The Circassians: An Introduction
The Circassian are the largest ethnic group in the North Caucasus, accounting for about 20% of the region’s 5 million inhabitants. Historically, the Circassians have served as a stabilizing force, and this reputation continues to this day—not only in the North Caucasus, but in many other countries where Circassians can be found.
Today the Circassians find themselves scattered around the globe. With the overwhelming majority of this small nation living outside the borders of its historic ethnic homeland, as a whole the nation enjoys limited benefits with no formal political state, few dedicated resources, and virtually no efforts to help safe guard its long-term viability.
Circassia: Homeland of the Circassians
Circassians around the world trace their roots to Circassia—the ethnic homeland of the Circassian nation. Located in the North Caucasus, it was an independent country until 1864.
Circassia is situated north of Turkey and Georgia and bounded by the Black Sea to the west, and the Kuban River to the east.
The North Caucasus: Roots of Instability
The North Caucasus is one of the least economically developed and most unstable regions of the Russian Federation. The entire region is rife with historical grievances, ethnic strife, corruption and claims of genocide.
These long-standing issues began to materialize in the form of demands for sovereignty or outright independence at the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the time, seemingly bold measures were taken to grant Circassian republics sovereignty and recognize them as Semi-autonomous Republics within the Russian Federation.
Historical Legacy: The Foundations of Unrest
The instability of the North Caucasus traces its roots to the Russian-Circassian War. Following a century of conquest, Imperial Russia was able to crush local opposition to Russian domination. While exact figures are a matter of debate, many estimate that roughly one half of the local population of 1 or 2 million Circassians died during the course of the war, with up to 90% of the remaining survivors forcibly removed and exiled to the Ottoman Empire.