Sunday, December 15, 2019

Moscow, Worried about Circassian Drive to Declare Their Common Nationality, Goes on the Attack

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – The ideologists of the Putin regime are incapable of believing that ordinary people, Russian or non-Russian, can and do express their own interests and are capable of taking action in their defense. Consequently, when such people do, the first thing the Putinists suggest is that they are being organized and put in play by outside forces.

            Moreover, the more any action of ordinary people, again Russian and non-Russian alike, threatens the powers that be, the more insistent and scurrilous are the charges the Putinists level against them. Consequently, while such releases are unpleasant to read, they are perhaps the best indicator that the actions of the people are having an impact.

            The latest but far from the only such attack just now is one directed at the drive by the Soviet-divided Circassian community to declare a common ethnonym in the upcoming 2020 census, an action that its supporters believe will help their nation survive and even give a new boost to their efforts to restore a common Circassia and have Circassians now in exile return.

            That effort, perhaps the largest one by Circassians  since they embarrassed Vladimir Putin by calling attention to the fact that his Sochi Olympiad was taking place on the site of where tsarist forces in 1864 committed genocide against their ancestors by killing or deporting those Circassians who had fought a 104-year-long war to the Russians.

            Circassians both in the homeland and internationally now are promoting the idea that Circassians whom Moscow divided into separate “nationalities” – the Adygey, the Cherkess, the Kabardins, and the Shapsugs – should invoke their rights and declare themselves Circassians (

                If large numbers of them do – even if as expected the Russian census falsifies the results -- that will highlight the duplicity of Moscow’s divide-and-rule strategy in the North Caucasus and undoubtedly lead to a further growth of Circassian national self-confidence and to demands that a single Circassian Republic be restored in the region.

            That act of national self-assertion would create serious problems for Moscow, not only by calling attention to Russian crimes against the Circassians but also casting doubt on the legitimacy of the divisions it has imposed in the North Caucasus and elsewhere and even of its rule over that region and others.

            As a result, Russian commentators are going on the attack, arguing that this effort has nothing to do with Circassian interests but rather is another example of the West’s using such people who the Russians say are sometimes willing to cooperate but at others are unwittingly being employed to destabilize the region and undermine Moscow and Vladimir Putin personally.

            The latest example of this attack is an article by Ruslan Ryazantsev in Moscow’s Segodnya which says that “the West is again activating ‘the Circassian theme,’” backing “pseudo-Circassians” who have no support in the community, and creating a false mythology about the Circassian people to lead others astray (

            Ryazantsev expresses particular anger at the promotion of calls for members of the various Circassian peoples to declare themselves members of a single Circassian nation in the 2020 census, denouncing in particular the works of Adel Bashqawi and the support he has been given by other Circassians and by Americans and Georgians. 

            “Why are the American ideologues after a certain period of quiet again actively taking up the promotion of the Circassian problem and trying to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus?” the commentator asks rhetorically. “The answer is not obvious but simple: the Russian authorities have confidently seized the initiative.”

            As Vladimir Putin said in the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria on November 29, he continues, issues of nationality relations are not disappearing. They require constant attention “just like one’s health.”  Ryazantsev’s article is the kind of attention to them that the Kremlin clearly approves of and in this case feels it needs.


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