International Centre for Circassian Studies (ICCS)


Mastafa X'wazch:

Circassian Bard from Jerash

Хъуажь Мэстафэ:

Джэрэшлы адыгэ джэгуакIуэ 


Mastafa (Aliy Yibrehiym) X'wazch (Хъуажь Ибрэхьим и къуэ Алий и къуэ Мэстафэ) was born in Jerash (Jordan) in 1910. He was a very talented storyteller, in the best traditions of the ancient Circassian minstrels. He learned his art from various storytellers and bards in Jerash. He was much helped in his craft by his retentive memory to learn much of the oral lore that was carried by the Circassians into exile. He developed and polished a distinctive style of delivering the oral gems of yore with personal embelishments that added drama and excitement without compromising the content and purport of the tales. His repertoire included toasts, medieval tales, and traditional stories and laments. He also composed tales of his own.  X'wazch died at the age of 83 in 1993. 


Fortunately, recordings of some of his gems have come down to us grace to his daughters and grandchildren. These recordings have been converted to audio files and are hereby made available with synopses of the toasts and tales.  

For an account of the Circassians in Jerash, refer to http://iccs.synthasite.com/circassian-diaspora-communities.php  


The help of Mrs. Suha X'wazch, daughter of the renowned bard and Vice-President of the Circassian Charity Association/Ladies' Branch, is acknowledged. She provided the digital recordings featured herein and furnished information on the life and works of the great bard.


File 1-1:

The bard starts with a number of ancient Circassian toasts: 'Our Sweet Daughter-in-Law!' («Ди нысэ фо!»), 'Start of Ploughing Campaign Toast'  («ВакIуэдэкI хъуэхъу»), 'Amisch Toast' («Амыщ хуэгъэза хъуэхъу»), 'Table Toast' («Iэнэгу хъуэхъу»). 


He then commences to recount 'The Tale of Gwascheghagh' («Гуащэгъагъ и таурыхъ»).


Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 1-1.mp3 Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 1-1.mp3
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File 1-2

The minstrel concludes 'The Tale of Gwascheghagh' and then starts

Къэбэрдейм и жэщтеуэ; Qeberdeym yi Zheschteiwe (The Kabardian Night Assault) 


Angered by the continued expansionist policy pursued by Russia into their country, despite persistent protestations, the Kabardians resolved in the spring of 1779 to rid their country of Russian presence and undo the Russian fortresses that had been constructed in the northern parts of their territory. The Circassians mobilized their forces and began to fight back against Russian expansion. In response, Empress Catherine II instructed the Governor General of Astrakhan, Prince Potemkin, to pacify Kabarda by fair means or foul. General Jacoby was given his marching orders. He conducted an offensive in Kabarda, which lasted all summer. After the arrival of fresh enforcements from Russia, the expedition succeeded in penetrating deep into Kabardian lands. At the end of September 1779, a fierce battle was fought in which the Kabardian force, taken unawares, was massacred. About fifty princes and more than 350 noblemen were killed, a huge toll by the reckoning of those days. Dubbed ‘Qeberdey Zheschteiwe’ (‘Kabardian Night Assault’), the battle marked one of the bleakest days in Kabardian history. The war is referred to by the Kabardians as ‘Meziybl Zawe’ (‘The Seven-Month War’) or ‘Qwrey Zawe’ (‘The Qwrey War’), the place where it all took place. By December, the Kabardian princes were defeated and the northern frontier of Kabarda retracted to the rivers Balhq (Malka) and Terch (Terek). 


The bard starts

Андемыркъан и таурыхъ; Andeimirqan yi Tawrix' (The Tale of Andeimirqan) 


[The bard refers to the protagonist as 'Deimirqan', which is one of many versions of the name]


A full account of Andeimirqan, his exploits and murder can be found in


Ziramikw Qardenghwsch’, АДЫГЭ IУЭРЫIУАТЭХЭР II. Adige ’Weri’watexer II [Circassian Tales, Vol. 2], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1969 (1970), pp 223-336.


Andeimirqan (b. circa 1509), the equivalent of Robin Hood in the Circassian ethos, was a contemporary of the 16th-century potentate Prince Beislhen (Beslan) (son of Zhanx’wet), nicknamed ‘Pts’apts’e’ (‘The Obese’), who is credited with modifying the structure of the peerage system and updating the Xabze. Andeimirqan was the progeny of a mésalliance; his father was a prince, his mother was of unknown stock. According to one legend, he was found by Andeimir while on a hunting expedition. When his hound barked at the trunk of a tree, he wondered what the matter was, only to find a twig-basket perched on a forked branch. He brought it down and found a tiny baby covered in the basket. Andeimir, who was childless, was joyful at the find, and he brought up the child as his own.


