Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Securing Return of Circassians from Syria Immediate Task for National Movement, Karov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 5 – “The main task” for Circassians now is “saving Circassians living in Syria” and their security once they return to their motherland in the North Caucasus, according to Ratmir Karov, a Nalchik activist. They have brought and can bring much good to the KBR, KChR and Adygeya and pose “no danger for Russia.”

            “Experience has shown that [such people] are law-abiding and professional people. For example, among repatriants from Syria to Kabardino-Balkaria are the best doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, sculptors and representatives of other professions needed in the republic,” Karov continues.

            “There has not been one case of violation of the law by our compatriots from Syria,” he notes. And because they need help, make a serious contribution to national rebirth, and do not cause problems for Moscow, they deserve the whole-hearted support of both Circassians in the homeland and those in the diaspora.

            Villages and families should collectively gather funds to help them return and get started in their historical motherland, Karov argues.  “The most important task is to provide for the security of the Circassians,” and helping those in war-torn countries to return is the best way to do that.

            In other comments, the Circassian activist says, the Internet is bringing together a new generation of Circassians in the homeland and abroad and making a significant contribution to the survival of their language and national traditions.  The coming together of this generation must be integrated into the larger coming together of the nation as a whole, he suggests.

            And Karov says that out of respect for our ancestors who died in the Caucasian war, “we undoubtedly must seek Russia’s recognition of the genocide of the Circassians.” That end, we must produce “documentary films and books” to spread knowledge about what happened and why rather than allow enemies of the Circassians to distort and misuse this history.

Kremlin’s Reaction to Crisis Shows It Views Its Residents as Subjects Not Citizens, Kordonsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 5 – Many Russians now have more time to go online and one of the things they are seeing there are direct comparisons between what their government is doing for them and what the governments of other countries are doing for their residents. The comparison is not in Russia’s favor.

            While the leading Western countries are spending 10 to as much as 20 percent of GDP fighting the pandemic and its economic consequences, the Russian government is spending only 1.2 percent, putting it among the most underdeveloped (

            Simon Kordonsky, a distinguished sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says this difference reflects less the amount of money the various governments have at their disposal than the attitude of these governments toward those who live in their countries (

            In Western democracies, he says, governments view these people as citizens it is responsible for. In Russia, unfortunately, the regime views the population as subjects who should be happy with any crumb it gives them and who will be punished if they dare to ask for more than their rulers deem appropriate to give them.

            During the current crisis, he continues, these Russian “subjects” are supposed to sit quietly at home and wait. And they are supposed to be pleased with their fate. After all, the powers that be have promised that everything will be better by the time of the May holidays …

Krasnodar Court Recognizes Man’s Right to Change Nationality from Russian to Cossack

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 5 – Sergey Sipulin, a 42-year-old lawyer, has succeeded in having a court in Krasnodar overturn a decision by registration officials against his being allowed to change his official registration from being a Russian to being a Cossack, “a case for emulation,” Cossack leaders say.

            According to the Russian Constitution, a citizen has an absolute right to declare any nationality or none at all in official documents – there no longer is a nationality line in passports -- but unfortunately, reflecting Kremlin policy, many officials in registration offices refuse to allow people to make a free choice. And few who are rejected turn to the courts.

            Sipulin is an exception.  He tells Yevgeny Rozhansky of Krasnodar’s VKPress news portal, that there should not be any problem. But there often is. Citizens have the right to make such changes on the basis of their own declarations, and officials are required to register them (

            The state registry office rejected his application because, it said, “the nationality ‘Cossack’ has not been confirmed by anything.”  And so he turned to the courts, believing that under the Constitution as confirmed in rules governing the last census in 2010, his rights were being violated.

            The court ruled in his favor and has directed the registry to change Sipulin’s nationality to Cossack.  He said that having that nationality listed in his documents was important so as not to “lose his Cossack identity.”

            What is “curious,” VKPress’s Rozhansky says, is that Cossacks don’t have to provide any documentation to make this claim. The situation is different with regard to Russian Germans or Jews because having those nationalities gives the bearers the right to emigrate more easily than would otherwise be the case.

            Sipulin has no plans to move. His family has deep roots in the Don Cossack host, including not only his ancestors but his wife as well. And he is a devout follower of the Russian Orthodox Church. He has three children but wants more, declaring that in a normal Cossack family, there are typically “no fewer than ten.”

            The newly recognized Cossack is currently wrapping up his legal practice and plans to resettle in rural areas where he says he and his family will be peasants like Cossacks in the past and “not farmers,” interested only in profit. Senior Cossack leaders support him in this just as they have his court case and say others should emulate what he has done.

            If they do, this could matter profoundly to Moscow. In the relatively freer 2002 Russian census, 140,000 people declared their nationality to be Cossack. In 2010, when Putin was beginning to push Russian identity, only 67,000 did, a trend that allowed the Kremlin to boost the number of ethnic Russians.

            Given that there are an estimated three million people in the Russian Federation who identify as Cossacks, a shift by a significant portion of them in the direction of Cossack identity would cut into the Russian number and create other problems for Moscow, including the likelihood that Cossack communities would demand restoration of their rights and territories.

            As a result, this decision of a Krasnodar court could mark a watershed for Cossacks and for Russians – as well as becoming a model for others, including Circassians, who want to declare identities they value but that Moscow officials do not want them to have lest it challenge existing arrangements in the country.