Staunton, November 24 – Valery Khatazhukov, a leader of the Circassian movement in Kabardino-Balkaria, says that Moscow has used an entire panoply of measures to try to block Circassians from organizing effectively against Russian repression, efforts that have complicated life for the nation but at the same time highlight its growing influence and power.
In an interview with the Prague-based Caucasus Times, the activist says that Moscow and its representatives in the Caucasus first used its police powers to go after the national movement directly. And then the authorities deployed Circassians prepared to cooperate with them to subvert national organizations (caucasustimes.com/ru/valerij-hatazhukov-o-salafitah-tradicionnom-islame-i-nacionalnoj-kulture/).
As a result, many of the organizations in the Circassian world that were proud defenders of the nation two decades ago are now mere shells of what they were and work for the Kremlin against the Circassians rather than the other way around, a development that has sown confusion among Circassians and their supporters, Khatazhukov says.
At the same time, Moscow and its minions in the Caucasus have used two other tools against the Circassians. On the one hand, the powers that be have opened the way for radical Salafi Muslims to operate in Circassian areas, hopeful that this will split the nation along religious lines as the rise of Islamic radicalism has in other cases.
This tactic has not proven effective, he continues, because few Circassians even among the young are ready to listen to the siren song of the radicals. Instead, they remain committed to the values of khabze, the traditional code of the Circassian nation, and to its understanding of traditional Islam.
And on the other hand, despite proclaiming that Circassians have the right of return as compatriots, Moscow has effectively gutted that announcement by requiring that Circassians from Syria and elsewhere abroad pass tests in Russian to remain in the country, a language few of them know and do not need in Circassian areas.
This Russian approach has in fact limited the return of Circassians to the national homeland, but it has backfired because it has radicalized many Circassians who can easily see that Moscow is applying a double standard as far as compatriots are concerned and is committed to an ethnic Russian state rather than a multi-national one in which the Circassians have a place.
Almost all the problems the Circassians now face in the North Caucasus could be solved if the regional heads were again elected by the population. That would work to the benefit not only of the Circassians but of Moscow because at present “not a single normal person in the North Caucasus wants that Russia fall apart.”
But Moscow so fears any genuine expression of the popular will that it is taking actions that are working against its interests as well as those of the Circassians and other peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation. “If this situation doesn’t change,” Khatazhukov says, “these processes can lead to the disintegration of Russia.”