The name Čarkas (Cherkes) appeared in the mid-8th/14th century, replacing the term Kashak (Russian Kasog; Volkova, pp. 18-23), and was sometimes applied to all Caucasian peoples beyond Darband. Mostawfī (pp. 11, 21, 256) places the country of the Čarkas (also Jarkaz) north of Persia at 350 farsangs from Baghdad. In Soviet usage it designates one of the three groups into which the Circassians were divided in the 1930s: the Adygeĭ, the Cherkes, and the Kabard.
The Čarkas are a mountain people with strongly hierarchical social structure and aristocratic tradition, famed within the Caucasus and beyond for personal beauty and martial skill (Klaproth, pp. 557-603; Kosven, pp. 142-57). Little is known of their origins and early history. We do not know where they came from or when they settled in the Caucasus (Halasi-Kun, p. 5). The name Čarkas is an outside designation for these people of uncertain derivation. The suggestion that it derives from the name of the earlier people, Kerkets, has been disproven, and a number of other etymologies have been suggested, deriving the name from Persian, Turkish, or, more recently, Ossetic (Lavrov, p. 40; Bang and Marquart, p. 181; Vasmer, I, s.v. “kasog,” III, s.v. “Cherkes”; for Turkic derivation, Klaproth, I, p. 558).
From about 1300 b.c. the northern Caucasus came under the influence of the Iranian and Altaic steppe peoples (Halasi-Kun, pp. 3-7, 9-11, 13-15). It was not until much later, however, that the Circassians, living between the upper Kuban river and the Black Sea coast and protected by the Caucasian mountains from direct interference by most states of the Middle East and the Volga steppe, came under the influence of coastal powers: Greece, Byzantium, and the Ottomans. Classical authors, notably Herodotus and Strabo (Kosven, p. 64; Latyshev, I, p. 85, 105, 133), mention several groups in the northwest Caucasus: the Zikh, Sanig, and Akhey, probably Caucasian, the Meot, Sind, and Kerket, of different origin (Lavrov, pp. 38-40). Local tribes exported grain, livestock, skins, honey, and beeswax; thus their 19th-century lifestyle of mixed agriculture, transhumant livestock breeding, and bee- keeping was apparently already in existence in ancient times. In 438 b.c. the Hellenic state of Bosphorus took control of the eastern Black Sea coast. After its fall, late in the 2nd century b.c., Greco-Roman influence remained strong, and northwest Caucasians converted to Christianity in the early 6th century (Wixman, pp. 66-8, Kosven, p. 68), retaining some pagan beliefs and practices (Tardy; Allen, p. 40). In the 7th century the Caucasus became a battlefield between the Caliphate and the Turkic Khazar kingdom of the Volga. Although nominally within the Khazar sphere, the Circassians remained apart, so the influence of Judaism and Islam did not reach them. The arrival of the Rus’ affected them more directly: they clashed with Sviatoslav in 965 (Likhachev, ed., p. 47), and with Mstislav of Tmutorokan’ in 1022, later appearing as part of his army (ibid., p. 99).
The Čarkas were subjected by the Golden Horde in 634-37/1237-39, but offered considerable resistance and retained some independence (ʿOmarī, ed. Lech; Kosven, pp. 74-75). At that time population movements brought Čarkas tribes into the mountainous territory of the upper Kuban and the Terek rivers; the eastern tribes eventually formed the Karbard principality, gaining considerable local power. In the late 15th century the Čarkas came within the sphere of the Crimean khanate and the Ottoman empire, and the upper classes began to convert to Islam; by the 19th century the majority of the population was Muslim (Klaproth, I, pp. 567-69). While marrying into Ottoman and Crimean ruling classes, the Čarkas maintained their independence (Inalcik, p. 25). They allied themselves with the Russians, fighting in the army of Ivan IV (1533-84; Brokgauz and Efron, vol. 26, p. 780), whose second wife was Čarkas. When the Russians advanced into the Caucasus the Čarkas became inimical, joining Shaikh Manṣūr (1199-1213/1785-98; Baddeley, pp. 47-56) and continuing to resist throughout the 19th century. In 1864, when the Russian conquest was complete, about 90% of the Čarkas emigrated to Ottoman territories, suffering many casualties.
The 1979 census lists 109,000 Adygeĭ, 116,000 Cherkes, and 322,000 Kabard, living in enclaves within the Kabard-Balkar Autonomous Republic, and the Karachaĭ-Cherkes and Adygeĭ Autonomous Regions. The Čarkas have a distinct language, but share a common folk heritage with other north Caucasian peoples, notably the oral epics, known as the Nart Saga (q.v.). The customary law, dress, and manners of the Kabards have had wide influence throughout the north Caucasus. A literary language in Arabic script developed in the 19th century; the script was changed in the 1920s to Latin and to Cyrillic in 1938.
The Čarkas were known in the Middle East primarily as slaves renowned for their beauty and military skills. There are occasional mentions of them in early geographical works (notably in Masʿūdī; see Minorsky, 1958, pp. 157-58), and they became prominent in the 7th/13th century, when the center of the slave trade moved to the west. They formed part of the Mamluk slave establishment and, from the reign of Sultan Sayf-al-Dīn Barqūq (784-801/1382-99, himself a Čarkas) became the dominant element in the Mamluk ruling class (Ayalon). The Safavid rulers beginning with Jonayd (d. 864/1460) raided Čarkas regions and carried off prisoners (Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 17-18), who from the time of Shah Ṭahmāsb (930-84/1524-76) played an important political role (see ii, below). Though less numerous than Georgian ones, Čarkas commanders rose to important posts, and the women were common in royal and aristocratic harems. Some Caucasians were settled on the land (Oberling, pp. 139-43); traces of Čarkas settlements have lasted into the 20th century (ibid.).
Тука обаче изникват задължителните въпроси - как черкезите наложиха името на Танаис? "Дану" във всички изброени случаи също ли е черкезка лексика? Защо тяхната археологическа култура - ако г-н Перкунас е в състояние да я посочи - не се открива в тези широки ареали, където според науката е наложена иранската топонимия?