Monday, August 3, 2020

‘Moscow isn’t Very Concerned about What Circassians Call Themselves,’ Beshtoyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – Circassians organizations have asked federal institutions about their attitude toward the use of Circassian as a common ethnonym, Aslan Beshtoyev says. Their answers suggest that “the federal center isn’t very concerned about what the Circassians call themselves,” a report that likely will make it easier for more to do so in the upcoming census.

            The head of the Kabardin Congress in the KBR made this declaration as Circassians both in the North Caucasus homeland and in the diaspora are urging Adygs, Cherkess, Kabards, Shapsugs, and other nationalities the Soviets divided the Circassian nation to reassert their common identity in the census (

            Some members of this nation have been reluctant to make this step either out of inertia, fears that it will be used against them by leaders of the binational republics, or that doing so will offend Moscow which earlier adopted this divide-and-rule approach to the Circassians. But Bestoyev’s statement suggests Circassians shouldn’t be concerned about Moscow at least.

            The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency surveyed Beshtoyev and several other Circassian leaders about how they view the current state of play on this issue ( Beslan Khagazhey, head of the Peryt Organization, said he supports the campaign to have all Circassians call themselves precisely that.

            The Kabardinian activist says that “Kabarda is the name of a place” not of a people. “Earlier they called us Circassians of Kabarda or Pyatigorsk Circassians. But the self-designaiton has always been Adyge [Circassian].” He doesn’t expect everyone to shift this time around but over time, most will make the change.

            Madina Khakuasheva, a Circassian scholar, agrees, pointing out that “the self-designation of all Adygey ethnic groups without except is Adyg. They speak slightly different dialects of a common language and so if one stretches the point one could designate them as local ethnographic groups of the Circassian people.”

            She says that the lack of a common ethnonym and the associated idea that they are a single people has a “destructive” impact on “all spheres of their lives,” pointing out that “it is difficult to find an analogue to the present-day situation of the Circassian people: 90 percent live outside their historical motherland in all countries of the work, forming an enormous Circassian diaspora.”

             The 10 percent who live in the area of the historical homeland, she continues, “are divided into the territories of four or five subjects,” and because of this Soviet-imposed and Russian-supported division, some of them have lost sense of the fact that they are connected with one another and in fact form a single nation.

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