WORLD RELIGIONS IN CIRCASSIA


The first appeared of Orthodoxy in Circassia. For the first time Christianity as such appears in the western Caucasus around the 1st century, ie at the very beginning of its spread. The first missionaries began to appear in the region thanks to the apostolic activities of the two saints – St. Andrew and Simon the Zealot. They preached Christianity in the Black Sea colonies, from which the preachers come deep into Circassia, was still Zihia. So this religion began to spread among the ancestors of the Circassians. According to legend Andrew in the 40s of the 1st century preached the doctrine of Christianity among the Caucasian peoples – Alan, Abazgs, Zikhs. It is believed that Gentiles Zikhs badly embraced sermon and tried to kill Andrew, but marveled at his humility and changed their minds. This tradition was written nearly 300 years after the events.
It is believed that Andrew and Simon first came to the land of Circassians from Abkhazian Sebastopolis, modern Sukhum. Here Andrew left Simon and went to Djigets, whom received him with hostility. He was forced to flee and Djigets remained in disbelief. He went further to the west. Simon continued apostolic activity on the territory of Abkhazia. Later, he was killed by Zikhs and buried in diocesan center Nikopsis, on the theory in the area of the modern village of Novomikhailovskaya in 55-th year A.C. These two apostles were the first preachers of Christianity in Circassia. It was believed that they were brought to the colonies by Jewish settlers, who had good relations with the Judea. After Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, it strengthened its position in the Greek colonies of the Black Sea. Here was sent into disfavour John Chrysostom. In 406, he fell into disgrace and despite his illness, he was sent with the convoy on foot from Armenia to Pitiunt (Pitsunda). Along the way, he died in September of 407, and was buried in Abkhazia. Archaeologist Konstantin Vrisis found the burial place near Sukhum. In the year 438 John relics were taken to Constantinople.

In the fourth crusade, after the sack of Constantinople, his relics were taken to Rome. And only in 2004 the Church of Constantinople has made the return of the relics. In Byzantium, rules very well-known reformer Justinian, who remained in the memory of the people. Church reforms reflected in the strengthening of the Christian position among the Circassians. Then came the first diocese in Circassia and its preachers. And in the depths of Circassia as well. There were the first Circassian priests – Shovgi, shogeny and bishops – shehnik. Surname Shovgenovs comes from this profession. Then the priests appeared on a permanent basis, studied, translated texts in Adyghe language, teach to read and write on Greek. In Circassia were chapels and churches and strengthen trust between the Circassians and the Byzantines. In 858, the Byzantine Emperor Michael the Third sent a preachers Cyril and Methodius to Khazar Khanate, who owned lands including Circassia. Along the way, they spread Christian preaching.

Intensified diocese of Circassia and Central Caucasus, where appeared the first full-fledged church and the sacred service in the town of Majar. However, later Khazar Khanate adopted Judaism as opposed to the Byzantine Empire, at which feuded and the spread of Christianity in the East stopped. At this time, first mentioned Zihian diocese which had its own Patriarchate and priests. It is subordinate to Constantinople, but operated independently and was considered free of iconoclasm. Patriarchal centers were in Phanagoria, Metrahe (Taman), Zihopolis and Nikopsis. In the documents found signatures of the bishop Zihian and Fanagorian at the councils of Constantinople. In Abkhazia appeared Abazgian diocese, which are also subject to Constantinople and was separate, divided into vicegerenciec Anakopia and Pitiunt and located in Sebastopolis. In the 8th century Abazgian diocese came under the influence of the Georgian diocese in connection with the strengthening of the new Abkhazian state, who wanted to secede from Byzantium.

