Saturday, March 14, 2020

‘International Circassian Association’ Speaks for Russian Special Services, Not the Circassian People, Khatazhukov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 9 – In recent days, Khauti Sokhrokov, president of the International Circassian Association and a member of Putin’s working group for preparing amendments to the Russian Constitution, has expressed his unqualified support for the changes that the Kremlin leader wants to make in the country’s basic law.

            Both because many journalists and commentators are inclined to view his words as those of the Circassian nation as a whole, articles have appeared assuming or even directly suggesting that the Circassians, almost alone among the non-Russian nationalities, are supportive of the proposed amendments.

            That is not the case, Valery Khatazhukov, the head of the Karbardino-Balkar Regional Human Rights Center. Neither Sokhrokov nor his organization speaks for the Circassians. Instead, both reflect the views of Russia’s special services which assumed control of this group two decades ago (

            And because this is so, the Kabard activist says, he feels compelled to point out that “the social organization which today calls itself the International Circassian Association neither by its ideology or its activities has any relationship to the organization which existed [under the same name] in the 1990s.”

            Then that group was headed by “outstanding representatives of the Circassian people such as Yury Kalmykov, Abu Shkhalyakho, Zaur Naloyev and many others well known not only in the Circassian world but throughout Russia.” They made it “an influential and independent national-democratic movement.

            Then, the ICA “took an active part in the social-political processes which were taking place in the country” and “and defended the interests of the Circassians before the federal organs of power of the Russian Federation, in countries where the multi-million-sized diaspora lives, and in international organizations.”

            That ICA, he continues, “was destroyed in 2000 when its leaders categorically rejected the attempts of the organs of power of Kabardino-Balkaria to take the organization under its control employing for this purpose blackmail, bribery and physical persecution.” After that time, the ICA was not what it was and has not spoken for the Circassians.

Perhaps the reconstituted group’s greatest failure has been its unwillingness to speak out on behalf of Circassians in war-torn Syria who would like to return to their historical homeland in the North Caucasus. Almost all Circassians favor this, but the Russian government does not – and today’s ICA does its bidding.

“Independent Circassian activities, who share democratic convictions and who seek to defend the interests of their people by civilized and legal means, do not recognize the activity of this organization and consider that it is under the complete control of the Russian organs of power and their special services,” Khatazhukov says.

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