Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs,jokes , popular beliefs, and customs that are the traditions of that culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared.

Circassian Dance

       Folk dancing figures most prominently in Circassian expressive culture, partly because of weddings and other ceremonies in which it plays a major part. Ethnic organizations have focused on folklore troupes. In some cases, notably Turkey, Circassian dances have been incorporated into the national folklore "repertoire." In other countries as well, Circassian dancing is routinely presented at national festivals and occasions
   Dancing has always had a special place in the life of the Circassians. In mythical
times, the Narts held annual festivals and tournaments in which dances were held.
No public or family festivity was complete without a round or more of dancing. It
also kept the male dancers in tip-top shape thanks to the energetic tunes. It is
nowadays the most popular kind of folk art.
Dance was initially a religious rite, a kind of spirited prayer. Later it turned into a
form of festive celebration, keeping some of its ritual significance. It was only in
recent times that dance turned into a pastime devoid of religious meaning. All
dances are based on the rich material of Circassian folklore. Cossacks, Georgians
and other Caucasians adopted many Circassian dance forms and some melodies.
In general, women’s movements were graceful and reserved, no wild movements
being required or displayed. The new generation of female ‘sedate’ dancers
sometimes seizes the opportunity in informal sessions to show off vigorous
moves, in parody of their male colleagues. In one modern comical choreography,
gender-bending females perform acrobatic feats, strictly masculine affairs, with
flourish. In borrowed dance forms, say the ‘Dance of Daghestani Lasses,’ some
dizzying footwork gets the audience gasping for breath, never mind the dancers.
Dance as a religious ritual
It was believed that performance of special rites of worship in which supplicants
encircle a venerated object, like a holy tree, or a spot stricken by lightning,
Invoked the resident spirits and unlocked their latent powers. Some accounts tell
Of solemn processions round a tree with the supplicants carrying torches. These
Formed a significant part of a complex system of prayers. The most sacred class
of dances was called «удж (хъурей)» [wij (x’wrey)], which was performed by
dancers forming a circle round a venerated object. It later turned into a dance
performed by couples with music, losing all religious significance. A special
dance consecrated to the supreme god, «Тхьэшхуэ удж» (Theshxwe wij) [Wij of
the Supreme God], was executed with the bodies of the participants in compact
formation. It was revived recently, but merely as a dance form.
Religious rites were sometimes accompanied by chanting. Songs were intoned
during feasts in honour of thunder, during sacrifices and other pagan festivals.
When lightning struck a place or an object, a special kind of «удж» (wij) was
performed round the stricken spot accompanied by «Щыблэ уэрэд» (‘Schible
Wered’)––‘Song of Lightning.’

Generic ritual
The rites of worship of Theghelej (Тхьэгъэлэдж), God of flora, had people of
both sexes gather in the early hours of the day and start on a procession to the
local sacred grove. They took with them an ample supply of victuals and a
number of sacrificial animals. Festivities started when they entered the ancient
wood. An effigy of the deity in the shape of a cross was placed near one of the
most venerated trees in the wood. Prayer chants were intoned in single voice and
chorus. The men and women formed a circle round the idol and the sacred dance,
wij, was performed solemnly in much the same way it is done today. Couples
moved round the icon holding hands, with music and chant in the background.
When the effigy had been circumambulated a few times, a new formation was
assumed in which all partakers in the dance faced the icon holding hands and
lifting them periodically in supplication.
Prayers were then taken up by the priest, usually the eldest person in the group,
who delivered a sermon that included a homily and thanksgiving for blessings
rendered by the god. Next the rite of thelhe’w took place. The idol was presented
with many culinary offerings, including makhsima, the national beverage.
Animals, such as bulls, rams, lambs, ewes, and goats, were then sacrificed in front
of the idol for the purpose of propitiation and propagation of bliss. The priest then
distributed the flesh among the worshippers, not forgetting the ill and the poor
who were unable to attend. The slaughtered animals were then cooked and feasted
upon. The occasion merged solemnity with merry-making in a natural and healthy

Kinds of Circassian Dances
Адыгэ къафэхэр

The following are generic dances:
«Къафэ» (Qafe) is a stately slow dance, performed with pride touching on
aloofness and with a great measure of self-control. It is verily the dance of the
princes. There have been hundreds of tunes devised for this dance throughout the
ages. Neighbouring peoples, like the Balkars and the Ossetes, adopted and
adapted this dance form. The Ossetic version is called «Кашкон кафт» (‘Kashkon
Kaft’) [‘Kabardian Dance’]. Most old dances had a measure of 6/8. Recent
melodies are lighter and more brisk, having a 2/4 measure.

«ЗэхуэкIуэ» (Zexwek’we; literally: ‘going to one another’) is a slow ‘romantic’
dance. Sub-divisions of this dance include «зэхуэкIуэ кIыхь» (zexwek’we ch’ih)
[long zexwek’we], and «щIалэгъуалэ зэхуэкIуэ» (sch’aleghwale zexwek’we)
[zexwek’we of the youth]. [«ЗэфакIу» in Adigean]
This dance is no longer participated in weddings or concerts.

