Saturday, August 31, 2019

Kremlin Seeks to Distract Attention from Its Blocking of Circassians’ Return to Their Homeland

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 29 – Faced with growing anger among Circassians who are not being allowed to return to their historical homeland and growing attention to their plight internationally, the Kremlin has done what it typically does in such circumstances: make a high profile appointment and ensure positive media coverage of what it is doing.

            This week, Vladimir Putin announced the appointment of Kauti Sokhrokov, head of the International Circassian Association for the Unity of the Circassian People, to his Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations (

            And the Russian media played up the hospitality Adgyeya officials and the population there had shown to an eight-day visit by 11 Circassian students from Turkey as part of an exchange program that has been going on since 2008 (
            The appointment is something Kremlin propagandists will certainly use to suggest that Putin and the Russian state are focused on and solicitous to the desire of Circassians too, although the council to which Sokhrokov has been named is less a decision-making body than one whose composition allows Putin to send messages to the state and the population.

            And the visit of the 11 Circassian young people from Turkey to Adygeya was not the unqualified success Moscow hopes to present it as being. In fact, according to one Circassian involved, this year’s visit highlighted both Russia’s retreat from its promises to help the Circassians in Syria and elsewhere and how Russian officials have acted to block their return.

            The Russian program too support the return and resettlement of Circassians has existed since 2008, but its budget has been cut. As a result, the number of Circassian participants even in visits like the one by Circassians from Turkey has been cut by more than 50 percent (

                Moreover, Asker Sokht, head of the Adyge Khase organization in Krasnodar Kray adds, officials first in Adgyeya and then in Karachayevo-Cherkessia have failed to keep their promises as far as providing support or even testing Circassian returnees about their knowledge of Russian in the timely fashion. Instead, there are unforgivable delays, something that sends a message.

            Such Russian actions, combined with the declining intensity of fighting in Syria, has seriously reduced the number of Circassian returnees. If anything, Sokht suggests, officials in the Russian Federation have been less hospitable to Circassian returnees now when dealing with them would be easier than they were when the flow was greater.

            Moscow’s latest moves won’t do much to hide that reality either from other Circassians in the homeland and abroad or from others who care about the fate of that nation.

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