Adyghe society prior to the Russian invasion was highly stratified. While a few tribes in the mountainous regions of Adygeya were fairly egalitarian, most were broken into strict castes. The highest was the caste of the "princes", followed by a caste of lesser nobility, and then commoners, serfs, and slaves. In the decades before Russian rule, two tribes overthrew their traditional rulers and set up democratic processes, but this social experiment was cut short by the end of Adyghe independence.

The main Adyghe tribes are: Abzekh, Adamey, Bzhedugh, Hakuch, Hatukuay, Kabardey, Kemirgoy, Makhosh, Natekuay, Shapsigh (Shapsugh), Yegerikuay, Besleney. Most Adyghe living in Caucasia are Bzhedugh, Kabarday and Kemirgoy, while the majority in diaspora are Abzekh and Shapsigh (Shapsugh). Standard Adyghe language is based on Kemirgoy dialect.