The Impact of the 2020 Census on the Circassian Nation Despite Russification
By: Adel Bashqawi
October 19, 2019
Events in the Caucasus region, some of which have become part of history, have affected the reality and fate of dozens of peoples and nations. Circassia had to be a victim and/or a scapegoat as a result of the use of excessive force by an aggressive colonial empire with a large army and a huge arsenal of sophisticated weapons that had the effect of mass destruction. How else could this have happened without using aggressors’ cannons against homeland defenders’ rifles and swords, against all areas that were invaded and then occupied arbitrarily, randomly, and indiscriminately? Eventually, they were, and remain to this day, the focus of endless greed which has no limits.
The invading aggressors were neither shy nor hesitant in treating their victims brutally and inhumanly through the use of the most violent, cruel, merciless, and outrageous methods that no sane person would like. Flagrant and aggressive acts display cultural and existential theft of national character at all levels. The trend at this stage is dissolving cultural elements, slowly but surely, and thus leading to eliminate national identity. The ultimate desire is assimilation of indigenous peoples and nations in a crucible with absolute heterogeneous contents. Subsequently, extinction of the Circassian language and culture should be averted.
Being plagued by colonialism, atrocities were associated with illegal and unacceptable developments and changes in the field in addition to demographic, cultural, and economic and sovereign territorial realization at a time of infiltration and penetration for imperial interests par excellence. Colonial practices did not end with the fall of the evil Tsarist Empire, but continued in various forms by successive regimes. Successive regimes have not dashed the hope of whitewashing officials, and consequently the Russian State, from the hostile and uncivilized acts committed during the course of the Russian-Circassian War and subsequent actions and policies.
Circassian Status Quo
Being considered stateless, it is well-known to all, that the Circassian nation has encountered the most severe types of suffering and intolerable harsh conditions in order to preserve its identity, homeland, and civilizational gains. Circassians, since the break out of the Russian-Circassian War, have endured dramatic and tremendous suffering, which led to serious consequences in order to be led to where it is at the present time. It is interesting and thought-provoking to perceive that there are some parties interested in maintaining the status quo, in addition to asinine mockery of the value and importance of Circassian rights.
“The nation has become one of the most contested concepts of our times. The multifarious definitions of the nation focus on cultural, political, psychological, territorial, ethnic, and sociological principles according to different scholars, politicians, and political activists willing to shed some light into such a disputed term. Their lack of agreement suggests a major difficulty in dealing with such a complex phenomenon. The crux of the matter probably resides close to the link which has been established between nation and State, and to the common practice of using the nation as a source of political legitimacy. To be or not to be recognized as a nation entails different rights for the community which claims to be one, since being a nation usually implies the attachment to a particular territory, a shared culture and history, and the vindication of the right to self-determination.”
One of the worst outcomes that happened to the entity of the nation is the administrative divisions that the colonial authorities invented to make the nation’s people that stayed and lived in their original homeland reside in divided and non-contiguous administrative areas. Moreover, they were forced to live with inhabitants of multiple peoples and nationalities. “Moscow’s longstanding effort to divide the Circassian nation into a variety of ‘nationalities’ including Adgyeys, Kabardins, Cherkess, and Shapsugs has failed and that what the Circassians shared in common before the Russians came is recovering its importance as a source of unity.”
Even though Circassians have maintained and defended their national identity with nerves of steel after more than 155 years of tsarist Russian invasion and occupation of Circassia, thence, the reality indicates that the nation is without a state and with an absent political identity. All this despite the spread of this nation between the motherland and dozens of countries in the world.
“By ‘nations without States’ … The members of a nation lacking a State of their own regard the State containing them as alien, and maintain a separate sense of national identity generally based upon a common culture, history, attachment to a particular territory and the explicit wish to rule themselves. Self-determination is sometimes understood as political autonomy, in other cases it stops short of independence and often involves the right to secede. Catalonia, Quebec, Scotland, the Basque Country, and Flanders represent but a few nations without States currently demanding further autonomy.”
Lack of a national agenda, unfortunately, gives the impression that the diaspora and homeland fortress’s withstanding is no longer as solid as it used to be; but has become fragile. It is not an easy task to successfully resist such negativity after all that has occurred. Regretfully, some social networking pages play a negative and suspicious role, both socially and nationally, which must be considered platforms of discrimination.
