Regions with significant populations
 Israel 4,000
Circassian language
West Adyghe dialect
Shapsug sub-dialect and Hakuchi sub-dialect
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Circassian tribes
Adyghe (Circassian) Knight

The Shapsug (Adyghe: шапсыгъ [ʃaːpsəʁ], Russian: шапсуги, Turkish: Şapsığlar, Arabic: الشابسوغ, Hebrew: שפסוגים), also known as the Shapsugh, are one of the twelve tribes of the Circassian people. In Russia, the remaining Shapsug population mainly live in the Tuapsinsky District (Tuapse) of Krasnodar Krai, Lazarevsky City District of Sochi, and in the Republic of Adygea, which were a small part of historical Circassia. However, the major Shapsug communities are found in Turkey, Israel (Kfar Kama), Jordan (Amman, Naour, Marj Al-hamam, Wadi Al Seer), Iraq, Syria, Western Europe, and the United States of America. The first Circassians to settle in Amman were from the Shapsug tribe, and as a result the Shapsug's neighbourhood is considered the oldest neighbourhood in the Capital Amman and was the down town of it;[3] however, other Circassians from the Kabardian, Abadzekh, and Bzhedug tribes also settled in Amman afterwards.

The Shapsug speak a sub-dialect of the Adyghe language.[4] According to some indirect data, there were over four thousand Shapsug in Russia in 1926, but the Shapsug people were not enumerated as a separate group in Russian Censuses until 2002, when the population was recorded at 3,231. The Shapsug who live in the Adyghe Republic (mainly in District of Takhtamukaysky and District of Teuchezksky) were enumerated as an Adyghe in general instead of Shapsug in particular, as they are an Adyghe (Circassian) tribe, rather than a separate ethnic group.

In District of Takhtamukaysky a reservoir which was built in 1952 was named after the Shapsug tribe (Russian: Шапсугское водохранилище) since the area was inhabited by this tribe for thousands of years and was considered to be part of historical Shapsugia, a region in historical Circassia. Since the early 19th century, the Shapsug are primarily Sunni Muslims (Hanafi).[5]

Historically, the Shapsug tribe used to make up one of the biggest groups of the Black Sea Adyghe (Причерноморские адыги). They inhabited the region between the Dzhubga (in Adyghe: Жьыбгъэ means "Winds" or "The Valley of Winds") River and Shakhe Rivers (the so-called Maly Shapsug, or Little Shapsug) and high-altitude mountainous areas of the northern slopes of the Caucasus Range along the Antkhir, Abin, Afips, Bakan, Ships, and other rivers (Bolshoy Shapsug, or Greater Shapsug).

Today, the Shapsug are the third most crowded Circassian tribe in the world, after the most crowded Kabardian and second most crowded Abzakh tribes. The Shapsug are the most crowded Circassian tribe in Israel, third most crowded in Turkey where the majority of them live, and the fifth most crowded one in Russia. In Jordan, after the Abzakh, the Shapsug and Kabardian tribes are the most crowded Adyghe tribes.


Approximate location of Circassian tribes, Tsutsiev's Atlas
An Adyghe strike on a Russian Military Fort which built over a Shapsugian village that aim to free the Circassian Coast from the occupiers in 1840 during the Circassians Resistance.

The Shapsug were a very large tribe that occupied extensive territories of Black Sea coast and Kuban River. Different sources note that before the Caucasian war the number of Shapsug people was ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 people. The Shapsug had divisions of Big and Small Shapsug land, the latter being very close to the Natukhai tribe's land. The Shapsug took very active part in the Caucasian war. They had a reputation of invincible people and were one of the last to lay down their weapons under the pressure of tsarist troops in 1864. Some of Shapsug troops fought up to 1880s. After the end of the war the overwhelming majority of the Shapsug were forcefully evicted to Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East. No more than 6,000 Shapsug people remained on their native land. Nowadays, they live on the territory of Krasnodarsky Krai and make about 20 villages. From 1924 to 1945, there was a Shapsug National District which was abolished during the time of repressions.

Historically the Shapsug controlled the ports of Dzhubga (Adyghe: Жьыбгъэ) and Tuapse to mountain Gorges, and they consisted of 5 aristocratic families and 81 (Adyghe: Фэкъул1) free clans, and were classified as one of the tree democratic Adyghe tribes,[6][7] and were known to have supported the other Adyghe tribes in their struggle against the Crimean Khanate. During the Caucasian War, they were one of the most stubborn enemies of Imperial Russia, joining Shamil's alliance (which would last until 1859). In late 1860, a council was assembled by the representatives of three Adyghe tribes (Shapsug, Ubykh, and Natukhai). The council considered (Adyghe: Шъачэ) Sochi to be the last capital of the Circassian resistance. In 1864, a major part of the Shapsug and other Adyghe tribes moved to the Ottoman Empire due to the Russian army occupation of the region (Circassia),[8] as a result of the tsars' regular policy to cleanse the Circassian coast from Circassians (mainly physically then by expelling the remaining population to the Ottoman Empire.[9] After the end of the Caucasian War (during the period of 1864-1870) a major part of the Shapsug, who lived on the territory of Shapsugia, were either killed in the Circassian Genocide or expelled to the Ottoman Empire (see Muhajir). Some 3,000 Shapsug remained on the Circassian coast.[10]

