Introduction / History Most of the world's Abkhazians live in the nations of Russia and Georgia. However, a significant community can be found living in Turkey. While they are scattered throughout much of the country, the largest concentration of Abkhazians is located along the Black Sea coast in north-central Turkey.
In the fifteenth century, Ottoman Turks conquered the Caucasus Mountain region of Russia and Georgia. At that time, many of the native Abkhazians converted from Christianity to Islam. The Russians, however, gradually took control of the region, and by the late 1800s, they dominated the Muslim Abkhazians. Feeling threatened by Christian Russia, many Abkhazians accepted an offer of refuge from Muslim Turkey and moved there. In recent years, Abkhazians have begun to be assimilated into mainstream Turkish culture and, as a result, are in danger of losing their identity as a separate ethnic group in Turkey.
What are their lives like? Little is known about the lives of Abkhazians in Turkey; however, it is known that they have retained much of their identity. They have somewhat conserved their Caucasian traditions, and unlike even in the Caucasus (or in Europe), they have preserved their caste system, and still resist assimilation. In addition, Abkhazians have retained their native tongue, which is one of the most complex languages on earth. This language has more than 50 consonants, with numerous pronunciations for each one. Because of the difficulty of their own language, the Abkhazians are adept at learning other languages.
The great majority of Abkhazians are farmers and livestock producers. Tobacco is their major crop, but tea, fruits, and vegetables are also grown. Cattle production is another important aspect of the Abkhazian economy. Because of their livelihood, nine out of ten Abkhazians live in rural areas. Their houses are built of brick or concrete and have either one or two stories. Most homes have verandas and balconies, where families enjoy spending time in good weather.
Most Abkhazian women marry in their early twenties, but men often wait until their thirties or even forties. Marriage is forbidden with all possible relatives; individuals are not allowed to wed anyone with the same surname as any of their grandparents. In the past, the young man and his friends kidnapped the young woman and took her to his house, where the marriage ceremony was performed. Whether or not the bride was abducted, her family does not attend the wedding. She is required to stand silent and secluded while her husband's family feasts and celebrates.
The Abkhazian highly value hospitality. A guest is given the same respect as a father or grandfather and is seated at a place of honor at the table. The arrival of a guest is accompanied by a ritual feast. Over wine, hosts and guests go through rounds of toasts, honoring each other and getting to know each other better. Providing hospitality in this way is a source of family pride.
What are their beliefs? Although most of the Abkhazians of Russia and Georgia are Christians, those in Turkey are Muslims, at least nominally.
What are their needs? The Abkhazians of Turkey desperately need to hear of the Savior. Turkey is officially a secular state with a limited amount of religious freedom. Therefore, Christians are not completely free to share their faith.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call Christian Abkhazians from Russia and Georgia to share Christ with their brothers in Turkey.
* Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of Turkey's governmental leaders towards the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among Abkhazians who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that Christian literature and media will be made available to Abkhazians.
* Ask God to raise up intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Abkhazians.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Abkhazians. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.