“In support of that argument, the Soviet authorities and now the Russian ones have required the people to declare that they are not Circassians but members of the nationalities that the Soviets created on the basis of subdivisions of the that nation. Moscow used the nationality line in the census in Soviet times, and it has used the census both then and now. Now a group of Circassian activists is using Facebook and other social media to urge Circassians to stand up for their real identity when the Russian state conducts its next census in 2020. Moscow may refuse to register their declarations, but the act of making them will strengthen the nation and back up its claims. Shamsutdin Neguch, a representative of the Adygey Khase group, points out that ‘our people from the point of view of Russian law is divided into four nationalities. In the official list, these are the Circassians, the Adygeys, the Kabardins and the Shapsugs. We however consider ourselves Adygs (Circassians).’ That is the common term for all.”
It became obvious to all, that the Russian State has not welcomed or even interested in the return of Circassians in general, and Circassians of Syria in particular, to their historic homeland in the northwest Caucasus. It is ironic that an official source has declared that the right to accept the returnees is of the responsibility of the local governments. While, reality proves that such a statement is published to avoid holding the Russian government responsible for rejecting most requests for repatriation.
“(September 22), the Russian Ministry of Interior’s regional office in Kabardino-Balkaria—one of the North Caucasus republics to which Circassians in the Middle East want to return—turned to a Telegram channel to declare that it is seeking to ‘effectively realize’ a new program intended to repatriate members of this nation from Syria and other countries ‘to the maximum extent possible.’ The message went on to insist that any holdups would be a reflection not of Moscow’s policies and intentions but rather of the decisions of the republic governments in the North Caucasus, which it implied need to do more, and of the actions of foreign governments and foundations committed to discrediting and otherwise undermining this positive Russian government effort (Facebook.com, accessed September 24; Natpressru.info, September 22) … In short, there is nothing new in Russia’s ‘new’ policy toward the Circassians and their repatriation. That said, there is—as demonstrated by Regnum’s decision to publish a harsh attack on that policy by a Circassian leader—growing concern, even in Moscow, that the regime’s current policy is counterproductive, hurting rather than helping Russia and mobilizing more Circassians against Moscow.”
Circassians role in the 2020 Russian Census
The Russian Federation is planning to hold a census in 2020, for the sake of emphasizing on division within non-Russian peoples and nations. While despite the fact that a unity plan “game” of the ethnic Russian nation is insight, and even more the civic Russian nation, taking into account the words of Academician Valery Tishkov as an indication of the intentions of the authorities. Drawing a demographic map at the present time is in “work mode” in order to investigate the size and numbers of different nationalities under Russian rule in order to prepare for future plans that ensure the state’s dealings with the Russian and non-Russian inhabitants who make up the Russian citizens. It also appears that the Russian State wants to examine the extent of the process of assimilation and national fusion to find out whether peoples and nations have become stronger or weaker, especially in terms of indigenous nationality.
Apparently, the 2020 Russian census can be an open window for the possibility of future Circassian positive prospects. “Circassians, long subdivided into numerous nationalities by the Soviets in order to prevent them from acting as a single, strong nation in the North Caucasus, are calling on members of these communities to identify themselves as Circassians in the upcoming 2020 census.”
The Circassians may have the opportunity to unite by casting their votes in the next census and to mention in the census voucher that they are Circassians. Their success would be the first step towards reviving a united Circassian entity in historical Circassia. “They face an uphill battle because Russian census takers may simply decide to code their responses on the basis of where individuals live: If someone lives in Kabardino-Balkaria but says he is a Circassian rather than a Kabardin, for example, the census taker will simply put down Kabardian regardless. And so too for the Adygs, Cherkess, Shapsugs, and others. That is one of the ways the Soviet authorities fought the common Circassian identity in the past, and there is no reason to think they won’t resort to a similar tactic in the future, especially given the attitudes of some in Moscow who don’t want to see the Circassians united.”
Six experts were surveyed on the 2020 Russian census’ prospects on Circassia and the North Caucasus. “Their comments represent the best discussion of these issues in short compass; cf. Madina Khakuasheva, a Circassian philologist, says that the Soviet-imposed divisions of the language and people are artificial and confusing. There should be no talk about a separate Kabardin or Adygey literature: there is only a Circassian (Adyg) one. All that is needed to correct the situation is ‘political will.’”
