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Between Christianity and Islam: Heathen Heritage in the Caucasus, by Viacheslav Chirikba

  • Culture
Religion in Abkhazia and the Caucasus

Viacheslav A. Chirikba
Leiden University

BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM: HEATHEN HERITAGE IN THE CAUCASUS. Studies on Iran and The Caucasus. In Honour of Garnik Asatrian. Edited by Uwe Bläsing, Victoria Arakelova and Matthias Weinreich. Brill Academic Pub, 2015, p. 145-191.

Abstract
The paper presents a brief survey of the traditional religious practices as still, or until recent times, observed in the Caucasus. I postulate the possibility of a pan-Caucasian “mythological union” formed over centuries between all the Caucasian communities, and discuss in some detail a local “mythological union” on the example of the lightning ritual Čoppa. Although the pre-monotheistic heritage, partially intertwining with the official religions, still constitutes an intimate part of the identity of some Caucasians communities, it is slowly fading in the shadow of the mainstream religions—Christianity and Islam, which have become a strong unifying factor in the post-Soviet period.

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An Amazonian Custom in the Caucasus, by John Abercromby

  • Culture
 Karina Mezova

Folklore, Vol. 2, No. 2. (Jun., 1891), pp. 171-181.

One of the best known legends of classical authors relates to a fabled nation of warlike women, deprived of the use of one breast by a process of cauterisation and known as Amazons. According to a well authenticated custom, still current among the Cherkes or Adighé, the Abkhas, and to some extent among the Osets,[1] the growth of both breasts during maidenhood is artificially repressed by means of a leather corset. The object of this paper is to offer an explanation for the origin of the modern custom, and to show reason for believing it to be lineally descended from an older one anterior to the time of Herodotus, and having, therefore, a possible ancestry of twenty-five centuries.

In Asia, which at that period was separated from Europe by the river Don, the ancient Greeks knew of Amazons in two localities: on the banks of the Thermodon near Sinope, and on the isthmus north of the great chain of the Caucasus. It is probable they first became acquainted with those that lay nearest them, and accounted for those they heard of afterwards in the neighbourhood of the Caucasus by an imaginary migration, such as Herodotus relates. Some of the reports that may have been true of the Amazons of the Thermodon were very likely transferred without sufficient ground to the Amazons of the Caucasus. Whether there existed any nearer connection between the two groups than that both performed some operation upon the right breast, and had some customs in common, does not concern us here. We may, therefore, dismiss the legends referring to the westerly Amazons, and confine our attention to the easterly variety.

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Culture of Abkhazia

  • Culture

From the earliest of times, a distinctive culture began evolving in Abkhazia. The warmth and mildness of the climate and the fertility of the land had defined the Abkhaz way of life. Thus, the ancient Abkhaz were mainly preoccupied with farming, cattle breeding, hunting, fishing and handicrafts. While defending their land from enemy attacks or fighting wars, the Abkhaz also developed combat and weapon-making skills.

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Religion, by Rache Clogg

  • Culture
Religion of Abkhazians

Chapter 14. 'The Abkhazians: A Handbook' by George Hewitt (Editor) Richmond, Surrey: The Curzon Press 1999.

An Abkhaz historian (Stanislav Lak’oba), when asked recently about the religion of Abkhazia, answered that the Abkhaz are eighty percent Christian, twenty percent [Sunni] Muslim, and one hundred percent pagan! While this was said partly in jest, it hints at an underlying truth.

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The social reality of Atalychestvo in Abkhazia in the 19th and Start of the 20th Century, by Shalva Inal-Ipa

  • Culture
Atalychestvo in Abkhazia

(1955) Sukhum, Alashara

Translated by Zaira, K. Hewitt and G. Hewitt (CHAPTER I: SUCKLING-ADOPTION and ATALYK FOSTERAGE)

According to Soviet ethnography, the practice of adoption -- developed in response to blood-feud, childlessness, and the acquisition of patronage -- essentially has nothing in common with  atalychestvo.  But whilst it should be clearly distinguished from the institution under investigation, it still has a certain closeness to  atalychestvo: possibly it took shape after the pattern, and under the influence, of  atalychestvo and so represents one of its surviving variants, i.e. a phenomenon of seconday elaboration. Either way, it is impossible to ignore in a work on atalychestvo the broader issue of adoption.

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Tlabgan Ketsba: famous Abkhazian long-liver, founder of Gal town (scion of the settlement he founded)

  • Culture
Tlabgan Ketsba

The name of another oldest resident of Abkhazia, Tlabgan Ketsba, first became famous from the newspapers. On 15 April 1953, the newspaper "Izvestia" reported that the state-farmers of the village Gal were celebrating 132 years of its oldest resident, Tlabgan Ketsba. 

‘He is a living witness of many historical events of the XIX century. He was the first to settle in Gal, and he has now more than 135 descendants there. Despite his advanced age, the old man could see, could hear and remembered the events that occurred more than 100 years earlier.

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Abkhazian Cuisine

  • Culture
Abkhazian cuisine

Abkhazian cuisine was shaped by the agricultural, climatic and economical factors of the area. Because the Abkhaz were mainly farmers and cattle-breeders, their basic dietary staples were corn, millet, and dairy products. In the past, wild game and edible plants growing in the wild were a significant part of the diet, but today they are rarely on the table.

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Wines of Abkhazia

  • Culture
Wines of Abkhazia

History of Winemaking

The Abkhazian love affair with wine dates back centuries. Among the archeological discoveries that confirm this ancient wine culture are pitchers containing grape seeds that date back to 3000-2000 B.C. and a bronze statuette found in the 1950s in the Bombora settlement of the Gudauta region (a man holding a huge wine horn; scientists date the statue back to about the second millennium B.C.). A drawing of this statute is found on the label of the popular Apsny wine brand.

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