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Circassian Tribes And Families

The Circassians are a North Caucasian ethnic group
that has a long and rich history.
The Circassian people are divided into numerous tribes and families, each with their own customs, traditions, and dialects. These tribes and families are an essential aspect of Circassian society, as they provide a sense of belonging and identity for their members.

  • The traditional Circassian family structure is based on the concept of extended families, with multiple generations living together under one roof.

  • The patriarch of the family is typically the oldest male, and he is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the entire family.In the past, Circassians were primarily a rural people, and their families were involved in agriculture and livestock raising.

  • However, in recent times, many Circassians have moved to urban areas and have taken up a variety of professions.

  • Despite this change, the importance of the family remains a central part of Circassian culture.

  • One of the key traditions in the Circassian family is the practice of arranged marriages. In this tradition, the parents of the bride and groom play a central role in selecting their children's future partners. While this may seem old-fashioned to some, it is still a common practice among many Circassian families. Another important aspect of Circassian family life is the emphasis on education.

  • Education is highly valued in Circassian culture, and parents place a strong emphasis on their children receiving a good education

  • This has led to a high literacy rate among the Circassian population.In conclusion, the Circassian family is an important part of their culture and plays a central role in their daily lives.

  • The strong bonds of family and community are a defining characteristic of the Circassian people.

  • The Circassian people are made up of a number of different tribes and families, each with their own unique history and cultural traditions
    Circassians are known for having 12 tribes only. But historically, it has always been way more. Unfortunately, they got all wiped out during the Russo-Circassian war and genocide.
    No matter what, and how many years have passed already, they will never be forgotten. May our nation get revived again one day.

    The Circassian tribes can be grouped and compared in various ways:

  • The narrow Black Sea coast was occupied, from north to south by the NatukhaiShapsug, and Ubykh. The main part of the Natukhai and Shapsug tribes were located in the north of the mountains. The Natukhai were enriched by trade since their coast was not backed by high mountains and opened onto the steppe.

  • The north slope was inhabited, from north to south, by the Natukhai, Shapsug, and Abdzakh. They seem to have been the most populous tribes after the Kabarda and its inland location gave then some protection from Nogai and Cossack raiding.

  • In the far west were three small tribes that were absorbed into the Natukhai and disappeared. These were the Adele Адале[sup] [ru][/sup] on the Taman peninsula and the Shegak and Chebsin (Хегайки[sup] [ru][/sup] and Чебсин[sup] [ru][/sup]) near Anapa.

  • Along the Kuban were the Natukhai, Zhaney, Bzhedug, Hatuqwai, and Temirgoy. The tribes along the Kuban and Laba rivers were exposed to Nogai and Cossack raiding than those in the interior.

  • On the east, between the Laba and Belaya, from north to south, were the Temirgoy, Yegeruqwai (Егерукаевцы[sup] [ru][/sup]), Makhosh (Махошевцы[sup]ru][/sup]), and Besleney. The Besleney were a branch of the Kabardians. Along the Belaya River were the Temirgoy, the ill-documented Ademey (Адамийцы[sup] [ru][/sup]) and then the Mamkhegh near the modern Maykop.

  • The Guaye (Гуайе[sup] [ru][/sup]) are poorly documented. The Tchelugay lived west of the Makhosh. The Hakuch lived on the coast south of the Natukhai. Other groups are mentioned without much documentation. There are reports of tribes migrating from one place to another, again without much documentation. Some sketch maps show a group of Karachays on the upper Laba without any explanation.

  • In the Far east the Kabarda occupied about a third of the north Caucasus piedmont from mid Circassia proper eastward to the Chechen country. To their north were the Nogai nomads and to the south, deeper in the mountains, were from west to east, the Karachays, Balkars, Ossetes, Ingushes, and Chechens. The Kabardians were fairly advanced, interacted with the Russians from the sixteenth century and were much reduced by plague in the early nineteenth century.