Division and acquisition policies have taken place during successive periods of the consecutive Russian regimes since the capture of Circassia. Eventually, the people have concluded that the nation, which has been absent for the past dozens of years, desperately needs to assert its existence and to regain its violated rights since the tsarist Russian invasion and subjugation.
“Martin Kochesoko, president of the Khabze organization, says that there should be no question that (the Circassians are all those who call themselves in their native language ‘Adygs.’). Dividing them into Kabardins, Cherkess, and Adygeys is ‘the fruit of Soviet nationality policy.’ On that basis, ‘all the administrative structures’ in the region are built. Naima Neflyasheva, a scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Civilizational and Regional Research, says that for her, (the construct ‘Adygeys’ is absolutely artificial.) Adyg, in contrast is very much real: it lives in the consciousness of the people and in the literature of their native language. Those who oppose using the term ‘Adyg’ do not have broad support.”
During March of 2019, a coordinating council of Circassian public figures has been created in Cherkessk, seemingly, for the purpose of creating a national strategy and road plan to claim the Circassians’ lost rights. “Circassians from across the North Caucasus have formed a Coordinating Council of Circassian Public Activists to defend their national republics, achieve international recognition of Russian actions against their nation as a genocide, defend their national languages in schools, and promote the common ethnonym ‘Circassian.’ The activists, meeting in Cherkessk, said that they were taking this step because of ‘the fundamental worsening of nationality policy in the country’ and the need for all Circassians to fight back to defend their interests of the entire nation and its members, including those Moscow seeks to strip of Russian citizenship.”
People of Circassian origin in the Russian Federation will be able to declare their nationality. “For the All-Russian population census, which will be held in 2020, it is proposed to representatives of all peoples who consider themselves Adygs to indicate the common name ‘Circassian’ in the ‘nationality’ column.” The outcome will be beneficial “if all Circassians declare themselves Circassians, then this is the first step towards official recognition of nationality at the Russian level.”
The Circassian activists in the homeland are encouraged to make this event a meaningful one and a positive step-forward, taken in order to unite Circassians in their homeland under an umbrella of a unified entity that would be a Circassian republic. This census may be considered fateful to the Circassian nation if goodwill intentions are there, because the choice available for the Circassians is promising if the proceedings are free of suspicious conduct and undesirable intervention, they will be able to take an important step towards their national goals.
“Now a group of Circassian activists is using Facebook and other social media to urge Circassians to stand up for their real identity when the Russian state conducts its next census in 2020. Moscow may refuse to register their declarations, but the act of making them will strengthen the nation and back up its claims.”
The lack and/or loss of awareness of time and location leads to a shake of confidence in the cultural acquisitions, heritage, legacies, and rules of conduct that are well known by the Circassian people, and thus the loss of self-confidence, which is a mainstay of the Circassian Adyghian character. An evolved tearing apart and tragic situation among the Adyghe Circassian communities is due to various reasons. The most important of this leadership idleness is due to a lifetime narcissistic, self-appointed community with torn and scattered leaders. This helped to perpetuate the national status by not demanding reform and/or reviewing important matters.
“One of its priorities, they announced in Cherkessk, is to support a campaign to abolish the use of ethnic terms to artificially divide the Circassian people into four different groups: Adyghe, Kabardians, Shapsughs and Cherkess. For these activists, this is an anachronism dating back to Soviet-era ‘nation building.’”
“Circassians have long been an international ethnic community, who have a wide network with considerable economic and political potential. But de jure, in Russia the name Cherkessy is only used to refer to Circassians living in Karachay-Cherkessia.”
The Adygha Circassians were (and still are) subject to the worst forms of ethnic assimilation in their places of living and residence, even in their own homeland. Apparently, some of them have correlated and assimilated by correlating with various nationalities, including those who live with them in their original homeland, or those who were also deported from the North Caucasus by the invading Russian forces with some reservations from many Circassians to engage in any form of ethnic meltdown. Nonetheless, full assimilation though, would take place when members of the displaced society become indistinguishable from native or other community members.