«Ислъэмей» (Yislhemey) [Islamey] is an energetic dance that was either
introduced recently or adapted from an ancient dance form. It may be performed
by a soloist, a group of dancers, or by a couple. Itssoloist, a group of dancers, or by a couple. Its meter is similar to that of
«къафэ» (qafe), 6/8 for old versions and 2/4 for new. On its catchy melody and
old meter, the Russian composer Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev (1837-1910) based
his ‘Islamey–Oriental Fantasy for piano’, which he finished in five weeks on 13
September 1869. Balakirev’s fascination with North Caucasian music goes back
to 1863 when he visited the Caucasus. He fell in love with Circassian music and
he wrote a number of musical pieces based on Kabardian folk songs.
Balakirev built this ‘oriental gem’, which is still performed today, around three
themes: the first, ‘allegro agitato’, uses a fast repetitive dance rhythm in the
Caucasian style, the middle part, ‘andantino espressivo’the central theme of the
piecewas built up climactically, when a switch is made to ‘allegro vivo’. This
work was revised in 1902, when a new passage was included between the first
and second parts.1 It was quite fitting that a great pianist, Shura Cherkassky, a
descendant of the Russified Kabardian Cherkassky clan, performed on a recording
of this work. [Islamey-Oriental Fantasy. Concert. Shura Cherkassky. Academy
Sound & Vision. November 1968; re-issued: February 1985

«ЛъапэпцIийуэ» (lhapepts’iywe), or «лъапэрисэу» (lhaperiysew) Dance en
pointe — is one of the alluring features of Caucasian dance in general. This
technique, only performed by male dancers, requires rigorous training and a
perfect sense of balance. The Adigean version of the dance is «лъэпэрышъу»

«Зыгъэлъэт» (Zighelhet) [the hop-flit] is a lively (Adigean) dance also
performed by couples.

«Лезгинкэ» (Lezghinka), as the name indicates, is an energetic dance of the
Lezghin people in Daghestan. It was borrowed in the Soviet period, but due to its
vivaciousness and popularity it has been retained in the repertoire of most dance
troupes in the Caucasus.

«Удж» (Wij) is an ancient (ritual) dance that has gone through the significance
transformations. It has many varieties, including «удж хэш» (wij xesh), «удж
пыху» (wij pixw), «удж хъурей» (wij x’wrey). It is nowadays performed by
couples who go through the ancient ritual motions.

«Хъурашэ» (X’wrashe) is Shapsugh «удж». The Shapsugh are ‘Black Sea’
Circassians. There are about 20,000 Shapsugh in the area of Sochi, where the
(2014 Winter Olympics) & (2018 FIFA World Cup) will be held.
There are other specific dances associated with individuals or regions, or with
other themes. Names of dances, such as Sozeresh (Созэрэш), Mezdegw
(Мэздэгу), Elbrus (Iуащхьэмахуэ), etc., are choreographies devised in relatively
recent times. The rites associated with the deity Sozeresh obviously go back for
millennia, but Kabardinka’s dance is a modern depiction of the ancient.


(Circassian costume)


