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January 22, 2014

Sochi's Indigenous People

Reuters photographer Thomas Peter spent time documenting Sochi's Circassian community as the city prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Circassians are a people indigenous to the North Caucasus region, most of whom were scattered across the globe by a 19th century tsarist military campaign that caused the deaths of huge numbers. Many Circassians have called for the killings to be recognized as genocide, and have campaigned against the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, set to take place in the very same broad valleys and mountain slopes they say hold the bones of their ancestors. A delegation of Circassians hailing from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Germany and the United States travelled to the North Caucasus to visit historic sites of their ancestor's homeland ahead of the Olympics. --Reuters (23 photos total)

Diaspora Circassians watch a traditional dance performance in a cultural center in Bolshoy Kichmay in Greater Sochi on Oct. 15, 2013. Circassians are a people indigenous to the North Caucasus region, most of whom were scattered across the globe by a 19th century tsarist military campaign that caused the deaths of huge numbers.

Circassian men wearing traditional clothes pose for a photograph in a tea field during the visit of a delegation of diaspora Circassians in Golovinka, near Sochi on Oct. 15. #

Circassian villager and former Soviet army correspondent and writer Madin Chachukh walks down the main road in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 26. "As every small nation, the biggest threat we face today, is the loss of our language and subsequently our culture. There are only very few of us left, too few. We wish the government gave us money to help us preserve our language. Its loss would be a tragedy. I fear it will eventually happen, but we have to slow down this process" Chachukh said. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

A diaspora Circassian takes a photograph of local artwork at a museum in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. #

The village of Tkhagapsh is seen in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 26. #

A woman in traditional dress welcomes a delegation of diaspora Circassians with a traditional bread and salt dish as they visit a school in Bolshoy Kichmay, Greater Sochi. #

A Circassian villager walks past a cow at dusk in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. #

A delegation of diaspora Circassians visit a memorial stone that marks a former settlement destroyed during the Russian Caucasian war in Bolshoy Kichmay in Greater Sochi. #

Circassian villager Muzarbek Teshu attends to his bee hives in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 20. Teshu, who inherited a beekeeping business from his father and produces his own wine, lives mostly off the produce he makes. Historically, honey making has been one of the main trades the Circassian people have been known for, Teshu said. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

A delegation of diaspora Circassians pose for a family photograph at a waterfall in Bolshoy Kichmay, greater Sochi. #

A memorial plaque shows the names of members of the Teshu (Teshev) family who died during the Stalin era of Soviet rule in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. #

Local Circassian men wearing traditional clothes watch a welcome ceremony for diaspora Circassians at a tourist lodge in Golovinka, outside Sochi on Oct. 15. #

A Circassian man from the diaspora looks at local artwork at a museum in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. #

Circassian villager Madin Chachukh (center) watches a rehearsal of the local children's folklore dance ensemble in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. "As every small nation, the biggest threat we face today, is the loss of our language and subsequently our culture. There are only very few of us left, too few. We wish the government gave us money to help us preserve our language. Its loss would be a tragedy. I fear it will eventually happen, but we have to slow down this process" Chachukh said. #

Circassian villager and former Soviet army correspondent and writer Madin Chachukh stands on his front porch in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 26. #

Circassian men talk during a visit of a delegation of diaspora Circassians at a tourist lodge in Golovinka, outside Sochi on Oct. 15. #

The painted wall of a guest house is seen in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 26. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

A Russian made Lada car displays a Circassian symbol on its rear window in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. #

Circassian villager Ais Tlyf poses for a photograph in his kitchen in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. "The clan of my ancestors settled on this plain in the mountains in 1872 along with other Circassian families. It was long after the end of the Russian Caucasian war when hostilities had ceased and the Russians dismantled their military fort that used to be here," Tlyf said. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

A Circassian villager chops wood in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

Circassian villager Ashirkhan Chachukh, 82, and her great-grand daughter Saira, 4, sit in the living room of their house in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. "The Olympic Games are far away, they don't concern me. The only thing I wish is that they pass peacefully. God forbid, only no war! Then everything is good" Chachukh said. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

Circassian villager Madin Chachukh walks past a traditional four-legged storage house in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi. "As every small nation, the biggest threat we face today, is the loss of our language and subsequently our culture. There are only very few of us left, too few. We wish the government gave us money to help us preserve our language. Its loss would be a tragedy. I fear it will eventually happen, but we have to slow down this process," Chachukh said. #

Animal farmers Indris Chachukh (left) and Zoya Chachukh, the last two villagers who still perform this trade, stand in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi on Oct. 26. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. #

 
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