Circassia is a historical region now divided into three Russian autonomous republics. It lies between the Black sea, the Kuban river and Caucasus Mountains, bordering Abkhazia and Georgia. The original Circassian people now make up a minority of the population, the majority being Russians and Ukrainians.
The three related peoples who may be thought of as 'Circassian' are the Adygey of the Adygey republic, the Circassians (Russian- Cherkess) of the Karachay-Cherkess republic and the Kabarda of Kabardino-Balkaria.
The area was formerly governed by the Ottoman Turks but was ceded to Russia in 1829. However, it took many years for the Russians to establish control over the rebellious Islamic inhabitants. By 1864, the whole region belonged to the Russian empire. Many Circassians fled to Turkey and other Middle Eastern areas. Today, there are an estimated 3 million Circassians worldwide.
There is archaeological evidence of human settlement here in the first millennium B.C. In classical times, the Greeks established trading links with the Circassians through their Black Sea outpost at Dioscurias. In subsequent years, Circassia was occupied by Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Bulgarians and Cossacks. Each have, to varying degress, left an imprint on the ethnicity of the native people.
The main cities in the region are Krasnodar, Maykop and Armavir which were heavily industrialised by the Soviet Union. The chief products are oil and heavy machinery. During World War II the oil refinery at Maykop was captured by German troops spearheaded by the crack Brandenburg commandos in a daring raid.