Circassia (properly Tcherkessia; called by the Circassians the land of the Adighei), a mountainous region of European Russia, forming a part of the Kuban district, between lat. 42° 40' and 45° 20' N., and lon. 37° 30' and 42° 30' E.; area, about 20,000 sq. m.; pop. about 300,000. It is situated on the N. E. part of the Black sea to about lon. 42° 30' E. On the X. it is separated from the territory of the Black sea Cossacks by the river Kuban, and on the N. E. by its affluent, the Laba, from the Nogai lowlands; on the S. E. it borders on the Greater Kabarda; and on the S. and S. W. it is separated from Imerethia, Mingrelia, and Abkhasia by the highest chain of the Caucasus. The whole of this country, with the exception of the low lands on the Kuban, is rugged and mountainous, embracing the Elburz and other peaks of the Caucasus, and is everywhere broken into deep valleys and intersected by streams. Toward the X. W. the mountains gradually decrease in elevation, and the range of the Black mountains (anc. Coraxici Montes), between the Black sea and the Kuban, consists of a number of rounded hills of moderate height.
From the contiguity of the mountains to the sea the watercourses are generally of small importance, most of the rivers being but shallow streams, which in summer stagnate on the low grounds and produce miasma. In the more elevated portions the atmosphere is colder and the climate is more salubrious. The hydrography is of two systems, the waters of the S. E. district being conveyed by the Terek to the Caspian sea, and those of ail other parts by the Kuban or directly to the Black sea. Some of the direct affluents of the Black sea are of sufficient depth at their mouths for navigation. For the prevention of smuggling and of the traffic in slaves, the Russians have built a number of forts on the coast. On the Kuban is also a line of forts to keep the tribes in subjection. The passes leading through the ! mountains are narrow defiles, which can be traversed only in single file. The villages are generally situated in the valleys which are most difficult of access. - The name Tcher-kesses, "cutters of roads," a term equivalent to cutpurses or highway robbers, was given by the Tartars; the Circassians call themselves Adighei, "the noble." They are essentially a pastoral as well as a warlike people, averse to labor, and addicted to robbery and blood-shed. They are of middle stature, with broad shoulders, but otherwise slender, having small hands and feet, and keen eyes.
Their bearing is i courteous and dignified. Their wealth consists i in flocks, herds, horses, and arms. Money as a circulating medium is almost unknown. Ac-cording to their eulogists, the Circassians are the handsomest, bravest, and noblest of mankind; but their detractors represent them as a semi-barbarous horde of marauders. They do not even constitute one people, but are composed of clans, subdivided into families more or less powerful, under their hereditary heads, who in turn are feudatory to the princes or greater chiefs, also hereditary, but liable to be deposed for misconduct. Circassian pride of birth is ex-cessive, and causes society to be divided into classes as strictly defined as in the most aristocratic countries. With all this they have a theory of republicanism, every free Circassian having a right to make his voice heard in the public assemblies. The social grades are: 1, princes or chiefs, called pshehs, khanuks, Mians; 2, nobles; 3, middle class; 4, retainers; 5, serfs, employed either in cultivation of the soil or in menial service. The princes and nobles are the owners of the soil, from whom their tenantry hold the land which they cultivate.
The noble lives in his village, surrounded by his people, and exercises a patriarchal jurisdiction, regulating even their marriages and the education of their children. Having no written laws, the administration of justice was formerly regulated by custom and tradition, and ordinary affairs were administered by a council of the oldest and most respected of the villagers, whose award was final. All ranks associate, and are clothed, fed, and housed alike, the only difference being in their warlike equipment, wherein the rich men display great extravagance; the array of a chief consists of a coat and helmet of mail, sword, javelin, rifle, pistols, poniard, and frequently bow and arrows. The chiefs alone are entitled to the privilege of wearing red. Like most oriental nations, they shave the head, and never remove the head covering. The ordinary costume consists of a tunic descending to the knee, secured around the waist by a leather belt, and having on both sides of the breast from 12 to 20 small pockets in which cartridges are carried, a round fur cap, and cloth trousers of eastern pattern. On a journey a goat's-hair cloak with a hood is added. Their habitations are log huts, put together slightly, so as to be abandoned at short notice.
Around these cabins they cultivate millet, barley, and vegetables for their own food, permitting their flocks to pasture among the hills. The Circassian national dish is millet porridge; they also distil a kind of whiskey from millet. Bees are reared on most farms, and mead is a favorite beverage. Great attention is paid to the breeding of horses. Oxen are employed in agriculture. Mules and asses are the beasts of burden, the horse being considered too noble an animal for labor. There is no regular taxation, the lower orders being required to supply what the nobles want; but the vassal who finds the exactions of his lord too severe can transfer his allegiance to another. Some of their domestic customs are curious. A bridegroom makes a show of carrying off his bride by force from her father's house. The Circassian husband has unlimited power over the lives of his wife and children. The wife hides herself from strangers, and the children must stand in his presence. Polygamy is allowed, but custom limits men to one or at most two wives. The women have fine forms and complexion, both of which are carefully preserved by exemption from labor and by attention to diet and cosmetics. The household work is done by the married women.
The traffic in their daughters has been the greatest reproach against the Circassians. About 1,000 girls were formerly exported annually. The Russians stopped the trade, but by treaty in 1845 its renewal was permitted. Lady Sheil, in her " Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia" (London, 1850), gives an interesting account of the slave trade as she saw it in 1849. Dealers from Constantinople and Egypt made voyages to Circassia, taking with them silk and cotton cloths, chintzes, shawls, colored leather, gunpowder, and salt, which they exchanged for females and youths. Ugly and old females were taken for menial service, and the handsome girls for the harems. Men could not sell their daughters against their consent, but it was the great ambition of a Circassian girl to become an inmate of the harem of a wealthy Turk. Sometimes a man induced his friend to sell him, then took flight, and the amount of the purchase was divided between them. The price of males varied from $50 to $400, that of females from $50 to $700, according to age and beauty. The traffic was again suppressed in 1855 by the firman of Abdul-Medjid, which prohibited the sale of white persons as slaves.
