Adygei Autonomous Oblast

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Adygei Autonomous Oblast


(also, Adygeia), administrative part of Krasnodar Krai, RSFSR. Founded on July 27, 1922. Area, 7,600 sq km. Population, 379,000 (1969 estimate). Adygeia has six administrative raions, one city, and four urban-type settlements. The city of Maikop is the oblast’s center.

Natural features. Adygeia is located in the northwestern part of the Caucasus, on the left banks of the Kuban and Laba rivers. The northern part of the oblast consists of a slightly rolling plain that slopes down to the Kuban River. The southern part is occupied by the foothills (to 300 m) and mountains of the Greater Caucasus, the highest being Mount Chugush at 3,238 m. The climate is moderately warm and humid. Maikop’s average temperature in January is −1.6°C and in July, 22.2°C. The annual precipitation is about 700 mm, occurring mostly between April and November. There are 180 days of above-freezing temperature. The broad hydrographic network of the Kuban River basin includes the Laba, Belaia, Psekups, Pshish, and Afips rivers. Several rivers in the foothills, along with the Kuban River, form flooded marshy areas in their lower reaches, covering some 30,000 out of 70,000 hectares of floodplains. The Tshchik and Shapsug reservoirs, with a combined capacity of 520 million cu m, have been constructed in Adygeia to regulate the flow of the Kuban River. Also, there are the Oktiabr’ and Shinzhii reservoirs.

The greater part of the oblast is covered by chernozem, although there are considerable areas of floodplain-meadow, meadowland-marshland, and mountain-forest soils. Forests, covering 39.2 percent of the land area, grow primarily in the mountainous region. Such broadleafed trees as oak, beech, hornbeam, maple, and ash, with abundant underbrush, predominate. There are also forests where pine, spruce, and fir predominate; wild fruit and berry trees abound. The main part of the Caucasus Wildlife Preserve is located on Adygei territory, in the mountainous zone.

Population. Adygeians, the native population, predominate in the west, as well as in the east and northeast. Russians and others also live in the oblast. The average population density is 49.9 persons per sq km; 43 percent of the population is urban (1969).

Historical survey. The earliest traces of man found on the territory of Adygeia date from the Lower Paleolithic. In written sources from the middle of the first millennium B.C., ancestors of the Adygs were known by the names Meots, Sindsi, Kerkets, and so forth. Between the fourth and tenth centuries A.D., the Adygs engaged in agriculture, stock raising, fishing, and hunting. They were familiar with metal-working and pottery-making and traded with the Crimea, the Slavic Dnieper region, the Caucasian nations, Iran, and Byzantium. Beginning approximately in the 13th century, the western Adygeian tribes began to form into the Adygeian nationality. The main occupation of the Adygeians was stock raising, with agriculture predominating in the plains regions. In some areas they engaged in fishing and beekeeping. Pottery-making, copper smelting, iron forging, jewelry-making, and other handicrafts developed. In the 13th through 15th centuries, the Adygeians had a primarily subsistence farming economy. The merchants of the Genoese city-colonies, which were located along the coastal part of Adygeia and lasted until the end of the 15th century, traded with the Adygeians. This was primarily barter in goods with only a slight beginning of monetary exchange. The Adygeians chiefly exported honey, wax, fruits, caviar, and furs and imported salt, fabrics, luxury goods, weapons, and other items.

In the 13th century, after stubborn resistance, the Adygs were subjugated by the Golden Horde. From the 16th century on, for more than two centuries, the Turkish sultans and their vassals, the Crimean khans, engaged in wars of conquest against the Adygs. They devastated entire regions, carried off masses of prisoners, and introduced Islam by force. The threat of economic ruin, assimilation, and total physical extermination forced the Adygs to seek Russian protection. In 1552 the first mission of representatives from Adyg tribes was sent to Russia with a request to the tsar that he “intercede in their behalf ‰ and defend them from the Crimean tsar.” The subsequent missions of 1555–57 represented not only the Adygeians but the Circassians and Kabardinians as well. From that time, the Adyg-Kabardinian lands were officially regarded as having voluntarily joined the domains of Russia.

