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Адыгэ Хэку

c. 1500–1864

Flag of Circassia

Capital Not specified
Languages Abkhaz, Adyghe, Kabardian
Religion Islam, Christianity, Traditional
Government Confederation
 -  Established c. 1500
 -  Russian–Circassian War 1763 – 1864
 -  Disestablished 1864

Circassia (Adyghe: Адыгэ Хэку,[1] Russian: Черке́сия, Georgian: ჩერქეზეთი, Arabic: شيركاسيا[2]) is a region and historical country in the North Caucasus and along the northeast shore of the Black Sea. It is the ancestral homeland of the Circassian people.


Shamil Bay, from Edmund Spencer's Turkey, Russia, the Black Sea, and Circassia, 1855.

The name Circassia is a Latinisation of Cherkess, the Turkic name for the Adyghe people, and originated in the 15th century with medieval Genoese merchants and travellers to Circassia.[3][4] The name Cherkess is traditionally applied to the Adyghe by neighbouring Turkic peoples (principally Crimean Tatars[5] and Ottoman Turks[6]).

Another historical name for the country was Zyx of the Zygii. The Zygii have been described by the ancient Greek intellectual Strabo as a nation to the north of Colchis but sources are contradictory and the name probably referred to western Chechen tribes.

At the end of the 15th century a detailed description of Circassia and of its inhabitants was made by Genoese traveler and ethnographer Giorgio Interiano.[7]


Map of the expulsion of Circassians to the Ottoman Empire.

Circassia is located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. 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 between 3 to 4 million.


  • 1237 - Historian Rashid-ad-Din in the Persian Chronicles, wrote that the Circassian king Tukar was killed in battle against the Mongols.[8]
  • 1333 - In his letter, Pope John XXII (to the king Zichia (Circassia) Verzacht ["Верзахта" in Cyrillic script]), the Rome (Avignon) Pontiff thanks the Governor of Circassians for his assistance in implementing the Christian faith among the Adygs (Circassians).[9] Verzacht's power and status was so high that his example was followed by the rest of the Circassian princes: They took the Roman Catholic faith.
  • 1471 - A contract was signed between the ruler of Circassia and the ruler of Caffa, naming another ruler Zichia - "Petrezok, the paramount lord of Zichia".[10] Under the contract, Zichia would supply large quantities of grain in the Cаffа.
  • The region was famed for its beautiful women, many of whom were married to the Ottoman sultan and Persian Shahs and had influential positions in the Imperial Harem.
  • Most of the population was expelled from their country in the late 19th century after the Russian–Circassian War in what amounted to ethnic cleansing of Circassians. Today, the Circassians are found in various areas of the old Ottoman Empire and its neighbours, including Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Serbia,[11] Egypt and Israel (in the villages of Kfar Kama and Rehaniya, since 1880), and even as far afield as New Jersey and California in the US, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.[12][citation needed]
  • Circassian nationalism has only recently developed and calls for a restoration of the native homelands.

Conquest by Russia[edit]


Under Russian and Soviet rule, ethnic and tribal divisions between Circassians (and other peoples) were promoted, resulting in several different statistical names being used for various parts of the Circassian people (Adyghes, Cherkess, Kabardins, Shapsugs). Consequently, there is 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 majority of the diaspora already tends to call itself "Circassian".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Russian)
  2. ^ (Arabic)
  3. ^ Latham, R. G. Descriptive Ethnology. London, J. Van Voorst, 1859. P. 50.
  4. ^ Latham, R. G. Elements of Comparative Philology. London, Walton and Maberly, 1862. P. 279.
  5. ^ Taitbout, De Marigny. Three Voyages in the Black Sea to the Coast of Circassia. London, 1837. Pp. 5-6.
  6. ^ Guthrie, William, James Ferguson, and John Knox. A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World ... Philadelphia, Johnson & Warner, 1815. P. 549.
  7. ^ Biblioteca Italiana.Vita de' Zichi chiamati Ciarcassi di G. Interiano (Latin)
  8. ^ Рашид ад-Дин. Сборник летописей. М.-Л., 1952. Т. 2. С. 39
  9. ^ Колли Л. Кафа в период владения ею банком св. Георгия (1454—1475) // Известия Таврической Ученой Архивной комиссии. № 47. Симферополь, 1912. С. 86
  10. ^ Kressel R. Ph. The Administration of Caffa under the Uffizio di San Giorgio. University of Wisconsin, 1966. P. 396
  11. ^ "World: Europe Circassians flee Kosovo conflict". BBC News. 1998-08-02. Retrieved 2008-07-06. 
  12. ^