Circassians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Displacement led to the amalgamation of the different groups with one another while, at the same time, separating families and descent groups. Emigration led to the breaking up of old authority relationships and the creation of new ones. Traditionally, Circassian society was ranked into nobles, warriors, free peasants, and bondsmen—each status maintaining strict endogamy. Emigration disrupted this stratification, and land distribution tended to equalize the communities until new, class-based stratification and rural-urban differences emerged; however, the older status ranking is sometimes still a consideration in deciding on acceptable marriage partners.

Political Organization. The Circassian communities are encapsulated in different formal political systems that range from parliamentary democracies (Turkey and Israel), to one-party regimes (Syria), to constitutional monarchies (Jordan). Other than in Jordan, Circassians do not have a special quota of elected representatives in government. Informal politics of ethnicity and state policies toward minorities govern the political trends and types of participation in the communities. The ethnic associations are the primary arena for organizing the communities; elections may be hotly contested. For example, during the Abkhazian-Georgian war, aid for Abkhazia was collected by such associations. Links with the Caucasus are generally established via these associations.

Social Control. Avoidance relationships diffuse potential conflict, and control is reinforced by the strict discipline imposed through deference to the authority of elders. The latter, however, complain that the younger generation, being ignorant of customs and tradition, no longer respect them sufficiently.

Conflict. Disputes that do not involve civil law tend to be solved through negotiation and consensus by local-level leaders within the community, but intraethnic conflict sometimes involves complicated processes. In Jordan, Arab tribal law, in which not all Circassians are well versed, continues to play an important role in conflict resolution. To this end, a group of Circassian leaders in Jordan established a "Tribal Council" in 1981 to help Circassian individuals and to mediate on their behalf.


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