Snow-covered tops beyond the clouds, narrow rocky canyons, flowering fertile valleys, ancient burial mounds (kurgans), mysterious caves in which, according to legends, time itself stops running and anyone entering them is rejuvenated... The author tells us about the Republic of Adygeya located in the west of Northern Caucasia where 450 thousand people of more than 80 nationalities live at peace and in chime. They are loyal to the best traditions of elder generations, ethical principles of the etiquette developed for centuries, respect culture and customs of other nations.
This subject of the Russian Federation set up in 1922 at first had the status of an autonomous region as a part of Krasnodar Territory. In 1991, it became Presidential Republic with the supreme organ of legislative power Khasse (State Council). The capital of Adygeya, Maikop, celebrating its 150th-anniversary in 2007, is located at the foot of the western spurs of the Main Caucasus Mountain Range on the right bank of the Belaya river, tributary of Kuban. The name of the town is translated from the Adygei language as an "apple-tree branch" or a "settlement at the river mouth running in the valley of apple trees". It was founded as a Cossack fortress and, according to another version, got its name from the phrase "dug in May" (by the time of laying the fort).
Our territory is rich in fine legends, passed on from generation to generation. One of them is associated with the Belaya river. After the raid on Georgia, the Adygei prince Dakho took prisoner beautiful Bella having destroyed her family. The girl did not want to marry him and dreamt only of taking revenge for her relatives' death. Having managed to get a dagger by cunning, she went to the prince's apartment and said that she agreed to become his wife. In a fit of joy Dakho embraced the beautiful woman, but she snatched the dagger out of the folds of her dress and stabbed him into his heart. Then she jumped on the horse standing at the porch and rushed away. However, the pursuers caught the fugitive at the steep bank, and she together with the horse plunged into the stormy water. Since then the river has been called Bella or Belaya.
Here time has preserved unique monuments of the Early Bronze Age (4th-3rd mill. B. C.) belonging to Maikop culture, which was then disseminated from the Kuban river to Chechnya. The best known is a huge burial mound of about 11 m high, dug up in 1897 at the eastern outskirts of our capital by the archaeologist Orientalist Nikolai Veselovsky (corresponding member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1914), which gave the name to our capital. In terms of the number and originality of found evidence of the past, this burial ground has no equal in Northern Caucasia: great many jewelry was found on the buried and nearby-instruments of labor, arms, pottery, hardware, including the ones made of gold and silver. Two silver vessels with the pictures of a bear, lion, horse and other animals are particularly notable.
It is worth mentioning that there are many burial mounds in the Republic. Moreover, 120 out of them date back to the 3rd mill. B. C., i.e. relate to the most ancient ones on the Earth. A local legend narrates about the origin of these handmade hills. Where Maikop is spread out today, there was a thick forest, and at its edge on the bank of the Belaya river, in a fine castle there lived brothers Oshad, Arym, Chenchaushkho, Kolyasizh, Chemdezh and their beautiful sister Susao. Dzhigit Kozheub by consent of the girl took her to his aul on the bank of the Laba river (ancient tradition of many Caucasian nations). The brothers rushed after them. But the kidnapper was strong, quick and a good shot: his arrows pierced the four of them, one after another. And only Chemdezh managed to overcome him, though, he himself mortally injured fell on the earth... Inhabitants of auls filled burial mounds at the place of death of all five giving them the names of Oshad, Arym, Chenchaushkho, Kolyasizh, Chemdezh; while Kozheub's tomb remained nameless.
Dolmens are a little bit closer to us than burial mounds in terms of time. Dolmens are chamber funeral structures in the form of a stone box covered with a flat plate (late
3rd-mid-2nd mill. B. C.).* Historians refer their appearance to migration of the Mediterranean tribes (from Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia Island) or borrowing from without of a form of burial mound as a religious symbol. They put ceramic, stone and metal articles belonging to the deceased together with him. In the 1960s - 1970s, studying these materials, scientists of our country singled out the so-called dolmen archaeological culture.
Many monuments of the remote past were found in Krasnogvardeisky district of Adygeya. Thus, in 1981, in the burial mound near Ulyap aul the Scythian bronze boiler of the 6th - 5th centuries B. C. was found. The most notable discovery was a silver bowl of the same time in the form of the winged horse Pegasus with the gilded ornament, pictures and description of which were spread all over the planet. Many other treasures of Adygeya relating to the specified era, namely, swords from Urartu, glass beads from Phoenicia**, became known all over the world. Now the exposition made out of them is in the State Museum of Arts of the Peoples of East in Moscow.
