Circassia5 January 2022 2022-05-06 2:20
It is certainly not an easy task to draw ethnic boundaries and borders in a region like the North Caucasus which, for millennia, has been home, in recorded history, to a myriad of ethnic groups and yet does not have the tradition of forming stable state structures despite the fact that it is located in an area where such bureaucratic, long lasting and hegemonic empires as the Byzantine, Persian, Mongol, Ottomans and Russia vied for supremacy. It is even more difficult to explore the history and sociology of the region on the basis of what the current ethnic and political landscapes look like.
Nonetheless, as a place where the Circassian language and culture emerged and flourished; Circassian national identity was formed; all Circassians around the world recognise as “homeland”, Circassia signifies a country which, before it was occupied, colonised and emptied of majority of its native inhabitants in the 1860s by the Tsarist Russia, existed in recorded history under this name for almost a millennium, and longer under different names on a continuum. While they expanded and shrunk at times, its borders were more or less established and that it was a constituent part of the military, diplomatic and demographic history of, and the affairs between, the peoples and states of the eastern Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean regions.
From the Black Sea in the west to the Terek River in the east, and from Kuban River in the north to Abkhazia and the lands of the Karachay, Balkar, Ossetians and Georgia in the south lied historical Circassia. From the 16th Century onwards, the easternmost part of Circassia acquired a relatively centralised statehood and became a different political entity, though the same Circassian language and culture prevailed throughout the country. As a result of this, in terms of the political and diplomatic affairs of the region the western part of the Circassian-inhabited lands along the Black Sea coast came to be known as the Circassia while the eastern part came to be referred to as the Principality of Kabarda. Circassians comprised the great majority of the population of both regions while the ethnically-related, bilingual Abaza communities constituted a significant element of it politically, culturally and militarily. Furthermore, there were pockets of settlements by the neighbouring peoples: the Karachay, Balkar, Ingush, Noghai, Ossetians, and Chechens as well as the Cherkesogai, the Circassian-speaking Armenians.
Today, the lands of the historical Circassia lie entirely within the Russian Federation in the form of ethnic republics or as parts of the neighbouring federal regions populated mostly by Russians. However, as a travesty of history, the only federal unit that has the name Circassia in it is the dual republic of Karachay-Cherkessia (Cherkessia is a different spelling of the word Circassia), which lies in the central parts of the former Circassian lands. Additionally, there is the republic of Adygeya to the west, which was also called Adyge (Circassian) autonomous region when it was set up in the 1920s, the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Krasnodar and Stavropol Krays.
Today the population of the above-mentioned three republics is consisted of the three titular ethnic groups that are Circassians, Karachay, Balkars as well as the Abaza, Noghai, Cossacks and Russians.