Staunton, August 29 – Two days ago, a Moscow radio station carried a rare broadcast on the deportation of the Circassians from Russia in 1864, an action that affected up to 95 percent of all Circassians in the North Caucasus then newly conquered by Russian forces, Pavel Pryanikov reports.
Some subgroups of the Circassians, the Shapsugs, for example, were destroyed more fully – only 1,000 of the 300,000 remained in their homeland – and a large share of them died in the process, thus constituting an action which Circassians argue rises to the level of genocide although Russians consistently reject the application of that term.
People in Russia today, “especially the crusaders, do not like to talk about this deportation;” and that is the case even among those who are willing to talk about Stalin’s deportation, even though the expulsion of the Circassians was far larger and the number of people far greater as well (facebook.com/ppryanikov/posts/2051101544934894).
The Russian commentator and editor of the Tolkovatel blog offers three reasons in addition to those why Russians should be paying more attention to what may seem to some a long ago event:
First, “the most active defenders of the mountaineers then were … the Hungarians and the Poles.” Indeed, on a British ship, 220 legionnaires from those nations were brought to the North Caucasus in 1857 and fought for three years. Their Polish commander converted to Islam and adopted a new name Tefik-Bey. And in London, Poles joined the Free Circassia Committee.
Second, Musa Kundukhov, a tsarist general who was an Ossetin-Muslim by ethnicity and faith, resigned his commission in 1864 to protest the expulsion of the Circassians and personally led and financed a group of some 25-30,000 Circassians into exile in the Ottoman Empire. Thirteen years later, he fought on its side against Russia.
More to the point, Pryanikov says, Kundukhov was not alone in this: “A similar path” was followed by Kabardin Colonel Abdurakhmanov, Major General Morgukorov, Lieutenant General Temirkkhan Shipshyev (“who led 60,000 Shapsugs into Turkey”), among others.
And third and most important of all: The Circassian expulsion gives “food for thought for alternative historians.” Had the Circassians and other North Caucasians remained in their historical motherland, today, there would be 25 to 30 million of them in that region. “Kuban and Stavropol would be 90 percent mountaineers.”
As a result, “the entire history of Russia in the 20th century could have proceeded in another way.”
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