The North Caucasians have always been known for their vigour, good health, physical strength and longevity. Circassians paid great attention to enhancing the beauty and symmetry of their children’s physiques. This cultic preoccupation with physical perfection meant that for male children of princely and noble descent, a rigorous, almost severe, martial training regimen was part and parcel of the formative years. The use of leather straps and other devices to contract the middle area produced the ideal shape in the folkloric ethos of a lean torso and wide chest. A slender waist for both males and females was at a premium.
Costumes were designed to enhance and highlight the beauty of the body according to prevalent ideals. The Circassians were the fashion trend-setters in the Caucasus. Their reputation for beauty and elegance was captured in the famous saying, ‘Dressed like a Kabardian.’ However, the Circassians donned their most dilapidated apparel when they did battle. According to John Longworth (1840, vol. 2, p51), ‘in general the Circassians, when taking to the field, put on the worst and coarsest attire they can find; but many of their young heroes, out of emulation, a spirit of bravado or aspiring to the honours of martyrdom, render themselves conspicuous by wearing an entari [cherkesska] of the gayest colour.’
However bad the attire of a mountaineer was, his arms were always kept in perfect condition. One of Lermontov’s Caucasian, Kazbich, was described thus, ‘His beshmet [quilted jacket] is always in tatters, but his armament is in silver.’ Circassian costumes, etiquette, dance and other distinctive cultural traits were borrowed by the other peoples of the Caucasus to varying degrees. Even the Cossacks adopted Circassian dress modes, dancing and the Circassians’ flair for horsemanship.
Edmund Spencer (1937), a British traveller to Circassia in the year 1836, left a vivid description of the Circassian male costume:
... The natives of every clime are taught by experience the dress best calculated to protect them against its influence; and, certainly, the Circassian costume, besides being elegant, is, in every respect, well suited to the country: the lambswool turban preserved my head from the vertical sun; and by enveloping myself in the ample folds of the chlamyde, and covering my head with the capuchin on the approach of evening, I was protected from the nightly dews so pregnant with ills to the frame of man...
The usual dress of a Circassian warrior of all classes is a tunic resembling a military Polonaise, without a collar, closely fitted to the body, and descending to the knee, secured around the middle by a leather girdle, ornamented, according to the wealth or fancy of the wearer, with gold or silver, in which are stuck a pair of pistols and a poniard: the latter is a most formidable weapon in close combat; during an attack they hold it in the left hand, and from its breadth and length, reaching to the elbow, it serves every purpose of a shield.
In addition to this, the Circassian is armed with a light gun, slung across the shoulder, and a sabre suspended by a silk cord in the Turkish fashion; attached to the belt is a powder flask, and a small metal box containing flints, steel, gun-screws, oil, and, not infrequently, a small hatchet. Hence, a Circassian, whether on foot, or on horseback, is at all times completely armed. Sometimes he carries a javelin, which he uses with singular dexterity and effect, hurling it to a considerable distance with an aim that never errs. The latter weapon is also used as a rest for the rifle, having a groove at the top expressly for that purpose. Bows and arrows are now very rarely used, except in cases where it is necessary to arm the whole population.
On either side of the breast of the coat are the patron pockets, made of morocco leather, usually containing twenty-four rounds of ball cartridge: these not only add to the military appearance of the soldier, but in some measure protect the breast, and are extremely convenient: a round fur cap, with a crown the same colour as the ammunition pocket, is the covering for the head; and cloth trousers, in the eastern fashion, complete the costume. Princes and nobles are alone entitled to the privilege of wearing red; and the Circassian, like the natives of most other eastern countries, shave the head, and are never seen barefoot. When marching, or on a journey, they always add a cloak made from camel or goat's-hair, with a hood which completely envelopes the whole person – this is called a tchaouka [щIакIуэ] – and no Mackintosh was ever more impenetrable to the rain; rolled up in its thick folds, it forms the only bed during their encampments, and serves, besides, to protect them against the scorching rays of the sun...
On entering the strangers’ apartment, to which the, prince had the courtesy to conduct me himself, his squire, according to the general custom of this people, divested me of the whole of my weapons, and hung them up on the walls of the room with those of his master, except the poniard, which a Circassian never parts with, being considered a part of his costume. How like the warriors of ancient Greece!
And now with friendly force his band he grasped,
Then led him in within his palace halls;
His coat of mail, and glittering helm unclasped,
And hung the splendid armour on the walls;
For there, Ulysses’ arms, neglected, dim,
Are left, nor more the conqueror’s crown will win.
The Cossacks adopted their male costume, arms and dances from the North Caucasians, especially the Circassians. In his book Russia: A Social History (1931) D. S. Mirsky (Prince Dmitry Petrovich Svyatopolk-Mirsky) observes that ‘not the least curious feature of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus was that it led to the adoption of a number of Caucasian, mainly Qabardi [Kabardian], cultural traits—dress, arms and dances—by the Russian Cossacks and Georgians.’
Terek and Cossack regiments donned Circassian costumes. It was also used in the Russian army, especially in the black Sea and Line Armies, and later a variant was used in the Soviet cavalry. Cossacks also followed Circassian cap styles. The shapes of their papakhas, or tall hats, reflected the fashion of the mountaineers. There appeared types of caps such as the kabardinka, broadening to the top, and the kubanka, with a flat crown.
In addition, the Cossacks were influenced by the Circassian dignified customs and style of life, which in many respects were superior to their Russian counterparts. According to Paul Henze (1992, p72), ‘Cossacks... intermingled with both Circassians and Nogay Tatars, adopting to a large extent their customs and style of life, which was in many respects of a higher quality than the Russians had attained at the time.’
It is quite ironic that the costumes and dances of the Circassians had come to be more readily associated with the late adopters than with the originators — to the victor, all the spoils, including fortune and fame. Even the elegant Georgians were not immune from Circassian influences. The celebrated Georgian State Dance Company had adopted Circassian dress styles and choreography in its colourful repertoire.

Circassian costumes of  the Adigean State Academic Folk Dance Ensemble ‘Nalmes’
in full blaze and glory. Established in 1936, ‘Nalmes’ sees itself as ‘the collector,
guardian, and interpreter of Adigean folk music and dancing’.