The incorporation of Adygeia into Russia, in spite of the cruelty and tyranny of the colonial regime established by tsarism in the Caucasus, played a progressive role for the Adygeian people. It created conditions enabling them to come into contact with advanced Russian culture and progressive and revolutionary Russian personalities. The Adygeians joined the growing revolutionary and workers’ movement in Russia. S. M. Kirov played a major role in the revolutionizing of the Caucasian peoples, including the Adygeians.

On the eve of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Adygeia had a semifeudal and patriarchal structure. The poor people in the auls (villages) while constituting more than 40 percent of the Adygeian population, owned only 17 percent of the cultivatable land in the marshy river valleys. About one-third of the households had no farming implements, workstock, or cows, and about one-fifth were landless. There was hardly any industry in the oblast. Only a couple of dozen cottage industry workshops existed.

Soviet power was proclaimed in Maikop in January 1918, and in May the Kuban-Black Sea Soviet Republic was founded, which included the territory inhabited by the Adygeians. A commissariat for mountain tribe affairs was established, headed by the Adygeian Bolshevik M. Shovgenov. In the autumn of 1918 the Kuban Republic and Adygeia were seized by the White Guards; however, Soviet power was restored in March 1920. On Dec. 11, 1920, the Kuban-Black Sea Revolutionary Committee decreed that the Adygeian districts be set apart as an independent administrative unit. On July 27, 1922, an autonomous oblast was founded on the territory inhabited by the Adygeians by a decree of the All-Union Central Executive Committee. It consisted of the Psekups, Shirvan, and Fars okrugs. At first it was given the name Cherkess (Adygei) Autonomous Oblast, but on Aug. 24, 1922, it was renamed the Adygei (Cherkess) AO and in July 1928, the Adygei AO. Krasnodar was made the center of the oblast. In 1936, Maikop became its center.

During the years of Soviet power, Adygeia has been transformed into an industrial and agricultural region. Adygeia produces machinery, machine tools, food products, electrical engineering equipment, and other goods. An advanced mechanized agriculture has been created with intensive cultivation of cereal and industrial crops. Culturally, the appearance of the oblast was altered drastically.

During the Great Patriotic War, Adygeia was occupied by the German fascist aggressors from August 1942 to February 1943. On Jan. 30, 1943, Maikop was liberated by troops of the Transcaucasian Front, and in February, all Adygeia was freed. Thirty-five natives of the oblast, including seven Adygeians, were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for courage and heroism in the struggle with the enemy. About 4,000 Adygeians have been awarded orders and medals.

After the war, the workers of Adygeia quickly rebuilt the oblast’s economy. The prewar level of industry has been surpassed several times over. In 1957, Adygeia was awarded the Order of Lenin by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.


Economy. Industry plays a leading role in Adygeia’s economy. The main branches are the food industry (approximately half of all industrial production), the timber and woodworking industry, the machine-building industry, and natural gas production. From 1940 to 1968 the gross output of all industries rose 5.4 times. During the 1959–65 seven-year plan, industrial production increased by a factor of 1.7. The main source of energy comes from the hydroelectric potential of the Belaia River; two hydroelectric power plants have been built. In 1968, 443 million kW-hr of electrical power were produced compared to 267 million kW-hr in 1958. Of the many branches of the food industry, the most important are canning, wine-making, butter production, tobacco curing, and essential oil production. The largest plants are located in Maikop (a meat combine and a dairy plant), in Iablonovskii (a cannery), in Giaginskaia (a sugar factory), and in Natyrbovo (an essential oil plant). In 1968, 144 million standard-size containers of canned goods were produced (in 1958, 71.5 million). The most outstanding woodworking enterprises are the Druzhba Furniture and Woodworking Enterprise, the Dubitel’ Manufacturing Conglomerate, and the cardboard and paper concern in Maikop. Adygeia produces 25 percent of the krai’s commercial lumber. The machine-building industry is represented by the Stankonormal’ Plant, the Frunze Machine-Tool Building Plant, and the machine-building plant in Maikop. Adygeia has natural gas deposits, which yielded 16.8 billion cu m in 1968.

