Adyghe in United States

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People Name: Adyghe
Country: United States
10/40 Window: No
Population: 9,300
World Population: 717,100
Primary Language: Adyghe
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Caucasus
Affinity Bloc: Eurasian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Circassians are the oldest indigenous people of the Northwest Caucasus Mountain region and identify themselves as Adyghe. The Circassians preserve their culture and continue to use the Circassian language as their primary means of communication. Only in the 18th century did their language assume a written form. Organized into tribes, the Circassians have never had an independent state. At one time the Circassians were the main ethnic element in northwest Caucasus. This drastically changed under the pressure of the Russian conquest, and especially after the defeat of the Great Revolt (1825-1864), when a Circassian mass exodus took place. This exodus was called, "one of the greatest mass movements of population in modern history." Circassians moved to Turkey and other areas of the Ottoman Empire, including the Middle East. One and a half million Circassians abandoned their ancient homeland, leaving behind scattered remnant communities. The Russian census of 1897 recorded only 150,000 Circassians, less than one tenth of the original population. There are many stories, poems and songs about the victims of the war, the emigration itself and the state of exile. Rituals and memorial days are devoted to these events. Circassian folk dances offers much insight into Circassian culture and customs. The dances tell stories about everyday life such as courtship, preparing for war, the harvest, and showing of strength. All stories ultimately originate from the centuries-old Nart Epics, a series of 26 cycles and 700 texts dating back to 4,000-3,500 BC. The stories preserve Circassian ancient history, and they are predecessors to Greek mythology, containing ancient stories of gods from southern Russia. From these Epics came the "Adyge habza," or Circassian traditions. The habza is an important feature of Circassian identity and was established long before their Islamization. It is the Circassian system of laws, rules, etiquette, and ethos. The habza provided the rules of behavior and morality that are handed down in other societies through religion. The Adyge habza is passed on from generation to generation, with today's Circassian youth still being taught to carry on the traditions. The younger generation will naturally have trouble with this in the United States as they face a very different culture than that of their elders.

What Are Their Lives Like?

With such a small number within the U. S., the Adyghe blend in with other ethnic groups, often losing their identity. Each generation loses more of the past and becomes more like the American majority. However, they are maintaining their religious identity as Muslims.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Many Circassians were Christianized under Georgian and Byzantine influence in the 6th century. However, under the growing influence of the Ottoman Empire, Islam gradually replaced Christianity and became fully established in the 18th and 19th century, blending with remnants of Christian beliefs and even pre-Christian folk beliefs. It seems that religious influence upon Circassian collective identity, both in the past and in the present, has been limited and superficial. Some Circassians became Muslims only during their mass migration, on the ships taking them to the other side of the Black Sea. In recent years Circassians in the Caucuses region underwent an intensive process of secularization. In addition to the absence of mosques, there is a strong norm of consuming alcoholic drinks. A whole set of social customs and rituals derived from the pre-Islamic Circassian culture has been revived. There is a small percentage of Circassian who are believed to be Christians, but not in the United States as far as we know. Those in the U. S. retain Sunni Islam as part of their culture.

What Are Their Needs?

Today, many Circassian communities worldwide are facing the problems of losing their language and culture. Yet compared to other migrant groups, the Circassians have a greater tendency to maintain their separate identity.

Prayer Points

Pray that believers in the United States will make the effort to lovingly take the gospel to Adyghe people and teach them to disciple others. Pray that Adyghe-speaking people in the United States will be touched by the gospel and moved to bring it to Adyghe people everywhere. Pray for a disciple making movement among the Adyghe in the United States and beyond.

Text Source:   Joshua Project