Friday, August 26, 2016

Caucasus Report

Circassians Distance Themselves From Terrorist Threat to Sochi Winter Olympics

The Volgograd attacks killed 34 peopleThe Volgograd attacks killed 34 people
The Volgograd attacks killed 34 people
The Volgograd attacks killed 34 people
The heads of nine Circassian organizations, seven based in Russia and one each in Turkey and the U.S., have issued a joint statement condemning  the December terrorist bombings in the south Russian city of Volgograd in the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next month. The statement affirms the signatories’ shared commitment to use only legitimate measures in their ongoing struggle “for the unity, preservation and development of the Circassian people.”

Circassian organizations both in Russia and abroad have for years argued that holding the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi is inappropriate and morally wrong,  given that it is the site of a 19th century battle in which tens of thousands of Circassians were killed by Tsarist Russian forces and hundreds of thousands more driven into exile. But last week’s statement does not reiterate this point. It does, however, note that “extremist websites and groups” adduce that massacre as the justification for terrorist attacks. Self-styled Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov appealed last summer to Islamist fighters to do all in their power to prevent the holding of the Olympics  “on the bones of many, many Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea."

Mukhamed Cherkesov, chairman of the Karachayevo-Cherkessia public organization Adyghe Khase, similarly told the website  that “the Circassians as responsible people have no intention of trying to blow up or create obstacles to the holding of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Even if we say that we do not approve of holding them [there], that does not mean that you can expect from us provocations and terrorist attacks.”

Metin Sonmez (Kodzoko), who launched the now defunct website Circassian World, assured this writer that Circassian organizations representing the world-wide diaspora (estimated at between 3 and 5 million) unanimously repudiate any recourse to terrorism in pursuit of their aims.

The nine signatories to the joint statement further describe as a bid to discredit them attempts to link the Circassian national movement to “manifestations of extremism.” That is a thinly veiled allusion to the detention in mid-December of one Abazin and a dozen Circassian activists from Adygheya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia, the three North Caucasus republics with a significant Circassian population.

The men were taken to police headquarters in Krasnodar Krai for interrogation and their homes were searched, purportedly as part of a man-hunt for an ethnic Russian convert to Islam identified only as Chernyshev who had allegedly joined the ranks of the North Caucasus insurgency. All were released hours later.

Both the detainees and Human Rights Watch surmised that the purpose of the detentions was simply  to intimidate   One of the detainees, Ruslan Kambiyev, who heads the Abazin National Cultural Center, made the point that the various organizations they head have diverging views on the Sochi Olympics, with some opposed, some resigned, and others indifferent.

Two of the nine signatories to last week’s joint statement, Ibragim Yaganov, chairman of the Khase (Council) public movement in Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ruslan Kesh, a coordinator with the Cherkess Union public movement, were among those detained. Yaganov has campaigned openly against the Sochi Olympics. His computer and phones were confiscated. 

Both Yaganov and Kesh have previously been assaulted and seriously injured, apparently as a direct consequence of their engagement for the Circassian cause over the past six years.  Kesh sustained a broken arm and broken nose when he was attacked in Nalchik in November 2009. Yaganov was attacked by a group of up to 10 men in his office in Nalchik in early December 2009, then outside his home by a solitary assailant five months later.

Both Kesh and Yaganov had attended a congress of the Circassian people in Cherkessk in December 2008 at which delegates adopted a resolution appealing to Moscow to redraw the existing borders between the North Caucasus republics in order to create a Circassian republic. By no means all Circassian activists view that idea positively, however:  Almir Abregov,  the former director of  the Adygheya National Museum, warned  a year ago that any attempt to implement it would inevitably lead to “a war of all against all."

The “statement of the nine” does not raise that demand for a separate Circassian republic, or the equally sensitive issue of formal recognition by the Russian leadership that the Circassians were the victims of genocide.  Nor does it endorse the demand by some diaspora Circassian organizations for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics. In that respect, what it does not say serves to underscore the diverging agendas and priorities of the various groups. 

