Tuesday, September 20, 2016

KBR Head Calls for Single Circassian Alphabet Across North Caucasus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – Moscow has used two strategies to weaken the Circassian nation in the North Caucasus: dividing up its historical territory into a series of republics and promoting linguistic divisions among these groups by imposing different alphabets on each, a move intended to destroy the Circassians as a single people.

            Circassian activists have long focused on the territorial divisions and sought to reunite their nation on a single territory for the 500,000 Circassians in the North Caucasus and as a focus and potential place of return for the more than five million who live abroad, the descendants of those Russian forces expelled in 1864.

            But such activists have focused less often on the alphabet issue, something perhaps less sexy than territory but that has had equally profound consequences. Now, that may be about to change: the head of the Kabardino-Balkar republic has called for the creation of a common Circassian alphabet in the North Caucasus to improve outreach to Circassians abroad.

            In an address to the 11th Congress of the International Circassian Association in Nalchik yesterday, Yuri Kokov said that it was time to pursue this goal after many years in which experts had talked about it but without success (nazaccent.ru/content/21910-sozdat-edinuyu-adygskuyu-pismennost-predlozhil-glava.html).

            “Today,” he pointed out, “textbooks, newspapers, journals and books are published in three alphabets, the Adygey, the Cherkess, and the Kabardin, a pattern that creates great difficulties for all Circassians and above all for the diaspora abroad major difficulties in the study and the development of the language.”

            Kokov called for “a rapid resolution” of this issue and for “the joint efforts of the organs of power, scholarly institutions, literary specialists and educators.”

            One reason that the KBR leader may assume makes this a good time to press for this is that the economic problems the Russian Federation now faces is leading to cutbacks in state subsidies for publications in non-Russian languages. A common alphabet would reduce the need for duplicate publications.

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