Saturday, May 15, 2021

Circassians Debate Plans in Advance of May 21st Anniversary

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 13 – A week from now, Circassians in the homeland and around the world will mark the anniversary of the expulsion of their ancestors from the North Caucasus by Russian forces in 1864, an action that almost all of them believe was an act of genocide that must be recognized and to the extent possible reversed.

            Last year, Circassians could not hold the public meetings that have become the hallmark of this date in their community. Instead, they had to conduct these sessions virtually, something that had the welcome effect of expanding ties between the half million Circassians in the North Caucasus and the millions more abroad (

            This year, May 21 is likely to be commemorated both in more traditional ways and online In advance of that date, the Prague-based Caucasus Times portal surveyed three experts on the Circassian nation about their hopes for the future of the Circassian national movement and Circassia (

            Iyad Youghar, a Circassian activist from Turkey, says that the greatest problem the Circassians now face is consolidating all Circassians around a single national idea, reducing divides between Circassians in the homeland and those in the diaspora and securing rights for Circassians to return to the region from which their ancestors were expelled.

            He argues that “all other elements of our identity such as language, Habze, folklore and so on must be regenerated by up-to-date means” so that the Circassians can come together and achieve these goals.

            Amin Zekhov, a Circassian activist from Adygeya, says that to make that possible, those who really want to see the Circassian nation revive must work to expose the subversive messages of groups like the Moscow-backed International Circassian Association which seeks to reduce them to a folkloric group. Dances are fine, but they must not be a distraction from real goals.

            And Lidiya Zhigunova, a specialist on the Circassians, says that the time has come for Circassians to secure their right to return to their homeland to and to restore Circassia. “The entire system in the Russian Federation has exhausted itself. There are no legal institutions left, and the republics are part of this system.”

            “Escaping from this situation will not be easy,” especially since the restoration of Circassian unity is currently being challenged not just by the Russian powers that be but also by the spread of Islam which calls for the doing away with the national distinctions on which  any Circassian movement must be based.


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