Friday, September 8, 2017

Moscow Views Return of Circassians from Abroad as 'a Mortal Danger,’ Shmulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 8 – Often observers look at the divisions among Circassians and even within the Circassian national movement and conclude that they are no threat to anyone, Avraam Shmulyevich says. But they forget that almost all national movements including the ones which have become successful have begun with such problems.

            But those more closely involved, including in the first instance the government and special services of the Russian Federation, the Israeli analyst says, are very much frightened by that prospect and have deployed many forces to disorganize and suppress Circassian activism wherever it manifests itself (

                “The Circassians,” Shmulyevich continues, “are the only people for whom the Caucasus War has still not ended, the only people who not only seriously suffered in the course of this war but for whom the negative consequences of defeat are still important and more than that catastrophic.”

            Their “main problem is that 80 percent of the Circassians to this day are in exile and being subject to active assimilation,” but in addition, those who remain in “their historical motherland, the North Caucasus, “are divided among six administrative units” something that represents a barrier to their coming together.

            Moreover, “even in their own ‘national’ formations, the Circassians are deprived of the opportunity to freely develop their culture and define by themselves the path of their national development.” Moscow’s complaint that the Circassians talk “’too much’” about the past is baseless given that Russian forces expelled “more than 95 percent” of them.

            That action, along with the murderous campaign and discrimination the Russian state imposed before and after 1864, qualifies as a genocide.  That is how most international legal scholars view it, and it is so much a part of the Circassian national identity that few Circassians feel the need to articulate it on a regular basis, Shmulyevich says.

            Moscow is not willing to discuss any of this. Nor is it willing to allow Circassians from the Middle East to return to the North Caucasus. The reason is simple, he says. “The arrival of tens and then hundreds of thousands of citizens with experience in more democratic states and having foreign citizenship and thus immunity … is a mortal threat to the Putin order.”

            But Moscow is not content just to keep the Circassians from returning. Because of its fears, the Kremlin has taken steps to completely control Circassian organizations inside the Russian Federation, groups that “imitate activity and try to distract young people from the main Circassian problem.”  They have been largely successful in “’setting the tone’” in these groups.

            Today, however, Shmulyevich argues, “the situation is changing; and the meaninglessness of these organization has become evident to many Circassians. Circassian young people are coming to back the idea of the need for the creation of an international organization based on the principles of international law.”

            The Israeli scholar says that in his opinion, such an organization “will appear in the coming years.”

            In addition, he points out, “the Russian special services are devoting colossal efforts for the neutralization of the Circassian question. But they are not all-powerful. Even the powerful Soviet KGB was not in a position to control a multi-million-strong people; and its successors are weaker by an order of magnitude.” 

            All these things mean, Shmulyevich concludes, that Circassian problems are only going to intensify.  As one Circassian activist told him, he reports, “God alone knows how all this will end, but there isn’t going to be any peace in the Caucasus.”  And that is something that many in Moscow already have many reasons to fear. 

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