Circassian Female Costume
The elegance and beauty of Circassian women were boosted by exquisite costumes and magnificent ornaments. The outer coat, which could be either long or short, was made from a variety of fabrics and it was lined and generally wadded. A non-wadded version was called ‘tsey’ (цей). The bghe’wlh (бгъэIулъ) (or sch’i’w [щIыIу]) consists of a false shirtfront of velvet or silk with (up to) 12 silver or gilt pairs of plate-like buckles, which when seen from a distance impart a beautiful lustre, and other ornaments. The dress has velvet sleeve pendants, embroidered in gold and silver threads. Flaps adorned with embroidery and fringes were used for effect. A loose light silk or cotton chemise with long and wide sleeves extended almost to the floor covering the footwear. This gives the impression that Circassian women glide along the floor when they dance in full costume.
The upper classes wore coats made from various kinds of furs and covered with brocade, silver or cotton fabric. It was trimmed with fur strips about 9cm wide. However, it was considered unseemly for girls and young women to be seen wearing them, even in freezing weather. Commoners and the poor had to make do with sheepskin coats.
‘ЩIыIу’ or ‘бгъэIулъ’ (‘sch’i’w’, ‘bghe’wlh’; ‘БгъэкIыIу’ or ‘кIыIу’ in Adigean) is part of a Circassian woman’s national costume. It consists of a false shirtfront of velvet or silk with (up to) 12 silver or gilt pairs of plate-like buckles, which when seen from a distance impart a beautiful lustre, and other ornaments.
Women and girls wore wide trousers made from striped fabrics, but the chemise wholly covered them. The underwear was made of silk with folded sleeves that narrow at the top. The waist was girdled with red-morocco or leather belts, which were adorned with gold, silver, strings, balls, and silver plaquettes, the buckles made of gold, silver, or copper, depending on the social status. The well-off had a large pendant artistically made of gold, or stone. A breastplate with belt, sch’i’wbgiripx (щIыIубгырыпх), made of gold or silver was used as adornment.
Caps were made of broadcloth, less often of velvet, but never fur. They were ornamented with a narrow silver and gold galloon round the top and with a wide one round the bottom, and embroidered in satin-stitch. A flowing transparent white veil covered the cap. Oftentimes, little exquisite silver buttons were sewn round and edged with gilding. Some caps had small tassels dangling from the upper rim. Married women wore their hair in tresses ina style called ‘schhenschoqw’ («щхьэнщокъу»), which differed from that of girls. They wore head covers, usually silk kerchiefs, but kept their faces bare. Older women covered their hair with white cotton shawls.
Ordinary footwear consisted of high-heeled, thick-soled, soft leather shoes. The rich had their shoes elaborately embroidered in gold and silver with silver galloon trimmings. Young women and girls of noble houses used high wooden footwear, px’evaqe (пхъэвакъэ), decorated withvarious bone adornments, and quite often with silver and guilding. These had a height of about 7cm, affording insulation from the mud and dirt when the fair lasses had to go about their business in the courtyard. The size of the feet was arrested at a preset standard by using special shoes. Mittens kept the tender hands spotless.
At the onset of puberty, girls were required to wear corsets (Kabardian: куэншыбэ, kwenshibe; Adigean: шъохътан, schwex’tan) in the form of short tight-fitting sleeveless vests made from red-morocco, leather or cloth and worn under the chemise. The corset was fastened tight with silk laces and covered the chest right down to the belt. Besides giving support to the body, it served to limit the development of the bosom area, as was demanded by the strict norms of beauty, among which physical symmetry was of paramount importance. Corsets kept being worn (day and night; when worn out, they were replaced by others of equal tightness) until the girl’s wedding night.
When eventually the newly-weds were left alone in their quarters, the bridegroom initiated the consummation of the bond by cutting the laces of the corset with his sharp dagger. This required high skill, and the infliction of any scratch on the bride’s body, no matter how small, brought a great shame upon the groom. The operation was complicated by the fact that it was interdicted for the bridegroom to see his bride in full glory in her birthday suit.
Young girls did not wear the more modest costumes of women until after their marriage, when they also started to cover the head with a white linen cloth, tied under the chin.
Circassian female costume.
(Courtesy of
Circassian Male Costume
Circassian male dress was aesthetically designed no only to accentuate the good form of the body, namely narrow waist and broad upper body, but also for convenience and comfort, being well suited for both hot summers and freezing winters. The traditional male costume was perfectly suited for mountain guerrilla warfare and hunting.
The main articles of the costume were the shirt, cherkesska, beshmet, trousers, belt, over-coat, kalpak or papakha (cap), baschlhiq (hood), boots, and underwear. Materials used for male costumes included locally produced leather, sheepskin, wool, woollen cloth, and thick felt. The dagger, without which no Circassian man could be seen, was considered part of the attire. Other armaments were donned, as the occasion demanded. The shirt, trousers, and beshmet were worn under the cherkesska, the burka (щIакIуэ; sch’ak’we in Circassian) being the over-coat.
The beshmet, a caftan-like garment, had a narrow waist and reached down to 2-4 inches above the knees. It had string buttons and buttonholes from the waist to the collar, and a stand-up collar and banana sleeves with buttons of the same type. Beshmets were made of cotton cloth, woollen cloth, or satin and silk, with the latter used by the richer folk and some people of lesser means on special occasions. Sometimes beshmets were lined with wool or cotton wool for added warmth. Colours included dull grey, bright red, and blue. In more ancient styles, no undergarment was worn underneath the beshmet.
On festive occasions, a cherkesska (цей; tsey) was worn over the beshmet. The cherkesska, a long-waisted tight fitting outer garment, had become the national Caucasian dress by the eighteenth century, and was a potent folkloric symbol. It was made from tough woven wool, with common colours of black and grey, but other hues were not unknown, including dark blue, red, white, ochre, and brown. The collarless vest was open at the chest with a single button on the waist and reached down to the mid-thighs, with flared sleeves extending beyond the hands, but which were usually rolled up. It was distinctively adorned by a row of 14 to 20 capped cartridge cases [«хьэзыр» (‘hezir’)] in Circassian, «газырь» [plural: «газыри»] in Russian), made of nielloed silver or wood, with iron, ivory, stag-horn, walrus tusk, or silver caps, inserted into flaps sewn on each side of the chest. These cases were initially used as handy stores for gunpowder and lead-shot for personal light muskets, hence the name (=ready). The advent of the repeat rifle in the late nineteenth century reduced the function of the ‘hezir’ to mere decoration, with cloth loops replacing the cartridge cases.
Shirt & belt
Under the cherkesska, a collared shirt (джанэ; jane) made of embroidered (white) linen with a buttoned vertical cut at the front. The narrow leather belt (бгырыпх; bgiripx) was adorned with silver platelets and dangling bands, previously used for strapping small cases. The silver-plated belt was worn round the cherkesska and drawn so tight that not even a finger could wriggle through. Dagger and sword sheathes, a pistol case, and a long fusil were attached to the belt. Leather straps on the waist belt carried carved boxes with flints, wads, and gun oil. A sleeveless upper garment (тэджэлей; tejeley) was also in use.
Trousers (гъуэншэдж; ghwenshej), usually made of coarse woollen material, were worn tight and were tucked under knee-high stockings of woollen cloth, usually with leather garters under the knee. The underwear was made of silk.
A sleeveless felt cloak, sch’ak’we (щIакIуэ), or burka in Turkic, which hanged from the shoulders and covered the whole body, was an indispensable part of the Circassian costume. It was made to fit the shoulders by the insertion of a gore, was tied with strings at the neck, and was often lined with silk or calico. The opening for the neck and the seams over the chest were trimmed with braid. Black and black-brown were the common colours, with white come across not infrequently. Sometimes the wool was not removed on the outside. It afforded warmth in winter by keeping the rain out and insulating the body from the chill. It also protected the wearer from the burning sun. It doubled as a blanket or a personal tent. A small group of men on the road could find shelter by hanging their great coats on three stakes dug into the ground, constructing a rather cozy tepee[1].  In clement weather the coat was rolled up and fastened by long leather rheims behind the saddle.
Traditional Circassian male costume

