The Abazins are close ethnic cousins to the Abkhaz. At the time of the All-Russian census of 2002, there were 32,346 Abazins in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, where they constituted the fourth-largest ethnic group, accounting for some 7.3 percent of the total population.
Five years ago, the Abazins launched an appeal to then-Russian President Vladimir Putin outlining their grievances, and demanded the creation within the KChR of a separate Abazin district comprising 13 villages of which the population is overwhelmingly Abazin. The republic's parliament met in emergency session 10 days later and duly adopted a resolution creating such a national district, but it comprised only five of the 13 villages. It was nonetheless approved in a plebiscite in December 2005 by the population of the villages in question.
The grievances the Abazins raised during their meeting with Ebzeyev reportedly focused on dilapidated infrastructure and obstacles to the teaching of the Abazin language in schools. Leading Abazin activist Mukhammed Agjibekov revealed in September 2008 that villagers in the Abazin village Krasnyi Vostok kept a record for a period of 200 days of the availability of mains running water, which amounted to just 56 hours.
At a subsequent discussion some weeks later, a second activist, Magaruf Fizikov, pointed out that inadequate living conditions and the lack of employment opportunities in Abazin villages impel the younger generation to leave. He proposed that on the basis of existing legislation on small ethnic groups, places should be made available in leading Russian universities for young Abazins who want to acquire a relevant skill (agriculture, veterinary medicine) and then return to their native villages to work. In November 2001, the Karachayevo-Cherkessia parliament enacted a law on safeguarding the rights of the republic's autochthonous Abazin population, but its provisions have been largely ignored.
As for teaching of the Abazin language, the textbooks used are already 30-40 years old and falling apart.
The language issue featured prominently during a forum of the Abazin intelligentsia last August, at which one participant expressed alarm that his co-ethnics "have begun to lose their language." He also complained that the Abazins are frequently offered only the most menial jobs, for examples as cleaners.