International Centre for Circassian Studies (ICCS)


News & Views

20 November 2010

Circassian Culture and Folklore

Circassian Culture and Folklore:
Hospitality Traditions, Cuisine, Festivals and Music
(Kabardian, Cherkess, Adigean, Shapsugh and Diaspora)

Compiled & edited by Amjad Jaimoukha

Buy this book now   £24.95
Paperback ISBN 9781898948407

Buy this book now   £45.00
Hardback ISBN 9781898948414

*Click here for details of the accompanying CD: The Art of the Circassian
Minstrels: An Anthology of Circassian Music

This is the first book in English to describe in detail the rich culture and
traditions of the Circassians - comprising the Karbardians, Cherkess,
Adigeans and Shapsugh. The diaspora of this North Caucasian people stems
from their defeat in the catastrophic century-long Circassian-Russian War,
which ended in 1864. As a result, Circassia's population lost their
time-honoured independence and huge numbers went into exile.

Circassian Culture and Folklore provides an ethno-anthropological
perspective on the ancient hospitality, cuisine and attitude to life that
Circassians across the world still keep alive. A taste is also given of the
many holidays and festivals celebrated across the calendar, revealing their
vibrant syncretism of ancient beliefs.

Sections cover the ancient Nart epics and Circassian music and musicology,
complete with traditional songs and melodies divided into genres (a CD
anthology is available separately). A collection of Circassian sayings and
expressions with English translations plus a comprehensive bibliography are
included as appendices.



THE AUTHOR: Amjad Jaimoukha's other works include Kabardian-English
Dictionary, The Circassians: A Handbook, Grammar of the Kabardian Language,
The Cycles of the Nart Epic of the Circassians, Circassian Proverbs and
Sayings, Circassian Bibliography, The Chechens: A Handbook, Parlons
tcherkesse: Dialecte kabarde (with Michel Malherbe).


--Press for Amjad Jaimoukha's previous study The Circassians:

"This exceptionally comprehensive handbook maintains throughout the highest
scholarly rigour... A fundamental reference" - Choice Magazine

"The Circassians makes a valuable contribution by providing a base of solid
and reliable data about this group and by explicitly presenting the minority
perspective." - The Times Literary Supplement

560 pages, 156 x 234mm, with 175 B&W illustrations, maps and sheet music

Published by Bennett & Bloom, November 2010

Buy Circassian Culture and Folklore

Updated: 26 January 2010

 New book publication: PARLONS TCHERKESSE: DIALECTE KABARDE [Let's Speak Circassian: Kabardian Dialect], Amjad M. Jaimoukha and Michel Malherbe

By the French publishing house L'Harmattan


Les traditions guerrières des peuples caucasiens, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008. [A travers l'étude des traditions guerrières, tout un pan de l'ancienne civilisation des peuples du Caucase est dévoilé. Après une brève évocation de l'identité et de l'histoire des peuples caucasiens, l'étude présente dans une première partie leurs traditions martiales, et le contexte social et économique de la production et de l'emploi des armes dans l'ancien Caucase. La seconde partie est un catalogue des types d'armes des XVIIè-XIXè siècles, avec une illustration abondante.]

TÉMOIGNAGES ANCIENS SUR LES TCHERKESSES: Les Adyghés-Tcherkesses-Kabardes à travers les récits des voyageurs occidentaux, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2009. [Les Tcherkesses, peuple du Caucase, ont été une sorte de modèle pour la plupart des peuples nord-caucasiens et ont fasciné les voyageurs étrangers par leur modèle d'anarchie féodale, leur valeur guerrière, leur syncrétisme religieux et leur culte de l'hospitalité. Iaroslav Lebedynsky a regroupé et annoté ici sept textes rédigés entre le milieu du XVIe et la première moitié du XIXe siècle, par des auteurs et voyageurs incontournables en ethnographie caucasienne.]


New publication by Seteney Shami. Dr. Shami is one of the leading researchers into Circassian identity issues. She joined the Social Science Research Council in New York and is Programme Director for the Programme on the Middle East and North Africa and also the Programme on Eurasia.