But in the 9th century, it joins the Nikopsis diocese and become part of the the Circassian dioceses. However, this has led to the appearance of a separate church in Abkhazia. Some believers split and sent a delegation to Syria to Antioch throned church where asked to put in their Catholicos in Abkhazia with the aim of declaring an independent church. At Patriarch Theophylact in Antioch this was perceived positively and to Abkhazia was appointed Catholicos John, who should in the temple service commemorates the Patriarch of Antioch. Appeared independent Abkhaz Church – Catholicosate. It had the right to elect independently Catholicos. In Abkhazia, the Catholicos John chose Pitiunt as center, in order not to interfere with Abazgian diocese. At this time most spread Christianity in Abkhazia. Separately will say about the Catholicosate. In the 12th century, state of Kartli in Georgia and Abkhazian principality united under David the Builder Fourth. At the same time Church united – Catholicos of Mtskheta distributed power also in Abkhazia. However, in the 13th century, Mongols passed through Georgia by the war, destroying a single state. The church is also divided. The Abkhaz church remained in union with Mingrelian Church in common Catholicosate.
In 1390 in Abkhazia was put Catholicos Arseny, born in Western Georgia. This was made possible thanks to the military campaigns of Prince Dadian Mingrelian to Abkhazia and Djigets. In the second half of the 16th century, Department of the Catholicosate was moved to Gelati Monastery in western Georgia. Since that time, patriarchs of the Catholicosate became known as the Abkhazian and Imeretian, and from the 17th century, on the contrary. Last Abkhazian Catholicos Maxim II with the prince family of Abashidze clash in political differences with the king of Imereti David and went to Russia. David dreamed about political independence of Imereti and guided by the alliance with Turkey. Through time Maxim II has decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but on the way he died in 1795, and with it ceased to exist Abkhazian Catholicosate. From the 10th to the end of the 11th centuries, has appeared united diocese of Tamartaha (Taman) and Zihia centered at Taman. During these years, the Russian Prince Svyatoslav made a campaign against the Khazars.

After the destruction of the Kaganate, he returned through the Kuban and founded in Taman Tmutarakan principality, which was strengthened after the campaigns of Prince Vladimir against Korsun. So in Circassia arose old Russian principality almost for 100 years. The effects of the Russian Church to the local diocese was not observed, it did not comply with Kiev. After coming to Tmutarakan St. Nikon, built the first Christian church in Taman, the diocese became known simply as Tmutarakan, but still subordinated to Constantinople. Nikon was the only Russian preacher in the North Caucasus. At the Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus in the late 11th century, and Patriarch Eustratius dioceses of Circassia again divided into Zihian and Abazgian. The center of Zihian became Nikopsis. Tamartahian became Tmutarakan. By the early 13th century, Alans, and to a lesser extent, Circassians were exposed to the Georgian Church at Queen Tamar, who was trying to spread Christianity to the north. The name of Queen Tamar was very well known in the Caucasus. Some Circassians obeyed of Georgian Church, but at the beginning of the 13th century Mongol invasion passes through the lands of the Caucasian peoples, and with it the first stirrings of Islam.

The Mongols had not yet been Muslims, but their army included Muslims. The strong influence of Islam happened during the invasion in Circassia of Temnik Nogai in 1277. Invasion destroyed communications of Abazgian-Zihian dioceses. Zihian and Matrahian dioceses once again united and become a full-fledged metropolis. Since 1318 referred the independent Metropolitan of Zihia and Matarha. The latest information about the diocese refer to 1396 at the time of Metropolitan Joseph. The service among Circassians went in their native language. Eyewitnesses reported that the doctrine held in the languages of jasses and Zikhs. Orthodox allowed to make translations into the native language of the flock. Preaching of Christianity nevertheless received no serious spread in the society, especially in the heart of the continent. In the 9th century, Epiphanius wrote that Zikhs even half do not believe.

Christianity has got accustomed very superficial and limited to adoption of rites and rituals, feasts, fasts, mixing with pagan rituals. Appeared its own saints. The concept of the Holy Spirit. But all this mixed up with the local self-sufficient religion. At the present time among Circassians is spread Easter. There were icons of Tkha the god. Although it was assumed that Tkha has no image, but he became a saint. Jesus – the same Aush Dzheridzhe – Greek Jesus did not become the central figure in the pantheon of Circassians and joined the local mythology. There were images of Mother of God – Tkhanane, the Holy Spirit – Psatkhe. Christianity got mixed with adygean religion and in this form survived in part to the present. Additionally, carrying out of rituals in the sacred groves of Circassians led to the emergence there of crosses. In the 1500s, traveler Giorgio Interiano noted the next. Notable Circassians until old age do not go to churches and limited by prayer at the entrance, because they live in robbery and considered as a sin at the same time to visit church. By the end of life’s journey they left a robbery, and only then started to go to church. He also mentions that priests serve in Greek, sometimes without understanding the language.

