Indigenous North West Caucasian people some 90.000 to 100,000 of whom live in Abkhazia. According to Abkhaz sources, half a million Abkhaz live in exile in Turkey and the Middle East, where they constitute part of the Circassian diaspora.
Abkhaz are closely related to Abaza, who moved east wards between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, where they took to Islam under the influence of their new neighbours. They now live in Karachai-Cherkessia. Until the 1860s they were seen as one people living at the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
Abkhaz territory came under Russian rule in 1864, and Abaz in the early nineteenth century. Both peoples are absolute minorities in their republics. Many particularly Muslim Abkhaz, fell victim to a comprehensive population transfer program between Turkey and Russia. When they left their land was given to Christians.
Note: This information is taken from "The North Caucasus: Minorities at a Crossroads" written by Helen Krag and Larsh Funch.