Friday, 3 February 2012

Amman And Circassia

English: Circassian girl
Image via Wikipedia
I posted the other day about how the village of Amman was settled by Circassians in 1878 following the Russian pogroms which killed something like 1.5 million and saw millions marched out of their homes in the Caucasus.

Every now and then you’ll meet fair-skinned, blue-eyed Jordanians. These are the ‘alsharkasee’, the descendends of those Circassians. A small but important part of the Jordanian community, they have a remarkable history. Originally a people of the Northern Caucasus, the Adyghe, they were conquered (with considerable effort) by Russia. Originally monotheistic, with their own religion, they converted to Christianity and then, in the 15th Century, to Islam. Most of the Ottoman Mamluks were in fact Circassian and from the 13th -15th Century, Egypt was actually ruled by Circassians.

Today there is actually a Republic of Adygh, a tiny statelet under the Russian Federation and located in the Northern Caucasus. Most of the population are Russians, but some quarter of the people are ethnic Adyghes, the few survivors of the massacres.

The Circassian genocide is not officially recognised, although there are groups currently lobbying for that recognition. Apparently the 2014 Winter Olympics is causing some controversy as construction of facilities in Sochi on the Black Sea coast is disturbing one of many Adyghe mass graves.

TE Lawrence reconnoitred the city of Deraa in disguise as a Circassian, to explain away his blonde eyes and blue hair. This turns out to have been something of a mistake as the Turks rather fancied him. The rest, as they say, is history.

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