  • The major tribes and families among the Circassian people include:

  • Abzakhs: Also known as Abzakh or Abadzekh.
    Historically, they lived in the mountainous of Adygea and Krasnodar Krai. Major settlements or villages were located in the river valleys Kurdzhips, Psheha, Pshish, and Psekups.
    The Abzakh tribe was traditionally divided into nine companies, managed by elected elders. In discussing and resolving important issues elders agreed in a general meeting. The Abzakh tribe engaged in arable farming and horticulture, and kept many animals, especially prized horses. In the mountains, the Abzakh mined copper, iron, lead, and silver.
    The Abzakhs are not to be confused with the Abkhazians or the Abaza.The remaining Abzakhs were relocated to the present-day steppe Shovgenovsky District in Adygea.

  • BesleneyAlso known as Beslenei or Baslaney.
    The Besleney are closest to Kabardians.
    The noble families of the Besleney were Kanoko and Shaloho, ancestors of Kabardian Prince Beslan, (the son of legendary Prince Inal) who established his own tribe of the same name.
    The majority of the Besleney live in the valley of Bolshaya and Malaya Laba Rivers and on the bank of Urup in the  Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai, and Adygea.
    They also extend to the valleys of Chetem, Fars Psefir, Kuban (Western Circassia). The Besleney people speak the Besleney sub-dialect  of the Kabardian Adyghe dialect (East Circassian). However, because the Besleney tribe lived at the center of Circassia, the Besleney dialect also shares a large number of features with dialects of the West Adyghe dialect. Like the Adyghe Shapsug sub-dialect.

  • BzhedugAlso known as Bjedugh, Bzhedug or Bazdug.
    The Bzhedug people live in Adygea and Krasnodar Krai, and are well represented in the Adyghe (Circassian) diaspora in all countries of residence. Even in ancient times the Bzhedug people were divided into four tribes.
    The Bzhedugs originally lived in the area of Shahe River, between Tuapse and Sochi. Later they divided in two groups: those who lived close to the Black Sea (Abhiaskis) and Adygeans (territory of Kuban River).
    There are 48 Circassian villages in Republic of Adygea, 26 of which are Bzhedug villages (54% of the villages in Adygea).
    They were involved in cattle breeding and agriculture, growing mostly crops and corn

  • Kabardian: Also known as Kabardin, Kebertei, or Kabarday.
    The Kabardians are the largest Circassian (Adyghe) tribe in the world in general.
    They speak a distinctive dialect of the Adyghe language. Historically the Kabardians lived in Kabardia, a region of the north Caucasus. The republic is situated in the North Caucasus mountains, with plains in the northern part. The republic shares an international border with Georgia. The Kabardian language has two major dialects: Kabardian and Besleney. Some linguists argue that Kabardian is only one dialect of an overarching Adyghe or Circassian language, which consists of all of the dialects of Adyghe and Kabardian togethe. There are about 100 lakes in the Republic, none of which is large. Just over half (55) are located between the Baksan and Malka Rivers.

  • Hatuqway: They were known for their art of war as a warrior tribe. After the Russo-Circassian War.
    The Hatuqway were a western Circassian tribal princedom whose homeland lay along the banks of the Kuban River. The Hatuqway people lived mostly in the mountains between the lower valleys of the Pshish River and the Belaya River.
    Due to their small size and closeness to Temirgoy tribe, they were considered as one of the subgroups of Temirgoy. In the time before the Russian invasion, the Hatuqway were known as a powerful and warlike tribe that fought many wars mostly against the Crimean Tatars. Traditional Hatuqway culture is part of the Circassian culture. The Hatuqway were engaged in agriculture, cattle and horse breeding. Before Islam, the Hatuqways worshipped Jesus as well as the gods of Circassians such as Shibla (god of lightning and thunder), Sozeresh (god of fertility), Yamish, Ahin and Hakustash

  • Mamkhegh: Originally, the Mamkhegs lived in the territory between the Belaja and Kurdžips Rivers, in the territory of modern Maykop.
    The Mamkhegh spoke a special dialect of the Adyghe language, closest to that of the Temirgoy. They did not however. have the highest class of prince who usually controlled villages, like most Circassian tribes. Rural administration was in the hands of elected elders from the freemen class. Legends say that they moved from the Black Sea Coast to the upper reaches of the Pšexa River [ru]. At first, Mamkhegs were just three big families: Shnah, Mami, and Tlizhho. Those who remained took Russian citizenship and founded a village called Mamxeg, which survives today in the Shovgenovsky District of modern Adygea.

