The Caucasian Circassian is not just military uniforms or casual functional clothes. This is a real way of life, a certain philosophy, a demonstration of commitment to an ancient tradition. Putting on a Circassian man stands in solidarity with history a whole region, a whole layer of the history of the Russian state. Circassian was the second skin for a man. That is why, when her time was gone, it seemed as if skin had been stripped from the military estate, especially in the Caucasus.
"Selfies" of the author during the Soviet era
Origin of Circassian and its "classic" look
There are a lot of versions of the appearance of Circassians. According to one version, the prototype of the well-known Circassian was the Khazar caftan, which the Caucasus has traditionally modified for itself. Another version says that the Circassian came to the Caucasus from the Middle East. In this case, initially it was an ordinary bathrobe, which was later brought to mind. Indeed, in the eastern somehow stitched "bag" to be a skilled rider was quite difficult. Soviet writer of Circassian origin Tambot Magometovich Kerashev wrote:
“The Adygs converted the wide shapeless dressing gown worn all over the East into Circassian. She tightly embraced the body to the waist, giving freedom to her hands, and her wide hem did not prevent her from rapidly flying into the saddle ... "
Circassian eastern roots are emphasized by the fact that in the burial grounds investigated by Soviet archaeologists, Circassian-like costumes were sewn from Iranian and Sogdian fabrics. However, there were Circassian patterns created from Chinese and Byzantine fabrics.
At the same time, a peculiar evolution of the Circassian took place, so its oldest examples sometimes reminded the well-known caftan very distantly. In addition, the Circassians quickly spread throughout the Caucasus, acquiring their own characteristics from each people. In the 1841 year, the artist Grigory G. Gagarin went to the Caucasus, but as a serviceman, being seconded to the expedition of General Prince Alexander Chernyshev. Despite the hostilities, Gagarin made many portraits of the local population in national dress. We can see that the Kabardian Circassian is orange, the Circassian gray, knee-length and with bright green ghazyr, the Natukhay bottom of the dress seems to be deliberately torn, and the Azerbaijani man's arms are cut to the shoulder and hang along the body.
No less interesting are the findings of the Polish writer and archaeologist Jan Potocki, who visited the Caucasus at the beginning of the 19 century and left unique sketches about that trip, though less elegant than the portraits of Gagarin. His Ossetian is depicted in a short Circassian style without a cutout on his chest, and her sides were pulled together by three pairs of ties. Ingush is dressed in a Circassian coat with a stand-up collar, and the Chechens are depicted in Circassian short-knee-length dresses with narrow sleeves.
However, let us return to the well-known "classical" Circassian. In Adyghe, the Circassian name is “tsy”. It is a swinging type of outerwear for men worn over a beshmet (quilted, dull-buttoned half-caftan, tightly wrapping around the chest and waist). Cherkesska had a special cut, which characterized her uniqueness, functionality and a stately appearance of a man dressed in it.
The tight-fitting upper part of the Circassian gradually expanded to the bottom due to lateral trapezoidal wedges stitched along the waistline. The back and middle part of the front, all-cut with the lower part, tapering to the waist and expanding to the bottom. On the back at the waist line, thickenings were made to support the belt from slipping. A flat shoulder line, a loose fit at the sleeve created comfort and did not hamper the rider in movement, especially during the battle. Circassia was sewn without a collar with a deep V-neckline on the chest. The Circassian buttoned on loops and buttons.
A special part of the Circassian, which distinguished it from many other types of caftans, was the presence of gazyrnyts. On the chest line, on both sides there were mirrored gas boxes for cases with gunpowder - gazyry (hazyr). They were most often bony. They housed a specific measure of gunpowder and a bullet. Ceremonial gazyri made of silver, but, of course, not everyone could afford it. As a matter of fact, the whole Circassian woman had to emphasize the status of her master. Depending on its length, quality and color of the material, it was easy to understand the social position of the owner.
The appearance of Circassians among the Cossacks is a confusing and foggy phenomenon. On the one hand, the very name “tsyy” (Circassian) clearly refers us to the fact that for the first time our soldiers saw this clothing from the peoples of the North Caucasus. A similar point of view is confirmed by the famous historian of the Caucasus, General Ivan Popko:
“Having taken weapons, clothes, a saddle and a landing from the Circassian, at the same time he acquired the liveliness and courage of his opponent. It means a lot if the Cossack loves his clothes and weapons, and the ruler (linear Cossacks. - Approx. Aut.) Loves them. And who does not know that with clothes and grip the spirit and morals pass? Applying to local circumstances, which are so important in military affairs, the ancient Cossacks, the Orthodox people, not without sufficient reasons accepted clothes, weapons. ”
Volzhsky and Don Cossacks
However, not everything is as simple as it seems at first glance. Centuries earlier known to us, Circassians in history appears chekmen. He is described as the upper men's clothing made of black or brown cloth of home-made length up to the middle of the lower leg. In the chest area, the chekmen tightly tightened the figure, expanded downward from the waistline due to assemblies or wedges lying in soft folds. The chekmen was fastened just below the chest on hooks or loops and buttons. Doesn’t resemble anything?