Shami, S., ‘Historical Processes of Identity Formation: Displacement, Settlement, and Self-Representations of the Circassians in Jordan’, in Iran and the Caucasus, vol. 13, no. 1, 2009, pp 141-59. [Abstract: This article examines how the historical experience of displacement and resettlement shapes key notions of identity and self-representation among Circassians in Jordan. Circassians, one of the peoples of the North-West Caucasus arrived in the Ottoman Empire in large waves of migration in the late 19th century and were settled as agricultural communities in different provinces of the empire. The experience of settlement, the types of settlements formed, and the relationships with the local inhabitants in the places of settlement—all inform the sense of identity among Circassians. The key images of being displaced, settlers, and Muslims enable Circassians both to maintain a sense of difference but also to integrate into the broader Jordanian society.]

Read the latest addition to the online Circassian library:

Jedghef, A., ЖЭМЫХЪУЭ СУЛЪТIАН И ГУШЫIЭХЭР. Zhemix’we Sulht’an yi Gwshi’exer. Yumoristika Sultana Zhemukhova [The Humouristics of Sulht’an Zhemix’we (Jaimoukha)], Nalchik: Poligrafservis i T, 2004. [The book is in both Kabardian (Circassian) and Russian]


Humouristics of Sulht'an Zhemix'we.pdf Humouristics of Sulht'an Zhemix'we.pdf
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Issue 2 of Volume 1 of the Circassian/English Journal 'The Hearth Tree: Circassian Cultural and Literary Miscellany' has been published by the International Centre for Circassian Studies (ICCS). It is available on line at:
The webpage contains audio recordings of the songs and chants featured in the Issue. You can also browse Issue 1 of Volume 1 of the Journal on the same webpage.

Тхылъеджэ лъапIэхэ,
Куэдрэ къэхъуауэ зэхэпхынкъым  диаспорэм щыпсэу адыгэр дызэгухьэу, ди лъэпкъым и сэбэп  зыпылъ  Iуэху къетхьэжьамэ, абы ехъулIэныгъэ кIэух, дрипагэфын хуэдэу,  еттыфауэ. Дэ, адыгэхэр, дызэсар, ди хабзэри зэрыщытыр, ди лъэкIыныгъэхэр наIуэ дыдэ къэдмыщIу, дыукIытэхыу итIанэ зэтеубыдауэ зытIыгъыу, нэгъуэщIхэри. Абы къыхэкIыуи, Iуэху щхьэпэр етхьэжьа къудеймэ, – ар ехъулIэныгъэ лъэщу къыдолъытэ!  
Иджыри къыздэсым Адыгэ БзэщIэныгъэ IуэхущIапIэ Курыкупсэм и зэгъэпэщыным теухуауэ — псалъэ дахэу къекIуэкIар къэдгъэувыIэу, лэжьыгъэр зэредгъэжьэфар ехъулIэныгъэ дыдэу къызолъытэ, ди Курыкупсэм и тхылъымпIэхэр иджыри къыдэмыкIами...

Ди пэщIэдзэр – ди лэжьыгъэхэмкIэ къэгъэлъэгъуа хъуащи, ар нэхъыщхьэу къэтлъытэнщ. 
Нэгъабэ, Жэпуэгъуэ мазэм, Аммэным щызэхэта Дунейпсо БзэщIэныгъэ Конференцым къызэригъэлъэгъуауэ, е 21 лIэщIыгъуэм дызэрыпежьар ди анэбзэ, ди адыгэбзэм зэрылIыкIын уз пкърытущ... Абы дызэрыхуэкIуам и Iуэхур къэтIэтынкъым, зэрызэхэтхыжынум яужь икIэщIыпIэкIэ дихьащ. Аращ  ди Курыкупсэм и плъапIэ нэхъ лъагэ дыдэри и Iуэхури зэхьэлIауэ лажьэр. 
Дызыгъэгушхуэр дэрэжэгъуэ лъэщ зыдэтлъагъу ди щIалэгъуалэращ: тегушхуауэ йогугъу, хуопабгъэ бзэр зэрагъэпэщыжыным; дунейпсом адыгэ тхакIуэу дэнэ къэрал щыпсэури иритхэфыну зы литературэбзэ зэгъэуIуным.