The basic head-dress consisted of a large round or conical caracul cap called «адыгэ пыIэ» (‘Adige pi’e’), better known as ‘kalpak’ or ‘papakha’, mostly black or grey in colour. A wide-brimmed felt hat was also common. In cold weather, the head was muffled with a baschlhiq (бащлъыкъ;), a hood whose ends could be used as a shawl, slung around the neck, or twirled round the head in the shape of a turban. Baschlhiqs were mostly made of wool, but cloth was also used, in which case they were either edged with tasselled Caucasian gold or silver braid, or decorated with ornamental gold piping. Specimens with ornamental designs embroidered in silver or gold thread were also worn for show.
In the olden days, Circassian men shaved their heads, leaving only a tuft of hair on the crown of the head called ‘alhtinich’e’ («алътыныкIэ»).[2]
The usual footwear consisted of soft leather boots, which allowed a ‘cat-like’ gait, perfect for military manoeuvres.

(Circassian Poetry)


Proverbs and sayings

  There are more than 6,000 proverbs and sayings in the Circassian language, by some accounts much, much more. The book contains about 3,000 proverbs and sayings sorted into a number of categories. The basic orthography is official Cyrillic, but in many cases Latin orthography is also included. Equivalents and meanings in English are provided. The book is available online and can be downloaded for free.

 Folklorists and culturalists can obtain interesting materials from the book for research. Teachers of Circassian will find this book useful, as it combines two languages. It is suggested that this book be made part of Circassian language teaching curricula in both Circassia and the diaspora. 

