Sunday, May 28, 2023

Far More Circassians Abroad Want to Return to their North Caucasus Homeland than have Applied to Do So, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Moscow’s increasingly restrictive approach to those its own laws declare to be compatriots but who do not speak Russian means that the share of the 3.5 million Circassians living in exile in Turkey who have applied to return is far smaller than the actual number who would like to go back, Umit Dincher says.

            The president of the Federation of Caucasian Associations of Turkey says that is highlighted by what has happened since last winter’s destructive earthquakes hit that country. Many Circassians were near ground zero of that disaster, hoped to leave but recognized that going to Russia was no longer a real option given Moscow’s policies.

            Russian law specifies that anyone who is the descendant of someone who was a subject or citizen of the Russian Empire, the USSR, or the Russian Federation has the right of return; but increasingly and with ever greater emphasis, Moscow has blocked those who don’t speak Russian.

            That has hit the Circassians, whose ancestors were expelled from their North Caucasus homeland in 1864 at the conclusion of Russia’s imperial advance into that region. Most don’t speak Russian and thus can be excluded for linguistic reasons as far as the Russian authorities are concerned.

            The real reason, however, as Aslan Beshto, head of the Coordination Council of Adyg Social Organizations, points out is that Moscow does not want any change in the ethnic balance in the North Caucasus lest that threaten its control of the region (

            As a result, the Circassians, even those suffering as a result of the earthquake, have few chances to return; and that has depressed the number who apply, leaving a statistic Moscow can invoke to suggest quite duplicitously that few Circassians in the diaspora really are interested in coming back.

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