Saturday, August 10, 2019

Republics, Not Moscow, Can Decide Whether to Allow Circassians from Syria to Come to Russia, Foreign Ministry Disingenuously Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 7 – After an article sharply criticized Moscow for not admitting more Circassians from Syria (, the Regnum news agency asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for its reaction. The MFA said decisions about such admissions are the province of the republics, not Moscow.

            In yet another example of Moscow’s proclivity to shift responsibility but not resources to the regions and republics, the foreign ministry in a 600 word statement says that the republics and regions of Russia have the right to decide which applicants for admission to the country will be accepted under the compatriots program (

            This statement is disingenuous in at least three ways. First, the Russian embassy in Syria decides who gets the necessary travel documents for admission to the Russian Federation. Consequently, a federal agency is the first obstacle to the return of the thousands of Circassians who want to leave war-torn Syria for their ancestral homeland.

            Second, the republics and regions may have the right to allow Circassians from Syria to become part of the compatriots program; but it is an unfunded liability. The Circassian republics – Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia – are dependent on subsidies from the center because they do not retain the taxes they collect.

            And third, as the Russian foreign ministry acknowledges, decisions on who gets residence status are made not by the republic government as a whole but by the interior ministry which is far more subordinate to the Russian Federation government than it is to any of the republics.

            Moscow does not want the Circassians to return because it fears that their presence in the North Caucasus could upset the ethnic balance there and power more demands for the restoration of a single Circassia and more generally because it does not want more Muslims in Russia (

            And to that end, it has made it ever more difficult for the Circassian republics to take Circassians in, forcing them for financial reasons to be Moscow’s agents in this effort rather than allowing them to act as they would like to if they had the funds (

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