The Shapsug as an Adyghe tribe always appreciate and honor their immortals (heroes and fighters) who sacrifice their selves to keep Circassia independent in the battles and war with the Russian Empire during the Circassians resistance; by elegies such as the Elegy of the Shapsugs (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэ л1ыхъужъхэм ягъыбз)[11]

Shapsugsky National District

On 6 September 1924, the Bolsheviks established the Shapsug National Raion (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэ Националнэ Район Šapsyġe Nacionalne Rajon, Russian: Шапсугский национальный район Šapsugskij nacional′nyj rajon) as a part of the Black Sea Okrug. The district contained around 3,400 Shapsug people, and the center of the district was the coastal city of Tuapse. In the beginning of 1925, it was divided into 4 village councils: Karpovsky, Kichmai, Krasno-Aleksandrovsky, and Pseushkho. After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Shapsug National Raion was renamed Lazarevsky District.

In 1990, the first congress of the Shapsug tribe took place, where they would adopt a declaration on the reinstatement of the Shapsug National Raion. On 12 June 1992, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation passed a resolution on the establishment of the Shapsug National Raion.


The traditional Shapsug culture had much in common with other Circassian tribes. The Shapsug were engaged in agriculture, cattle- and horse breeding, gardening, viticulture, and bee keeping. In pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times, the Shapsug worshiped the Circassian gods – Shible (god of thunder and lightning), Sozeresh (Adyghe: Созереш) (god of fertility), Yemish or Yemij (god of war), Akhin and Khakustash (protectors of cattle breeding), Tlepsh (god of blacksmithing), Keshkogwasha (Adyghe: Хышхогуащэ) (god of the black sea), etc. The Shapsug used to perform the Hantse Guashe (Adyghe: Хьэнцэ гуащэ) ceremony of rain calling during droughts by carrying a dressed doll through the aul and then drowning it in the river, and never getting it out before raining.[12]


The Shapsug (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэбзэ) is one of the mutually intelligible sub-dialects of the Adyghe language's West Adyghe dialect.[13] There were two major varieties of Shapsug before the exile of the Circassians. Since the Shapsug scattered around the world, each Shapsug community developed a different form of speech.

Some Shapsug families

Circassian Transcription Circassian Transcription Circassian Transcription Circassian Transcription Circassian Transcription Circassian Transcription
Натхъомэ ялIакъохэрNatkhoma YalhakhokharНэтIахъомэ ялIакъохэрNatkhoma YalhakhokharКоблы ялIакъохэрKobl YalhakhokharШъхьаптэхэ ялIакъохэрShhaptakha YalhakhokharГъуагъо-Шъэотэхмэ ялIакъохэрGhorha-shawatkhma YalhakhokharГуаемэ ялIакъохэрGuayama Yalhakhokhar
АкьэжъAchazhАбир (Абыр)AbirАчъумыжъAchmuzhАбрэгьAbregБжьашIоBzhashoБжыхьалIBzhihalh
МэфэудMafawudХьурымHurimПсэукъоPsoqoУшъыйWshiyСабын (Сабыныкъу)Sabeniqu)
ХьатхHatkhХьамтIыжъ (ХьамтIэ)Hamtizh
чемсо Chemso ШъэIужъуShauzhu

Some of the Shapsug families in Jordan

The Shapsug's neighbourhood in Amman, Jordan

Shapsug families in Kfar Kama, Israel

The Shapsug's village Kfar Kama, Israel

In the past there was also Shhalakhwa (Adyghe: Шхьэлахъо).

Notable people

See also


  1. Russian Federation Federal State Statistics Service (FSSS) (2010). "Всероссийская перепись 2010, Материалы. Табл. 7. Национальный состав населения по субъектам Российской Федерации" [All-Russian Census 2010, Materials. Table 7. National Composition of the Populations on the Subjects of the Russian Federation] (Press release) (in Russian). Moscow.
  2. Официальный сайт Всероссийской переписи населения 2010 года. Информационные материалы об окончательных итогах Всероссийской переписи населения 2010 года (Russian)
  3. Official Website of Amman
  4. Shapsug Sub-Dialect (French Language)
  5. via New York Times
  6. Walter Richmond , The Northwest Caucasus: Past, Present, Future, p. 22, Central Asian Studies Series, 2008 ISBN 978-0-415-77615-8
  7. Walter Richmond, "The Northwest Caucasus: Past Present, Future", Arabic Translation by Jameel Ishaqat, p. 46, Circassians Studies Centre, Amman, Jordan, 2010
  8. via the Voice of Russia
  9. Peter Hopkirk The great game: On Secret Service in High Asia, Chapter 12 "The Greatest Fortress in the World", pp 158–159, Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-19-280232-1
  10. by Russia Today (English)
  11. "Адыгэ 1оры1уатэм ухэзгъэгъозэн тхылъ", Ехъул1э Ат1ыф, Нахэ (176), гощын (2), Адыгэ ш1уш1э Хасэ, Йордания, 2009. (Circassian language)
  12. "Адыгэ 1оры1уатэм ухэзгъэгъозэн тхылъ", Ехъул1э Ат1ыф, Нахэ (91), гощын (2), Адыгэ ш1уш1э Хасэ, Йордания, 2009 (Circassian Language)
  13. Shapsug sub-dialect (French)
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