Abazins are an ethnic group related to the Abkhazians, belonging to the northwestern group of the Iberian-Caucasian family of peoples. They live in the North Caucasus, in the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia (population: 469,865; 2021). Many issues, such as the initial homeland and early history of the Abazins, are not totally certain. Some researchers consider the Abasgoi to be the common ancestors of the Abkhazians and the Abazins, however, the term Abasgoi had more of a political meaning than an ethnic one at that time. In ancient Georgian sources, the term Jiqi was used to refer to Abazins and Ubykh people (see Jiqi people). It is likely that in the 5th–15th centuries the Abazins already lived on the northern slopes of the Caucasus range, as well as in the coastal sector of Adler-Kerch (E. Alekseeva). Records and maps of European, Turkish and Russian authors confirm the settlements of Abazins in this area in the 13th–19th centuries. From the early Middle Ages, the Abazins had a habitual way of life with the neighboring Caucasian ethnic groups: they did not have permanent settlements, each tribe continuously migrated within a defined territory, instead of intensive farming, they preferred nomadic herding, they built only temporary wicker residential and agricultural structures. They did not fish, did not use the sea for transportation, but pursued piracy in order to obtain booty and captives. There are many reports about the way of life and permanent migrations of the Abazins in both foreign and Georgian sources (Juansher, Vakhushti of Kartli).

Abazins are currently divided into two ethnic groups — Ashkarua (in Abaza language Shkharua means highlander) and Tapanta (in Ossetian-Iranian Tapanta means lowlands, valley). Their names, along with other data, indicate that the Tapanta arrived in the valley earlier than the Ashkaruas (17th–18th centuries). According to foreign authors, the Abazins living in the coastal sector of Adler-Kerch in the late Middle Ages finally merged with the Western-Circassian tribes by the 19th century and played a major role in the ethnogenesis of the Shapsugs, Abzakhs (in Circassian Abzakh means lower Abaza) and Natukhajs. The majority of the Abazins, who had just settled in, were forced by the authorities of the Russian Empire to leave their homeland as muhajirs to the Ottoman Empire (see Muhajir culture). In the Ottoman Empire, a large part of Muhajir Abazins merged with Turks, Arabs, Muhajir Abkhazians and Circassians. Currently, Abazins live in small numbers in Turkey, Syria and Jordan. The devout Abazins are Sunni Muslims. The spread of Islam began intensively in the 17th–18th centuries. Christianity must have spread among the Abazins from the Greek colonies. During the Golden Age of Georgia the leading role was played by the Georgian Church, which is confirmed by the existence of Georgian Christian terms in the Abaza language. Around the 16th century Christianity weakened among the Abazins and paganism began to take root again, which is reflected in the reports of foreign and Georgian authors.

Literature: ჯანაში ა. ს., შრომები, ტ. 4, თბ., 1968; Адыги, балкарцы и карачаевцы в известиях европейских авторов XIII–XIX в. в., Нальчик, 1974.

T. Gvantseladze