Circassian Day of Mourning Date in the current year: May 21, 2024

Circassian Day of Mourning The Circassian Day of Mourning, also known as Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Caucasian War, is observed on May 21 by the Abkhazo-Adyghean peoples. It honors the memory of thousands of Circassians who were killed or forcefully displaced by the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

The Circassians (or the Adyghe, as they call themselves) are an ethnic group native to Circassia, a region in the North Caucasus. In the early 20th century, Soviet authorities divided them into four subgroups (Kabardians, Cherkess, Adyghe and Shapsug) and created four Circassian autonomous regions within Russia as part of their “divide and conquer” policy, but all four groups are essentially the same people.

In the first half of the 19th century, Circassia saw numerous bloody battles during the Russian invasion of the North Caucasus, known as the Caucasian War. The war was fought between the Russian Empire on one side and the Caucasian Imamate, Circassia and Abkhazian insurgents on the other side.

Due to the fierce resistance of North Caucasians, the Caucasian War lasted for several decades between 1817 and 1864. The eastern part of the North Caucasus surrendered in 1859 with the capture of Imam Shamil of the Caucasian Imamate. The Circassians in the West of North Caucasus, however, resisted for five more years, but were eventually defeated as well.

After the war, hundreds of thousands of Circassians refused to convert to Christianity and were murdered or expelled from their historical homeland to the Ottoman Empire. As a result, many Circassian tribes were completely displaced from the North Caucasus, including the Yegeruqwai, the Zhaney, the Natukhai, the Ubykh, the Hatuqwai, and others. Some of them are now considered extinct. The expulsion of the Circassians is widely referred to as the Circassian genocide, but Russian authorities are reluctant to call it so.

On May 21, 1864, General Pavel Grabbe held a military parade, marking the end of the war. The anniversary of this parade has been observed as the Circassian Day of Mourning every year since 1990. Interestingly, May 21 is an Old Style date. According to the modern Gregorian calendar, the observance should be held on June 2, but the Old Style date was designated a remembrance day instead.

The Circassian Day of Mourning is officially observed in the Russian autonomous republics of Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, where the Circassians make up the bulk of the population. It is marked with solemn rallies, processions, wreath-laying ceremonies, etc. The remembrance day is also observed in Circassian auls of Krasnodar Krai (Russia), Abkhazia, and countries with a significant Circassian diaspora, such as Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Germany, Iraq, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others.

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Circassian Day of Mourning, Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Caucasian War, Circassian genocide, memorial day, remembrance day