(Own name: Adyge)

hile Cherkess, Adygei and Kabard today are considered distinct peoples by
outsiders, they were originally one indigenous North West Caucasian people. They call them selves Adgei, while Cherkess is Turkish. In English they are known under the collective name Circassians. When, from the fourteenth to the
fifteenth centuries onwards, the Circassians expanded their habitat from the
Black Sea Coast to the south and east, the Kabard broke away.
The Adgei converted to Islam in the sixteenth century under influence from
Crimean Tatars but Islam never became deeply rooted. They formed a hierarchically structured feudal society with an aristocracy, free farmers and captured slaves. They fought wars with Russia from the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1864 the Cherkess and Adygei finally came under Russian rule and their social structure was destroyed. A mass exodus of up to 90 percent of the Adgei to the Ottoman Empire followed. Today a diaspora of more than a million Adgei lives in Turkey, the Middle East and the USA.

Today, at least officially, Cherkess and Adygei are seen as two different peoples. Slightly more than half of the Russian Circassians live as Adygei in Adygea, approximately one quarter as Cherkess in Karachai-Cherkessia, with the remainder primarily in t he Russian Provinces Krasnodar and Stavropol, where they mostly constitute a rural population. Both groups are absolute minorities in their respective republics and regions.

The closely related Shapsug still live at the coast of the Black Sea. Their name derives from their original way of income-horse-breeding.

Editor note: This information is taken from "The North Caucasus: Minorities at a Crossroads" written by Helen Krag and Larsh Funch.

Abkhaz (Absua)
Adygei and Cherkess
Balkar (Malkarli)
Dargin (Dargua)
Ingush (Ghalghai)
Kabard (Kebertei)
Karachai (Karachai)
Kumyk (Kumuk)
Lak (Ghazi-Qumuq)
Lezgi (Kyurin)
Mountain Jews-Tat    (Djohur or Chufut)
Nogai (Nogai)
Ossets (Iron,
   Digoron, Tualhg)

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