Circassians - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Circassians traditionally practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They grew a variety of grains (millet, maize, wheat, rye), fruit, vegetables, and nuts. They raised chickens, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and especially horses. Many families were known for their horse breeds, and skill in horsemanship was highly valued. They also practiced apiculture, producing honey and mead. In the highlands, hunting also supplemented the food supplies. The traditional diet consisted of bread, pilaflike dishes, milk and cheeses, thick gruels made of various grains, vegetable and fruit dishes, and the occasional meat dish in a spicy nut sauce.

Industrial Arts. Home industries—metalworking, the creation of leather goods, and the production of cloth and clothing—were also pursued. As a group Circassians show considerable dexterity and geometric sense, and some immigrants are surgeons or precision machinists.

Trade. The two tribes of the Black Sea coast, the Natukhay and Shapsegh, appear to have engaged in trade. It is not clear whether this was also the case with the Ubykhs, who also lived along the coast. In this honor-oriented culture, money and material possessions were and still are treated with disdain, and trade was not as extensive as raiding.

Division of Labor. Men tended to metal-and leatherworking and even some sewing. Women tended to household chores, the vegetable garden, spinning, and weaving. Men occupied themselves with animal husbandry, especially that of horses, but both genders helped in planting and harvesting. The men hunted.

Land Tenure. In the Soviet Union there was no private property. Now land is being slowly turned over to private ownership. Earlier, land was passed down from father to son, with several sons often dividing a large holding. Sometimes sons would move off with their families to establish homesteads elsewhere. With a history of nearly constant warfare, Circassians seem never to have had a problem with overcrowding.

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