АнэкIэ къуащIэм къуэсу мэпсэу (Anech’e qwasch’em qwesu mepsew): He lives under (behind) his mother’s skirt.
Анэм и гъуапэр пхъум и джанэщ: The mother’s sleeve is the daughter’s shirt.
Бгырыпх пцIанэ: Girdled without a dagger (literally: ‘naked waist-belt).
Вакъэжьылъэ шынэркъым: An old boot doesn't fear the mud.
Гуэбэнэч и щIагъ лIы къыщIокI: (A he-man emerges from a herdsman’s clothes) 1. A little body often harbours a great soul; 2. Little bodies may have great souls.
Гъуапэкъым, пщампIэкъым: (Neither a sleeve nor a collar) Neither one thing nor the other.
Гъунэгъурэ гъуэншэджрэ (A neighbour is like a pair of trousers): Better a close neighbour than a distant relative.
Джанэ нэхърэ гъуэншэдж нэхъ благъэщ: The trousers are nearer than the shirt.
ЖьантIэм узэрыдашэр щыгъынырщ (Zchant’em wizeridasher schighinirsch): Fine feathers make fine birds.
ЗекIуэ и вакъэ лажьэркъым (Жэрдэм зыщIэм, лажьэм зыгуэр къелэжь, жыхуиIэщ): (The campaigner’s shoes do not wear out) He who displays initiative shall earn something for his troubles.
Зи вакъэ зэврэ зи гъавэ мащIэрэ: Tight shoes and a little yield.
КъэзышагъащIэм щIакIуэщIэрэ кIуэкIэщIэрэ къещтэ: A newly-married man gets a new (felt) cloak and assumes a new gait.
Къуийм и пыIэ щыгъупщэркъым: He who has the mange forgets not his cap.
Къуийм и пыIэр щхьэрыхумэ, укIытэжыркъым: If the cap of the mangy person falls off, he is not ashamed any more.
Лъакъуэ къуаншэ вакъэ хуэщщ (Вакъэ куэдрэ къещэху, жыхуиIэщ. Many shoes are bought for it): A crooked foot is lucky with shoes.
Мастэнэм къызэрыфIэчауэ: Spick and span, brand-new; just out of a bandbox (of clothes).
ПыIэ зыщхьэрыгъ: (Person wearing a cap) 1. Man, male; 2. Real man, he-man.
ПыIэ зыщхьэрыгъ псори лIыкъым: Not all those who put hats on are men.
ПыIэ Iей нэIу Iейщ: Bad hat, bad face.
ПыIэзэфIэхь махуэщ (ПыIэзэфIэхь=Circassian game in which horsemen snatch a cap away from one another, the object of the game being to carry away the cap; it requires both skill and strength. Iуэху щIэным и гуащIэгъуэщ, жыхуиIэщ. Said of a day of hard toil).
Уэшх блэкIам щIакIуэ кIэлъумыщтэ(ж) (Weshx blech’am sch’ak’we ch’elhumischte[zh]): (After the storm, don't put on the felt cloak) 1. After death the doctor; 2. After dinner, mustard.
Узэчэнджэщын умыгъуэтмэ, уи пыIэ гъэтIыси ечэнджэщыж: If you can't find somebody to talk things over with, take off your hat and consult it.
Узэчэнджэщын умыгъуэтым, уи пыIэр гъэтIылъи ечэнджэщ (Wizechenjeschin wimighwetim, wiy pi’er ghet’ilhiy yechenjesch): If you can’t find somebody to talk things over with, take off your hat and consult it.
УзытекIуэм пэкIум уахегъэн (Фащэм, щыгъыным щысхьын хуейщ, иужькIи цIыхум уарихыхьэн щхьэкIэ, жыхуиIэщ): You must spare your clothes so that you could get into the company of others.
Уи гъунэгъур уи гъуапэщ: Your neighbour is your sleeve.
Уи пыIэ угъурлы ухъу!: Bless your cap! [Said to a newly-married man]
Хьазыриир пыим пай, ябгъуанэрэр шыум пай: The eight cartridge cases are for the enemy, the ninth for the horseman. [Adigean. The cherkesska (tsey), the distinctive long-waisted, tight-fitting circassian tunic, was – and still is – a potent folkloric symbol donned by almost all peoples of the Caucasus. It was adorned by a row of (usually white) capped cartridge cases (hezir) made of nielloed silver, or wood, inserted into flaps sewn on each side of the breast. These cartridge cases were usually used to store gunpowder and leadshot for personal light muskets. However, one of the cases was filled with flour, to be used in extreme situations to satisfy one’s hunger]
ЩауэщIэм и щIакIуэри и кIуэкIэри дахэщ: The (felt) cloak and gait of a new bridegroom are beautiful.
Щхьэр псэумэ, пыIэ щыщIэркъым: If the head is alive, it will not lack a cap.
Щыгъынибгъу нэхърэ теубгъуэн (Щыгъын куэд уиIэ нэхърэ тепIэнщIэлъын, жыхуиIэщ): To have your bedding is better than nine complements of clothes.
ЩIакIуэ нэхърэ уэшх нэхъ благъэщ: 1. Rain is nearer than the great coat (over-coat); 2. Always be prepared.
ЩIакIуэ ныкъуэщIыр щыгъынкъым (щыгъын=clothes; garments): A half-finished (felt) cloak cannot be worn.
ЩIакIуэ щIагъым лIы къыщIокI (еплъ аргуэру «Гуэбэнэч и щIагъ лIы къыщIокI»): 1. A little body often harbours a great soul; 2. Little bodies may have great souls.
ЩIакIуэр губгъуэ унэщ (Sch’ak’wer gwbghwe winesch): The great coat (over-coat) is a field house.
ЩIакIуитI щыгъын (Sch’ak’wiyt’ schighin): (To put on two cloaks) To be on both sides of the fence.

Nart Sagas from the Caucasus

If our lives are to be short,
Then let our fame be great!
Let us not depart from truth!
Let fairness be our path!
Let us not know grief!
Let us live in freedom!

