Friday, February 8, 2019

Circassians Long Divided by Moscow Urged to Reassert National Unity via 2020 Census

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7 – In order to further weaken the Circassian nation whose ancestors the Russian Empire killed and expelled in an act of genocide in1864, the Soviet system insisted that they were not only people but several and demanded that the Circassians identify not as Circassians but as Adygeys, Kabardins and Cherkess among others.

            That Moscow-imposed division was fixed both in the territorial divisions of the North Caucasus with ethno-territorial formations like the Adygey, the Kabardino-Balkaria and the Karachay-Cherkess republics and in the censuses of both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.

            The Circassians have never forgotten their national unity and have long sought to restore a single national republic in that region, one that could allow the more than five million Circassians abroad who are the descendants of those expelled by the tsars to return home. But Moscow has refused arguing on the basis of the false argument that these are separate peoples.

            In support of that argument, the Soviet authorities and now the Russian ones have required the people to declare that they are not Circassians but members of the nationalities that the Soveits created on the basis of subdivisions of the that nation. Moscow used the nationality line in the census in Soviet times, and it has used the census both then and now.

            Now a group of Circassian activists is using Facebook and other social media to urge Circassians to stand up for their real identity when the Russian state conducts its next census in 2020. Moscow may refuse to register their declarations, but the act of making them will strengthen the nation and back up its claims (

                Shamsutdin Neguch, a representative of the Adygey Khase group, points out that “our people from the point of view of Russian law is divided into four nationalities. In the official list, these are the Circassians, the Adygeys, the Kabardins and the Shapsugs. We however consider ourselves Adygs [Circassians].” That is the common term for all.

             The total number of Adygs (Circassians) in the 2010 census was 718,000. If they all insist on that designation with census takers, that will help them to preserve their language and identity and recover their national territory, as well as unite them with the millions of Circassians living beyond the current borders of the Russian Federation. 

            Preserving the national language is especially critical now, one Circassian educator says. Many young Circassians even if they know their national language well are using Russian because their national language is no longer being taught in many subjects in the schools where they are enrolled.

            Unfortunately, Neguch says, things have reached the most unfortunate point that some Kabardins do not know that the Shapsugs are Adygs.” Therefore, for ourselves, for Russia and for the world, “we want to declare that we are a single people although we live in different places.” 

            According to Olga Efendiyeva-Begret, “practically all residents’ of Kabardino-Balkaris support this effort. “Our people is divided both territorially and by nationality,” but this Flashmob technique can help us come together and resist Moscow’s efforts to destroy Circassians by dividing them up.

            Circassian activist Ruslan Gvashev adds that “before the census, there must be convened an all-national congress of Adygs in order to adopt a resolution that we are defining ourselves by ourselves and that we ask to be called what we are, Circassians.” 

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