The Abazians are a Caucasic-speaking people, who live for the most part in the northwestern Caucasus region of southwestern Russia. The majority inhabit the foothills along the Big and Little Zelenchuk, Kuban, and Kuma Rivers in the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic, but some have settled in neighboring regions as well. Their language is classified as part of the North-West (Abkhazo-Adygheian) branch of North Caucasic and closely related to the language of the Abkhazians (Abkhaz; Absua), most of whom live to the south in the Asian nation of Georgia. Abazin, as the language is known, is divided into two dialects corresponding to two kinship communities, Tapanta and Shkaraua.
Like the Abkhazians the Abazians are descended from proto-Abkhaz tribes, who, possibly as early as the second millennium B. C.E., inhabited lands near the Black Sea. By the ninth century C. E. they had separated into the two distinct tribes, Tapanta and Shkaraua. In the 13th century the Tapanta moved southward to the northern Caucasus, followed by the Shkaraua the next century, although some of the Shkaraua were assimilated by Abkhazians and other Caucasians known as CIRCASSIANS. The Abazians reached their peak of power in the 15th and 16th centuries but were subject to the Kabardians, a subgroup of the Circassians in the 17th century In the 18th and 19th centuries the Russian Slavs and Turks competed for the region, and many Abazians were relocated to Russia and Turkey. Many Slavs settled in their homeland. The traditional Abazian way of life, raising livestock (sheep, cattle, and horses, the latter for which they were renowned) in the highlands and cultivating the lowlands (originally millet, then maize), was disrupted.
In the 20th century the Abazians came under further pressure. During the civil war that followed the Soviet rise to power, Abazians fought for both the Red Guards and the White Guards. During the existence of the Soviet union (uSSR), the Abazians faced further deportations, collectivization, and the suppression of traditional customs and their Islamic religion.
See also Russians: nationality.