Circassians: Wikis


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Circassia region in the Caucasus

The term Circassians is derived from the Turkic Cherkes. It has sometimes been applied indiscriminately to all the peoples of the North Caucasus. More commonly it has referred to all the peoples of the Northwest Caucasus: the Adyghe (inhabitants of Circassia), the Abkhaz, and the vanished Ubykh, to the exclusion of the eastern Chechens and the peoples of Dagestan. Most specifically, the term can apply only to the Adyghe.[1] Various communities of Caucasian origin living in the Arab east, notably Jordan and Syria, are known as Circassians, and a suburb of Damascus settled by these people is called Al-Tcharkassiyya.

Today, only a minority of Circassians live in their divided ancestral homeland, mainly in three republics of the Russian Federation (Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and Adygea), the majority having been forced to migrate to the Ottoman Empire following the 19th century Russian conquest of the Caucasus.


Circassian diaspora

From 1763 to 1864, the Circassians fought against the Russians in the Russian-Circassian War only succumbing to a scorched earth campaign initiated in 1862 under General Yevdokimov.[2][3] Afterwards, large numbers of Circassians were exiled and deported to the Ottoman Empire; others were resettled in Russia far from their home territories.[4][5]


Middle East

Circassia 1840
Circassian troops in Damascus during the French mandate period with Colonel Philibert Collet, commander of the Circassian Cavalry.
Ibrahim Pasha, a Circassian Pasha, and his two sons.

Circassians began arriving in the Levant in the 1860s and 1870s through resettlement by the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed] Even today, various communities of Caucasian origin living in the Middle East, notably Jordan and Syria and Iraq and small communities in Israel, are known as Circassians, and a suburb of Damascus settled by these people is called Al-charkassiyya. Modern Amman was reborn after Circassians settled there in 1878 or 1887 along with other important Pre-Jordanian towns, and the first wave of Circassians who settled in Amman was from the Shapsug-Shapsigh tribe,[6] and as a result the first four Mayors of Amman (1905–1920) were Circassians,[6] before the establishment of Transjordan by the Hashemite Emir Abdullah. The Circassians were strong supporters of the Emir, hand by hand with the Jordanian Beduin tribes. During the French Mandate period in Syria, in the 1930s, some Circassians in the mostly Circassian town of Al-Quneitra tried to convince the French authorities to create a Circassian national home for them in the Golan Heights, but failed in their attempt[citation needed]. The objective was to group the large numbers of Circassians already living in Turkey and in various Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.

In Israel, there are also a few thousand Circassians (see also Circassians in Israel), living mostly in Kfar Kama (2,000) and Rehaniya (1,000).[7] These three villages were a part of a greater group of Circassian villages around the Golan Heights. As is the case with Jewish Israelis, and like the Druze population living within Israel (but not those living on the Golan Heights), Circassian men must complete mandatory military service upon reaching the age of majority. Many circassians in Israel are employed in the security forces, including in the Border Guard, the Israel Defence Forces, the police and the Israel Prison Service

In Syria, the Circassians lived in the Golan Heights. After the 1967 Arab-İsraeli war, they withdrew further into Syria, specifically to Damascus. Some petitioned the U.S. in the mid-1970s for asylum. The U.S. allowed some of them to immigrate to America. They settled in New Jersey and New York City. After the Yom Kippur War two Syrian Circassian villages came back under Syrian control and some of the villagers started rebuilding their houses. Now two villages Beer Ajam and Barika are the only remaining Circassian villages in the Golan Heights.

The Circassians in Syria are generally well off. Many of them work for the government, in civil service, or for the military. The former Syrian interior minister and director of the military police, Bassam Abdel Majeed, was a Circassian.[8] All Circassians learn Arabic and English in school; many speak Adyghe language, but their numbers are dwindling. One kindergarten in Damascus provides Adyghe language education. However there are no Circassian newspapers, and few Circassian books are printed in Syria.

The Circassians of Syria were actively involved in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Their unit was under the leadership of Jawad Anzor. 200 Circassians were killed in action. They performed well, but the overall failure of the resistance to stop the Israeli victory led to the special Circassian unit being disbanded.

Cultural events play an important role in maintaining the ethnic identity of the Circassians. During holidays and weddings, they perform folk dances and songs in their traditional dress. As of 1987, approximately 100,000 Circassians lived in Syria.[9]

Eastern Europe

Around 1600, a number of immigrants from the Caucasus region, of somewhat privileged background, settled in the then Principality of Moldavia, and became known by the name "Cerchez" (pronounced [Cherkez] in Romanian). There, they constituted one of the principality's 72 boyar families. In time they were assimilated into the general population. However, one of the last descendants of this family, Mihail Christodulo Cerchez, was a Romanian national hero in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 (Osman Paşa, the Turkish commander of the Pleven garrison, who was an Adyge himself, surrendered his sword to Cerchez at the end of the siege). One of the main halls of the Cotroceni palace in Bucharest is named "Sala Cerchez" ("Cerchez Hall") in memory of General Cerchez.

A small minority of Circassians had lived in Kosovo Polje since the late 1880s, as mentioned by Noel Malcolm in his seminal work about that province, but they were repatriated to the Republic of Adygea in southern Russia in the late 1990s.[10]


In the recent study titled "Worldwide Human Relationships Inferred from Genome-Wide Patterns of Variation (2008)", geneticists using more than 650,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) samples from the Human Genome Diversity Panel, found that the Adygei (Adyghe) Circassian population has mixed lineages from Central/South Asian, and European populations.[11]

Notable Circassians

See also


  1. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad, The Circassians: A Handbook, London: Routledge, New York: Routledge & Palgrave, 2001.
  2. ^ Allen, W.E.D. and Muratoff, Paul (1953) Caucasian Battlefields: History of the Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border 1828-1921 Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 107-8 OCLC 1102813
  3. ^ Mufti, Shawkat (1972) Heroes and emperors in Circassian history Librairie du Liban, Beirut, OCLC 628135
  4. ^ Brooks, Willis (I995) "Russia’s conquest and pacification of the Caucasus: relocation becomes a pogrom on the post-Crimean period" Nationalities Papers 23(4): pp. 675-86
  5. ^ Shenfield, Stephen D. (1999) "The Circassians - A Forgotten Genocide?" in Levene, Mark and Roberts, Penny (eds.) (1999) The Massacre in History Berghahn Books, New York, ISBN 1571819347
  6. ^ a b "Official Website of Amman". Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  7. ^ "Circassians in Israel". Circassian World. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ A Country Study: Syria. The Library of Congress.
  10. ^ BBC News | Europe | Circassians flee Kosovo conflict
  11. ^


  • كتاب (أعلام الشراكسة)- فيصل حبطوش خوت أبزاخ - عمان - الأردن -2007م
  • Shtendel, Uri , The Circassians in Israel, Am Hasefer Tel Aviv, 1973.
  • Jaimoukha, Amjad, The Circassians: A Handbook, London: Routledge, New York: Routledge & Palgrave, 2001.
  • Jaimoukha, Amjad, Circassian Culture and Folklore: Hospitality Traditions, Cuisine, Festivals & Music (Kabardian, Cherkess, Adigean, Shapsugh & Diaspora), Bennett and Bloom, 2008.

External links







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