Staunton, January 11 – Increasing instability in Syria has led to demands that ethnic Circassians living there be allowed to return to their original homeland in the North Caucasus. Moscow has not yet taken a decision on this point, but some bloggers and commentators have expressed “skepticism” that any who did return would “adapt” to conditions there.
But Naima Neflyasheva, a blogger for Kavkaz-uzel.ru, points out in a post yesterday that “the experience of the repatriation in the 1990s to Adygey and Kabardino-Balkaria (to Karachayevo-Cherkessia there were almost no repatriants) says that this is from being the case” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/blogs/1927/posts/10293).
She points out that “for example in Adygeya there is already a corresponding milieu in the conditions of which adaptation would take place even more quickly.” There are both government structures like the Center for the Adaptation of Repatriants and social groups which “are helping repatriants to fit into the new milieu.”
Tellingly, there are repatriants from Turkey and Syria already working in these institutions with the necessary linguistic expertise and background to be able to help. They and others also “cooperate with the Committee on Nationality Affairs, Communication with Compatriots and Media of the Adygey Republic” to provide necessary documentation.
Moreover, in two local universities, the Adygey State University and the Technology University, there are already Circassian students from Syria and Turkey. The local television channel has been cooperating with Circassian satellite television in Jordan. And everyone remembers the instructive case of the return of Circassians from Kosovo in 1998.
In that year and with Moscow’s support, the Kosovo Circassians were evacuated from war-torn Yugoslavia. The repatriation of these “Kosovars” was “not simple,” Neflyasheva says, largely because of “the lack of understanding [then] of certain local officials and the cultural distance” between the Circassians abroad and those in the North Caucasus.
“However,” despite dire warnings at the time, of the “almost 200 Yugoslav Circassians” who came, only “about 30” subsequently decided to resettle in Germany or Turkey. The rest “created working places” for themselves, very quickly fitting in to the local culture but more than that making a contribution to their co-ethnics in their historical homeland.
The reasons for this are to be found in the character of the returning Circassians themselves, the North Caucasian blogger says. On the one hand, she points out, those who returned have been “distinguished by their law-abidingness and their loyalty toward the state which accepted them.
And on the other, the repatriants did not sit and wait for others to help them. “They brought with those work habits which the local Circassians [who had been profoundly affected by the Soviet system] still did not have.” And they often were professionals who could provide services that would otherwise be unavailable.
Whether Moscow which has chosen to back the current government of Syria will be willing to allow Circassians from there to return home remains to be seen, but suggestions that such people would not “fit in” to the reality of the Circassian community in the North Caucasus do not stand up to examination, Neflyasheva concludes.