In 2002, Murat Yagan, a sufi teacher in the Okanagan and Kootenays, was smuggled over the Russian border to receive Abkhasia's highest cultural honour, the medal of Honour and Glory, from Vice-President Sergei Arshba at the National Theatre.

Murat Yagan was born into a Circassian family in 1915 in Abkhasia, located in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. During the reign of the Soviet Union, Abkhasia was a tiny and little-known sea resort region. It repelled an invasion from newly independent Georgia in 1992 and has since sought independence as an autonomous republic. Yagan was brought to Istanbul in 1915 where he received training from elders of the Ahmsta Kebzeh spiritual tradition. He later studied with the Bektashi dervishes in Turkey. In 1963, he immigrated to Canada where he has been passing on the ancient teachings of Ahmsta Kebzeh.

Yagan is the author of several books including The Abkhasian Book of Longevity and Well-Being; I Come From Behind Kaf Mountain; A Spiritual Autobiography; The Teachings of Kebzeh-Essentials of Sufism from the Caucasus Mountains and Ahmsta Kebzeh: The Science of Universal Awe, Vol. 1. In addition, he has translated into English, The Gathering, the mystical poetry of Sun'ullah Gaibi, 17th century Turkish Sufi Master and Selected Poems of Yunus Emre, who was a 13th century mystic. Yagan currently works with many Kebzeh spiritual groups in North America and abroad. He and his wife Maisie live in Vernon, where they recently celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. Retired from carpentry, now 87 years old, he remains busy and productive. The International Documentation and Information Center for Abkhasia has been established in The Hague. A lengthy profile of Yagan appeared in BCBW, Summer 1996.

[SUMMER 2003 BCBW] "Religion"