Saturday, May 14, 2022

Duma Set to Deny Circassians Right to Claim Status of Russian Compatriots

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 2 – Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin has offered two amendments to the Russian law on compatriots that will block the return of peoples with roots in Russia who are now living abroad of the right to return. These amendments are nearly certain to pass and will hit the more than five million Circassians now living abroad especially hard.

            Valery Khatazhukov, head of the KBR Regional Human Rights Center, says that the first amendment declares that Moscow will no longer recognize as compatriots people who don’t speak Russian and the second does not enumerate nations considered compatriots beyond Russian-speaking Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians.

            (For the text of Zatulin’s amendments and Khatazhukov’s discussion of them, see

            These new provisions in Russian law will hit all non-Russian groups and ethnic Russians who no longer speaker Russian, but it will affect the large Circassian diaspora especially hard. As Khatazhukov notes, Circassians living abroad have always considered themselves part of the Circassian community in the North Caucasus even though most now do not speak Russian.

            They felt they had every right to make such a legal claim because in the three state formations where Circassians are titular nationalities, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, and Adygeys, Circassian is a state language. And that is a tongue almost all of them have retained

            “For us,” the KBR activist says, “it is completely obvious that the amendments offered by Mr. Zatulin crudely violate the rights and interests of people of Russia connected with the preservation of their cultural identity and the right to self-determination. As such, they are a continuation of the political course” against federalism and toward “a unitary state.”

            Khatazhukov adds that what Zatulin is promoting is part and parcel of “the planned destruction of the statehood of peoples living in the Russian Federation.” These republics first will be deprived of any remaining rights, including relations with their compatriots abroad, and ultimately liquidated.

            At a time when the Kremlin is talking about unifying and consolidating the peoples of Russia, it is thus taking steps to alienate all those who aren’t prepared to assimilate to the dominant ethnic Russian community.

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