Адыгэбзэр бзэ нэхъыжьу япэ дыдэ цIыху зэрыпсэлъа бзэхэм ящыщ зыщ. Ар гуэныхьщ икIи напэтехщ  музеим къинэжа бзэхэм щыщ зыуэ бгъэтIылъыжыныр, бутIыпщыжыныр. 
Маржэхэ, къыддэфIыгъ, фыкъыддэлажьэ, ди щхьэм щхьэкIэ, ди лъэпкъым щхьэкIэ, дунейпсо бзэ зэтемыхуэу зэхэтым и мыхьэнэ нэхъыщхьэм щхьэкIэ! 
Къандур Мухьэдин

Circassian Journal, vol. 1, issue 2.pdf Circassian Journal, vol. 1, issue 2.pdf
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Circassian Journal, vol. 1, issue 2.doc Circassian Journal, vol. 1, issue 2.doc
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Latest addition to the Circassian online library:


Leskov, A. M. and Lapushnian, V. L. (eds), Art Treasures of Ancient Kuban, Moscow: Ministry of Culture of the USSR, Adighe Museum of Local History, etc., 1987. Online. Available HTTP: <http://iccs.synthasite.com/circassian-library.php> (accessed 21 June 2009). [In English and Russian. This is a seminal work on the archaeological history of ancient Circassia. Good historical introduction by Leskov]

Art Treasures of Ancient Kuban.pdf Art Treasures of Ancient Kuban.pdf
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Circassian Customs and Traditions: A Brief Introduction

Circassian Customs and Traditions.pdf Circassian Customs and Traditions.pdf
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Circassian Customs and Traditions.doc Circassian Customs and Traditions.doc
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Maf’edz (Mafedzev), S. (Kh.),
АДЫГЭ ХАБЗЭ. Adige Xabze [Circassian Customs and Traditions], Nalchik: El’-Fa, 1994. [In Kabardian]
Adige Xabze.djvu Adige Xabze.djvu
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 New article:

Kabardian Verbal Affixes: Prefixes, Infixes, and Suffixes

(Amjad Jaimoukha)
Kabardian Verbal Affixes.pdf Kabardian Verbal Affixes.pdf
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Kabardian Verbal Affixes.doc Kabardian Verbal Affixes.doc
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Circassian matters!

The International Centre for Circassian Studies is preparing to launch a campaign to increase awareness of the importance of learning Circassian and to promote literacy in Circassian in the diaspora. Symbolic and practical steps shall be taken in this regard, including the utilization of signs, flyers and posters, and making available language-acquisition materials. Already a number of online books and booklets have been made available on this website for self-teaching the Circassian language.  DVD copies of a film on the situation of the Circassian language in Jordan are being distributed to raise awareness of the challenges facing Circassian and to suggest practical methods for counteracting language decline amongst the Circassians in Jordan (if you want a copy, please write to us: circassiancentre@gmail.com). Further details of the campaign shall be made available on this webpage. 

Eat with both hands!

New documentary on Jordanian cuisine 

Lara Darwazah, a Jordanian media worker and music teacher based in the United Arab Emirates, has just produced an English-language documentary on Jordanian cuisine entitled 'Eat with both hands!'. The 25-minute long film features Eastern Jordanian (mainly mansaf), Palestinian (Msakhan), and Circassian dishes and beverages. The eye-opening documentary is beautifully shot and skillfully narrated. It is thought to be the first work of its kind, dealing as it does with the salient characteristics of the cuisines of the principal cultural groups in Jordan. The 'Circassian section' of the film features the dishes prepared by the Circassian Kitchen run by the Circassian Charity Association (CCA) in Jordan, which is currently expanding and upgrading its operations from its new headquarters at the CCA complex in Amman. The International Centre for Circassian Studies provided information on Circassian cuisine and its intimate connection with Circassian culture and folklore.

Received books 

McGregor, A., A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War, Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger Security International, 2006.

This book should prove of particular use to researchers and readers interested in the fate of the Circassian Mamluks in Egypt following the destruction of their sultanate in 1517 at the hands of the Ottomans. It is shown that the Circassians maintained their sway in Egypt for centuries during the Ottoman suzerainty over Egypt...  

