Staunton, February 27 – Moscow’s division of the Circassian nation into subgroups not only represents a typical divide-and-rule imperial strategy but also puts the language and identity of the subgroups at risk, Marina Khakuasheva says, a fact that other non-Russian nations that the center is seeking to subdivide must recognize as a threat to themselves as well.
All non-Russians must thus view efforts to divide them in this way as a threat to their continued existence, the Kabardin scholar says, something Moscow has inadvertently signalled by its continuing efforts to block any recognition of subgroups within the ethnic Russian nation ().
Most analysts of the North Caucasus have long accepted the idea that the central Russian government divided up the Circassians first by expelling or killing 90 percent of them and then splitting the nation up by rejecting any recognition of a single Circassian nation in order to make it easier for Moscow to control the North Caucasus.
But Khakuasheva takes the next step and argues that this artificial division is intended to weaken the languages and thus identities of these groups and put their continuing survival at risk, an argument that suggests that maintaining these divisions represents a kidn of slow-motion genocide that continues the genocide of the Circassians begun by Russian forces in 1864.
The Kabardin writer’s discussion of ethnonyms like the calls of many Circassians to declare that as their common identity in the 2020 Russian census may strike many as a marginal issue, of concern only to those who want to redraw the borders in the North Caucasus (https://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/02/circassians-long-divided-by-moscow.html).
But Khakuasheva shows why, even if the restoration of Circassia is the ultimate goal of Circassians, opposition to the continuing division of that nation into subgroups is a necessary defense against the Putin regime’s campaign against the non-Russian languages and thus the non-Russian nations.
Just as it is easier to dissolve something that has been crushed into small bits in a glass of water, so too it is easier to dissolve non-Russian nations with the Russian-speaking non-ethnic Russian nation if the former are first divided up into smaller groups, whose languages, cultures, and identities are at far greater risk.
And that means something else: Moscow’s claim that its recognition of these smaller groups shows its solicitude for the non-Russians is a smokescreen decided to hide its assimilatory and even genocidal policies, not only against the Circassians but against all non-Russian nations Moscow is using this approach.
With each passing year, the Kabardin writer says, “we recognize ever more clearly the destructive impact of the currently existing Circassian ethnonyms” that Moscow has imposed, ethonyms that are creating confusion in the minds of scholars, analysts and some of the Circassians Moscow has imposed them on.
“Despite the significant interval of time which separates us from the Soviet era,” she continues, “it is perfectly obvioius today that we all the same remain its hostages. The absence of an idea about the Circassians as a single whole is having a destructive influence on all spheres of their life.”
More to the point, Khakuasheva says, “such a division of a single people was yet another act of a common imperial policy. The Russian regime destroyed and dispersed 95 percent of the Circassians throughout the wrld, leaving in the motherland only five percent. The USSR redraw the map, imposing these dividing ehtnonyms which have begun to be used by all, including the Circassians themselves.”
“It is difficult to find a contemporary situation analogous to that of the Circassian people 90 perecent live beyond the borders of their historical motherland in all countries of the world … and 10 percent living in their historical motherland are divided into the territories of four or five subjects.”
That Moscow’s intentions now are to assimilate these peoples and not just divide them up is indirectly confirmed by the fact that the central government is using similar policies against other non-Russian groups but rejecting them out of hand for subgroups within the ethnic Russian nation.
All this means, Khakuasheva concludes that “we stand before the necessity of changing the former anti-scientific system of Soviet ethnonyms which blocks the adequate self-identificaiton, cultural integration, and scholarly and general development of the Circassian people.”