Agriculture. In 1968, agricultural lands made up 47.2 percent of the total land resources of Adygeia. Of the arable land, 73 percent was in cultivation, 23.9 percent in hayfields and pasture, and 1.5 percent in vineyards. The oblast has 41 kolkhozes and 19 sovkhozes. Cereal crops predominate in agriculture (about 50 percent of all crops), with a high proportion of wheat and maize (about 78 percent). Also important are industrial crops (16 percent) and vegetables and melons (2.3 percent). The major industrial crops include sunflowers (8.7 percent), sugar beets, southern hemp, tobacco, and essential oils. Fodder crops take up 34.5 percent of the cultivated area. Tea cultivation has been successfully introduced in the foothill regions. Work is under way to drain the floodplains and bring them under cultivation, especially those of Chibiisk and Ul’sk. Irrigation systems for rice growing are being built. Construction of the Krasnodar Reservoir, the largest in the Caucasus, began in 1969. Cattle is the predominant livestock raised. At the end of 1968 there were 154,400 head of cattle, 119,400 sheep, and 117,300 hogs. By comparison, in 1940 there were 81,000 head of cattle, 87,300 sheep, and 83,600 hogs. Poultry raising and beekeeping are also developed.

Transportation. The territory of Adygeia is crossed by the Novorossiisk-Krasnodar, Armavir-Tuapse, and Belorechensk-Khadzhokh railroad lines. There are regular bus connections between Maikop and many cities of the Northern Caucasus. Air transport is well developed, and the Kuban River is navigable.

Regional distinctions. The western, or Kuban, region is notable for the cultivation of cereal crops and vegetables and the raising of cattle, hogs, and poultry. Its principal industry is the processing of agricultural products. The eastern region of the oblast, which includes the foothills and mountains, has the lumbering and woodworking industries, as well as a number of food-processing industries. In addition to cereal crops, the cultivation of industrial crops, including essential oils, is an important agricultural industry, as are fruits and grapes.


Public health. As of Jan. 1, 1969, there were 688 doctors in Adygeia (one doctor per 551 inhabitants) and 3,208 hospital beds (84.7 beds per 10,000 inhabitants). The oblast has hydrogen sulfide and sodium chloride mineral springs. The health resort Goriachii Kliuch is in operation there.

Education and cultural affairs. The Adygeian alphabet was created after the Great October Socialist Revolution. In the 1968–69 academic year, there were 79,000 students in the general education schools, 5,300 students in six secondary special schools, and more than 4,000 students in the Adygeian Pedagogical Institute. Adygeia has the Museum of History and Local Lore in Maikop, 168 large libraries, 171 clubs, and 303 motion-picture installations.

Press, radio, and television. The oblast’s two newspapers are the Adygeian-language Sotsialisticheske Adygei (Socialist Adygeia), printed since 1926, and the Russian-language Adygeiskaia Pravda, printed since 1922.

The oblast radio broadcasts its own programs in Adygeian and Russian and relays radio programs from Moscow and Krasnodar. The oblast picks up television programs from the Krasnodar television studio.