In the mid-13th century there was a disintegration of Tmutarakan principality and it lands returned to the Byzantine Empire with transferring of the church. Situation taken advantage Catholic missionaries. Since 1237 they appear in Circassia. Catholic missionary Julian described Circassians rites. With the ruin of Constantinople by the Crusaders Catholicism actively penetrates into the Taman. With the advent of the Genoese Catholic amplified. The center of it became a colony of Kaffa in the Crimea, from which missionaries come to Circassia. For missionary Luka Adygeyan nobles offering respect and agreed to accept missions of Catholics. In general, Circassians nobility quickly accepted new religion for political and commercial interests. First Catholic bishop was appointed in 1346 the Franciscan John. Zihian Catholic Diocese was extensive and included the Crimea and Circassia. However, success in the spread of Catholicism has not received. There were no texts in Circassian language, it was impossible to educate locals and Latin was alien to the common people. As a result, Circassians accepted only a small number of formal ceremonies, but the essence of religion has not accepted. By the mid-14th century emerged parallel Catholic Diocese in Taman – Matregian on behalf of the same name city in Italy. Posed in 1349 Bishop John was Circassian origin, sold into slavery before and managed to buy his freedom. He died in 1376 and after him information about diocese interrupted. Since 1419 Matrega passed into the subordination of the Italian Signoria until 1482 its own representatives of Catholic family De Gizol’fi. It is also believed that Catholicism spread badly because Genoese tried to impose a religion, and it does not spread among the people. Catholic missionaries have sometimes acted by force, causing a negative reaction of the population.

Circassians continued to practice adygean religion mixed with Christian rites. With the capture of the Genoese colonies by Turks related story of Frankkardashes, about which will be a separate release. That are Catholics of different ethnic groups in Circassia, who lived in the colonies and they had their own special destiny. For Christianity fell on hard days. With the arrival of the Turks and Crimean Tatars intensified persecution of Christians. The main factor in the spread of Christianity was the presence of trained priests. Some ceremonies are impossible without them. Christian priests was massively killed, expelled, the holy places were looted. Execution of several Christian rituals became impossible and the Circassians began to return to paganism. Here we turn to Islam. It first appeared in the North Caucasus in the 7th century during the invasion of the Arabs. But did not stay because the Arabs were forgotten soon and for the next few centuries, all forget about Islam.

Severe spread of Islam began with the arrival of the troops of Tamerlane in the North Caucasus in the 14th century. Because the Caucasian peoples have opposed Tamerlane on side of Tokhtamysh and were defeated, after that Tamerlan has made devastation of Caucasus lands. Because the Timur was a Muslim, then he forcibly spread his religion among the conquered. Circassians resisted, but in 1453 after the fall of the Byzantine Empire and especially after 1475 after the capture of the Turkish colonies in Circassia, Turks and Tatars have begun to actively spread Islam in Circassia. Doing this contributed by Nogai, settled in the steppes north of the Kuban River and in the central Caucasus. Especially were zealous Crimean khans. Khan Shah Abbas Giray mostly destroyed the Christian priests in Circassia, smashed the sacred places. Only a small part of them disappeared into the mountains. In Kabardia he kept army for that, forcebly spreading new religion. For the first time Islam is perceived by Circassians very negatively, it was considered as an enemy religion – of Crimean Tatars. The worst part was at the western Circassians, who immediately fell into submission to Crimean Khanate. It was better at Kabardians who resisted and fought against the Tartars power for nearly 300 years, and did not become part of the Khanate. However, Islam was accepted by Circassians, but not in a pure form.