So starts the first saga of the Narts in John Colarusso's compilation of the myths and legends of the
Circassians, Abazas, Abkhaz, and Ubykhs of the Caucasus region. The valor and determination of the Narts in this response to God's question about how they wanted to spend their lives is reflected in the durability of their stories. The peoples of the Caucasus have survived centuries of invasion and conquest, including forced exile into Turkey for entire ethnic groups. The Nart legends stand as an example of the will of a people to survive. Originating in a region that has been a crossroads of migration for thousands of years, they also show connections (both subtle and overt) to the myths and legends of Indo-European cultures from India to Scandinavia.
The Narts are a legendary race of heroes, whose deeds form the basis for the culture of the Caucasus. The stories are examples, both inspirational and cautionary, of how a warrior of the Caucasus should measure his life. The language is extraordinarily direct; the sagas' talent for understatement is difficult to equal: "I must catch up with them [giants] and take my herd back home. The giants are not likely to take this sweetly." (357) The Narts were also practical: "They held a discussion about him [Bataraz] and decided that he would grow up to be a great warrior. 'At least he will probably be of help to us in some way.'"(305)
The Narts' traditional enemies, the ayniwzh (a race of one-eye giants) were not so practical. When the greatest Nart, Sosruquo, stole millet seeds from an ayniwzh, the ayniwzh left his field and "unharnessed his horse, came back home, had a rest, had dinner, then saddled his horse and began chasing him [Sosruquo]." (207) This directness of language and the blunt, plain dialogue provide a light-hearted tone to the sagas. The occasional anachronism (in one story, an elderly god contacts the Narts by sending a letter) and the oddly entertaining dialogue make the collection highly readable.
Where this collection really stands out, however, is in the scholarly analysis that accompanies each of the ninety-two tales. Colarusso includes extensive endnotes for each saga, carefully pointing out parallels between Nart names and words from other cultures. He also makes a thorough effort to show the deep parallels between the Nart sagas and other Indo-European mythologies.
These parallels range from the very strong similarities with Greek myths (there was a centuries-long exchange between the two cultures, stemming from the Greek settlements on the eastern edge of the Black Sea) to parallels between Nart figures and Hindu and Norse deities. Several versions of a Prometheus story are included, as well as a parallel to the Norse god Odin in the Nart Wadana. Colarusso delves deeply to find these connections, even finding comparisons to some of the Arthurian stories of Britain. Where Colarusso finds the parallels most significant, he includes an analysis within the saga's endnotes. For the linguist, there are also a series of detailed appendices on the Circassian, Ubykh, Abaza, and Abkhaz languages.
The endnotes also help tie together the stories in each corpus within Nart Sagas. Many of the stories in each corpus are duplicated in one or the other corpus within the book. Colarusso takes the time to illustrate how the stories link together and suggests why the multiple versions differ from each other. The analysis of how the tales overlay older stories, how characters have been combined or lost, and the varying influences of outside cultures make for reading almost as interesting as the stories themselves.
Nart Sagas from the Caucasus sheds light on the traditions of a region that is otherwise primarily known for the ongoing war in Chechnya. The stories are a useful and important inclusion in the library of any folklore enthusiast. With a unique style and unusual dialogue, the Nart sagas offer a refreshing alternative to more familiar myths. Serving as a bridge between the western and eastern Indo-European traditions, the Nart tales offer an intriguing perspective on how the different Indo-European mythologies can be tied together.

From translated "Yestanbelakwa" by "The Black Eagle".
Our women were gathered and chained, next to Beys fountains whose bodies are valueless, why did you accept the injustice!!??
You saw everything with your eyes, why didn't you bother to mention or write anything about it!?
Once you say you are the people of Shameel,
Once you say you were sent by Caliph,
Once you say you were sent by God,
Where do you want to take us with your lies??!!
Beasts, is what you do in life...
I wonder people like you, in what (Xabza) way should be buried? 
On your tomb a big sign with snake head!!

Circassian aristocracy donned terrifying masks on their hunting expeditions, apparently to confound the prey, and together with the esoteric cant (щакIуэбзэ, schak’webze=language of the chase), render the objects of the hunt unaware of the true purpose of the chevy. According to E. N. Studenetskaya (1980), Kabardian princes, up until the first part of the 19th century, held secretive assemblies after the harvest that lasted for six weeks. In such assemblies, masks were used to hide identity so that the binding article in the code of chivalry on blood-revenge would not disrupt the smooth running of the martial exercises.
‘A Circassian chief preparing his stallion’
by the Scotsman Sir William Allan (1782-1850).
The (77 x 64.5 cm) oil on canvas painting was done in 1843.

Personal Weapons
Weapons had had a great bearing on the martial societies of the North Caucasus as far back as the early Bronze Age. They also made up a substantive portion of the export trade, being much sought after by neighbouring peoples and even in far away lands as Persia. The quality of craftsmanship was commensurate with purchasing power, and thus personal arms served as markers of social status. Some instruments of war were only associated with particular classes. For example, exquisite coats-of-mail could only be afforded by the upper classes.

The weaponry of Circassian men traditionally consisted of defensive armour – shirt of mail, a helmet and armlets, and offensive weapons – a bow and arrows, a spear, dart, sabre and dagger. When the fire-arms became widespread in the 18th century, the bow and arrows, the gun and the defensive armour coexisted for some time. As time went on, fire-arms replaced the bow and arrows while the defensive armour, which afforded no protection against bullets, was discarded. Beginning from the second half of the 18th century the armament of a Circassian consisted of a gun, pistol, sabre or cavalry sword, and a dagger.
Full weapon set of Kabardian warrior
(sword with sword-belt, dagger, pistol, cartridge cases).
The set was presented to Tzarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich
(future emperor Nicholas II) in 1888 by a North Caucasian deputation.