Yet even though the possibility of redrawing borders between the republics of the North Caucasus  remains taboo, recognition of the Circassian genocide has been discussed at the official level. In early May 2013, the Adyghe Khase (Circassian Council) organizations in Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Adygheya and Krasnodar Krai  addressed a joint appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Federation Council to recognize as genocide the 19th century slaughter of the Circassians.

Later that month, at a formal ceremony that was attended by Karachayevo-Cherkessia Republic  President Rashid Temrezov (a Karachai)  to honor the memory of those Circassians killed in the 19th century Russian conquest,  prominent academic Muradin Besleneyev publicly argued that Moscow has “a moral duty to recognize and condemn at the state level the genocide of the Circassians during the Caucasus War. As a first step in that direction, the KChR parliament voted in June 2013 to submit to the Russian State Duma a draft law on amending the Russian Federation constitution to designate denial of genocide a criminal offence.

Whether that vote was intended as an inducement to the Circassians to temper their criticism of the Winter Olympics and demands for a separate territorial entity, or whether it constituted a belated response to the formal recognition of the Circassian genocide by the Georgian parliament in May 2011 is impossible to say.

-- Liz Fuller
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dana Wojokh from: USA
January 25, 2014 04:14
Great reporting by Liz Fuller and many thanks RFE/RL for directly addressing Circassian opposition to the use of extremism of any kind. Those who do use the Olympics to incite fear by threats of terrorism are no way related, nor do they represent Circassian organizations.

The following is by a prominent voice against the Sochi 2014 Olympics: A statement from No Sochi 2014 affirming the Non Violent Nature of the Movement
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 26, 2014 01:25
Eugenio presumes that Putin bribed Circassian organizations.
He probably would wish Circassians fall for provocations,
To be faster cleansed-repopulated by Russian nation.
Still, if Circassians (Caucasians) do not protest
By peaceful means, profoundly, their detest,
Russia really scared-corrupted their best.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 26, 2014 13:34
Konstantin, did you again forget to take your medication :-))?

by: PermReader
January 25, 2014 13:37
The great RFERL skip from the Armenian genocide denial to the Circassans` existance mention!
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 26, 2014 01:15
Is it genocide by Armenians against Georgians in 1992-93,
in Abkhazia? Armenian bestiality, then, went beyond Adyga and Cossacks, comparable only with Russian GRU bestiality...

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 25, 2014 13:52
Aha, probably Putin bribed the Circassians so that they would distance themselves. And this is why the price tag for the event went up from € 12,50 to € 50 billion :-)).
In Response

by: Mamuka
January 26, 2014 12:01
No Zheniya, the reason for the high Olympics price tag can be found in the pockets of Putin's closest comrades... and certainly not in the pockets of the Circassians. Or all the unpaid workers for that matter.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 26, 2014 13:31
You just put your finger on it, Mamuka: just horrible, horrible Olympic games - unpaid workers, stolen money, terror on every corner :-)).
When I think of all the poor losers from the country of Beavus and Butthead who are getting defeated in Afghanistan or Syria, or are looking for food in garbage cans on the street of such bankrupt US-made cloakas as Detroit, I can very much understand their urgent need to continue spreading their cheap and boring propaganda the only point of which is to make people forget of how inept and mediocre those Beavuses are :-).

by: Yanal Sago from: Damascus.
January 31, 2014 21:20
The Soviet Union perished through its own injustice and so will other Societies...?.

by: Yanal Sago from: Damascus.
February 23, 2014 08:52
Those who do not take lessons from history will themselves become lessons for others.

by: Yanal Sago from: Damascus.
March 26, 2014 20:48
The vote right is the negation of the word of justice and law,the negation of human rights and democracy,It is ultimate corruption in our frustrated disabled world.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.