Staunton, August 17 – As recently as 2012, many Russian commentators suggested that Adyge Habze, the collection of traditional beliefs that for centuries have informed Circassian identity and behavior, were dying out, the result of globalization and the policies of the Soviet government (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/01/window-on-eurasia-circassians-caught.html).
There were good reasons then to believe such Russian suggestions were less a description of reality than of the hopes of the imperial center that beliefs which had informed the Circassian struggle against the Russian advance in earlier centuries were dying out. Now, thanks to the work of Circassian scholars, there are even more compelling reasons for rejecting their claims.
And the new findings are important politically because they mean that Moscow’s longstanding effort to divide the Circassian nation into a variety of “nationalities” including Adgyeys, Kabardins, Cherkess, and Shapsugs has failed and that what the Circassians shared in common before the Russians came is recovering its importance as a source of unity.
A recent article by Madina Khakuasheva, a researcher at the Kabardino-Balkar Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, on the state of gender relations among Circassians documents the ways in which the Adyge Habze code of behavior defines not only what people do but how they define it (natpressru.info/index.php?newsid=11707).
The 5,000-word provides an enormous amount of evidence in support of the continuing and even growing influence of the Circassian code and makes the implicit argument that the Circassians are far better placed to unite even across the lines Moscow has imposed to divide them because of the continuing vitality of Adyge Habze.
As the experience of the East Europeans and Baltic countries since 1989 has shown, it is always easier to restore something than to create something new, especially if that which needs to be restored has remained part of the living memory and values systems of the population. That is what the Adyge Habze offers – and why it is so important.