Staunton, January 27 – The Turkic peoples of the North Caucasus – including the Kumyks, the Balkars, and the Karachay – want to avoid “the mistakes” that have surrounded the Circassian national movement and made it into “an apple of discord” rather than bridge between Russia and other countries, according to Ramazan Alpaut.
The comments of the president of the Moscow Organization for Kumyk Culture suggest just how sensitive the Circassian issue remains for Moscow and how the Turkic peoples, both in binational republics like Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkesia and in multi-national Daghestan, believe they will benefit by positioning themselves in a different way.
In an interview with Gulnara Inandzh of Azerbaijan’s Gumilyev Center, Alpaut, whose people numbers 500,000 in Daghestan alone, says that the Turks in the North Caucasus want to work with European and Turkish institutions and actively cooperate with diaspora groups without causing problems for Moscow (gumilyev-center.az/kumykskij-komponent-v-politike-rossii).
Alpaut says that his group starts from the proposition that “historically Russia is among other things a Turkic state,” one in which even today “about 20 million” of its citizens are Turkish, and that as a Eurasian country, it is the product of the coming together of Slavic and Turkic civilizations. According to the Kumyk activist, Russians are beginning to recognize that reality.
In the past, “Russia and then the Soviet Union united half of all the Turks of the world, one fourth of their respective populations were Turkic, and the Turks occupied an enormous portion” of their territories. Sometimes the leaders of those countries fought against the Turkic peoples without recognizing that in so doing, they were fighting against themselves.
Now, Moscow recognizes, Alpaut says, that Turks are “not a national minority” in Russia but rather one of the foundations on which the state rests, and the central authorities realize that Turkic groups within their borders do not constitute a risk or a threat but rather an opportunity for Russia to remain “part of the Turkic world.”
The Turkic groups are responding, he says. Their Russian citizenship is “primary,” of course, but nothing interferes with their membership in the broader Turkic world or their sense that they are very much “part” of that world.
As Alpaut points out, it is always a mistake to reduce the Turkic question to Turkey. Not only are there important Turkic countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan but there are numerous Turkic peoples like those of the North Caucasus who are part of that issue as well. The Turks of the North Caucasus can be the bridge between Moscow and that world.