Andeimirqan grew up to be an intrepid horseman. The news of his exploits went far and wide. He was in the entourage of Prince Beislhen, and one day while the potentate was on a hunting expedition – carted in a carriage, as the Prince was too large to fit on a horse – the Prince took aim at a wild boar, but missed the mark, and the boar fled into the forest. As the boar was driven out of the forest, the Prince took another aim, but missed again. However, Andeimirqan’s arrow pierced the boar and stuck him to the Prince’s carriage. By some accounts, it was there and then that Beislhen resolved to get rid of Andeimirqan. He instigated Qaniybolet, one of Andeimirqan’s closest friends and younger brother of Prince Temriuk Idarov, to betray him. One day, Qaniybolet asked Andeimirqan to go out with him on a hunting expedition. A contingent of Beislhen’s troops lay in ambush, and they put the hero to the sword. Some analysts maintain that the murder was a result of the internecine war for supremacy over Kabarda, as Andeimirqan, despite the obscurity of his mother’s lineage, could have claimed the mantle of sovereignty for his warrior character and bravery. It is thought that Andeimirqan was killed before 1552. He was Christian. At the time, the Circassians venerated Dawischjerjiy (St. George) and Yele (Prophet, or St. Elijah), in addition to their pagan gods. It was Beislhen Pts’apts’e’s son Prince Qaniqwe who left Kabarda (in the second half of the 16th century) to establish the Beislheney (Beslanay) nation-tribe.


Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 1-2.mp3 Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 1-2.mp3
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 File 2-1

The bard closes 'The Tale of Andeimirqan', recounts 'The Tale of Zekrey the Deaf's Son' («Зэкрей Дэгу и къуэ и таурыхъ»), and then narrates 'The Story of Qayirbek' («Къаирбэk и псысэ»). 

X'wazch then commences  

'The Tale of Lashin' («Лашын и таурыхъ»)

There is a rich literature on the exploits of Lashin. See for example:

Ziramikw Qardenghwsch’, АДЫГЭ IУЭРЫIУАТЭХЭР II. Adige ’Weri’watexer II [Circassian Tales, Vol. 2], Kabardino-Balkarian Science and Research Institute, Nalchik: Elbrus Book Press, 1969 (1970), pp 90-3.


In this version of the classic tale of the medieval strongwoman, Lashin (referred to as 'Lashqin' [«Лашкъын»] by our bard) does duel with a Russian wrestler, as opposed to the Mongol strongman Qaisin. The original tale is included here:


Kitai Khan and the legend of Lashin


The Mongol khan, Kitai, after a whirlwind tour of occupation and pillage, came to the frontiers of Circassia some time in the 13th century. The Adiga amassed an army to repel the invading army. In other versions it was the Kalmyk horde that had to be contended with. The Khan elected not to wage war against the Circassians; instead, he challenged one of their braves to a duel with his top wrestler, Qaisin. The Circassians picked up the gauntlet and chose a female commoner, Lashin, to do battle with the Mongol gladiator. According to legend, Lashin’s father-in-law saw her lift a cow in anger and throw it some distance away. Fearing for his son, he decided to get rid of her, and when the opportunity arose, he volunteered his daughter-in-law for the challenge.


At any rate, Lashin was disguised in male garb so as not to raise a hubbub. The legendary duel took place near river Chegem at a place still known as ‘Lashinqey’ («Лашынкъей»).* Lashin possessed extraordinary strength and she managed to prevail upon her foe within the hour. The Khan acknowledged the defeat, but he could hardly hide his ire. To rub a sore wound, the Circassians revealed the identity of their champion and dared Kitai to try again, this time against one of their real men! The Khan wisely decided to cut his losses and politely declined the offer. He presented the Circassians with many presents and went back home brooding.   




* Mount Lashinqey is situated near the western edge of the Lashinqey settlement (aka Tox’wtemischey [«Тохъутэмыщей»]) on the left bank of the River Chegem in Kabarda.

Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 2-1.mp3 Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 2-1.mp3
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File 2-2

The minstrel concludes 'The Tale of Lashin' and starts 'Susu's Father'  («Сусу и адэ»), which was composed by the bard himself. The conclusion of the tale has not been made available to me. I hope to obtain more recorded materials from this outstanding minstrel.

Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 2-2.mp3 Abezexe Mestafe Yi Psisexer, 2-2.mp3
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Type : mp3
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