“In order to further weaken the Circassian nation whose ancestors the Russian Empire killed and expelled in an act of genocide in1864, the Soviet system insisted that they were not only people but several and demanded that the Circassians identify not as Circassians but as Adygeys, Kabardins and Cherkess among others. That Moscow-imposed division was fixed both in the territorial divisions of the North Caucasus with ethno-territorial formations like the Adygey, the Kabardino-Balkaria and the Karachay-Cherkess republics and in the censuses of both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.”
The main task of the Federal Security Service and other branches of the Russian authorities is to exercise efforts in order to put down or cripple any movement that is inconsistent with its repressive policies. This has become a usual tradition of conduct in the past, which continues to be practiced until the present time. No wonder, harassing patriots and nationalists have been the common technique and practice that the Russian government has adopted as a standard operating procedure that is connected to the general state policy since the occupation of the entire Circassian homeland. It is part of the objectives aimed at policy of the Russian State to weaken and marginalize small peoples in order to keep them away from the possibility of making an appropriate decision that would place them on the path that may qualify them to make decisions about their present and future.
“There are numerous UN documents related to non-self-governing territories, self-determination, decolonization and related topics. This list highlights some of the most widely cited documents.”
The Circassian nation is entitled and eligible of acting in accordance with the principles guaranteed by international laws and norms. The right to self-determination must take into consideration that a people must be protected as a people under colonialism or occupation. The main objective should be the abolition of foreign domination and the right of the Circassian people to rule themselves and to abolish racial discrimination. It is no secret that some Circassian minorities in the North Caucasus are subjected to systematic persecution or racial discrimination by the state, whether individually or collectively.
“Self-determination denotes the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order. Self-determination is a core principle of international law, arising from customary international law, but also recognized as a general principle of law, and enshrined in a number of international treaties. For instance, self-determination is protected in the United Nations Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as a right of ‘all peoples.’”
General Assembly resolution of the United Nations on Decolonization and the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.”
The rights of the indigenous peoples of the Circassian people must be granted and protected. They must be allowed to exercise their rights together with other human rights privileges. It is specific to the Circassian people and their descendants who have originated thousands of years ago in the northwest Caucasus. They must preserve their survival, language, culture, and history in accordance with the “Charter of the United Nations, International Law, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples has restricted this right by several restrictions and The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in accordance with international law must protect and respect dignity and human rights standards, to elaborate on specific situations that would confront the indigenous peoples and their rights to self-determination including homeland resources. “The UNDRIP is the human rights instrument that encapsulates and affirms all rights provided in existing human rights instruments, covering both individual and collective rights. It addresses the particular circumstances and specificities of indigenous peoples to achieve social justice, non-discrimination and equality for them. These are, thereby, not special rights or privileges for indigenous peoples, but a means to ensure the dignity of indigenous peoples like everyone else. The UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007, and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.”
Facing Difficulties Created by the Authorities
The recent events that took place after the youth awakening, if you will, have proven beyond reasonable doubt that the people do not easily condone or give up their rights of national concerns. They have resulted in documented outcomes of great importance, which have reflected achievement of public interest par excellence, instead of the imbalance of capacity that used to be the predominant reality. Martin Kochisoci and Orhan Barsiq are considered examples of activists’ hardship that can be referred to in this area.
However, the hostile Russian measures against Circassian activists is still in full swing every now and then, but made the authorities confused in their reactions. Part of the aggressive policies is the way activists are treated and considered cantankerous. This is because of the policy of disregarding the basic rights of Circassians. Tricks and manipulation of the fate of the people and certain individuals are used by accusing them of involvement in serious matters, while they are innocent of being part of false accusations. Such practices are deceiving, which confirms the usual measures of Russian policies implemented by law enforcement agencies against Circassian activists, especially in the Circassian regions of the North Caucasus. All this in order to influence the course of things and blatant interference in order to obstruct or prevent the holding of meetings, activities and dialogues aimed at discussing matters present and future affairs related to social, cultural, legal, and political matters, in addition to human rights issues. Two examples of activists who were implicated are Martin Kochesoko and Orhan Bersiequ.
Martin Kochesoko was accused of having drugs in his car after the elements of local Russian security agents have implanted such drugs. Obviously, this immoral and irresponsible behavior came, “as a result of an awareness movement by a group of Circassian activists in Nalchik, the capital city of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (KBR), there are certain and identified influential parties that did not like to see the Circassians discussing and debating their present status affairs. Among those courageous activists is Martin Kochesoko who is acknowledged as one of a kind.
