general name for a once-numerous group of tribes, related in origin, of the Northern Caucasus; they called themselves the Adyge and have been known in European and Eastern literature since the Middle Ages as the Circassians. Among the present peoples of the Caucasus, the Adygs include the Adygeians, Kabardinians, and Circassians, who speak related languages constituting a distinct branch (Abkhazo-Adygei) of the northwestern group of Caucasian languages. Their material and religious cultures retain many common elements.
In antiquity, Adyg tribes inhabited the southwest of the Northern Caucasus and the Black Sea coast. Authors of antiquity generally referred to the Kuban tribes by the collective name of Meoty, while the Black Sea tribes were called by their own names; of these ethnica, the Zikhi and Kerkety later also became collective. In about the fifth century the Zikhi assumed leadership of an alliance of Adyg tribes, which lasted up to the tenth century; the name of the Zikhi dispelled other tribal names of the Adygs. In Russian chronicles dating from the tenth century, the Adygs were called the Kasogi, while in Eastern sources (in Arabic and Persian) they were known as the Kashaki or Kesheki (“k-sh-k”). From the time of the Mongol invasion (13th century), the name “Circassians,” or “Cherkess” (compare the ethnicon of antiquity, “Kerkety”) became common, although sometimes the term “Zikhi” also appeared in Western literature.
During the 13th–14th centuries, some of the Adygs moved east to the Terek River basin. This region had previously been inhabited by the Alani, many of whom had been destroyed during the Mongol invasion and some of whom had been driven into the mountains. Those that remained mixed with the Adygs. Thus, the Kabardinian nationality was formed. Other Adyg tribes formed the Adygeian nationality. The Adyg population of Karachai-Cherkess Autonomous Oblast consists partly of descendants of the western Adyg tribes (the Beslenei) and partly of the Kabardinians who moved to Kuban in the 1820’s-40’s.
REFERENCESDeopik, V. B. “Adygeiskie plemena.” In Ocherki istorii SSSR, III–IX vv. Moscow, 1956.
Nogmov, Sh. B. Istoriia adygeiskogo naroda. . . . Nal’chik, 1958.
B. A. GARDANOV