The Cherkess live in Karachai-Cherkessia, North West Caucasus.
Tribal loyalties are strong among the Cherkess. The most prominent of the Cherkess sub-groups are: Abadzekh, Besleney, Bzhedukh, Gatyukay, Yererukoy, Kemgoy, Kheak, Nadkhokuadzh, Shapsug and Temirgoy.
The Cherkess are themselves a sub-group of the Circassian peoples, together with Adygey and Kabards and Abazas.
Language: Cherkess (similar to Adyge), closely related to Kabard.
North Africa, Middle East.
Most likely, the Cherkess are descended from a cluster of Caucasian tribes who called themselves Adygey. They originated in the Kuban basin, adopted Christianity in the 12th c. They were pressed eastward by the invasion of the Mongol Golden Horde in the 13th c. Some of the Adygey mixed with local Alan peoples (from whom the Ossetians developed), and eventually became known as the Kabards. Those Adygey that stayed in the west, became known as the Cherkess. Early in the 16th c., the Cherkess came in contact with the Ottomans through the Crimean Khanate, and by the early 1800s they had converted to Sunni Islam.
During the mid-19th c., when the Shamil Revot against Russia spread throughout the Caucasus, the Cherkess maintained neutrality. But still, after the Russians had established firm control over the region in the 1860s, there was a mass exodus of Cherkess and other Circassians to Turkey.
The early Soviet period brought many changes to the Cherkess and the other Circassian peoples, as the region became heavily industrialised, and due to Bolshevik campaigns against Islam. Before the Bolshevik Revolution, the Cherkess were generally lumped together with the Adygey and the Kabards as a Circassian people, but in the 1920s, the Circassians were redefined by the Soviets into two ethnic groups, the Cherkess and the Kabards. Late in the 1930s, Soviet authorities again redrew the ethnic lines subdividing the Circassians, now creating three groups - Adygey in the west, Cherkess in the middle and Kabards in the east.
The Cherkess were subjected to a seemingly endless round of administrative manipulations designed to keep them separate from other Circassian peoples and at the same time always in a minority position within administrative borders. It started in 1922, with the establishment of a Cherkess AO that was almost immediately merged with the Adygey AO. In 1928, the Cherkess AO was reestablished, and later the Cherkess were combined with the ethnically distinct Karachay in the Karachay- Cherkess AO. The administrative borders thus separated the Cherkess from the other Circassians, the Kabards and the Adygey.
Karachai-Cherkessia was occupied by the Germans from 1943 to -44, and when the Red Army recaptured the area, Stalin decided that the Turkic peoples had been disloyal. Many Karachay were deported, accused of collaborating with the Germans. The Cherkess population was never deported.
The situation of titular nationalities in the Northern Caucasus has been complicated by the sharing of territory by more than one titular nationality (Karachay and Cherkess). They are currently in the process of negotiating their separation. Inter-ethnic relations in the republic have been relatively peaceful. Perhaps as a consequenc of this, representaitives of the non-Russian nationalities have devoted much attention to the development of national culture. As in Kabardino-Balkaria, the most prominent movement for nationality in Karachaevo-Cherkessia is that of a formerly deported group - the Karachai.