Staunton, October 1 – Stalin’s division of Circassian lands into five separate administrative-territorial units and the Soviet system’s imposition of separate ethnic identities in each of them continues to divide the ten percent of the Circassian nation that remains in the North Caucasus, according to a scholar at the Kabardino-Balkaria State University.
Indeed, Marina Khakuasheva says, “many Kabardinians, Shapsugs, Abadzekhs and other representatives of Circassian sub-ethnoses are remain convinced that they are not connected with one another, [and] some of them do not know that only territory divides the Circassians” (zapravakbr.ru/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=148%3A2013-08-06-10-24-30&catid=5%3Aanalinic&Itemid=7
Still worse, many Circassians (Cherkess) do not know their common history and common identity, and many Russian officials, especially in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympiad, continue to do everything they can to keep the Circassians divided and to confuse outsiders about the true state of affairs of that nation.
Before Russian forces occupied Circassia, “all the Adygey sub-ethnoses occupied a single territory,” the scholar notes, “and this gave the opportunity for them to recognize the integral quality of the ethnos” as a whole. But after the genocide in 1864, the community in the North Caucasus was decimated, and some of its parts lost touch with others.
That was reinforced by the administrative-territorial and ethnic identity steps taken by the Soviet government, steps still reflected in post-Soviet Russian reality. The Circassians are divided into five political units: Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Adygeya, the Shapsug district of Krasnodar Kray, and the Mozdok district of North Osetia.
The divisions among Adygeys, Kabardinians, and Cherkess, she points out, did much to contribute to the current confusion. “The ethnonym ‘Adygey’ never existed, [but] now it unites several Western Adygey sub-ethnoses.” Cherkess or Circassian, on the other hand, “is common for all Adygeys, and includes 11 western sub-ethnoses and one eastern one, the Karbardinians.”
At the same time, however, “calling Adygeys who live in Karachayevo-Cherkessia Cherkess – they are primarily Kabardinians and Besleneyevtsy – is completely incorrect since Cherkess [Circassian] is the common exo-ethnonym of the Adygeys.” Such misuses contribute to the distortion and even destruction of national identity.
In addition to their territorial and identity engineering, Khakuasheva says, the Soviets made the situation worse by actively suppressing information about the Russian-Caucasus war, “as a result of which several generations of Adygeys grew u and were formed in the spirit of an absolute historical vacuum and isolation.”
As the Sochi Olympiad approaches, she notes, “we are observing a new stage in the intensification of this broad information war, the main tasks of which are efforts at the liquidation of any traces of the Russian-Caucasus war. To this goal are subordinate all means,” including “crude and not so crude falsification of history, the minimization of the very factof the physical existence of contemporary Adygeys (Circassians) and also a whole range of craft methods which the unaided eye cannot see.”
Many of these efforts exploit “mistaken ethnonyms,” she continues, and consequently, it is extremely important that the Circassians themselves understand the relationships between their sub-ethnoses and the nation as a whole. At the very least, they must discard “incorrect” names and use only those which “correctly reflect the true ethnic structure of the people.”