Sunday, March 1, 2020

‘Banality of Evil’ in Russia Today Threatens Circassians’ National Survival, Khakuasheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 25 – The banality of evil Hannah Arendt pointed to in the case of Eichman now infects many in the Circassian community who find it easier to conform to whatever the bosses want because that will protect their jobs and secure them preferment in the system, Madina Khakuasheva says.

            But unless Circassians resist – and there are opportunities to do so – the Kabardino-Balkar Scientific Center scholar says, they will cease to be defenders of Adgye khase, the nation’s moral code, and thus cease to be Circassians even if they continue to speak the national language (

            Khakusheva has spoken out against Moscow’s Russification polices in the past – see – but this is her most impassioned call to arms yet, an appeal based both on her fears of what may now lie ahead and on her hopes that a court case now in Moscow can help turn things around.

            Arendt, the Circassian scholar says, showed in her book “the destructive force of invisible daily evil,” of the actions of people who go along with whatever the authorities order because it is easier and more personally profitable to do so and because small people want their lives to seem good and defensible.

            Unlike with Eichman in Nazi Germany, we Circassians of course “do not face physical death but we are speaking about the rapid death of our native language” brought on by official policies and the willingness of all too many Circassians and others to go along even though the death of the language will mean the death of the nation.

            “For Circassians, this already typical style of life is a betrayal of its national foundation, adyge khaze!” she says. “For us, conformist behavior is the equivalent of suicide.”  Many had assumed that this value system provided a powerful shield against such things, but it turns out that while many still live according to it, many others do not.

            And they should be asking themselves what are we defending Circassian for? “Because without adyge khaze, an individual is only a speaker of an ancient language but already is not a Circassian. The fate of all our culture and the nation itself is under threat. In this conformism of each of us is ‘the banality of evil.’”  

            Khakusheva’s conclusions have been sparked, she says, by a court case that has been going on between Circassian activists and the director of a school who sought to overfulfill the plan on eliminating Circassian and Balkar from the schools and thus winning positive notice from the powers that be and the popular attention to this case.

            Two years ago, the director of one KBR school sought to eliminate the study of native languages in the 10th and 11 classes. He did this in a backhanded way: students were asked whether they wanted to study these languages by teachers of other subjects who threatened them with exams no one would pass if they declared they did want to study Circassian or Balkar.

            To no one’s surprise, 215 of the 217 students queried in this way and with this threat hanging over their heads said they didn’t want to study these languages. Such a poll was obviously illegal but had the director gotten away with it, such an approach would have been extended across the republic and perhaps even beyond its borders.

            Shortly thereafter, a group of parents and activists appealed to the republic’s education ministry and were assured that the poll would be ignored.  But it was clear that the director had done what he had because of his understanding of what those above him wanted. He showed that by purging the school library of books in Circassian and Balkar.

            Most teachers and administrators simply went along with his orders, but some didn’t and the director brought suit against them. That case has been wending its way through the courts for two years, with the director remaining in place while the teacher he targeted has been driven out of the school and the authorities have not intervened.

            What is depressing is that so many people, including those who call themselves Circassians, have been prepared to go along with what the bosses say, an approach to which they have been conditioned by more than 50 years of Russian antagonism toward the Circassian and other non-Russian languages.

            But what is encouraging is that there are some who are not prepared to go along, to conform, and who are prepared to sacrifice for what they believe and their nation.  They are keeping this issue alive in the courts as well as during Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to the republic.

            And so, Khakusheva says, “the legal process is not yet completed: it has entered a new federal level, and according to the defendants in the suit, ‘it will go to the Strasbourg court … it that should be necessary.’” That is an important means to overcome and defeat “the banality of evil” that threatens the Circassians and other non-Russians within Russia’s current borders.

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