Circassia: Ancestral homeland of the Circassians

Circassia (Circassian: Адыгэ Хэку) is a region in the North Caucasus and along the north-east shore of the Black Sea. It is the ancestral homeland of the Circassian people.

The Cherkess or Circassians, who gave their name to this region, of which they were until lately the sole inhabitants, are a peculiar race, differing from the other tribes of the Caucasus in origin and language. The name Circassia is a Latinisation of Cherkess (modern Turkish: Çerkes), the Turkic name for the Adyghe people, and originated in the 15th century with mediaeval Genoese merchants and travellers to Circassia.

At the end of the 15th century, a detailed description of Circassia and its inhabitants was made by Genoese traveller and ethnographer Giorgio Interiano. His book called "La vita sito de' Zichi, chiamati Ciarcassi: historia notabile" was published by Aldus Manutius in Venice in 1502.

 

Circassia was located in Eastern Europe, near the north-eastern Black Sea coast. Before the Russian conquest of the Caucasus (1763–1864), it covered the entire fertile plateau and steppe of the north-western region of the Caucasus, with an estimated population of between 3 and 4 million.

Circassia’s maximum historical range extended from the Taman Peninsula in the west to the town of Mozdok in today’s North Ossetia–Alania in the east. Historically, Circassia covered the southern half of today’s Krasnodar Krai, the Republic of Adyghea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and parts of North Ossetia–Alania and Stavropol Krai, bounded by the Kuban River in the north, which separated it from the Russian Empire.

  

Most of the population was expelled from their homeland to the neighbouring Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century after the Russo–Circassian War. Today, about 700,000 Circassians remain in historical Circassia in modern-day Russia. The 2010 Russian Census recorded 718,727 Circassians, of whom 516,826 are Kabardians, whilst 124,835 are Adyghe proper, 73,184 Cherkess and 3,882 Shapsugs.[14] The largest Circassian population resides in Turkey (pop. 1,400,000 – 6,000,000). In other countries (such as Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Serbia, Egypt and Palestine) Circassian populations also exist, but they considerably smaller communities.

"Map of Circassia illustrating the narrative of a residence in Circassia" by James Stanislaus Bell. From:Journal of a residence in Circassia, during the years 1837, 1838, and 1839. London 1840. Vol. 1