Staunton, May 30 – Despite the uptick in international attention the Circassians received at the time of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, many people in the West were inclined to dismiss them as an echo of a distant past. But now, their national rebirth is a fait accompli, a development underscored by Moscow’s actions at home and abroad.
What is striking is that the Russian powers that be appear less worried about the Circassians themselves than about the possibility that the Circassians will unite others against Moscow and become a model, because of their successful revival of a national movement, for other oppressed peoples in the Russian Federation itself.
On the one hand, Moscow is clearly worried that the Circassians, five million of whom live in the Middle East as a result of their 1864 expulsion from the Russian Empire, might become the nucleus of an anti-Moscow popular movement there and has launched a propaganda campaign against that possibility (almanar.com.lb/3802797
From Moscow’s perspective, either of those developments would represent a greater threat to Russian interests than even the restoration of a Circassian Republic within the Russian Federation. And consequently, it appears likely that some Circassian activists are going to be able to exploit those fears to get a better deal for their people.
Up to now, these developments are happening below the radar screen of most Western governments and analysts, just as the revived national movements in the Soviet Union did until they were already strong. Like these predecessors, the Circassians certainly deserve more attention and support than they have received up to now.
(For background on this revival, see the current author’s “Circassians Remember the Past but Mobilize for the Future,” Jamestown Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 29, 2018 (jamestown.org/program/circassians-remember-the-past-but-mobilize-for-the-future/).)