Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Diasporas from Russia -- including from the North Caucasus -- Becoming Larger and More Diverse

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 1 – Once again, as at the time of Lenin, ever more people are fleeing repression in Russia and forming diasporas. And just as the first Russian emigration after 1917 has played a key role in the intellectual life of post-Soviet Russia, so too these diaspora communities are likely to have a significant impact on post-Putin Russia.

            Because that is the case, it is ever more important to form an accurate picture of these communities. Each of them is far more diverse than what many assume. Russians are not just anti-Putin activists, and Chechens, Circassians and other North Caucasians are not just anti-Russian terrorists as all too many imagine.

            More than five million Russian citizens have left the Russian Federation under Putin (themoscowtimes.com/2021/10/13/5-million-russian-citizens-left-russia-under-putin-a75246). And some parts of this exodus have found their chroniclers and historians, but most remain in the shadows.

            Among those about whom perhaps the least is known and consequently about whom are false stereotypes circulate at those from the North Caucasus, and thus an article by Chechen historian Mayrbek Vachagayev, himself an émigré in the US, about them is especially welcome (kavkazr.com/a/diaspory-severokavkaztsev-iz-istorii-v-sovremennostj/31589948.html).

            The Circassian diaspora, by far the largest of the North Caucasians with more than seven million members, arose first as a result of the genocidal expulsion of that nation from their homeland in the 1860s. It was supplemented by flight at the time of the Russian Civil War and has been joined by those fleeing Putin’s repression most recently.

            While its members have never forgotten their homeland, they have adapted well in the countries they have moved to becoming scholars, military officers, and senior political officials in a variety of countries across the Middle East, Europe and North America. (Vachagayev provides a listing of some of them.)

            Other North Caucasians, including Daghestanis, Ossetians, and Chechens, have achieved similar status, although their successes rarely attract the attention that conflicts between them and local populations or terrorist actions by some at the margins do, the Chechen historian and commentator points out.

            Today, there are 67,000 Chechens in France, about 50,000 in Germany, 30,000 in Austria, more than 20,000 in Belgium, more than 15,000 in Norway, about 10,000 in Poland, and smaller communities in other European countries. Some have refugee status, while others are still seeking it.

            Younger generations of Chechens, Circassians and other North Caucasians now living abroad have generally chosen the path of adaptation or even assimilation and are rising in their professions. Older generations remain more concerned with maintaining national languages and traditions.

            But both are politically active and routinely demonstrate in European and North American cities against the repression the Putin regime is visiting upon their nations not only in the homeland but increasingly among the diaspora communities as well.

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