[Egypt has one of the oldest civilizations and proudest national histories in the world, but most military histories treat it as a mere battleground for other great imperial powers such as the Ottoman Empire, the French, and the British. In a lively and stirring narrative, this work tells the untold story of the Egyptian experience. It looks at the lives of Egyptian soldiers fighting at home and abroad, and shows the roles those soldiers and their leaders have played in Middle-Eastern and world history for 500 years – especially in the convulsions that have transformed the Muslim world during the past two centuries. Beginning with an overview of Egypt’s ancient and medieval heritage, the book then explores Ottoman military rule, explaining how a tiny Turkish-speaking minority maintained absolute power by keeping military knowledge out of the grasp of native Egyptians. Readers will see how Napoleon’s failed Egyptian campaign of 1798 introduced the nation to Europe but, more important, brought modern Western influences to Egypt. During the 19th century, new arms and tactics and the rising force of nationalism transformed Egypt as the empire of the Ottoman Turks slowly decayed. Independence was thwarted by the British, who took over the country in the 1880s to secure links to India. Yet the British paved the way for independence, retraining and strengthening the Egyptian military to make it the strongest and most nationalist force in the country. Finally, McGregor’s closing chapters look at Arab nationalism, and at the Egyptian army in the wars of the late 20th century. Available for preview on Google Books]

Dr. Andrew McGregor is Director of Aberfoyle International Security in Toronto and editor of Global Terrorism Analysis Publications at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC. He has published many articles on historical and security issues, including a number of works on Circassian (and North Caucasian) matters.

New academic publications on Circassian issues

Books & Reports

Cheterian, V., War and Peace in the Caucasus: Russia’s Troubled Frontier, Columbia University Press, 2009. [Having spent decades reporting on conflicts in Georgia and Chechnya, Vicken Cheterian provides an authoritative account of ethno-nationalistic strife in the Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He investigates why some nationalist movements became violent while others did not and explores various secessionist rebellions in the region. He also discusses ongoing instability in the North Caucasus, Georgia, and Armenia, and analyzes the competition between Western powers and a newly resurgent Russia for the Caucasus’s hydrocarbon resources. Available for preview at Google Books]

Gammer, M. (ed.), Ethno-Nationalism, Islam and the State in the Caucasus: Post-Soviet Disorder, Central Asian Studies Series 9, London and New York: Routledge, 2008. [Available for preview on Google Books]

Klimenko, O., Bowers, S. R., and Solovyeva, L., North Caucasus Baseline Project: Adygea, Faculty Publications and Presentations, Center for Security and Science, Helms School of Government, Liberty University, 2009. Online. Available HTTP: <http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=gov_fac_pubs> (accessed 29 April 2009). [This report is one good reason for the Circassians to become more aware of their situation and to respond to points of view that are inimical to their well-being and that compromise their future prospects]

Promotion of elementary level education in Circassian in Adigea

Udzhukhu, G. A. and Indrisova, R. A., Рекомендации по реализации национально-регионального компонента на уроках адыгейского языка, литературы и окружающего мира в начальных классах [Recommendations for the Realization of the National-Regional Component of the Lessons of the Adigean Language, Literature and the Surrounding Milieu in the Elementray Classes], Ministry of Education and Science, The Republic of Adigea, Maikop, 2008.

This report (in Russian) includes lists of Circassian text-books for elementary classes.
Circassian in Adigea.pdf Circassian in Adigea.pdf
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Circassian in Adigea.doc Circassian in Adigea.doc
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Papers & Articles

Shwarts, O., ‘Restoration and Reconstruction of the Circassian Village Kfar-Kama’, article presented at TS 7A – Settlements Facing Man Made Changes, FIG Working Week 2009, Surveyors Key Role in Accelerated Development, Eilat, Israel, 3-8 May 2009. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.fig.net/pub/fig2009/papers/ts07a/ts07a_shwarts_3316.pdf> (accessed 11 June 2009). [Summary: The article focuses on the various perceptions and social constructions of the village core articulated by the planners and the residents. The residents who created their perception and images of the place they live in, in a more intuitive way, from their daily routine practices in the village and the planners, who used their professional knowledge, which they obtained from formal education. The article examines planning activities that guided the restoration and preservation of the core of the village, Kfar Kama, and discuss the way in which these activities impacted social processes in the village. This paper follows external processes that compete with the architectural preservation of the "authentic" village core and examines the inner conflict of the Circassian people, between the desire to preserve their tradition, which includes rigid social codes, and life in the reality of the open and permissive Israeli society.]


