Georgian and Circassian National Relations
By: Iyad Youghar
Promoting International Dialogue and Protecting Cultural Heritage in the Caucasus
Russia and the Caucasus Regional Research (RUCARR), Malmo University
December 6, 2018
Circassia and Georgia, the two largest nations in the Caucasus, if we take into count the estimated Circassian Diaspora population. They share with other nations of the Caucasus the Abkhazians, Daghestanis, Chechens, Ingush, Ossetians and others striking similarities in history, life style, customs, traditions, folklore, music and legends. Significantly, they are all in love with their mountain, and their most commonly shared and sacred tradition, the Caucasian hospitality.
Mirza Davitaia, the former State Minister of Georgia Diaspora Issues said in a publication about Circassians and Georgians:
“…History is filled with the positive episodes affirming good neighboring relations between the Circassian and the Georgian people. Quite often our noble families used to become relatives. Historically we had and still have similarities in culture and traditions. Georgian and Circassian troops frequently fought against the common enemies. It is noteworthy that the first Circassian history book was printed in Tbilisi…”
As part of a group of American Circassians concerned about events in the Caucasus, on April 2, 2008, I wrote in a letter addressed to the Honorable Irakli Alasania, the Former Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations:
”… I write to you on behalf of the thousands of Circassian Americans who reside in the United States and who share a strong historical attachment to their homeland in the Caucasus a region in the world which you and I share mutual love and admiration for a land filled with beauty and the air of freedom that affects all who travel there. Unfortunately the Caucasus has been a place of great tragedy and bloodshed in its thousands of years history as its war and conflicts have led to great suffering of many of its people. On this note I write to offer my assistance and that of my organization…. In helping the Georgians and my Abkhaz brothers come together in a mutual search for a peaceful end to their conflict that has brought great tragedy to the two peoples…”
Before long the Honorable Georgian Ambassador, Irakli Alasania answered in a letter dated, April 30th, 2008 and stated among other things the following:
“…History has proved to us that only by combining efforts we were able to withstand hardship and defeat the enemy. Despite numerous bloody wars in our region throughout history, justice and liberty are still considered virtues of special importance in Caucasus. Our region is unique because of its intra-ethnical and intra-cultural relations are based in age old traditions of tolerance, mutual respect and brotherly relations… Your sincere offer regarding the assistance in launching the direct people to people dialogue is extremely valuable to us…”
On December 18th, 2009, a casual meeting took place in Washington DC where Circassians, Georgians and close American friends exchanged ideas and sincere expressions of respect and admiration for our common heritage. We made a commitment to work together in a brotherly fashion to help the future of our people.
As a result, in the following months, Georgians and Circassians worked closely together to examine historical records in Tbilisi, related to Circassians’ history during the period when Russia had conducted its Genocide against the Circassians.
During a conference in Tbilisi, held by Ilia University on March 20th, 2010, a large group of Circassians signed a letter addressed to the President and Parliament of Georgia asking to draw attention and examine historical facts and eventually set the motion to recognize the Circassian Genocide stating:
“…to condemn acts by the Russian Empire in the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, resulting in the loss of the independence of Circassia, and to recognize these acts as a Genocide of the Circassian nation and its people….to declare May 21st as memorial day of the victims of the Circassian Genocide …and declare Sochi as the location and symbol of the Circassian Genocide and ethnic cleansing”.
Shortly after that a group of Georgian scholars, scientists and political experts, headed by Professor Merab Chukhua, started a lengthy and detailed research and historical evaluation project. It had produced a lengthy document detailing historical and contemporary facts in relation to Circassian history and the Genocide committed by the Russians against Circassians.
This report was submitted with recommendations to the office of the President and to the Parliament of Georgia.
The report is one of the most important documents in Circassian history and a corner stone in the history of Caucasus peoples to establish good example of how the Caucasus peoples must work together in defense of human rights and historical justice. It is also a very important work in Genocide study and its recognition as a crime against humanity. And the future prevention of Genocide against any group of people. The process focused on three essential areas:
1- Historical facts and evidence.
2- International and state laws related to Genocide definition and recognition.
3- Political implications arising out of the recognition.
Dr. Merab Chukhua who is a member today in The International Association of Genocide Scholars, had produced a document that made Circassians, Georgians and other peoples of the Caucasus, including Abkhazians, understand the importance and true meaning of the Caucasus brotherly relations and the benefit of working in unity.
As a result of all this tireless work on May 20th, 2011, Georgia through its Parliament recognized the Circassian Genocide, the first nation ever, and only one till now to recognize the hidden and forgotten suffering of the Circassians since Russia started its bloody war and occupied Circassia until now.
The recognition has created several consequences and powerful results that are continuing to this day, to create positive effects in restoring Circassian historical justice. This provided leading steps towards hopeful Circassian future.
Some of the profound results of the Genocide recognition:
-Making the world aware of the Circassian tragedy and the murderous destruction of Circassia.
- Helping ignite a worldwide Circassian activism based on true awareness of the Genocide.
- Georgia as a small brave nation has been applauded in the free world among all freedom and justice loving nations for standing on the side of human rights and historical justice against the mighty Russian Federation.
On May 21st, 2012, Georgia erected a Circassian Memorial statue in Anaklia, commemorating the Circassian Genocide and suffering. And declaring May 21st in Georgia to be observed every year as the Circassian Memorial Day.
The site is within walking distance from one of the areas where local Georgians tried to help Circassians fleeing the ruthless Russian expulsion to return to their motherland.
Many Georgians and Circassians by building strong brotherhood bonds in the past few years are hoping to create promising future in the Caucasus at large. We will continue with a strong commitment to work with each other and with all other nations in the Caucasus to develop peaceful and brighter future.