Circassian Repatriants from Syria Ask Putin for Equal Treatment with Ukrainians in Russia
December 29 – Because the Duma has given Vladimir Putin the power to offer
accelerated Russian citizenship to immigrants, Circassians who have fled war-torn
Syria to their historical homeland in the North Caucasus have called on the
Kremlin leader to give them the same rights he has already given ethnic
Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country.
is unlikely to do so because any additional return of Circassians to the North
Caucasus could shift the ethnic balance there in ways unfavorable to Russian
control, and he is likely to be justified in the eyes of many because the
Circassians from Syria seldom know Russian while the Ukrainians who came fled
to Russia typically do or soon learn it.
the way in which the Circassians are invoking the ways Moscow has been treating
Ukrainians is yet another indication of the ways in which the Russian
government finds itself trapped: if it treats everyone the same, it creates
problems for itself now; but if it treats groups differently, it creates other
and potentially larger problems in time.
December 25, the International Circassian Association appealed to Putin to include
Circassians from Syria among the foreign groups having the right for obtaining Russian
citizenship in an accelerated way. (Moscow first offered this right to
Ukrainian residents who came to Russia in 2014.) (kommersant.ru/doc/3844097).
in Russia can now obtain Russian citizenship almost immediately without having
to wait the five to seven years normally required. That gives them access to a
variety of benefits, such as maternal capital and government jobs, those without
such status do not have. The 2,000 Circassians from Syria in the North Caucasus
want the same rights, the ICA says.
Syrian Circassians are in an even worse plight than the Ukrainians because
under Syrian law, their foreign passports have only a short period of validity;
and those who carry them must return to Syria to renew them. That is expensive
and difficult and those without valid passports become stateless, a category in
Russia with even fewer rights.
week before the ICA made its appeal, the Duma voted to give Putin the right to
decide which categories of foreigners could be offered accelerated path to
citizenship. (The arrangements for Ukrainians were made without such a legal
foundation.) Putin has signed the law; and the ICA feels that the time has come
for Moscow to give Circassians this opportunity.
the Russian government has not done so before, the number of Circassians in
Syria seeking to return has fallen to a handful in recent months, leaving that
community which arose following the Russian expulsion of Circassians to the
Ottoman Empire in 1864 at increasing risk (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/329784/).