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Circassians in syria

The meaning of «circassians in syria»

The Circassians in Syria (Circassian: Сирием ис Адыгэхэр; Arabic: الشركس في سوريا‎) refers to the Circassian diaspora settled in Syria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the 19th century. They moved to Syria after a forced migration to the Ottoman Empire resulting from a Russian invasion in the early 1860s. Most pre-Civil War estimates put the Circassian population at around 100,000.[2][4] They are predominantly Sunni Muslims.[4] While they have become an increasingly assimilated part of Syrian society, they have maintained a distinct identity, having retained their Adyghe language (in addition to Arabic), their tribal heritage and some of their traditional customs. Syria's Circassian population has dwindled with the advent of the civil war that has been ongoing in Syria since 2011.

Many of Syria's ethnic Circassians have left the country and have repatriated or are in the process of repatriation to the titular Circassian parts of European Russia, in particular Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, as well as to partially recognised Republic of Abkhazia.[6][7][8]

In 2018 Professor John Shoup said that the Circassian population in Syria formed about 1% of the country's total population, making them the sixth largest ethnic group in the country.[9]

Circassians began a forced migration from their homeland in the Northwest Caucasus region to the Ottoman Empire following the Russian–Circassian War in 1864. While they originally settled in parts of Anatolia and the Balkans, they began emigrating to the empire's Syrian provinces (the Levant) in large numbers (about 70,000) after the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan War of 1877–78.[10] That group of Circassians was mostly resettled by the Ottoman authorities as part of an effort to counterbalance increasing dissent by the local population in Syria, far from the capital Istanbul, with more loyal subjects of the empire. Many Circassians subsequently concentrated their residence in the Golan Heights and Transjordan regions, both part of the Province of Damascus at the time.[2] At around this time, in the late 1870s, the influx of Circassians traveling through Damascus led to the establishment of a number of villages north of Homs and along the borders of the Syrian Desert, as well as in the area surrounding Damascus city itself, namely Marj al-Sultan and al-Dumayr. Circassians eventually abandoned the latter town.[11]

Nearly all of the Circassian villages founded in Ottoman Syria were located on known conflict fronts, mostly involving the Druze and Bedouin tribes, including the 'Annizah and Al Fadl. Since the Circassians were militarily able to resist the khuwwa ("unofficial 'protection' tax") demanded of the local peasantry by various Bedouin tribes—which came at the detriment of government tax collection—they managed to make agreements to mutually benefit the two factions.[12] Nonetheless, clashes still periodically occurred between the Circassians of the Golan and Ghouta (rural Damascus) regions and the Bedouin. The most severe local conflicts the Circassians engaged in at the time was with the often rebellious Druze, who dominated the area of Mount Hermon in the northern Golan Heights and the Jabal al-Druze region to the east. Historians have asserted that the Ottomans encouraged Circassian settlement in this particular region to serve as a pro-sultanate buffer between the two Druze-inhabited areas.[13] In addition, Circassians generally favored residence in the Golan as compared to the city quarters because the area resembled the Caucasian ancestral lands with its wooded mountains, heavy rainfall and snow.[14]

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