Saturday, December 5, 2015

Moscow’s Refusal to Help Syria's Circassians Shows Russian Nationalist Nature of ‘Russian World,’ Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 5 – The Russian foreign ministry’s declaration that it will not provide any special assistance to Syria’s Circassians who are seeking repatriation to their ancestral homes in the North Caucasus shows that Moscow’s claims about the super-ethnic nature of “the Russian World” are fraudulent, Vitaly Portnikov says.
            Not only does it show that Moscow only wants to help ethnic Russians or those like the Ukrainians of the Donbas it views as ethnic Russians, the Ukrainian commentator continues, but it highlights how Russia to this day remains “an ignorant and black hundred” state out of step with morality and modernity (

            In a comment for, Portnikov says that he recently read about the extreme measures the Israeli government took to rescues the last Jewish family in Aleppo and return them to Israel.  “For the Jewish state, they are compatriots” and thus must be protected and accorded every defense.

            The Ukrainian commentator says that he recalled that story when he found out that “the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused the International Circassian Association’s request to east entrance into Russian for Syrian citizens of Adygey-Circassian origin” and especially the argument Sergey Lavrov made

            That “big lover of ‘the Russian world,’” Portnikov points out, “did not simply reject the proposal of the compatriots.” Instead, his ministry “said that such a decision would be viewed as discrimination by the Syrian authorities and by other groups of the population of this country.”

            As the entire world knows, “the Adygs (Circassians) are indigenous peoples of Russia. They simply do not have any other historical motherland.” They were forced to flee when the Russian Empire expanded into their area, destroyed their communities, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

            “No one is proposing to judge present-day Russia for the crimes of its rulers during the empire of the Romanovs. Russia simply must become a contemporary state. I would even say a contemporary federal state as Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessi are subjects of the Russian Federation. Russians are not the only compatriots.

            Syria’s Circassians have been attacked by various forces and some of them have fled into Turkey. One wonders, Portnikov says, whether Russia will leave them in peace there.

            But however that may be, he argues, Moscow would be reacting very differently if in Syria there were ethnic Russian villages instead of Circassian ones.  The Russian state would be doing everything it could to evacuate them and give them immediate entrance into the Russian Federation.

            “Everyone who even once visits a Circassian village knows how fervently these people guard their traditions even if they have never seen the Caucasus.” And that being so makes what Putin and the Russian government are doing especially appalling because it shows what Moscow really means by “the Russian World.”

            For Putin, Lavrov and their colleagues, the Russian world is ethnic Russian, and others like the Circassians cannot be part of it, despite what Moscow routinely insists.  To be sure, Portnikov concludes, “this criminal state despises and sues Russians as well. But on the other hand, it hates the Caucasus peoples” like the Circassians.

            Portnikov does not say, but his argument recalls what many observed about the Soviet system. The Russians were victims of communism; the non-Russians had a double burden: they too were victims of communism, but they also were victims of Russianization.  Apparently, Putin is restoring this Soviet tradition as well.

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