03 June 2003, 02:58

Beliefs of Cherkess

Cherkess are Moslems-sunnits of hanafit kind. Christianity came before Islam (10-12th century) from Byzantium and Georgia. Islam started to spread among the Cherkess since the 14th century from the Golden Horde, but the mass conversion of Cherkess to Islam took place later, in the 17-18th century. Till the end of the 19th century both religions existed among the Cherkess. The Caucasus war caused the final assertion of Islam among the Cherkess. After the end of the war many of them moved to the countries of the Middle East.

Though in the years of the Soviet power most Cherkess stopped to perform their religious duties, their beliefs survived and nowadays quickly started to revive. The mosques are being built and opened as well as the mosque schools - mektebs. The Ecclesiastical management of the Moslems of Karachaevo-Cherkesia and Stavropol territory publish religious literature. Representatives of the Cherkess Diaspora greatly help the religious revival, they bring and distribute a great number of religious books, sponsor the construction of the mosques, the education of mullahs and imams. In the beginning of 1990-ies there was formed the Cherkess Moslem charity fund "Kisht". They celebrate the main Moslem holidays, first of all the holiday of the sacrifice (Curban-bairam) and the holiday of breaking the fast (Uraza). The celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (Mavlid) is similar to that of Kabardins.

The pre-Islam beliefs continue to coexist with the Moslem traditions. The memories about the pagan pantheon of Cherkess are rather vague and have a general Adig character. The ancient rite of calling the rain Khantse-guashche survived till nowadays. There exist the beliefs about the goddess of the water Psikho-guashche, almasti, werewolves - uds. The common Islam spirits - genies are divided into the white and black ones. They struggle against the evil spirits with the help of the amulets: bits of paper with prayers written by the mullahs, sewn into a three- or four-corner bag made of fabric or leather. In general Cherkes didn't become incredibly religious. The mosques are full only on holidays, the rituals are performed mainly by the elder people.

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