The main thing is that in Karachay-Balkar the Circassian name is “chepken”, in Kumyk - “chepgen”, and in Nogai - “shepken”. Thus, the difference between the checkman and the Circassian is somewhat blurry.
Moreover, deep relations between Kabarda and Russia took place long before the reconciliation of the Caucasus. Many noble representatives of the Caucasus willingly went to the service of the Russian tsar with the right to wear their usual clothes. Already in the 16 century, in the capital city of Moscow, merchants from the Caucasus recklessly traded checklings, and the main customers were just Cossacks. And among the assortment of Chekmeis of Caucasian merchants, the “Chekmen of the Circassian cut” were especially in use. Thus, it is quite possible to reason that the phrase “Circassian cut” is a direct indication that the chekmen himself was perceived as common clothing, which may have been borrowed from very ancient times.
In 1817, one of the first documents appeared that regulates the wearing of Circassians as a uniform of Caucasian Cossacks. Circassian was to be sewn from dark blue cloth. On the chest, as usual, there was a gas box on the 16 pistol cartridges. After a little over ten years, the commander of the troops of the Caucasian line, Lieutenant General Georgy Arsenyevich Emmanuel, completely installed the uniform Circassian uniform and equipment for all Cossack regiments of the cordon line.
Since then, the Circassian evolution began in the troops themselves. There was a need to regulate its wearing not only by Cossacks, but also by army soldiers and even officers - the Circassian was so popular. Starting from the 1830 year, all regiments of the Caucasian line were supposed to have as many as two Circassians: one front, often designated as a uniform, and the other casual, marching. The color of the fabric used depended on the regiment in which the officer or private served. There were dark blue Circassian, brown, gray, burgundy and even white.
There were some openly comical situations. In order to unify and save in the newly formed regiments, the young commanders prescribed to have spacious Circassians so that they could be put on a short fur coat in especially cold weather, and to wear it in warm seasons. This bag looked frankly funny, except that it was losing its functionality. Periodic indignation of the Cossacks by such innovations eventually forced the command to allow, instead of short fur coats, to have a cotton beshmet.
Towards the end of the 19 century, an entirely winter version of the Circassian appeared - a Circassian trimmed with a black sheepskin. Around the same time, the so-called bekirki, i.e., Circassians on fur with closed breasts and a high collar, became widespread.
Directly in the Caucasus, bekirki appeared with the light hand of Bekir Turgiev. And, of course, ghazyrs were located on the back of the birk.
Cherkesska losing ground
But progress is relentless and cruel to everything that falls out of the category of necessity. By the beginning of the 20 century, war had fundamentally changed thanks to new technologies. Unprecedented artillery power drove people into trenches, forcing them to crawl in the mud, dig moves in the ground and try to merge with the terrain as much as possible. The latter was also facilitated by aviation. Circassian lost all its functional properties.
Firstly, the Circassian was unusually noticeable, which in the conditions of a new war, in which secrecy was valued, was a huge minus. Secondly, long floors interfered with walking and even more interfered with crawling. Thirdly, gazyri lost their original value.
Circassian protective color
After the Russo-Japanese war in the Caucasus Cossacks, a heated discussion arose over uniforms. At the same time, there were a large number of ardent opponents of the Circassian replacement. Apologists of the old form were Cossack patriarchal, and also feared that innovations would be implemented at their expense. Disputes sometimes crossed all reasonable limits to the point of rebellion. Often, Cossacks interpreted the replacement of the Circassians as discrimination against the entire Cossacks, they say, "today for the Circassian, and tomorrow they will come for us." A temporary compromise was found, because on the side of the Circassian apologists was the Emperor himself, who loved to wear a Circassian.
The command ordered to sew Circassian only from cloth of protective color, as well as beshmet. For these purposes, the commissants were assigned a certain amount of matter. However, these half measures did not have the desired effect. The war dictated its arguments. But the Cossacks, who had the exclusive right to daily wear Circassian as a sign of their belonging to the military class, resisted by all means any reforms. Not all regiments during the war were transferred to wearing protective color shirts with pockets instead of gazyrs, also with permission to wear a dagger on a belt.
One way or another, but a bloody whirlpool of the beginning of the last century etched Circassian. The legendary form left its combat positions, but still remains a distinctive sign of both the Cossacks and the peoples of the Caucasus.