Staunton, October 15 – A new exhibit at Moscow’s Central Museum of the Armed Forces challenges two of the claims Russian officials routinely make: its exhibits demonstrate that the Circassians are one people and not the several Soviet ethnic engineers sought to create and that the Circassians retain their military traditions despite Russian efforts to transform them.
These are no small admissions. On the one hand, this exhibit underscores that the subdivisions of the Circassians that Moscow has sought to present as fundamental are in fact secondary to a common Circassian nation and thus provide another opening for the realization of Circassian demands that a single Circassian republic be restored in the North Caucasus.
And on the other, it reflects a Russian recognition of their continuing fighting spirit both in the North Caucasus where some 500,000 remain and the more than five million who live abroad, the descendants of those expelled by the Russian authorities in 1864 – and why the Circassians must be taken seriously in both places.
The exhibit, entitled “Adygs: Knights, Horsemen, Warriors,” opened in Moscow yesterday after being organized and shown in the National Museum of the Republic of Adygeya and the National Museum of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic much of 2014. The exhibit will be open through December 12 (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/270659/).
As Kavkaz-Uzel points out in its report on this measure, “in the ethnic community ‘Adygs’ are included the Cherkess, the Adygeys, the Kabardins, and the Shapsugs, representatives of which on the territory of Russian largely live in Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, and Krasnodar kray.
In presenting the exhibit, the curators say that “contemporary Adygs [Circassians] have preserved the honor of warriors and knights” and that many of them are trying to revive lost military and other arts in the North Caucasus as well, including in particular horse breeding and weapons making.
Barasbi Bgazhnokov of the Kabardino-Balkar Institute of Research on the Humanities, says that among the traditions which have been retained among the Circassians is respect for the elderly, something that has remained largely unchanged despite all the social and political transformations of the 150 years.
“To a certain extent,” he continues, “everything has been preserved. The culture has not been lost.”
And Samir Khotko of the Adyg International Academy of Sciences, adds that contemporary Circassians are increasingly interested in their military past and are reviving “certain professions which had been close to extinction.”