The Circassians are the oldest indigenous people of Northwest Caucasus and identify themselves as Adyghe. The Adyghe preserve their culture and continue to use the Adyghe language as their primary means of communication. Only in the 18th century did their language assume a written form. Organized into tribes, the Adyghe have never had an independent state.
Once, the Adyghe were the main ethnic element in the northwest Caucasus; however, this drastically changed under the pressure of the Russian conquest, and especially after the defeat of the Great Revolt (1825-1864), when an Adyghe mass exodus took place. This exodus was called 'one of the greatest mass movements of population in modern history. Adyghe moved to Turkey and other areas of the Ottoman Empire, including Egypt. One and a half million Adyghe abandoned their ancient homeland, leaving behind scattered remnant communities. There are many stories, poems and songs about the victims of the war, the emigration itself and the state of exile. Rituals and memorial days are devoted to these events.
One can gain much insight into Adyghe culture and customs from their folk dances. The dances tell stories about everyday life such as courtship, preparing for war, the harvest, and showing of strength. All stories ultimately originate from the centuries old Nart Epics, a series of 26 cycles and 700 texts dating back to 4,000-3,500 BC. The stories preserve Adyghe ancient history. They precede Greek mythology, containing ancient stories of gods from southern Russia. From these Epics came the " Adyghe habza," or Adyghe traditions.
The habza is an important feature of Adyghe identity. It was established long before their Islamization. It is the Adyghe system of laws, rules, etiquette and ethos. The habza provided the rules of behavior and morality that are handed down in other societies through religion. The Adyghe habza is passed on from generation to generation, with today's Adyghe youth still being taught to carry on the traditions.
The Israeli Adyghe, although small and isolated, have succeeded in preserving their culture and identity more than any other Adyghe community in the diaspora. In Israel they reside mainly in two villages. They are recognized as a distinct community. The villages maintain good relations with the nearby Jewish villages and towns, as well as with neighboring Arabs.
Adyghe men serve in the army, so structurally their position in Israel is like that of the Israeli Druze. As for the conflict between Jews and Arabs, this is, in Caucasian opinion, a conflict between Semitic cousins and does not relate to them as people of the European side of the Caucasus.
Many Adyghe were Christianized under Georgian and Byzantine influence in the 6th century. However, under the growing influence of the Ottomans, Islam gradually replaced Christianity and became fully established in the 18th and 19th century, blending with remnants of Christian beliefs and even pre-Christian folk beliefs. It seems that religious influence upon Adyghe collective identity, both in the past and in the present, has been limited and superficial. Some Adyghe became Muslims only during their mass migration, on the ships taking them to the other side of the Black Sea.
The situation of Israel's Adyghe is different, and Islam takes an eminent position in the villages, governing lifestyle and morals. There is also a small percentage of Adyghe who are Christian.
The collapse of the Soviet Union has heightened Adyghe national feeling both in Russia and in the diaspora. Since then, the Adyghe people have forged links with their brethren all over the world. The state of exile in the diaspora plays an important role in the collective identity of Adyghes. An Adyghe proverb says: "The one who loses his homeland loses everything". Other examples of proverbs expressing the longing for the homeland are: "Caucasus, my homeland, I will never forget you"; or, "I'd rather lose my eyes than forget you". These and other similar statements are not only a romantic longing or nostalgia for the Caucasus homeland; they reflect the existential condition of the individual in the Adyghe community.
The re-migration of the Adyghe to the Caucasus is a new phenomenon and is continuing. The successful absorption of new immigrants will depend upon the situation in the Caucasus. Political instability, economic hardship and rising crime rates limit the number of newcomers.
Today, many Adyghe communities worldwide are facing the problems of losing their language and culture. Yet compared to other migrant groups, the Adyghe have a greater tendency to maintain their separate identity.
Pray that believers in Israel will make the effort to lovingly take the gospel to Adyghe people and teach them to disciple others.
Pray that Adyghe-speaking people in Israel will be touched by the gospel and moved to bring it to Adyghe people everywhere.
Pray for a movement to Christ among the Adyghe in Israel and beyond.
Scripture Prayers for the Adyghe in Israel.
|Profile Source: Joshua Project
|Other PDF Profile
|People Name General
|People Name in Country
|Cherkess; Circassian; Circassian, West; Kjax; Lower Circassian; Shapsug
|Population this Country
|Population all Countries
|Frontier People Group
|1 (per PeopleGroups.org)
|Pioneer Workers Needed
|Africa, North and Middle East
|National Bible Society
|Location in Country
|Kafr Kama and Rehaniya, small border villages Source: Ethnologue 2010
Primary Language: Adyghe
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