Total population
c. 807,882
Regions with significant populations
 Turkey800,000 (approximation)
 Russia 3,882[2]
Circassian language
(West Adyghe dialect)
(Shapsug sub-dialect, Hakuchi sub-dialect), Russian, Turkish, Hebrew and Arabic
Predominantly: Sunni Islam[3]
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 or Shapsogh) are one of the twelve major Circassian tribes.[4] Historically, the Shapsug tribe comprised one of the largest 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 the 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). 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 (mainly in District of Takhtamukaysky and District of Teuchezksky), which were a small part of historical Circassia.

However, today the major Shapsug communities are found in Turkey, Israel (Kfar Kama), Jordan (Amman, Na'our, Marj Al-Hamam, Wadi Al-Seer), Lebanon (Tripoli, Berkayel-Akkar), 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;[5] however, other Circassians from the Kabardian, Abadzekh, and Bzhedug tribes also settled in Amman afterwards. Today, the Shapsug are the third-most numerous Circassian tribe in the world, after the most numerous Kabardian and second-most numerous Abzakh tribes. The Shapsug are the most numerous Circassian tribe in Israel, third-most numerous in Turkey where the majority of them live, and the fifth-most numerous one in Russia. In Jordan, after the Abzakh, the Shapsug and Kabardian tribes are the most numerous Adyghe tribes.

The Shapsug speak a sub-dialect of the Adyghe language.[6] 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 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.


Shapsugs is located in Krasnodar Krai
Approximate location of Circassian tribes, Tsutsiev's Atlas
An Adyghe strike on a Russian military fort built over a Shapsugian village. The Adyghe were attempting to free the Circassian Coast from Russian occupation in 1840 during the Circassian Resistance.

The Shapsug were a very large tribe that occupied extensive territories of the Black Sea coast and the Kuban River. Different sources note that, prior to the Russo-Caucasian War, the number of Shapsug people was between 150,000 and 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 an active role in the Caucasian war. They had a reputation of invincibility and were one of the last to lay down their weapons under the pressure of tsarist troops in 1864. Some Shapsug troops fought until the 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. Presently, these Shapshug live in the territory of Krasnodarsky Krai and make up about 20 villages. From 1924 to 1945, there was a Shapsug National District, which was abolished during the time of repressions[which?].[citation needed]

Historically the Shapsug controlled the ports of Dzhubga (Adyghe: Жьыбгъэ) and Tuapse to the mountain gorges, and consisted of 5 aristocratic families and 81 (Adyghe: Фэкъул1) free clans. They were classified as one of the three democratic Adyghe tribes.[7][8] The Shapsug 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 Circassia,[9] as a result of the tsars' regular policy to cleanse the Circassian coast of Circassian people (mainly physically;[further explanation needed] later by expelling the remaining population to the Ottoman Empire.[10] Some 3,000 Shapsug remained on the Circassian coast.[citation needed]

The Shapsug, as an Adyghe tribe, have always appreciated and honored their "immortals" (heroes and fighters) who sacrificed their lives to keep Circassia independent in the battles and war with the Russian Empire during the Circassian 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.[clarification needed]


The traditional Shapsug culture had much in common with other Circassian tribes. The Shapsug were engaged in agriculture, cattle and horse breeding, horticulture, viticulture, and beekeeping. 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 rain had arrived.[12]

Since the early 19th century, the Shapsug are primarily Sunni Muslims (Hanafi).[13]


