It has been 158 years since the Russian Empire deported the Circassians from the strategically critical Caucasus area.
The Russians started war on the Caucasus in 1556 in order to take the northern Caucasus as part of their ambition of controlling the Black Sea coasts. The battle lasted 308 years.
Russian soldiers moved deep into the mountainous regions, forcing the Circassians who surrendered to migrate or join the Russian military.
After the Russian Empire Caucasia invaded Caucasia, a territory reaching east from the eastern Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, the majority of the Circassians were exiled to other regions of the globe, particularly Ottoman territories, from 1864 onwards.
According to the unofficial figures, about 1.5 million were banished within a mere month; the epidemics as well as hunger and severe road conditions led to the deaths of 500,000 of them.
Many of the exiled were put on ships from the ports of the Black Sea, including Anapa, Novorossiysk, Sochi and Adler and were resettled in Anatolian cities in modern-day Turkiye such as Ordu, Samsun, Tokat, Amasya, Sinop, Yozgat, Duzce and Adapazari.
Others were taken to the Middle East, especially the Syrian and Palestinian regions. The exiled Circassians transformed into local communities.
As for the Circassians who were not sent to the Ottoman Empire’s regions, they were settled in villages in the central part of the rivers of Laba and Kuban.
The exile of the Circassian people is viewed as a planned operation implemented by the Russians and their forced migration is remembered as one of the “most tragic” incidents in history as many perished even before making it to the Ottoman Empire.
The Circassians, a predominantly Muslim people, suffered greatly under the Russians and were subjected to ethnic cleansing.
In a plight similar to Crimean Tatars, nearly 1.5 million Circassians were expelled from the region to the east of the Black Sea when it was overrun by Russia in 1864. Some 400,000-500,000 are believed to have died.
Most Circassian exiles were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, settling as far away as present-day Jordan.