Krasnodar Krai

Circassians in Krasnodar Krai

The modern Russian region of Krasnodar Krai, in which Adygea is a landlocked enclave, covers the great majority of the lands of historical Circassia proper, or Western Circassia, before it disappeared off the map in 1864 after the end of Russo-Caucasian Wars. As a result of what Circassians worldwide consider as “Circassian Genocide and Exile of 1864”, these lands were emptied of its original inhabitants. Of the pre-1864 population of the area, less than 5% remained therein in 1880s while the rest were deported en masse to the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore, especially the southern part of Krasnodar Krai is home to lands where the Circassian language, identity, and national history emerged and flourished over millennia. Despite the presence of many sites of Circassian cultural and historical heritage in this region, out of a population of 5.2 million there are only around 25.000 native Circassians (excluding those in Adygea) living in Krasnodar.

This Circassian population can be grouped into two: those who live in and around the city of Krasnodar and its borders with Adygea, and the Shapsugh of the Black Sea, a Circassian subgroup whose historical settlements are spread around the towns of Sochi, Lazarevsk and Tuapse.

When Adygea was founded in 1922 as a national autonomy for Circassians in the Kuban region, its administrative centre was the city of Krasnodar. Therefore, there have always been very close historical, economic, cultural, commercial, educational and political ties between these two entities. Furthermore, there are two Circassian villages, namely Konokovsky and Kurgokovsky which are located in Krasnodar’s Uspensky raion. Additionally, there is the unique Circasso-Armenian community of Cherkessohays in and around the town of Armavir. These populations comprise the first of the said two Circassian groups.

The second group of Circassians of Krasnodar are the remnants of the native population of the historical Shapsugia, which was one of the largest and most populous of all of the Circassian regions covering most of the breadth of the Black Sea shores. Of the no less than 300.000 in 1864, only 3400 Circassian Shapsugh remained in the area in the 1920s. Because their settlements were far from the borders of Adygea at the time, they were not included within the borders of Adygea. Nevertheless, the Soviets granted the Shapsugh autonomy in the form of Shapough National District in 1924 that, however, was abolished in 1945. The area around Krasnodar Krai’s border with Abkhazia, the town of Sochi and the lands between the rivers of Shakhe and Hosta, was also once home to a unique Circassian community, the Ubikh who were deported from their homeland almost to the last men in 1864. Today, there are approx. 10.000 Circassians living in and around the towns of Sochi, Tuapse and Lazarevsk.