first-level administrative division of Russia

Karachay-Cherkessia is a region in the Russian Caucasus bordering Krasnodar Krai to the west, Stavropol Krai to the north, Kabardino-Balkaria to the east, and Georgia to the south.


Map of Karachay-Cherkessia

  • 1 Cherkessk   – this small city is region's capital and largest city, located in the northern lowlands.
  • 2 Arkhyz   – a small resort town in the southwest surrounded by high peaks, high alpine lakes, and contains an old Alanian church.
  • 3 Teberda   – a small ski resort town en route to Dombai.
  • 4 Ust-Dzheguta   – second largest town.
  • 5 Zelenchukskaya  
  • 6 Karachayevsk  

Other destinations

  • 1 Dombai   – the North Caucasus' principal mountain resort. In summer, keep the following in mind: As a foreigner you need to have a permit to go just about anywhere in Dombai. You have to file for a permit about two months in advance at the head office of the reserve in Cherkessk. Without a permit you can visit the funicular and go to the mountain top to take photos and to the devil's mill waterfall which is about 2 kilometers walk from the village. 3-4 hours is enough to do that. Everything else is off limits. So if you are a foreigner and don't have a permit, you are better advised to take a day excursion. Skiing is possible without a permit.


A snowy day at Dombai
Bolshoy Zelenchuk River canyon, Zelenchuksky district

Karachay-Cherkessia is named for the Karachay, a Turkic people, and the Cherkess, the group from which "Circassians" get their name.

The region was absorbed by an expanding Russian Empire in the first half of the 19th century. In the 20th, the divide-and-rule tactics of the Stalin era involved weakening resistance by splitting related groups and joining unrelated ones in shared administrative units. As part of this pattern, the Karachay-Cherkessia Autonomous Region was first created in 1922. Several further administrative adjustments and readjustments followed. In 1943 the Karachay people were deported to Central Asia for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. They were allowed back in 1957 and the Karachay-Cherkess autonomous region recreated. Although it has not experienced the levels of violence seen elsewhere in the North Caucasus, the republic lives in the shadow of the troubles which have plagued the region. Russian forces have mounted numerous security operations and reported foiling intended attacks by Islamist militants. Since then, a succession of kleptocratic governments have followed, leaving the precious earnings of its natural resources in the hands of only a few people. Today, Karachay-Cherkessia remains poor, especially in Cherkessk, where there has hardly been any economic development in the past few years. Poverty is widespread, and it is more severe than any other region in Russia.



The Karachay speak Karachay-Balkar, a Turkic language; the Cherkess speak Cherkess, a dialect of Kabardian. Visitors may count their blessings that all are fluent in Russian.

Get in


Get around




Stay safe


Karachay-Cherkessia is the safest of the republics of the North Caucasus, being most remote from the conflict epicenters. It is still not as safe as the nearby Sochi region in Krasnodar Krai, however; travelers should be vigilant especially against harassment from officials.

  Note: Because of border tensions between Russia and Georgia, military operations with accompanying travel restrictions can be carried out with little or no notice in Karachay-Cherkessia. The border crossings to Georgia are subject to frequent, sometimes lengthy closures. Terrorism and kidnappings also present a significant risk to security.
Travel advisories
(Information last updated 08 Jun 2024)

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