Finding Sochi's Indigenous People

Russians drove the Circassians out in the 19th century. A handful have returned to trace their ancestral roots.

Sochi was once home to the Circassians, an ethnic group native to the North Caucuses. They were largely driven out by a series of brutal tsarist military campaigns in the 19th century. Russians killed an estimated half a million Circassians during their conquest of the region. The diaspora has since spead around the world.

But the Winter Olympics has brought some Circassians back to their anestral land. An international delegation visited Sochi late last year to trace their roots. But the relationship has been rocky - Russia's decision to build billions of dollars of new facilities has caused offense, with some of the most vocal detractors calling it an insult that athletes will be performing "over the bones of their ancestors." 

Below, Reuters photographer Thomas Peter shows us a recent visit to the Russian resort town by a delegation of the Circassian diaspora, as well as a glimpse into the lives of the Circassians that remain in Sochi:

Local Circassian men wearing traditional clothes watch a welcome ceremony for diaspora Circassians at a tourist lodge in Golovinka, outside Sochi October 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Circassian men talk near a memorial stone that marks a former settlement destroyed during the Russian Caucasian war in Bolshoy Kichmay in Greater Sochi October 15, 2013.  (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
The village of Tkhagapsh is seen in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 26, 2013. Tkhagapsh is one of the few remaining settlements in the Sochi region, that mainly consists of ethnic Circassians. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
A memorial plaque shows the names of members of the Teshu (Teshev) family who died during the Stalin era of Soviet rule in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
The painted wall of a guest house is seen in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
A Russian made Lada car displays a Circassian symbol on its rear window in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
A woman in traditional dress welcomes a delegation of diaspora Circassians with a traditional bread and salt dish as they visit a school in Bolshoy Kichmay, Greater Sochi October 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Circassian men talk during a visit of a delegation of diaspora Circassians at a tourist lodge in Golovinka, outside Sochi October 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Circassian villager Madin Chachukh (C) watches a rehearsal of the local children's folklore dance ensemble in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Diaspora Circassians watch a traditional dance performance in a cultural centre in Bolshoy Kichmay in Greater Sochi October 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Circassian villager and former Soviet army correspondent and writer Madin Chachukh walks past a traditional four-legged storage house in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 26, 2013. "As every small nation, the biggest threat we face today, is the loss of our language and subsequently our culture. There are only very few of us left, too few. We wish the government gave us money to help us preserve our language. Its loss would be a tragedy. I fear it will eventually happen, but we have to slow down this process" Chachukh said. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Circassian villager Muzarbek Teshu attends to his bee hives in the village of Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 20, 2013. Teshu, who inherited a beekeeping business from his father and produces his own wine, lives mostly off the produce he makes. Historically, honey making has been one of the main trades the Circassian people have been known for, Teshu said. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 
Animal farmers Indris Chachukh (L) and Zoya Chachukh, the last two villagers who still perform this trade, stand in Tkhagapsh in the Lazerevskoye district of Sochi October 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter) 

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