Literature. Adygeian folk poetry is quite rich. It includes legends about the Narty, ancient heroic songs about the struggle of the people against local feudal lords, military and historical songs, laments, hunting songs, work songs, lyrical songs, lullabies, wedding songs, and humorous songs. Before the October Revolution, there were several attempts to create an Adygeian alphabet. However, the founding and developing of Adygeian literature became possible only after the victory of Soviet power, when an alphabet was created and periodical publication appeared in Adygeian (1918). The first successes in Adygeian literature are associated with A. Khatkov (1901–37), who wrote the poetry collections Melodies (1931) and Sentinel (1935) and, in Russian, the collection Courage (1938); T. Kerashev (born 1902), who wrote the novel Shambul’ (first edition in Russian, 1932, in Adygeian, 1934; reissued under the title Road to Happiness in 1947); I. Tsei (1890–1936), who wrote the plays Kochas (1925), Predators (1926), and Femyi (1933); and M. Paranuk (born 1912), who wrote the long narrative poems Uraza (1929) and Be Vigilant (1934). In the mid-1930’s the songs of the folk ashug (bard) Ts. Teuchezh were first recorded. He composed the narrative poems The Uprising of the Bzhedugs (a separate edition 1939) and Mafoko Urysbii (1939), depicting the historic past of the Adygs, and the long poem Motherland (1939). During the Great Patriotic War, several Adygeian writers were killed defending the homeland: Hero of the Soviet Union Kh. Andrukhaev (1921–41), A. Udzhukhu (1912–43), Kh. Udzhukhu (1917–42), and D. Tuguz (1918–42). Their wartime writings were compiled in the anthology Their Words and Their Swords Were Sharp (1966).

In the postwar period, fruitful work has been done by: T. Kerashev, who wrote the novels Racing Against the Dream (1955) and Kuko (1968); M. Paranuk, who wrote the poetry collections Song of the Happy Ones (1955), Voice of the Heart (1961), Selections (1962), and Peaceful Morning (1966); Iu. Tliusten (born 1913), who wrote Selected Works (1964); A. Evtykh (born 1915), who wrote the short-story collection The Return (1945), the poetry collection Happiness (1946), and the novellas Aul Psybe (1950), Remarkable Duty (1951), In Our Aul (1953), and The Girl From the Aul (1963); D. Kostanov, (born 1912), who wrote the short-story collections Two Heights (in Russian, 1947, and in Adygeian, 1948), Labor Glorifies Man (1955), the novel Confluence of Rivers (1957), and Selected Works (1962); K. Zhane (born 1919), who wrote Verses (1945); S. Iakhutl’ (born 1914), who wrote Selections (1964); and A. Gadagatl’ (born 1922), who wrote the collection Heart of an Adyg (1963). Literary works by Kh. Ashinov (born 1926), I. Mashbash (born 1930), and Kh. Beretar’ (born 1931) appeared in the late 1950’s. In the 1960’s a number of books that were significant for their ideological and artistic content were published. These included the novels The Ozbanokovs by Iu. Tliusten (1962), The Star Galimet by Dzh. Dzhagupov (1964), Don’t Forget by A. Sheudzhen (1963), None Await The Lamented by I. Mashbash (1966), Horseman Crossing the Stormy River by Kh. Ashinov (1966), and White Water Lily by D. Kostanov (1967); the collections of Adygeian poetry translated into Russian by the poet and translator P. E. Reznikov (born 1910) Voice of Distant Roads (1961) and Peace Guards (1964); and the play Daut by G. Skhaplok (1967). New writers in Adygeian literature include V. Tvorogova, M. Tkharkakho, E. Mamii, K. Kumpilov, N. Kuek, Kh. Panesh, S. Panesh, P. Koshubaev, T. Chamokov, and R. Nekhai.


Architecture and art. Gold and silver vessels, figurines of lions and bulls from the Maikop barrow, and numerous dolmens date from the Bronze Age. From the early Iron Age come some remarkable specimens of the “animal genre” (for example, from the Kelermess barrows), jewelry, ceramics, ruins of fortified dwellings, defensive towers, and religious structures. For centuries, the homes and other structures of the people were made from wattled walls covered with clay and had gabled roofs of straw or reeds. The construction of wooden or adobe homes, sometimes covered by tiles or iron, began in the 19th century. In modern times, the auls are planned, for the most part, in a rectilinear fashion. Dwellings are built of wood, cement blocks, or brick, with two to four rooms and a veranda. Clubs, schools, and hospitals are built the same way. The city of Maikop has been transformed. Multistoried residential and public buildings have been erected, including the railway station, the motion picture theaters Oktiabr’ (1950’s) and Gigant (1961, architect lu. F. Kaverin), the A. S. Pushkin Drama Theater (1963, rebuilt by the architects S. F. Pleshkov and N. A. Lebedev), the oblast committee building (1966, architect I. V. Iaroshevskii), and the Adygeia Hotel (1967). A bronze monument to Lenin was built in 1959 (sculptor M. G. Manizer, architect I. E. Rozhin) and the bronze Friendship Monument, built in 1968 (sculptors M. G. Manizer and O. M. Manizer, architect I. E. Rozhin), was dedicated to the 400th anniversary of Adygeia’s voluntary adherence to Russia.

