- Ethnic group. Closely related to the Adyghe, Kabardins or Kabards are the easternmost and the largest subgroup of the Circassian people, which also includes the Adyghe, Cherkess, Abazins, and Abkhaz. They speak a language from the Northwest Caucasian family which also includes Adyghe. The Kabardins number more than 500,000 and are the titular majority in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya, which they share with the Turkic Balkars. Historically, the Kabardins have been the most pro-Russian of the Caucasian mountaineers. Unlike their western Circassian counterparts, their feudal elite were co-opted by tsarist Russia. Most Kabardins are Sunni Muslims, converting to Islam from Christianity under Ottoman influence; however, their identification with Islam remains comparatively low, even by Caucasian standards. Some noble families converted to Russian Orthodoxy after the Romanov conquest and still retain their Christian faith. Tsarist and Soviet policies of favoritism toward the Kabardins color interethnic relations in the republic, especially given the Stalin-era deportation of the Balkars. Economically and politically, the Kabardins are the dominant force in post-Soviet Kabardino-Balkariya. Unlike the Balkars, the Kabardins possess a well-developed sense of national identity that is reinforced by traditional codes of loyalty and social hierarchy; as such, they are not generally attracted to pan-Islamic ideals. However, this has not prevented some Kabardins from joining Islamist terrorist groups like Yarmuk.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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