Main article: Shapsug Adyghe dialect

The Shapsug (Adyghe: Шапсыгъэбзэ) is one of the mutually intelligible sub-dialects of the Adyghe language's West Adyghe dialect.[14] 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 ялIакъохэр Natkhoma Yalhakhokhar НэтIахъомэ ялIакъохэр Natkhoma Yalhakhokhar Коблы ялIакъохэр Kobl Yalhakhokhar Шъхьаптэхэ ялIакъохэр Shhaptakha Yalhakhokhar Гъуагъо-Шъэотэхмэ ялIакъохэр Ghorha-shawatkhma Yalhakhokhar Гуаемэ ялIакъохэр Guayama Yalhakhokhar
Акьэжъ Achazh Абир (Абыр) Abir Ачумыжъ Achmuzh Абрэгь Abreg БжьашIо Bzhasho БжыхьалI Bzhihalh
Ачокъу Achoqw Алащэ Alasha Бастэ Basta Егъум Yagum Борэкъо Boraqo Гунай Gunai
Багьэ Baga Бэус Baws Батэ Bata Нэгъучу Naghuchu Гусэр Gusar Дачэ Dacha
Бзыщ Bzish Гъурыжъ Ghurezh Бгъанэ Bghana ОгъулI Waghulh Джадэ Jada ЕкIуашъ Yaquash
Быркьэ Berqa Дыжьы Dizh Джарым Jarem Пцашэ Ptsasha Иныхъу Yinikho КIэсэбэжъ Chasabazh
БэгъэгушIу Baghagush’u Дэджэраджэ Dajaraja Дэбэхьу Dabahu Тыркуао Tirquawa Къанщэжь Qanshazh Къэрэджан Qarajam
Джарым Jarem Ешъуталъэ Yashutalha Дэгуф Daguf Хъуд Khud Къуаджэ Quaja ЛIыхъужъ Lhekhuzh
Емызагъ Yamezagh КIакIыхъу Chachekhu ЛIыф Lhif ХыдзэлI Khidzalh ЛIыхъужъыкъу Lhekhuzhequ Лъэцэрыкъу Lhatsariqu
Ергъужъ Yarghuzh МэзакIу Mazaku ЛIыхъужъ Lhekhuzh Хьагъур Zhaghur Лъэпшъыкъу Lhapshiqu Мэджаджэкъу Majajaqu
КIуф K’uf Пэхъу Pakhu Наго Nago Хьахъу Hakhu Мышъэ Misha Мэмэт Mamat
Кьэхъу Qakhw Тхыжъ Tkhizh Нащэ Nasha Хьэлъакъу Halhaqu Мэт Met Мэт Met
ЛIыкьас L’hikas Хьазыкъу Haziqu Нэгъужъ Naghuzh Шъау Shaw ПсэкIэкI Psachach Нэукъ Nawq
Мэлыщ Malish Хьахъуратэ Hakhurata Нэпсэу Napso Шъхьэлахъо Shhalakho Тым Tim ПщыукI Pshiwch
Мэфэуд Mafawud Хьурым Hurim Псэукъо Psoqo Ушъый Wshiy Сабын (Сабыныкъу) Sabeniqu)
Натхъо Natkho ШIужъэкъу Shuzhaqu Пэкожъ Pakozh Хъун Khun ТхьалI Thalh
НэмылIэкъу Namilhaqu Шъуагьэ Shuaga РатIэкъу Rataqu Хьатыщ Hatish Хьагъун Haghun
Отэхь Watah Шъхьабэ Shhaba (originally Ubykh) ТIэшъу Tashu Чушъхьэ Choshha ХьамтIэхъу Hamtakhu
Сэхъут Sakhut ШъхьакIумыдэ Shhakumida Тамухъ Tamukh ШIуцIэ Shutsa
Тхьэкъуахъо Thaqwakho Тхьакъуахъо Thaquakho Шъэгьашъ Shagash
Тыкъо Tiqo Тыу Tiw Шъэотэхьу Shawatahu
Тыу Tiw Хъупщ Khupsh Шыу Shiw
Хьапый Hapiy ХъутIыжъ Khutezh ШэкIолI Shakolh
Хьатх Hatkh ХьамтIыжъ (ХьамтIэ) Hamtizh
Хьатыу Hatuw Хьантыу Hantuw
Шыумыжъ Shiwmizh Хьаратэ Harata
ШэхэлI Shakhal’ Хьэтаужъ Hatawzh
чемсо Chemso ШъэIужъу Shauzhu
Шъэумэн Shawman
ШэрэлI Sharalh
Шэугьэн Shogan

Some of the Shapsug families in Jordan

The Shapsug neighbourhood in Amman, Jordan

which changed in Jordan to Hakouz (Adyghe: Хэкужъ after their 15th great-grandfather Хэкужъ born in 1337 in Tuapse, and this family considered the biggest Shapsug family in Jordan.

Shapsug families in Kfar Kama, Israel

The Shapsug village Kfar Kama, Israel

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

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 Archived 2014-03-22 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  3. ^ "Refworld | Shapsugs Increasingly Important Players in Circassian Struggle with Moscow".
  4. ^ "Circassians". 2010. Archived from the original on August 20, 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2016. The 12 Circassian tribes: Abadzeh Besleney Bzhedug Yegeruqay Zhaney Kabarday Mamheg Natuhay Temirgoy Ubyh Shapsug Hatukay. The twelve stars on the Adyghe Flag also refers to the twelve tribes.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-10-02. Retrieved 2015-09-22.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Official Website of Amman
  6. ^ "Corpus chapsough". Archived from the original on 2010-12-28. Retrieved 2010-10-26. Shapsug Sub-Dialect (French Language)
  7. ^ Walter Richmond [1], The Northwest Caucasus: Past, Present, Future, p. 22, Central Asian Studies Series, 2008 ISBN 978-0-415-77615-8
  8. ^ Walter Richmond, "The Northwest Caucasus: Past Present, Future", Arabic Translation by Jameel Ishaqat, p. 46, Circassians Studies Centre, Amman, Jordan, 2010
  9. ^ Archived 2012-03-18 at the Wayback Machine via the Voice of Russia
  10. ^ 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
  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. ^ "The Last Defenders of the Prophet". New York Times. 21 June 1877.
  14. ^ Shapsug sub-dialect Archived 2010-12-28 at the Wayback Machine (in French)