Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Circassians in the Homeland and Abroad Being Transformed by the Internet, Kabard Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 14 – The Internet is transforming Circassians both in the North Caucasus homeland where it is helping ever more of its members to insist on their identity as Circassians in the upcoming census and in the diaspora where it is bringing together many who had little contact before.

            Both of these developments are welcome, Circassian activist Andzor Kabard says; but they raise challenges which no other national group has ever had to deal. The Circassians are currently being forced to “act in terra incognita given that they simply do not have any model to copy” (natpressru.info/index.php?newsid=12138).

            “Neither the Jewish, nor the Armenian, nor the Irish, nor the Tibetan or any other experience can serve as a direct model,” he says, although the Circassians can learn from all of them. But the Internet has changed the situation dramatically and the Circassian miracle to use Adel Bashqawi’s term is an Internet-driven one.

            Within the borders of the Russian Federation, the campaign to have Circassians declare their common identity in the census, now scheduled for early next year, forces them to confront the reality that in contrast to the situation with other nations, calling oneself a Circassian in the Russian Federation is invariably “a political act.”

            As a result, the act of identifying not as a Kabard or a Shapsug or one of the other subgroups Moscow has promoted as the proper identity forces those who take this step into politics, something that members of other ethnic groups have generally been able to avoid having to do.

            That in turn means that the Circassians, as they promote this identity and confront Russian opposition – see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/12/circassian-drive-to-declare-common.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/12/moscow-worried-about-circassian-drive.html – must confront political issues they have previously avoided.

            Those include not only issues of the return to the homeland of members of the diaspora who want to come back but also the formation of a common Circassian republic uniting all the Circassians historically and, as a result of the Internet, newly minted.

            Beyond the borders of the Russian Federation where 90 percent of the world’s Circassians now live as a result of the Russian expulsion of the nation in 1864, the Internet has had an even more complicated set of consequences. It has brought people together who had not previously worked with one another.

            That has simultaneously reopened issues that many assumed were closed, dividing some existing organizations and sparking demands for new ones, and leading to the need for the elaboration of a broader agenda that as many of the Circassians abroad and at home can identify with and support. Doing this will be anything but easy.      

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