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The Circassians: A Handbook (Peoples of the Caucasus)

by Amjad M. Jaimoukha

Buy the book: Amjad M. Jaimoukha. The Circassians: A Handbook (Peoples of the Caucasus)

Release Date: March, 2001

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Amjad M. Jaimoukha. The Circassians: A Handbook (Peoples of the Caucasus)


I have read all the books I could find about this subject,and
I think that this one is by far the most comprehensive. Clearly
the author has put an enormous amount of work and "IT SHOWS".


Welcome source of information

The Circassians are one of the world's forgotten peoples. This volume provides in itself a most useful source for a wide variety of information about them and, thanks to the rich bibliography (see another on the author's website), gives readers the opportunity to find out even more from works of narrower but deeper focus.

The Circassians historically spread across the N. W. Caucasus, speaking a language that was closely related to, but mutually unintelligible with, Ubykh and Abkhaz(-Abaza). The Ubykhs lived compactly around today's Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, whilst to their south(-east) lay the ancestral homeland of the Abkhazians. Though contacts existed with the Graeco-Roman world and then with Genoese traders a millennium later, it was not really until an expansive Tsarist Russia started to vie with Turkey for control of the region from the late 18th century that Circassia again impinged on the European conscience. A number of moving accounts have been left by such British visitors as James Bell, John Longworth and Edmund Spencer, which contributed to heightened awareness of the noble Circassian-Ubykh-Abkhazian resistance to the Russian aggressor and sympathy for their cause amongst many in Britain and Europe during the 1830s -- just as the parallel battle for freedom led by Shamil in the N. E. Caucasus excited great admiration. But the inevitable happened in 1864 when the N. W. Caucasian alliance was finally defeated and Russia took control. Most of the surviving Circassians and Abkhazians together with ALL the Ubykhs chose to leave their territories and take refuge in Ottoman lands (mainly Turkey). Ubykh died out in 1992, and the future for Circassian and Abkhaz amongst the diaspora is bleak -- in many ways the future of these two languages even in the Caucasian homeland is far from secure.

Amjad Jaimoukha comes from a Kabardian (East Circassian) family in Jordan and has done his people great service in producing this volume. The main deficiency is the absence of any description of the Circassian language, which, to confess a long-held personal belief, I find to be the most beautiful sounding language I have ever heard, and whose loss would be a tragedy not only for the Circassians as an ethno-linguistic group but also for the world of language-study. One or two other points could be made, as indeed I have in a fuller review for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, but for the purposes of comment here I hope that the book is successful and enjoyed by all its readers.


Nizhniy Novgorod

© FAB Russia, 2003-2005

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