Notwithstanding the prohibition, however, there was in 1850 an absolute glut in the Circassian slave market at Constantinople, and a Circassian girl, formerly thought very cheap at $500, might then have been had for $25. The Circassians are fond of music; their instruments are chiefly a shepherd's flute and one resembling a violin, with but two strings. There are wandering poets, and every chief has his own bard. The sexes do not dance together; the young men form a circle, into which one steps and goes through a round of comic leaps and gestures, the others keeping time by clapping their hands. The dance of the girls is similar, but performed with more grace. The Circassians unite into brotherhoods, consisting of 20 or more families, who bind themselves to assist each other in cases of need, and a widow of one is provided for by the whole brotherhood. The religion is a mixture of Mohammedanism, Christianity, and paganism. Nominally they follow the precepts of the Koran, but pay a superstitious reverence to the sign of the cross, while the bulk of the people believe in a good spirit called Merem, and an evil, Tchible, the god of thunder; also Tleps, the god of fire, and Se-osserer, of water and winds, and protector of cattle.
They have no mosque, but there are sacred groves and mountains where they resort for prayer. Their mollahs or priests are much reverenced. - The different tribes have a striking similarity in habits and customs, but differ widely in language. Within a narrow space it is said that no fewer than 72 dialects have been counted, and one particular region was named by Abulfeda Jebel el-Ulsun, the mountain of languages. The language is harsh, abounding in gutturals, and bears little resemblance to any other, except that there are a few words resembling those of the Finnish. Nouns have seven cases, but no gender; the plural is formed by the addition of Me or her. An r affixed to a word serves as an article. The comparative is formed by nakhai placed before the adjective, and the superlative by the affix ded, or the prefixes kodo, bo, hodcdo. The numerals are: tze, 1; tuu, 2; sshe, 3; plea, 4; tfu, 5; khkho, 6; ble, 7; iye, 8; vgu, 9; pse, 10. The personal pronouns are: sero, I; vuore, thou; ie, or, he; tere, we; svore, you; a, arikh, they.
Five conjugations have been distinguished in the verb, and the different tenses and moods are expressed by the terminations, as se siauguo, I see; s'slauguge, I saw; s'slauguaga, I have seen; s'slauguno se shite, I shall see; slaiiguner, to see. - The early history of Circassia is little known, especially that of the eastern part. The people appear in history under different names, as the Zyges of Strabo, the Zuchi of Adrian, the Cercetro of Pliny, and the Siraks in the middle ages. Conquered by Mithridates, the country passed on his overthrow into the hands of the Romans, under the name of Zichia; but the sovereignty of the emperors was merely nominal. In the 5th century it was subjugated by the Huns, and later by the Khazars. In the 9th century the Circassians made a fruitless effort to regain their independence; after which they separated into two bands, one going to the south of the Caucasus, near Persia, then occupied by the Arabs; the other to the lower Don, whence they subsequently returned.
After the overthrow of the empire of the Khazars, Circassia became subject first to the Seljuks, and then to Georgia, whose queen, Tamar, is said to have introduced Christianity. In the early part of the 13th century it was conquered by the Mongols under Batu Khan; and at the end of the 14th it was devastated by Tamerlane, who compelled the people to embrace Is-lamism. In the 16th century the khans of the Crimea, as successors of the Mongol emperors, claimed the sovereignty over Circassia; but in 1560 the czar Ivan Vasilevitch, who had married the daughter of a Circassian prince, sent an army to the assistance of his father-in-law. After Ivan's death the Circassians submitted to the khans of the Crimea; but in consequence of the exactions and outrages of the Tartar officials, they revolted about 1705, massacred the tax collectors, defeated a Tartar army sent against them, and made an alliance with the Turkish sultan. By the peace of Belgrade (1739) the Circassians were declared independent. In 1781 Russia acquired the Kuban border, and in 1784 the Turks built the fortress of Anapa, and thence stirred up the Circassians against Russia. Anapa was captured by the Russians in 1807, but was restored to the Turks at the peace of Bucharest in 1812. The Turks availed themselves of the quiet which followed to convert the Circassians to Islamism. In 1829 Anapa again fell into the hands of Russia, which by the treaty of Adri-anople, of the same year, also acquired all the Turkish possessions on the coast.
The Circassians refused to recognize the cession of their country by the Turks, and began the obstinate struggle for independence which made their name famous, and in which they were joined by the Lesghians, Tchetchentches, and others, succumbing, however, in the end. In 1856 a Circassian deputation was sent to Constantinople to implore Turkish protection. In 1862 a deputation arrived at London, and presented to the queen a memorial protesting against the action of Russia and the authority of Turkey to cede their country. During a visit of the emperor Alexander II. to the Caucasus in 1863, he was waited upon by a delegation of Circassians, who asked to be left in possession of their territory, promising to live on terms of peace and amity with the Russians. The emperor refused to accede to their request, and offered them the alternative between emigration beyond the Kuban and a continuation of hostilities. They chose the latter; but being unable to resist the superior strength and discipline of the Russians, in the following year there was a great emigration of about 200,000 persons into Turkey. The Russian government sent vessels to transport them, and furnished them with provisions as long as they were on the Russian shore. (See Caucasus.)