A north Caucasian people situated in Karachai-Cherkessia, in the extreme south of European Russia. Closely related to the Abkhaz, the Abaza migrated north of the Caucasus in the 13th century, having converted to Islam. In their new home they became vassals of the local Karachai princes. During the imperial battle for the region between the Russian and Ottoman Empires, Abaza communities were often deported en masse to Russia or Turkey to quell rebellion. By the end of the 19th century many tens of thousands of Abaza had migrated to Turkey, where their religious affiliations were better suited to the prevailing society. The Abaza left in Russia sided with both the Bolsheviks and White Russian forces during the civil war (1918-20), with famed Abaza horses serving as prestigious cavalry. After the war the Abaza lands were divided between the Karachai and Cherkess lands, but were rejoined when the two larger regions were amalgamated in 1957.
Traditional animal husbandry and small-scale farming were forcibly swapped for collectivized agriculture in the 1930s and Abaza culture was heavily slavicized. The Abaz language, originally transcribed using a Latin-based script from 1923, has used the Cyrillic alphabet since a decree from the Soviet authorities in 1938.
A nominally autonomous republic within Georgia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. The Abkhaz defeated Georgian forces in a war of secession between 1992 and 1994 and declared independance, which remains unrecognized. Population: 516,600 (1993 estimate). The general region was first colonized by the ancient Greeks in the 8th century BC and known as Colchis. The descendants of these first colonists are represented today by the Pontic Greeks. The indigenous Caucasian Abkhaz (known to themselves as Apswa) were converted to Christianity in the 6th century AD and became vassals of the Byzantine Empire. A later independent kingdom was absorbed into Georgia until the entire area came under Turkic Ottoman con