World Abaza Congress

9 August 2020
Keriman Ebrzhnou
The first beauty of the world
I am Circassian, Abaza
The poet Karnik Garmiyan called her "the rose of the country, the beauty of the world", the founder of the modern Turkish state Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered everyone to consider her queen, adding to her name the surname Eje ("queen" in Turkish - ed.). However, the beauty, who represented Turkey at the international beauty contest and became the first holder of the title "Queen of the World", Keriman Khalis Eje always knew and never hid that her ancestors were from Abkhazia, and her real name is Ebzhnou.
Originally from Abkhazia
The beauty Keriman was born on February 16, 1913 in a large family of a prosperous merchant Tevfik Khalis Bey. Her mother's name was Ferhunde-Khanym, and there were six children in the family. Both her father and mother were descendants of the Muhadzhirs who were evicted from their native lands on the site of modern Adler after the end of the Caucasian War in 1864 (today these territories are part of Greater Sochi in Russia - ed.).

The family was very musical. Moreover, many of its members were professional musicians. Many instruments were played by grandfather Keriman Hurshit Pasha, a prominent statesman at the sultan's court. Aunt Neveser Kekdesh was a pianist. Uncle Mukhlis Sabahattin - composer. Apparently, the love of music was inherited in this family. Keriman, like many in her family, also played music, having mastered the piano.

According to Makhinur Papba (publicist, a prominent representative of the Abkhaz Diaspora in Turkey – ed.), the name of the father Keriman was Ebzhnou, the mother's name was Chizemuk, in a different pronunciation - Pchyzemuk. By origin these are the Ubykh surnames, but since ancient times their carriers considered themselves Abkhaz.
Keriman herself, as was the case in Turkey for all unmarried girls, did not bear a surname, her name was only attached to her father's name - Keriman Khalis. The surname Eje appeared much later. Ataturk was first to call her this way in 1932 after she returned to Turkey with the title of the world's first beauty. In addition, after 2 years, with the adoption of the law on changing the name, by the order of Mustafa Kemal, the unspoken title became the official name of the beauty.
Keriman Ebrzhnou ©
Keriman Ebrzhnou ©
Keriman Ebrzhnou ©
Beauty's youth
The 20-30s of the twentieth century were the time of the formation of the young Turkish Republic. Everything that led to the Europeanization of the country was welcomed. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who dreamed of making Turkey a secular state, fully patronized any attempts to organize beauty contests in the country. The first official review of the beauties was held six years after Ataturk came to power, in 1929. "Turkish girls compete with women of Europe," then foreign newspapers enthusiastically wrote.