Merza, E., ‘In Search of a Lost Time: (Re-)Construction of Identity in the Circassian Diaspora in Israel’, in Bulletin du Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, 19, année 2008. Online. Available HTTP: <http://bcrfj.revues.org/document5911.html> (accessed 24 May 2009). [Translated from French. Abstract: Circassians in Israel – whose population is estimated at 4,000 people – are divided between the two villages of Kfar Kama (Lower Galilee, district of Tiberias) and Rihanya (Lebanese border, district of Safed).
This population is a unique example of a non-Arab (but Caucasian) Muslim group which claims an active Israeli citizenship and who, contrary to such a situation might imply, retains traditional cultural elements very meaningful while enjoying an indisputable civic integration.
Israelis but not Jews, Muslims but not Arabs, how Circassians of Israel could find their right place facing the two identitary entities competing, without leaving much space vacant, the legitimacy of a presence and whose stories, disasters and pains confront and compete rather than admit and understand each other?...]

Merza, E., ‘À la recherche d’un temps perdu: La (re)construction identitaire de la diaspora tcherkesse d’Israël’, in Bulletin du Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, 19, année 2008. Online. Available HTTP: <http://bcrfj.revues.org/document5908.html> (accessed 24 May 2009). [Résumé: Les Tcherkesses d’Israël – dont la population est estimée à 4 000 personnes – sont répartis entre les deux villages de Kfar Kama et de Rihanya.
Le cas de cette population d’Israël représente un exemple unique de population musulmane non-arabe (mais caucasienne), qui revendique une citoyenne israélienne active et qui, contrairement à ce qu’une telle conjoncture pourrait laisser supposer, conserve divers éléments culturels traditionnels très prégnants tout en bénéficiant d’une intégration citoyenne indiscutable. Israéliens mais pas juifs, musulmans mais pas arabes, comment les Tcherkesses d’Israël pourraient-ils trouver leur place face aux deux entités identitaires qui se disputent, sans laisser beaucoup d’espace vacant, la légitimité d’une présence et dont les histoires, les catastrophes et les douleurs se confrontent ?...]

Rannut, Ü., ‘Circassian Language Maintenance in Jordan’, in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, vol. 30, 18 March 2009.

Abstract: The central goal of this research is to explore the language policy aspects in Jordan by focusing on the Circassian language maintenance issues and to provide measures for language revitalisation in the current demographic, linguistic and political situation. Research is based on multiple sources of information, but primarily on the empirical data collected through 14 videotaped interviews conducted with prominent researchers and professors and teachers of Circassian, through observations and a survey covering 485 respondents, including 323 pupils from the age of 10 up to 16, and 162 parents. The Circassian language status and maintenance are analysed as a continuum of language functions and domains in a society. Classification is based on the traditional distribution of language policy dimensions, where language status, corpus and acquisition aspects, as well as UNESCO’s nine language vitality factors and linguistic rights are considered. Different factors influencing language maintenance are useful for characterising a language's overall sociolinguistic situation. So far there has been neither expert evaluation of the Circassian language situation based on international legal documents, nor has there been research which would provide basis for requesting governmental support and plan further steps for language revitalisation.

Dr. Ülle Rannut is a well-known international language policy researcher and authority on the promotion of minority languages at the Institute of Estonian Language and Culture, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia. She conducted research in Jordan on the status of Circassian and produced a very important report on the status of Circassian in Jordan and how to promote it entitled Minority Language Policy in the Middle East: Circassian Language Maintenance in Jordan, Amman: The American Center of Oriental Research, 2007. [Includes DVD of the documentary]

Miyazawa, E., ‘New Roots for the Uprooted: The Ambiguous Experience of the Circassian Diaspora in Rural Turkey’, in The Contemporary Middle East, vol. 47, July 2009a. [In Japanese]

 ‘Some Consequences of the Re-encounter with the ‘Homeland’ on the Production of Local Knowledge: A Case of Circassians in Turkey',  in Circassianacademia Abkhazia Conference Proceedings, Ankara: Kaf-Dav Yayınları, 2009b. [In English]

‘Transformation of Local Knowledge among Circassians in Turkey: Some Impacts of the Revived Contacts with “Homeland”’, in Ronald Grigor Suny & Hirotake Maeda (eds.), Between Russia and the Middle East: Caucasia and its Peoples, New York & London: Rutledge (the New Horizons of the Islamic Studies Series), 2009c. [In English. NOTE: The publisher of the book has not been finalised yet] 

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