  • NatukhajsThe Natukhaj, Natuqway or Natukha.
    Their areas historically extended along the Black Sea coast from Anapa in the north to Tsemes Bay (now Novorossiysk) in the south and from the north side of the mountains to the lower Kuban River.
    The Natukhai tribe consisted of 10 aristocratic families and 44 free clans, and classified as an Adyghe democratic tribe. Because their coast was not backed by high mountains and opened northward to the steppe the Natukhai were very active in trading with the Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate, which afforded for them better life than many others. By culture, language and character they find themselves closest to the Lesser Shapsug and even call themselves by the same name Aguchips. The Natukhai, like the Shapsug and Abadzekh, managed to limit the power of noble men of their tribe. Their villages were also administered by elected villagers. The Natukhai were one of the tribes most inclined to a peaceful sort of labor

  • Shapsugs: Also known as the Shapsugh or Shapsogh
    Historically, the Shapsug tribe comprised one of the largest groups of the Black Sea Adyghe. The Shapsug were a very large tribe that occupied extensive territories of the Black Sea coast and the Kuban River. Different sources note that, prior to the Russo-Caucasian War. They inhabited the region between the Dzhubga means "Winds" or "The Valley of Winds") River and the Shakhe Rivers (the so-called Maly Shapsug, or Little Shapsug) and high-altitude mountainous areas of the northern slopes of the Caucasus range along the Antkhir, Abin, Afips, Bakan, Ships, and other rivers.(Bolshoy Shapsug, or Greater Shapsug).
    They are a subgroup of the larger Adyghe people and speak the Shapsug dialect of the Adyghe language.They were classified as one of the three democratic Adyghe tribes.The Shapsugwere known to have supported the other Adyghe tribes in their struggle against the Crimean Khanate. During the Caucasian War.

  • TemirgoyTemirgoy or Chemirgoy or Kemgui
    They lived between the lower flows of the Belaya and Laba Rivers and their lands extended north to the Kuban. The Temirgoys were one of the strongest and most powerful Circassian tribes. Sources note that Temirgoy tribe was richer than its neighbors. They cultivated cattle breeding and agriculture: millet, corn, wheat, rye and sunflower. Class differentiation in Temirgoy tribe was very clear. After the end of the Caucasian War, most Temirgoys resettled in other Circassian villages (Bzhedugii, Kabarda, Urupskiy (Schhaschefyzh) current Assumption district of Krasnodar region). The most important family of princely origin was Bolotoko, which at some point controlled Temirgoy, Yegeruko and Mamheg tribes.

  • UbykhThe name Ubykh is derived from Убыхыбзэ (/wɨbɨx/), its name in the Adyghe language. It is known in linguistic literature by many names: variants of Ubykh, such as Ubikh, Oubykh. The Ubykh used to inhabit the capital of Circassia, Sache (Circassian: lit. seaside) — present-day Sochi, Krasnodar Krai.
    Ubykhs supplanted the Sadz Abkhazians from the area in the 17th century, and unlike the principality of Abkhazia, there were no princes in Ubykhia and it was governed by the council, which represented the nobles from all 11 Ubykh subdivisions and 2 from Akhchipsou and Sadz peoples, incorporated to the common wealth. The Ubykh were semi-nomadic horsemen, and had a finely-differentiated vocabulary related to horses and tack. Some Ubykh also practiced favomancy and scapulimancy. However, the Ubykh gained more prominence in modern times.

  • Yegeruqway:  The Yegeruqwai is a sub-tribe of the Adyghe people, who are a Circassian people native to the Caucasus region in Eastern Europe. The Adyghe people are divided into several sub-tribes, each with their own distinct language, culture, and traditions.
    The Yegeruqwai are one of these sub-tribes, and they are known for their rich cultural heritage and traditions.

  • ZhaneyThe Zhaney were a very powerful Circassian tribe in the past.
    They lived the north of the Natukhai tribe's land on the coast of the Black Sea and Azov Sea in Eastern Europe. A map of the 17th century also shows they lived right by the coast of the lower flow of Kubans, beyond Taman and Atchu. As a result of the bloody Russian–Circassian War

  • Zhaney tribe was almost wholly destroyed, as only 3 families survived. The Zhaney are primarily found in the Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia republics of Russia, where they make up a significant portion of the population. The Zhaney are primarily found in the Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia republics of Russia, where they make up a significant portion of the population.