Traditions and rituals: the Abkhazian holiday of Nanhwa

  • Culture

To what origins does the Nanhwa holiday in Abkhazia go back? Is it connected with Christian traditions, and what rituals precede it? Read the article.

On 28 August, the memory of the dead is traditionally honoured in Abkhazia. In houses, tables are laid with the fruits of the seasonal harvest, and candles are lit. The tradition also coincides with the Christian feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

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Roles and Statuses of Old People in the Abkhazian Family, by Ia. S. Smirnova

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Roles and Statuses of Old People in the Abkhazian Family (Toward the Question of Gerontophilic Factors in Longevity)

Soviet Anthropology and Archeology, (1985) 24:1, 77-100

Russian text @ 1982 by 'Nauka' Publishers. "Roli i statusy star- shikh v abkhazskoi sem'e (k probleme gerontofil 'nykh faktorov dolgozhitel'stva)," Sovetskaia etnograjia, 1982, no. 6 , pp. 40-51. Translated by Jean Laves Hellie.

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The Religious Beliefs of the Abkhasians, by N.S. Janashia & N.Y. Marr

  • Culture
Cult of the dead: group of mourners. Ochamchira, Abkhazia[ns]. (1927)

The Religious Beliefs of the Abkhasians, by N. S. Janashia
Georgica | A Journal of Georgian and Caucasian Studies.
No:4 & 5 Autumn 1937, pp. 117-153

This is a translation of the article published in Khristianski Vostok, The Christian East, Petrograd, 1915, vol. iv, No. 1, pp. 72-112.

This article represents a revision in 1914 of materials collected ca. 1900 in the village of Adzvibzha in southern Abkhazia (the province of Abzhua). The author describes the gods of the Abkhaz and the religious ceremonies connected with them. The discussion follows the established order of church festivals, centering around the four chief holidays of the year (the New Year, Easter, the Assumption, and Christmas).

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Ritual Folklore of the Abkhazians Salakaia, by Sh. Kh. Salakaia (1975)

  • Culture
Abkhazians in 1867

Soviet Anthropology and Archeology, Vol. 14:1-2, 168-178, July 1975.

Depending on the nature of their economies, different types of ritual poetry moved to the fore among different peoples at various times. While poetry of familial ritual is of a single type among all peoples, or at least a majority of them, insofar as its principal features are concerned, one cannot say this with respect to the poetry associated with work. Among those peoples whose principal occupation was tilling the soil, it was naturally ritual poetry having to do with the agricultural calendar that developed to the highest degree; while among those who chiefly engaged in hunting, it was hunting songs that took pride of place, and so forth.

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Women's Status in Abkhazia: From The Past To The Present, by Natella Akaba

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Abkhaz woman


According to a fairly widespread opinion, the position of a woman is one of the indicators of the level of development of a society. In this context, it is especially important to study how the social status of women in Abkhazia has changed at different historical stages, which will make it possible to understand better the dynamics of the sociocultural transformation of the Abkhaz society.

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Object of Pride: The History of Abkhazian Male Dress

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For how Abkhazian male dress has changed, how important it is in the life of the Abkhazians, how it won world-popularity and what the future of the cherkesska is, read in this Sputnik material.

Saria Kvaratskhelia, Sputnik Abkhazia | 05.03.2019 

“Anna walked with bowed head and playing with the tassel of the hood. Her face glittered with bright brilliance, but this brilliance was unhappy ...,” is how the ninth chapter of one of the most famous novels of Leo Tolstoy ‘Anna Karenina’ begins.

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

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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.

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

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 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

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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

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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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