Manufacture of arms was intimately connected with the structure of the military system of the Circassians. All North Caucasians held their personal arms in the highest esteem and always maintained them in tip-top shape. A mountaineer never went out of his house without his dagger. Every male person, even young boys, had one. Fine specimens were handed down from father to son. Some households still keep old daggers and other arms as priceless heirlooms.

A warrior who lost his weapons in battle was held in contempt forever after. According to custom, a man was buried with the full complements of his arms. Gunsmiths and armourers took their craft to uncharted heights. In each village there were two or three artisans specializing in producing arms. Nowadays, daggers are mostly made as souvenirs.
Early weapons uncovered among the treasure-troves in the mounds of Maikop culture included stone maces and battle-axes. Of particular importance were Eneolithic and Bronze Ages weapons in the Burial Mound 31 in the village of Novosvobodnaya, consisting of blades and flint triangular arrow-heads, possibly used in harpoon-like missiles.
Flint arrow-heads. The dagger blade is leaf-shaped
being sharp along the edges. Grooves on both sides
of the butt allow the blade to be attached securely
to the handle. Maikop culture, middle of 3rd
millennium BC. The Hermitage.
There is a large collection of late medieval Circassian swords and daggers found at excavation sites near Maikop displayed in the Historical Museum of Moscow. Some of the exhibits had inscriptions and were dated to the 16th and 17th centuries AD. There has also been a large haul of weapons unearthed in Kabardian sepulchral mounds that go back to the 15th to 16th centuries AD. These finds represent the Eastern Circassian version of the Belorechenskaya Culture (Belorechenskaya is situated to the northwest of Maikop) in Adigea.

Dagger and belt. The qame (къамэ) is synonymous with the mountaineers’ warrior
tradition. Nevertheless, very few old daggers have been handed down, since
they were never regarded as treasured heirlooms. Unlike sabres and cavalry
swords, these were simply personal effects reforged when worn-out.

Dagger and belt. The qame (къамэ) is synonymous with the mountaineers’ warrior
tradition. Nevertheless, very few old daggers have been handed down, since
they were never regarded as treasured heirlooms. Unlike sabres and cavalry
swords, these were simply personal effects reforged when worn-out.

A coat of mail was made by connecting polished steel rings each to four adjoining ones to form a metal fabric. Between 20-30 thousand annuli were used, depending on the size. It afforded protection to the torso down to the knees. The Kabardian version was so well made that the Shah of Persia ordered that it be used in his army. A few hauberks that go back to the 16th and 17th centuries are kept in the Kremlin Armoury.

The helmet was a hybrid of conical and pyramidal shapes and was made of steel with an attached net of ringlets hanging down to the shoulders for protection. Usually date of manufacture and name of artisan were etched on outstanding pieces. A specimen decorated with silver pieces and dated to 1780 was found. Steel plates decorated with traditional Circassian motifs covered the arms from the elbow to the wrist. Articulation was effected by leather bands or metal rings. Gloves made of opulent red or black leather afforded some protection to the hands. The gauntlets were decorated with gold or silver thread, with hooked horns embroidered in the middle being a trademark of Circassian handicraftsmen.

Princely war costume.

Bows were composed of two layers, the inner one made of animal horns and the outer one of wood.  Strings were made from animal tendons boiled in fish glue. The arrows were made by men, the quiver by household women using luxury black leather decorated with gold and silver threads. The bow and quiver were tied round the waist. Pallas described a lance-like weapon in shape of a strong staff, about 1.5m long, on top of which was fixed a large iron head, the lower end having a sharp iron pike, about 45cm long.

Of special interest are bayonet-like rapiers designed to penetrate coats of mail. In the 17th century, the Circassians innovated a cavalry weapon in form of a two-edged long dagger without a cross-guard. It was about 75cm long, as compared to 100-114cm for the conventional sword. The circular hilt was made of either silver or ivory and its head was slightly hooked. Making scabbards was a feminine craft. Two moulded pieces of wood were covered first with leather, then with velvet, and fixed with gold thread and metal sheets. In their campaigns in Central Asia, Terek and Greben Cossacks used a tactic to overcome long spears with sabres, which they called ‘to drive in the Kabardian way.’

Hafts of sabres and daggers, pistols and rifles were ornamented with gold and silver inlay, encrustation, wood, bone and niello. In more elaborate designs semi-precious stones were used. Firearms were first introduced in the North Caucasus in the 16th century, but they only became wide-spread in the 18th. Some Circassian pistols made in 1840-50 are on show in museums in Moscow and St Petersburg. Women made leather holsters.

Circassians produced gunpowder for their muskets. The main stock of powder was stored in a flask made of horn, ivory or wood, and kept dry and safe by wrapping it with morocco decorated with gold, silver and ivory. The covers were made of decorated silver. The powder flask was hung at the belt. Handy quantities of powder were kept in the hezirs, 14-20 cartridge cases made of nielloed silver, or wood, inserted into flaps, on the breast of the cherkesska. Mild powder for bolts of rifles and pistols was kept in a small special powder flask from which the powder was spilled. It was also hung at the belt.

1.       The Book (The Circassians: A Hand Book)
2.       The website