The Circassian activists, have cooperated with research and study centers, academicians, human rights activists and consulting on legal issues to discuss matters of concern to the Circassians. They have been active in publishing information, holding meetings and gatherings in addition to reviving and commemorating various events such as the Circassian Memorial Day on the twenty first of May.”
Orhan Bersiequ, another Circassian activist, returned to his homeland, Circassia. Seemingly, chasing activists, gives the impression that the authorities try to harass the communities and their leadership to avert invigorating the people. The imposition of state policy is sometimes contrary to common sense. This can be compared to weakening a fortress that will not be able to withstand tough conditions, because it becomes fragile, and not able to be as solid as it should be. This will expose the whole society to unfathomable consequences, and even to encourage suspicious individuals and/or groups who have access to local authorities, and attempts to harm the reputation of those arrested, even on social networking pages. Thence, suspicious individuals and/or groups who have access to the internet and social networking pages are encouraged by the authorities to offend their national cause and their people.
“Orhan Bersiequ, a Ubykh Circassian patriot and activist who returned to his homeland from the Circassian diaspora in Jordan. Regrettably, his joy of returning to the place where his ancestors were deported from has not complete due to the policy of discouraging repatriation. He was a member of free Circassian youth who was making videos about the Caucasus and motivating Circassians to go back to their homeland. Orhan is a highly educated patriot who lived in Nalchik, the capital city of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria for 9 years. One day, when he was living in Nalchik, he was leaving his home to the supermarket, but suddenly he was stopped and caught by agents of the Russian law enforcement agencies. A person by the name of Timor Midov, who works for the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation submitted a report stating that he found drugs on Orhan. Other reports were included, as two Federal Security Services (FSB) agents, who are Ahmad Khawaj and Abdulrazak Naghwai, wrote and submitted reports about Orhan’s patriotic activities in Kabardino-Balkaria and translated his Arabic language articles to Russian in order to present to the FSB.”
Thence, the case proceeds, according to vague procedures concerning the absence of a real case against the accused, are a set of lies supported by false witnesses and without real and confirmed evidence confirming the occurrence of any violation or crime.
Not surprisingly, the Russian authorities have apprehended those who go out in public to support them against the demands of the opposition. They sometimes get arrested in a hysterical and indiscriminate manner. The Russian security forces have arrested Russian citizen, “Alexander,” during an interview with Al Jazeera. “During the protests witnessed on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019, in the Russian capital city, Moscow. The demonstration was called by the opposition, but Alexander came to express his rejection to their action when he got arrested. Such facts and realities have confirmed and documented the abrupt proceedings and events that take place from time to time aggressive and hostile results. Especially those that have occurred in the past, left aggressive fingerprints on individuals and/or made tragic history for tens of peoples and nations.”
Suppression and bullying policies against Circassians were not to be utilized if it weren’t for the Russian State that perceived the impact of the existing movements and activities of spontaneous national and social renaissance that emerged in the widespread areas, inhabited by what is left of Circassia’s inhabitants after 1864. Those are parts of historical Circassia, which were created after occupation, and thus distributing the rest of the people in the administrative areas, created and/or re-engineered every now and then under innovative names and titles for multiple reasons. This was just the tip of the iceberg, when Circassia has experienced oppression and was compulsorily placed under the authoritarian domination of the tsarist Russian Empire and the successive regimes in the Russian State thereafter.
“Sometimes Russian repression against one individual distracts attention from similar acts of repression against other individuals and groups. Sometimes it has just the opposite effect and ensures that the latter gain the kind of attention they might not otherwise get. But what is especially important in either case is to connect the dots, to see how what Moscow is doing in one place informs or even defines what it is doing in another, lest some commentators by focusing on only one side minimize the threat or open the way for the Kremlin to win points by making concessions in one case but not in any others.”
Those who work to expose those involved in organized crime will fall into deadly mazes that could lead to death or involvement in fake cases leading to imprisonment. Corruption of government machinery, bodies and agencies, in addition to figures affiliated to the regime and associated with its structure is rampant. An example is Ivan Golunov, the Russian investigative journalist, who played the role of a public whistle-blower, has dared to pinpoint and go after some of the figures behind the rampant corruption in Moscow. The police orchestrated a plot against him in order to be arrested and imprisoned. He was exposed to fabrication of drug possession charge, was arrested and charged by the police. However, public awareness and the determination of the press and media enabled him to be acquitted and released. Even high ranking police officers were dismissed from the service.
