almond shaped eyes, etc.

Circassia had huge borders on all sides

In the eastern part of Europe near the Black Sea coast was located the region of Circassia. Before the Russians invaded it in the 18th century it had covered almost all of the fertile plateaus and the steppe of the north western part of the region of Caucasus.

It had an estimated population of 3 or 4 million.

The huge range of the country of Circassia ranged from the Taman peninsula in the western part to Mozdok town in what is today’s North Ossetia and Stavropol Krai which was also bounded by the Kuban river in the north.

Many Circassians even today consider Sochi as their great traditional city.

The Circassian people

The Circassians are considered to be one of the most oldest and indigenous people of the North Caucasus.

Their language also belongs to the North Caucasian language family. In namely the Sixth century many Circassians were Christianized by the Georgians and Byzantians.

Then the influence of the Ottoman’s started to grow and many people over there started converting to Islam. Islam over there became fully and properly established only in the late centuries like the 18th or 19th.

Livelihood and practices

The Circassians were traditionally farmers and pastoral people who practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They raised chickens, sheep, goat, hens, pigs, cows, horses on their farms.

There were many families who only bred horses and their skills in horsemanship are highly valued. They also manufactured honey and mead. Many Circassians also practiced hunting.

Their staple and traditional diet mainly consisted of dairy products, milk, eggs, poultry, cheese, vegetables, grains and fruit dishes. They led a farmer’s simple life and the women stayed at home.

Their life can be seen as very simple and easy going. The Circassians were also constantly at war with neighboring tribes and races. They were mainly sunni muslims although some of them converted to Christianity at the late half of the nineteenth century. Although they were a combination of Christians and Muslims, many pagan relics and items have also been recovered from Circassia which hints that they might have worshiped nature also.

The Circassian nationalism has been recently developed with people calling for a total restoration of their home lands. The Circassians have also given itself different name sunder the Russian and Soviet rule although the majority of the diaspora calls itself Circassian. There are about 700,000 Circassians today in Russia.

They are calling to the Government to restore their homelands and uniting all the different sects and groups of the Circassians that live there.