Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Preventing Assimilation Rather than Returning to North Caucasus Must be Circassians’ Main Focus, Gunger Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 4 – The repatriation of Circassians from around the world to the historical homeland in Circassia in the North Caucasus is both “impossible and unnecessary for the Circassian people,” Negor Fethi Gunger says. Instead, the Circassians should focus on developing their common identity wherever they live and avoiding assimilation.

            The professor at Turkey’s Yalova University advanced this argument at the online Circassian Circle at the end of last month (aheku.net/news/society/cherkesskij-krug). (This is the fifth in a series of Windows on speakers at that event. The first four are available at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/online-circassian-circle-brings.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/adyge-habze-moral-code-must-be.html,   windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/circassians-must-seek-return-to.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/04/circassians-must-return-to-homeland-and.html.)

            “In Circassia,” Gunger says, “the economic, legal, political, socio-cultural, physical and geographic conditions are extremely far from what would be needed to welcome an intensive return of Circassian repatriants.” As a result, making that the central point of the Circassian agenda would be doomed to fail.

            “The common goals of the Circassians as a nation,” the émigré Circassian academic specialist says, “are the defense of their national uniqueness, language and culture and support of their existence as a respected community in the communities of various countries.” Their language and culture, not their historical territory, is their chief resource.

            At the same time, Gunger says, “no one should forget or allow others to forget about the genocide and expulsion of the Circassians by the Russian Empire. When speaking before international communities, Circassians must continue to demand from compensation from russia, return to the motherland [for those who want to], and apologies.”

            On the one hand, Gunger’s words represent a radical departure from and a challenge to the thinking of many Circassian activists in the North Caucasus and also in the diaspora who have made a return to the historical homeland a central tenet of their demands and activities as Circassians.

            But on the other, his argument represents a recognition of current realities: There are more than seven million Circassians in the diaspora, many are integrated and important in the countries where they live, and they have no interest in going back to the North Caucasus at the present time.

            Ensuring that they maintain their culture, language and identity is thus critical not only for them but for those who are in the homeland or who go back. If there were no diaspora, Moscow would treat the Circassians in the North Caucasus with even less ceremony than it does; and so saving the diaspora is critical to saving those in the homeland and saving Circassia.

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