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Index / Peoples
Circassians
Turkish: Çerkes



Circassians in traditional garment.
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Circassians in traditional garment.

Circassians in the Middle East
Figures in 1000.
Last column: % of country population.
Israel
3 <0.1%
Jordan
100 1.7%
Lebanon
35 1.0%
Libya
25 0.3%
Syria
45 0.2%
Turkey
870 1.2%
TOTAL *)
1,070 0.2%

*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.

Armed Circassians in traditional garment.
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Armed Circassians in traditional garment.

Circassian girl in traditional garment.
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Circassian girl in traditional garment.

Circassians in traditional garment.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Circassians in traditional garment.

Circassians in traditional garment.
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Circassians in traditional garment.

People originally from northwestern Caucasian, today living in pockets throughout the Levant; as well as in Libya, counting 1.0 million. The majority of Circassians today live in Russia.
The term 'Circassian' is suggested to have been given by outsiders, and occasionally having been used in a derogatory way. This is apparently not correct, the Circassians have used the term for themselves both before and today, always without negative connotations. The Circassians can be divided into 3 subgroups: 1) Adyghe, 2) Abkhaz and 3) Ubykh.
Circassians have light skin and dark hair. The speak languages collectively called Circassian, Kabardian or Adyghe. Many of the Circassians living in the Middle East have adopted the language of the majority, Turkish or Arabic.
Traditionally, the Circassians lived off livestock and farming. Society was of a feudal character, and slavery remained an important part of the social structures. Traditionally, women are strictly subordinate to men. The majority of Circassians are Sunni Muslims, but an unknown percentage keep up ancient cults, associated with thunder, fertility rites and sacred groves. Many may well adhere to non-Islamic faiths while passing for Muslims; their faith can therefore be another taqiyya religions, but minimal information is available on this for the writing of Contents.
Circassians represent the majority in the Jordanian town Jerash. In Israel, the Circassians share about the same rights as the Druze, by which women are exempted from military service.

History
12th century: Advances by Georgians into Circassia, which had enjoyed great autonomy until then.
1234: Invasion and destruction by Mongols.
14th century: Circassians become among the leading groups of the Mamluks, ruling from Egypt.
Late 18th century: Russia begins a grand campaign into the territory of the Circassians, who fight back.
1864: Circassia is finally defeated by the Russians; about 400,000 Circassians choose to emigrate.
1878: Circassians settle in Amman, bringing growth to the town.
1930's: Circassians, representing the majority of the Syrian town of al-Quneitra on the Golan Heights, attempt to make the French authorities to create a national home for the Circassians on the Golan Heights.




By Tore Kjeilen