“Almost the entire Russian opposition and many in the West have been outraged by the arrest of Moscow investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and the way in which the powers that be have planted drugs on him so as to be able to discredit him in the eyes of Kremlin supporters and to bring more serious charges against the journalist. Unfortunately, as this has happened, Russian officials have adopted exactly the same strategy and for the same reasons against Martin Kochesoko, a Circassian activist and leader of the Khabze organization, arresting him and planting drugs on him because of his staunch support for freedom and the rights of his people.”
The Russian authorities do not want people to criticize its corruption and failure to perform their public duties properly. There is also a tendency to prevent people from pointing fingers at government corruption. The indigenous peoples and nations’ activists are discriminated against and targeted to prevent them from demanding the rights of their peoples to a decent life, participating in the conduct of their affairs, and restoring their rights. The authorities tend to fabricate false charges and accusations of malicious dimensions, in order to prosecute innocent individuals and groups in order to block them from continuing their activities to serve their people. Dealing with arresting a famous Russian journalist in Moscow is dealt with in different ways when public pressure is sensed by the Russian security services.
“What is even worse and more instructive about the nature of the Russian powers that be is that there is clear evidence that in Kochesoko’s case, the authorities plotted this well in advance and have embedded the charges against him into a larger campaign against all Circassian activists who dare to criticize Russian oppression. Those who are defending Golunov should also be defending Kochesoko. They can find good reporting on his case at kavkazr.com/a/29988347.html,caucasustimes.com/ru/v-nalchike-arestovan-cherkesskij-aktivist-martin-kachesoko/,circassianprogress-rus.blogspot.com/2019/06/blog-post_8.html andafterempire.info/2019/06/09/kochesoko33/).”
When comparing citizens of the North Caucasus with others of various regions in the Russian Federation, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, facts show and point out to several examples that can be cited. An indication of racial discrimination is an overwhelming and pervasive dominion. For example, sometimes, the Federal Drug Control Service, in coordination and cooperation with Russian law enforcement agencies, sets up a trap to arrest people. Individuals are arrested in the act on trumped-up charges that are fabricated and derived by security services and agencies that the accused people have not committed. They could plant drugs, weapons, ammunition, or articles prohibited by law in their belongings or property as public rationale, for the sake of depriving them of their freedom. The possibility of escaping false accusations is rare.
The actions taken against both are rooted in politics, not drugs. Golunov has exposed the criminal activities of Putin’s power vertical and the oligarchs; Kochesoko has taken the lead in declaring that, “the constitution isn’t working, federalism is being destroyed, and the powers have distanced themselves from the people and thereby deepened the systemic crisis” (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/05/circassians-must-govern-themselves.html). The case Russian officials have trumped up against the Circassian leader should spark just as much outrage as the one they have manufactured against Golunov. They deserve no less. (For background on Kochesko’s impressive activities all too often passed over in silence in Moscow, see kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/336453 and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/325671/).”
North Caucasus Inmate Abuse
Kavkaz-uzel published an article that raises legitimate questions in regard to keeping the prisoners from the North Caucasus held in prisons away from home. “According to information published in the media, as well as the stories of relatives of the convicts, the attitude towards citizens from the North Caucasus in Russian prisons, to put it mildly, is not very good. And it’s not only about people who are convicted of serious crimes, such as terrorism. The negative attitude of prison staff towards people from the region extends to literally everyone. This explains the efforts of relatives and prisoners themselves to serve their sentences closer to home. Anyway, a prison is not only a punishment, but also a correction. Consequently, the prisoner should have a chance to improve, and not be completely brutalized from degrading treatment.”
Many complaints were filed and/or sent by prisoners and their families, to the prison authorities media and human rights commissions to inform all those who are concerned about the prison inmates’ ill-treatment and human tragedies. “Cherkesov’s appeal added to the list of dozens of complaints of prisoners about torture. A special commission today began checking reports of torture of a native of Nalchik Aslan Cherkesov and another 47 prisoners, the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Krasnoyarsk Territory said. As the ‘Caucasian Knot’ wrote, on August 3, the Federal Penitentiary Service in the Krasnoyarsk Territory announced the beginning of the examination of the complaint of Nalchik native Aslan Cherkesov about torture and beatings in the colony.”