From ancient times, clothing and other objects have been decorated with embroidery of gold or silver thread, silk, lace, or appliqués. The predominant patterns are large plant motifs, which only sparsely fill the background. Etching, niello work, filigreeing, and hatching have been used to decorate silver objects in clothing decorations and harnesses with delicate plant and curvilinear designs. Simple geometric patterns have been characteristic of woodcarving, decorated felt, and mats. In recent years, graphic arts has developed. Artists working in Adygeia include the sculptor K. K. Sidashenko and the painters I. V. Sokolov, V. M. Mekhed, E. N. Ovcharenko, D. I. Mel’nikov, V. F. Dolgov, and D. M. Meretukov.

Music. Adygeian folk music includes song and dance music. Songs with historical, heroic, and humorous themes were usually composed and performed by men. Lyrical songs, lullabies, healing songs, and laments were usually composed and sung by women. Among the Adygeian dances are the udzh, the zafak, the zagatliat, and the islamei. Adygeian folk songs are primarily based on the diatonic scale and characteristically have great rhythmic variety. A two-voice structure is typical of Adygeian songs; it consists of one part for the soloist and one for the chorus, which either accompanies the soloist or has its own independent melodic line. Adygeian folk instruments are the kamyl’ (a wind instrument similar to a longitudinal flute), the shichepshin (an instrument played with a bow), and the pkhachich (a percussion instrument). The accordion became popular in the middle of the 19th century. Many Russian composers who visited the Caucasus and became acquainted with Adygeian folk music used it in their works—for example, M. I. Glinka, A. A. Aliab’ev, M. A. Balakirev, and S. I. Taneev.

Energetic research into Adygeian folklore was begun after the Great October Socialist Revolution by V. L. Messman, M. F. Gnesin, G. M. Kontsevich, N. N. Mironov, A. F. Grebnev, and others. Professional Adygeian music has developed primarily in song writing. Among the composers are U. Tkhabisimov, M. Besidzhev, G. Samogova, and K. Tuko. Professional singers include Honored Artist of the RSFSR Z. Chicheva, R. Sheozheva, G. Samogova, and K. Kheishkho.


Theater. The sources of Adygeian theatrical art lie in the ancient folk epics, songs, and the humorous scenes common to Adygeian daily life, holidays, and work. The development of the national theater began after the October Revolution and the founding of the Adygei Autonomous Oblast. In 1933 a dramatic secondary school was opened. The A. S. Pushkin Drama Theater was founded in Maikop in 1941 as the central theater for the oblast. Actors from Adygeian kolkhoz and sovkhoz and Russian drama theaters established in 1936 joined the new theater’s troupe. During the Great Patriotic War, the theater’s activity was suspended. After the fascist occupation forces were driven out in 1943, a Russian dramatic troupe began to work, and in 1958 an Adygeian-language troupe was formed. Adygeian drama has arisen after the establishment of Soviet power. The theater has staged the plays of the Adygeian playwrights G. Skhaplok, A. Khachak, E. Mamii, and Dzh. Dzhagupov as well as those of Russian-language playwrights. Adygeian theatrical figures include Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR M. S. Akhedzhakov, Honored Artist of the RSFSR N. Skhakumidova, and U. Tsei.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.