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a nation making up the indigenous population of the Abkhazian ASSR. A number of Abkhazians also live in the Adzhar ASSR and in Turkey. Abkhazians in the USSR, who speak the Abkhazian language, numbered 65,000 (1959 census); 83,000 (1970 census). Their ancestors, who are mentioned in Assyrian sources and later in records from classical antiquity, are among the oldest inhabitants of the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. Furthermore, the Abkhazians were influenced by the West Georgian tribes in ancient times, an influence which is reflected in specific features of their culture. Three territorial groups, derived from the ancient tribal-territorial division, may be noted—the Gudauta, or Bzyb’; the Abzhui; and the Samurzakan groups. In the past they displayed dialectal and cultural differences, but these have gradually disappeared. The main religions were Orthodox Christianity (especially among the Samurzakanians, from the sixth century) and the Sunni branch of Islam (from the 15th century).
REFERENCESDzhanashia, N. S. Stat’i po etnografii Abkhazii. Sukhumi, 1960.
Inal-Ipa, Sh. Abkhazy, 2nd ed. Sukhumi, 1965.
Chursin, G. F. Materialy po etnografii Abkhazii. Sukhumi, 1956.
YA. S. SMIRNOVA