The Adygs form the main part of the Republic's population. They are the tribes kindred by origin inhabiting these places from time immemorial (Adygeis, Kabardinians, Circassians) and speaking the languages of the Abkhazian and Adyg group of Northern Caucasian family. In the opinion of a majority of scientists, they are descendants of the Meots***, whose culture was formed by the 8th - early
* See: A. Dmitriev, "Stone Giants", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2000. - Ed.
** Urartu is a state of the 9th - 6th centuries B. C. in the territory of Armenian highlands; Phoenicia is the ancient country in the eastern coast of the Mediterranean; in the 6th century B. C. it was conquered by Persians; in 332 B. C. -by Alexander the Great. - Ed.
*** See: Ye. Beglova, "The Meots: Pages of History", Science in Russia, No. 4. 1999. - Ed.
7th century B. C. At the beginning of the 1st millennium B. C. their forefathers became proficient in extraction and processing of iron. They learned to make instruments of labour out of it, including ploughs and sickles, which allowed them to develop new areas under crop. Cattle breeding was also a very important branch of economy: they were breeding horned and small cattle, pigs and horses. By the way, this place is a home of the well-known Adyg fast horse without which the life of a mountain-dweller-warrior was inconceivable. Different trades developed gradually: blacksmiths perfected themselves in hammering of arms, armor, elements of caparison; jewelers - in the skill of creating gold and silver articles; potters-of dishware on potter's wheel; weaving business was widely spreading. As before, they were engaged in fishing and hunting, which is confirmed by archaeologists' discoveries of that period - bronze figurines of deer, bear, boar, mountain goat, birds.
The economy of local population was natural, so economic relations were of trade and exchange nature. Merchant caravans headed for Transcaucasia, Front Asia and Asia Minor, the Middle East, Eastern Europe. From the mid-6th century B. C. the union of local tribes - Zikhiya - entered into close cooperation with the Bosporus state*. The Adygs sold grain (mostly wheat), livestock products, fish, bronze and leather articles, while
* See: A. Malyshev, "In the Southeast Bounds of Bosporus", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1999. - Ed.
they bought painted ceramics, jewelry, olive oil, wine, arms, spices, and Chinese bronze mirrors, Byzantine luxurious fabric, expensive dishware, items of Christian cult, Iranian shirts of mail and helmets, glass vessels, etc., brought by roads connecting their country with the Great Silky Way.
However, in the 4th - 9th centuries economic development of Zikhiya was hindered by invasions of Byzantine conquerors, Bulgars, Avars, Khazars; at the end of the 14th century - by the troops of Central Asian commander Timur (Tamerlane), and only heroic struggle against invaders allowed mountain-dwellers to preserve their independence. Moreover, by opening up new areas for plough lands and pastures, they extended their boundaries and by the 15th century occupied the area (at that time it was called Circassia) from the Sea of Azov coast to the Terek and Sundzha river basins. But abundant and generous Caucasia has always attracted foreigners. At the same time on its Black Sea coast there appeared Genoese settlements - fortified trade centers. Foreign merchants started exporting rye, barley, millet, wood, fish, caviar, fur, leather, wine, silver ore. The main export item were slaves - local feudal lords sold tribesmen, for the sake of which they were actively engaged in piracy in the Black Sea attacking trade and transport ships, made raids on neighboring settlements, which kindled intertribal discord, caused damage to the development of productive forces. Children of 6 - 12 years old, young men capable of military service, beautiful girls were in great demand.
The Italians interfered in the internal affairs of Adygs, applied intrigues and bribery, set some princes against the others, tried to spread Catholic religion. The indigenous population responded to this by refusing to pay taxes, by assaults and armed opposition, which became stronger, in particular, in the second half of the 15th century. Meanwhile, the Turks, having conquered Constantinople in 1453 (having put an end to Byzantine), in 1475 captured and destroyed the advanced posts of the Genoese, including those in Northwestern Caucasia.
In the 15th - 17th centuries the mountain-dwellers actively traded with the Crimean khanate and Turkish Osman Empire. As before, they constantly exported "live stock", which enriched the elite of local society and made the process of material and social stratification more profound. The arms made by local craftsmen were also very popular. Circassian swords, knives, arrows, coats of mail were notable for excellent combat characteristics, fine decoration. The art of their manufacture was widely spread among the Adygs: the danger which was permanently on the watch for them made them be always ready for action, and they were fond of, appreciated arms more than gold and silver.