Keriman Ebrzhnou
Since childhood, Keriman was graceful, well-mannered, able to hold herself with great dignity, fluent in Turkish and French. It is not surprising that her father has repeatedly received proposals for a young girl to participate in beauty contests. However, he did not give his consent for a long time. Later, one of the organizers of such contests, Abidin Daver, father's school friend, recalled how, when he saw a young beauty at a ball in Galatasaray, he persuaded Khalis Bey to allow her to take part in the competition. However, Keriman at that time was only seventeen years old; she was in school and, of course, her father refused.
Nevertheless, 2 years later, on July 3, 1932, at that time, nineteen-year-old Keriman Khalis took part in a national beauty contest held under the auspices of the "Jumhuriyet" newspaper and became the first among several dozen contenders, winning the title of the main beauty of Turkey.
Keriman Ebrzhnou first from the right
Title of queen
Less than a month later, Keriman went to an international beauty contest held in the small Belgian city of Spa. Turkish journalist Baal Nurettin described the beauty of Kariman as follows: "There was one that struck the beauty of everyone, it was Keriman Khalis. Honestly, comparing the beauty of last year with her, I realized that this one takes precedence in everything. Outwardly very attractive, immaculately slim, with delicate skin, very pretty face. Her beautiful black hair, separated by parting, was gathered from the back ... She looked like Goddess Diana. She kept herself very calmly, without twitching, such a "static" beauty."
In Belgium, Keriman did not miss the chance to demonstrate that she represents the Turkish Republic. Therefore, she refused to go to the balcony, where all the beauties went out to greet, until the Turkish flag was hoisted on it. The flag was not there, but she, not flustered, sewed it herself. The hotel workers gave Keriman a large piece of red cloth; her father cut a large crescent and a star and sewed it into fabric.
In the finals of the Belgian competition, the beauty queen was chosen between two participants - a representative of Germany and a representative of Turkey. In one of her interviews, Keriman told that she wore a red satin dress and a white necklace around her neck. The outfit not only beautifully set off the blackness of her eyes and hair, but was also designed in national colors. It was important for the beauty. "When the chairman of the jury spoke my name, I almost lost my senses, and the audience burst into applause and chanted: "Bravo, Miss Turkey!", recalled Eje.
The chairman of the jury, announcing the name of Keriman did not fail to notice: "We choose the Turkish beauty as the "Beauty queen". However, we are raising our glasses to the victory of Europe!", bearing in mind how the eastern beauty looked and presented itself as European. There could not have been a better gift for Ataturk - what he led the country to for many years was done before his eyes.
Keriman's return to Istanbul was a triumph. She was greeted as a national heroine. A crowd of fans was waiting for Eje at the Istanbul station. "When I got out of the car, Turkish officers made my way through so that I could pass through the crowd of people. They shouted, waved flowers and greeted me very warmly," wrote Keriman Khalis in her memoirs.
Turkey's national heroine or Circassian beauty
The first beauty of the world, Keriman, returning home was awarded the highest honors. In her honor, they organized a big celebration in the garden of Taksim. The evening was led by the famous writer Peyamy Safa. Ataturk himself attended the ball in honor of Keriman, with whom the beautiful woman danced the first dance.
Keriman Ebrzhnou
"I will never forget this day," with tears in her eyes years, recalled Keriman later in one of her interviews. - We entered the hall, Ataturk and all the Pasha rose from their seats. I kissed his hand, and he kissed my forehead and said: "I called you Eje (Queen), are you happy?". - I said: "My Pasha, you gave me the world. Thank you!".
However, glorifying Turkey and being the personification of the beauty of Turkish women, Keriman never forgot about her roots and, on occasion, always emphasized it. They say how she corrected a journalist who called her a Turkish beauty, saying that she is a Circassian, an Abaza. Sometimes it even displeased the Turkish authorities, just as during a trip to Cairo, where Keriman met with representatives of the "fraternal union of Circassians". Photo from the meeting hit the press. The article, published in the Egyptian newspaper "Jedid", said "that the Circassian girl was elected the most beautiful girl in the world." This approach did not suit the Turkish authorities: Keriman was a "Turkish beauty" and there should not be a single mentioning of her Circassian origin.
A newspaper clipping with a photograph of Keriman Ebzhnou ©
Issue of the “Cumhuriyet” newspaper with a photograph of Qeriman on the front page ©
A newspaper clipping with a photograph of Keriman Ebzhnou ©
Вырезка из газеты с фотографией Кериман Эбжноу ©
A newspaper clipping with a photograph of Keriman Ebzhnou ©
A newspaper clipping with a photograph of Keriman Ebzhnou ©
After winning the title, Keriman led a rather secluded life, did not like to communicate with journalists, therefore there was not so much information about her after the competition. It is known that the beauty was married twice. Her first husband was a doctor, Orhan Sanus. They had two children - the son Sesai Biltin Sanus and daughter Eje Sanus. The second husband was Hasip Tamer, from whom she had a son, Jenk Tamer. In the house of the youngest son, Keriman lived the last years of her life.
The grandmother of 13 grandchildren, Keriman remained attractive even in her old age, being considered one of the most beautiful women in Turkey. She died in January 2012, one year before reaching her centenary.
The death of the former first beauty of the country, was not overlooked by the Turkish authorities. "We will always remember with reverence Keriman Khalis Eje Tamer, who successfully represented our country abroad and was honored with the Eje surname by the great Turkish reformer, the first President of the Turkish Republic Ataturk," said Turkish President Abdullah Gul on the occasion of the death of the beauty queen.

Keriman was buried in Istanbul, the city where she was born and raised, the city where she became the first beauty in Turkey and where she returned with the title of the most beautiful girl in the world.
Keriman Ebzhnou

Text by – Arifa Kapba, bild editor – Naala Avidzba, editor-in-chief – Amina Lazba
In the preparation of the essay on Keriman Ebzhnou materials from the personal archive of Mahinur Papba were used.
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