The West Circassian of Russia
The 123,000 West Circassian of Russia represent a relatively small amount of a once large, important group of people. Having lived in the Caucasus area for thousands of years, they had contact with the many peoples who passed the steppes to the north. During that time, the Circassian knew almost constant warfare with these neighbors. By the mid-1860's, roughly 90% of the Circassian population had been either killed or forced to flee. Today, they live not only in their own homeland, but also in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq.
What are their lives like?
Traditionally, Circassian houses were spaced fairly far apart along a river, generally in the higher country. The dwelling, called a wuna, was a long rectangular house with a porch extending along its front. It was made of twigs coated with mud and had a thatch roof. There were several rooms, including at least one for the women. The house usually had a large tree planted in front of its door to symbolize the growth and strength of the family. A vegetable garden and several other houses (for sons and their families), as well as buildings for livestock and food storage were located behind the main house. The entire compound was enclosed in a stockade.
Today, in the lowland villages where most of the people live, standardized brick homes with garden plots have replaced traditional patterns. Many Circassian now live in the cities of Maikop, Armavir, Krasnodar, Cherkassk, Stavrapol, Nalchik, and Mozdok. These centers have Circassian institutes and schools, and some Circassian have moved there to be near their work.
Outside of the cities, the extended family is the most common unit, sometimes containing as many as four or five generations. Members of a tlapq (clan) are descended from the same male ancestors and share a common name. Marriages are based on love or mutual interest and occur when the couple is in their early thirties. The wife has authority over many of the household matters, but the husband has the final say in disputes.
A man was traditionally never without his dagger, and few things were more important to him than his weapons. This reflected the prevalence of the "blood feud." Circassian folklore is rich, varied, and has served as a basis for modern literature and poetry.
In recent years, the areas in which the Circassian live were elevated in status to republics and were allowed to fly the old Circassian flag. An effort is now being made, through land grants and other incentives, to have the scattered Circassian return to their homeland. In fact, a number have returned, and some even dream of the return of all Circassians to the Caucasus.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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