In the 16th century the Turkish sultans and Crimean khans began devastating the lands of natives, taking them prisoner. And the Adygs sent their representatives to Tsar Ivan IV to Moscow (1533 - 1584) requesting him to defend Circassia from foreigners and accept them as a part of Russia. In 1557, the Tsar equipped an embassy headed by Ondriy Shepotev to make sure of their desire and soon
signed a respective decree. However, an integration process was difficult due to social and economic, historical development, and ethnic and political situation in Adygeya which remained the outskirts of the country with a semi-feudal-patriarchal way of life for many decades.
In the 1920s - 1930s the ancient nation acquired a written language, was one of the first among national regions of our country who had done with illiteracy. The advanced network of libraries, recreation centers, museums, theatres, a book publishing house, the press, broadcasting, its own scientific, technical and creative intelligentsia. But in 1941 peaceful economic activity was interrupted by the invasion of Nazi Germany and its allies. Adygeya sent 80,000 people to the front.
After the end of the Great Patriotic War economic, social, educational and cultural life of the Republic began reviving. Now it is an industrial and agrarian region with one of the highest density of population - 57 men per 1 km"- in Russia. The main industries are food, timber, woodworking, machine-building, gas production. According to experts, considerable reserves of different mineral resources are concentrated in local depths, which create preconditions to organize, for example, large production of building materials. More than 30 countries are among economic partners of Adygeya, and it is constantly striving to increase their number.
Great importance is attached in the republic to preservation and development of national culture, revival of traditional trades. We must specially point out the skill of the Adyg women in golden and silver sewing who one of the first became proficient in its secrets on the planet. Back in the 10th century Arab traveler Al-Masudi wrote: "They wear white clothes, Roman brocade, purple, other types of silk fabric interwoven with gold." Also, they trimmed with precious threads quivers for arrows, saddles, tobacco pouches, sacs for bullets, bags for needlework, fans. These works of applied art differ from the ones created by other nations by a surprisingly harmonious, well thought-out
combination of embroidery with laces, cords and other decorative elements, which impart a unique style to the whole article.
Forests occupy about 40 percent of our territory: oak, beech, hornbeam, ash-tree, Caucasian silver fur, pine-tree, poplar, elm, pussy-willow, lime-tree, and at the height of 1,500 - 1,700 m above sea level subalpine and alpine meadows are stretched. In the mountains there live bisons, red deer, Caucasian goats, Northern Caucasian chamois, brown bears, lynxes, hogs, roes; in the steppes one can meet foxes, badgers. Also, there are about 200 species of birds, more than 60 species of mammals.
More than 120 karst caves were explored in plateaus, including Bolshaya Azishskaya cave (635 m long), which is very popular and easy of access. It became possible to enter it due to a hole in the ceiling of a surprisingly beautiful hall created by nature, where a fantastical and magical combination of stalactites and stalagmites have been accumulated. A considerable part of this underground cavity is equipped with passages and is illuminated. Another similar place of note is the most extensive cave in Russia (15 km) near Fisht mountain.
The climate of Adygeya is varied: from warm, humid at foothills to cool in mountains and reasonably continental in flat country. Summer lasts from May to September, and winter 1.5 - 2 months. The considerable part of the Republic's territory (98,000 ha out of 263.5) belongs to the Caucasian biospheric reserve. There are also other zones of similar status in this region, due to which our republic has become the only state formation in the world, where more than one third of total area is occupied by specially protected natural objects.
Thousands of holiday-makers come here annually: local thermal and mineral waters unique by their characteristics are good for treating cardiovascular, nervous systems, locomotor and respiratory systems. Fisht and Oshten massifs are a nice "laboratory" for rock-climbers. The names of legendary fighters are immortalized in their names. According to legends, in the old days the invaders came to the land of Adygs, and the freedom-loving nation decided to fight for freedom to the last warrior. Mighty Fisht was the first who led grey-haired old people to fight. Veterans fought with fortitude under his skilful command; they killed quite a lot of foreigners but the forces were not equal: they all were killed. Then the squad of mature men under the leadership of Oshten fell on the battlefield. Finally, Lago, Fisht's grandson, joined the fight, but he was mortally wounded by the enemy's arrow. His faithful horse brought him to his bride's house, and Naki in military armor, led young dzhigits to fight. The enemies could not stand the last blow and retreated to the sea. And the beautiful plateau is still called Lagonaki. By the way, today it is a wonderful place for all types of tourism and ski mountaineering.
The stele with a stylized picture of palms holding a bowl full of apples, and the inscription "Welcome!" decorates the entry to our capital. Kind, cordial peoples live here. They are always happy to meet guests.
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