21 MayResearchCircassiansAcknowledgements

Short history

short history

The Northern Caucasus, which is separated from the centers of the world civilizations by steep offshoots of the Caucasus Mountains, the vastnesses of the Caspian and Black Seas and the Great Steppe, already at the early stage of the human history, became one of the brightest seats of ancient culture.

Favorable climatic conditions, abundant natural resources and most fertile soils created all prerequisites for progressive development of primeval economy. The epoch of early metal started here beginning with the 6th millennia B.C. practically simultaneously with Mesopotamia and Northern Iran.

The Maikop Culture of the Early Bronze Age, which received its name from the richest kurgan (burial mound) found in the city of Maikop (Republic of Adygea), spread over the major part of the Northern Caucasus - from the Taman peninsular in the North-West to Daghestan in the South-East. The Maikop Culture represented one of the most outstanding cultures of the Bronze Age of Europe and of the entire Eurasian border territories.
At the decline of the Bronze Age, at the end of the 2nd millennia B.C., the Northern Caucasus became one of the largest centers of metal production. An original Kuban Culture, which made itself famous by an outstanding art of manufacturing bronze pieces, arose on the slopes of the Great Caucasian Ridge and in the northern part of foothills. Among the diversity of local forms of weapons and metal utensils, one can clearly identify the Transcaucasian and Near Eastern models, which proves the close cultural and economic contacts of Kuban tribes with the countries of Transcaucasus and Near East.

The names of North Caucasian tribes, such as the Meats, Sinds, Akhei, Zikhs, and others, who were the ancestors of the Circassian peoples, first became known in about 1000 B.C. In Greek and Roman sources, they are referred to collectively as Meats, and they occupied the eastern coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and the Kuban valley.

The 5th century B.C. began with the rise of cities that became craft and trading centers in the lands of one of the Meatic tribes of Sinds. Interactions with the Greek world, accelerated the process of formation of classes and states among the Sinds. By the end of the 5th century B.C., Sindika had been transformed into a strong kingdom. The Sinds had close cultural and trading ties with the ancient Greeks, especially with the Athenians, and they even participated in the Olympic Games. The story of Prometheus, who was chained to a rock in the Caucasus, testifies the close cultural links between the Greek and the Caucasian tribes.

From the 6th century until the 8th century A.D., the tribes in the North-western Caucasus had united around the Zikhs and they were consolidated into a single Adyghe people. The creation of the Abkhazian Kingdom in the 10th century brought together all the tribes (Apsilians, Abazgians, Sanigs, etc.) in Abkhazia and led to the formation of a unified Abkhazian people.

The Circassians living on the coastal regions were converted to Christianity in the 6th century as a result of the Byzantine influence. Christianity has lost its influence since the end of the 15th century (after the fall of Constantinople in 1453), and the Sunni branch of Islam was introduced among the Circassians through the efforts of the Crimean Tatar khans, although most people preserved their traditional pagan beliefs until the end of the 19th century.

From ancient times until the 18th century, different states and invaders attempted to conquer the land of the Circassians: the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Huns, Khazars, Mongols, Persians, Arabs, Crimeans … Against all these forces, the Circassians defended their country and freedom fiercely, and they often had to take refugee in the mountains of the Caucasus.

The Circassians fought against Russian conquest for over a century, from 1763 to 1864. Their final defeat in the 1860s led to massacre and forced deportation, mainly across the Black Sea to the Ottoman lands, in the course of which a large proportion of them perished. Since that time, the great majority of people of Circassian descent have lived in exile, mostly in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Israel. During the last decades of the Tsarist regime, the emptied and devastated Circassian lands were resettled by Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian and other colonists.

A number of autonomous republics and regions were established during the Soviet period (1922-1991) in the Caucasus. As of 1991, the Russian SSR included Adygea, Karachai Cherkess, Kabardino Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechen-Ingushetia and Dagestan, whereas Georgian SSR included Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Chechen-Ingush Republic was peacefully divided into Chechen Republic and Republic of Ingushetia in May 1991.

The declaration of the independence of the Chechen Republic was followed by the military aggression of the Russian Federation in 1994, and thousands of civilians lost their lives during the brutal and long war that still continues. Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared their independence from Georgia after being attacked by the nationalist Georgian forces in the early 1990s. They have survived in spite of strict economic embargo imposed by the CIS and continuous military threats by Georgia for over 15 years, and their independence was finally recognized by a number of countries including the Russian Federation following Georgia’s massive attack on South Ossetia in August 2008.