The Circassians, Cherkess or Adyghe (Adyghe: Адыгэхэр, romanized: Adıgəxər; Kabardian: Адыгэхэр, romanized: Adıgəxər) are a Northwest Caucasian ethnic group and the indigenous people of the North Caucasus.[30] During the Circassian genocide perpetrated by Russia, most Circassians were exiled from their homeland in Circassia to Turkey and the Middle East, where the majority of them live today.[31] The Circassian language is the shared ancestral language of Circassians;[32] and Islam is their historical religion since the 16th century.[33]

Адыгэхэр  (Adyghe)
Адыгэхэр  (Kabardian)
Circassian traditional sword dance
Total population
c.5 million
Regions with significant populations
 Egypt50,000[citation needed]
 United States25,000[13]
 Saudi Arabia23,000[citation needed]
Circassian dialects (including East Circassian and West Circassian dialects)
also Turkish, Russian, English, Arabic, Hebrew
Primarily Islam
Minority Eastern Orthodox Church[27]
Circassian paganism[28]
Related ethnic groups
Abazgi peoples (Abkhaz, Abazin)

In the near past, the majority of Circassians spoke the Circassian languages, with two main dialects (West Circassian or "Adyghe" and East Circassian or "Kabardian") and numerous sub-dialects. The Circassian language has been largely forgotten due to assimilation policies and intermarriages with other ethnic groups, today approximately 40-50% of Circassians speak their language, while the majority of Circassians speak Turkish, Russian, English, Arabic and Hebrew. The majority of Circassians are Muslim.[33]

The term "Circassian" includes the twelve historic tribes of Circassia; Abdzakh, Besleney, Bzhedugh, Hatuqwai, Qabardey, Mamkhegh, Natukhaj, Shapsugh, Chemguy, Ubykh, Yegeruqwai and Zhaney,[34] each star on the Circassian flag representing one tribe.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization estimated in the early 1990s that there are as many as 3.7 million ethnic Circassian diaspora (in over 50 countries)[35] outside the titular Circassian republics (meaning that only one in seven ethnic Circassians lives in their homeland) and that, of these 3.7 million, more than 2 million live in Turkey,[35] 300,000 in the Levant (mostly in modern-day Jordan and Syria) as well as Iraq. An additional 50,000 live in Western Europe and the United States of America.

Historical Circassia has been divided by Soviet and Russian administrations into the modern-day republics of Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and Krasnodar Krai, as well as southwestern parts of Stavropol Krai. Accordingly, Circassians have also been designated as the following: Adygeans in Adygea, Kabardians in Kabardino-Balkaria, Cherkess in Karachay-Cherkessia and Shapsug in Krasnodar Krai, although all four are essentially the same people. Today, approximately 800,000 Circassians remain in historical Circassia while 4,500,000 live elsewhere.[4]