As with Christianity, there was a mixture of rites and rituals of adygean religion, Christianity and Islam. In the groves Imams recited prayers under Christian crosses. By the 18th century, Islam became the dominant religion with vestiges of Christianity and paganism. Some Circassians tried to invite priests from Russia, but this only led to the exit of Christian Circassians small groups from Circassia. So in Kabarda they moved to the first Russian fortresses and later in Mozdok where Mozdok’s christians from Highlanders live to this day. Russian dioceses tried to spread to the Caucasus. So acted Astrakhan diocese, which tried to preach through Kabardians. The first wars between Russia and the Ottoman Empire led to a reduction of it activity. Turkey’s efforts in the spread of the religion was weak until the 18th century, serious activity was not conducted. The Ottoman Empire was trying to politically subdue Circassians, but they perceived the sultan as a spiritual leader, not a head of state. Any attempts of Turkish troops to pass through the territory of Circassia against Circassians met fierce resistance, Circassians attacked in response to the fortresses. Just with the approach of Russian borders to the Caucasus, the Ottoman Empire begins a massive religious propaganda among the Circassians to form aggressive attitudes towards Russia. Islam was first took by aristocrats, princes and nobles, as it was in their political and commercial interests. Simple people continued to practice of mixed religion, predominantly adygean religion. Only in recent years of the Caucasian war Islam started to win positions at ordinary people, as the idea of resistance to Russia.

First of all Islam entrenched in feudal societies – Abkhazia, Bjedugia, Temirgoya and especially Kabarda. Here princes first accepted this religion and spread it. Geographically, first adopted Islam coastal Circassians – Bjedugs, Natuhais, Zhaneevs, second were plain Circassians – Kabardians, Besleneevs, Temirgoys and third were mountainous societies of Ubykhs, Shapsugs and Abadzekhs. Islam was faced with difficulties. The adoption of Islam played a positive role for the princes, but there were downsides. The Islamic world was against customs (adats) and this was unprofitable for nobles as undermining the foundations of their power. The aristocracy was afraid of administration of sharia, which could abolish their power and unite the peasants against them. That are eventually happened anyway, when the peasants rose up against the nobles at Shapsugs. Lack of waqf property is also influenced on the weakness of the position of Islam at the people. Other words there was no right of religious ministers to own land. This limited motivation of preachers. Since the beginning of active hostilities between Turkey and Russia a serious spread of Islam began with only purpose of war propaganda. Instability, the lack of a single state among Circassians, not developed a religious organization. Since the beginning of the Caucasian War, the important role played for Islam, Sheikh Mansour, who declared a first holy war against the Russia in Dagestan and Kabardins. The ideas of Sharia and Sufism, the anti-colonial war began to spread from Kabarda. Later, ideas spread among Circassians through Imam Shamil in Circassia – Muhammad Amin. He started work among Abadzekhs, but quickly extended it to the whole Trans-Kuban Circassia. He has made reforms on the basis of Sharia. However, besides success reform has caused the rejection of some of the Circassians, especially princes. At Natukhai have appeared Prince Sefer Bey Zan, who became to unite Circassians on the basis of adats of adygean religion. These two groups differ in ideas, we are constantly faced with each other in military skirmishes inside Circassia. In the last years of the Caucasian war Islam has become popular religion, since recourse to adygean religion did not help against the invaders, and it was seen as a betrayal of his own people by Tkha. Besides Turkish emissaries promised to help from Turkey for fellow believers.

After the Caucasian War radical forms of Islam have disappeared among the remaining Circassians in Russia. Sacred groves continued to be used until the first decades of the 20th century, when they were cut down by the Communists. Today, among the Circassians of Russia prevalent Sunni Islam with an admixture of Christian and pagan rites, mostly festive character. In Soviet times, in the territory of Circassia used an attack against religion in general, the leadership was of the atheists. However, part of the ritual is preserved to the present. Mozdok Circassians today orthodox Christians, and about 7% of Circassians in Russian followers of the adygean religion. Thus, the essence of Circassians faith until the last remained pagan and only formally took a world religions rites as adygean religion is a complete monotheistic religion and a serious competitor to the world’s religions. Therefore, the next topic will be devoted to pagan adygean religion in a large material on it. That’s all. Put likes, write comments, make reposts, and discuss in comments this topic, will take part with you. All the while!