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The Adyge are the titular nationality of the Republic of Adygeia in the Russian Federation, which lies along the foothills of the northwestern Caucasus Range. In Soviet times, this was an autonomous okrug (district) within Krasnodar Krai, with its capital city of Maikop. The Adyge number 22 percent of the republic, which has 541,000 inhabitants, the remainder being largely Russians. There are considerable Adyge communities living just outside the republic in the Krasnodar Krai. The Adyge are primarily engaged in agriculture and forestry. Health resorts are also an important source of employment and revenue, as is tourism.

The Adyge belong to the same ethnolinguistic family as the Cherkess and the Kabardians, who live in neighboring republics, and they speak various dialects of Western Circassian. Soviet nationalities policies established these three groups as separate peoples and languages, but historical memory and linguistic affinity, as well as post-Soviet ethnic politics, perpetuate notions of ethnic continuity. An important element in this has been the contacts, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, with Adyge living in Turkey, Syria, Israel, Jordan, West Europe, and the United States. These are the descendants of migrants who left for the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century, after the Russian conquest of the Caucasus. In the 1990s, a number of Adyge families from the diaspora migrated back and settled in Maikop, but integration remains somewhat fraught with social and legal problems.

The Adyge are Muslim, although other religious influences, including Greek Orthodox Christianity and indigenous beliefs and rituals, can be discerned in cultural practices. As elsewhere, the Soviet state discouraged Islamic practice and identity among the Adyge, but supported cultural nation-building. In the post-Soviet period, the wars in Abkhazia (19921993) and Chechnya (19941997; 19992000) greatly affected Adyge politics, causing the Russian state to intermittently infuse the republic with resources to prevent the spreading of conflict. In another development, the Shapsoug, who belong to the same ethno-linguistic group and live on the Black Sea shores near the town of Sochi, are lobbying Moscow for their own administrative unit, and for political linkages with the Adygeia Republic.

See also: abkhazians; caucasus; chechnya and chechens; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; shamil


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Borxup, Marie Bennigsen, ed. (1992). The North Caucasus Barrier: The Russian Advance towards the Muslim World. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Gammer, Moshe. (1994). Muslim Resistance to the Tsar: Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan. London: Frank Cass.

Jaimoukha, Amjad. (2001). The Circassians: A Handbook. New York: Palgrave.

Jersild, Austin. (2002). Orientalism and Empire: North Caucasus Mountain Peoples and the Georgian Frontier, 18541917. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press.

Matveeva, Anna. (1999). The North Caucasus: Russia's Fragile Borderland. London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Seteney Shami