Ubykh people are a group who spoke the Northwest Caucasian Ubykh language, until other local languages displaced it and its last speaker finally died in 1992.
The Ubykh used to inhabit an area just northwest of Abkhazia in the Caucasus. They were probably one of the populations to inhabit the ancient nation of Colchis, and some of the people involved in the myth of the Golden Fleece may have been Ubykh speakers. Outside of mythology, the ancestors of the Ubykh were mentioned in book IV of Procopius' De Bello Gotico (The Gothic War), under the name βροῦχοι (Brouchoi) , a corruption of the native term tʷaχ. The Ubykhs were semi-nomadic horseback people, and the Ubykh language still contains a finely differentiated vocabulary related to horses and tack. Some Ubykhs also practised favomancy and spatulamancy.
However, the Ubykh people gained more prominence in modern times. In 1864, during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, Georgia and Abkhazia were invaded by the Russian army. The Adyghe and Abkhaz peoples were decimated, and the Abaza people were partially driven out of the Caucasus. Faced with the threat of subjugation by the Russian army, the Ubykh people, as well as other Muslim peoples of Caucasus, left their homeland en masse beginning on the 6th of March, 1864. By the 21st of May, the entire Ubykh nation had departed from the Caucasus. They eventually settled in a number of villages in western Turkey around the municipality of Manyas.
In order to avoid discrimination, the Ubykh elders encouraged their people to assimilate into Turkish culture. Having abandoned their traditional nomadic culture, they became a nation of farmers. The Ubykh language was rapidly displaced by Turkish and Circassian; the last native speaker of Ubykh, Tevfik Esenç, died in 1992.
Today, the Ubykh diaspora has been scattered about Turkey and—to a much lesser extent—Jordan. The Ubykh nation per se no longer exists, although those who are of Ubykh ancestry are proud to call themselves Ubykh, and a couple of villages are still found in Turkey where the vast majority of the population is Ubykh by descent.
Ubykh society was patrilineal; many Ubykh descendants today know five, six, or even seven generations of their agnatic ancestry. Nevertheless, as in other Northwest Caucasian cultures, women were especially venerated, and the Ubykh language retains a special second person pronoun prefix used exclusively with women (χa-).
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