Circassians and their fate: introduction into history of nation expelled by Russian Empire from Caucasus

Circassians in Turkey commemorating an anniversary of the Russian genocide of their people in 1864 (Image: worldbulletin.net)

Circassians in Turkey commemorating an anniversary of the Russian genocide of their people in 1864 (Image: worldbulletin.net) 

International

In recent decades, there have appeared a series of studies of the complex history and present situation of the Circassians, both those who remain in the homeland and those who live abroad because their ancestors were expelled from the Russian Empire 150 years ago.

The Circassians are attracting ever more attention as the Internet has allowed those in the homeland and those abroad to reinforce one another and as this increasing activism has challenged Moscow’s control of a region by undermining the center’s ethnic engineering and by calling attention to the abuses it has visited on the Circassians and others.

Those who study the North Caucasus and Russian nationality policies more generally need to become far more familiar with the Circassian case than they are. Books produced by Walter Richmond and Adel Bashqawi provide important guides, but they are so long that those who focus on the Circassians only indirectly seldom go through them.

That makes the appearance on the Justice for the North Caucasus portal of a 5,000-word introduction to Circassia and Circassians that Basqawi, a Circassian from Jordan, has produced especially important because it summarizes the main arguments of his own highly-regarded books and of those by Richmond and others.

The historic area of “Greater Circassia” outlined on the modern map of the Caucasus. Source: justicefornorthcaucasus.info

Those who specialize on the Circassians will want to read it even though they will be familiar with the scholarship on which it is based; those who focus on other issues that the Circassians are involved with will find it invaluable as a brief introduction to this people and their much-contested land.

The author is clearly aware that this is the audience for his essay. He ends his article by offering the comment of a Circassian scholar, Madina Khakuasheva, who is a senior researcher at the Kabardino-Balkar Institute for Research on the humanities,

“Russia’s approach to the non-Russians has gone through the following stages in the case of the Circassians, she argues. “First, physical destruction and deportation without the right of return, then open discrimination against the native language, leveling of culture and identity, and the complete elimination of the history of the Circassians’ from books and museums.”

Today, Khakuasheva writes and with Bashqawi’’s full approval,

“Moscow continues to work to create ‘all the conditions for the realization of artificial assimilation and the erasing of all evidence of the existence of an entire people,’ including declaring the territory and resources of those territories Russian ‘from time immemorial.’ That is the final goal of geopolitical control.’”


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