Staunton, Dec. 10 – Sometimes an article on a controversial subject is noteworthy because of who writes it and where it appears. Sometimes it is important because the authors try to present an objective picture rather than extend a tendentious one. And sometimes it matters because they acknowledge a reality few of their fellow specialists want to ad
A new article on the Circassian communities in Russia and Turkey is significant for all three reasons. First, it is written by two MGIMO scholars, Tatiana Litvinova and David Bdoyan and published in the Estonian journal TRAMES (kirj.ee/wp-content/plugins/kirj/pub/TRAMES-4-2021-421-435_20211118145711.pdf).
Second, it navigates through the minefield of an issue where most writers choose one side or the other and attack those who do not agree with them. Litvinova and Bdoyan draw on writers as diverse as émigré historian Adel Bashqawi and the most conventional of Russian commentators.
And third, it presents a conclusion that is all the more impressive because of the first two reasons. The authors argue that the Circassian movement within Russia and in the diaspora abroad is coming together and acknowledge that this poses a challenge to Moscow because of the pressures it puts on Russian-imposed arrangements in the North Caucasus.
It is likely too much to suggest that the Litvinova-Bdoyan article represents a sea change in the Russian approach to the Circassian issue. But it is a hopeful sign that at least some in Moscow are looking for more adequate descriptions of reality than those typically on offer concerning this topic.
If that is the case, then there may be some unexpected movements on the Circassian issue in the coming months. Perhaps the first sign of this will be how Moscow handles the enormously sensitive issue of efforts to have all the subgroups of Circassians the Russians divided them into declare themselves a single Circassian nation.