The Legitimacy of Circassia as an Independent Entity
No doubt, the Circassian homeland was, and continues to be, the subject of the ambitions of the invaders and the occupiers. The Russian Empire was not alone in seeking subjugation, but also the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and some European colonial countries such as Britain and France. Maps of the region reflected the policies of their planners and publishers, which confirm the intentions and aspirations of those who published the maps reflecting their expansionist goals in Circassia. It is ironic that the Circassian nation would be the largest nation in the Caucasus if these events had not occurred. While currently its people’s rights are violated.
Even with the prior knowledge that Circassia was not subject to any state before the Russian occupation, the truth lies in the multiplicity of fake allegations. Many maps of different colors, promotions, affiliations, and correlations of Circassia are publicly available, knowing that some maps of the Ottoman Empire show that Circassia is an entity, country, or region on its own and completely separate from any other country or empire before the total subjugation of 1864. Nevertheless, some maps show that it was associated with the Turks with special relations, while a third falsity shows that it was the property of the Ottoman Empire, which never happened.
The main reason is not only the influence of different countries and powers that impose certain agendas and realities, whose influence should not be entirely neglected, but the greatest calamity is the result of the loss of awareness, weakening national consciousness, and undermining mutual respect among the intellectual rational segment of the Circassian communities and constituencies.
Despite the fact that Adygha Circassians are distributed geographically in approximately six different enclaves, under different administrative titles, they are parts of their original Circassia; but facts have proven, and are taken into account, that the imperial Russian plan was, and still is, to eliminate Circassia from the map, which they have partially succeeded. Accordingly, Circassia doesn’t exist as part of the Russian Federation North Caucasus nations such as Chechnya, Dagestan, Ossetia, and Abkhazia. However there are several maps that were published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or earlier in different languages that show Circassia as an independent entity. One of them is in German and is found in the Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria. It indicates on one of the eighteenth and nineteenth century maps “autonomous Circassia” and it continues, “beginning from 1862 Circassia became under the Russian suzerainty.”
Tragically, the nation has been plagued by colonialism, where the brute forces (in the absence of parity of the fighting units involved in the attacks and defense, particularly, in the imparity of training, equipment, and preparations) have succeeded to seize the entire country, with all its elements. Nonetheless, Circassians should not be shy of informing the world of their part of the story in regard to the criminal behavior that was exercised against the very existence of their ancient nation. They must move towards the right to choose their own destiny and to decide on the form of administration and government of their preference. They have to achieve their rights freely without external influence or pressure in order to attain the right of self-determination.
Incidentally, “The International Nuremberg Principles Academy organized a two-day international conference in Nuremberg, Germany, on 3-4 May 2019 dedicated to the advancement of the synergies between international criminal law (ICL) and the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (UN Agenda 2030). The conference was held at the historic Courtroom 600 of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, as the city of Nuremberg promotes its strong commitment to human rights related themes as a ‘City of Peace and Human Rights’. Due to the nexus of the objectives of ICL and the human rights movement, the conference identified the elements of ICL that would be able to contribute to the advancement of the UN Agenda 2030 from three angles: Access to Justice, Access to Remedy and the Role of Human Rights Defenders.”
Where are the Circassians from prominent activities and events? Especially when they are within reach by distance. There is no faraway place for Circassians if the goal is to follow up or pursue Circassian affairs. There are important issues that Circassians must correlate and engage in, instead of concentrating only on cultural, PR, and social topics that do not concern the existential subject of Circassians as a respectable nation that have rights to be restored and claimed.
“The Nuremberg Academy provided the forum to identify new and promote existing synergies between Sustainable Development Goal 16 aiming to promote ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ and the principles of ICL. During the conference, experts from various fields, including practitioners of the UN system critically discusses and analyzed the UN Agenda 2030 in the context of conflict prevention and creation of peaceful and sustainable societies as envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goal 16 and its influence in the promotion of human rights in different contexts across the world.”
To pursue topics, panels were formed to discuss:
- “Building the Foundations for Justice and Rule of Law;
- International Cooperation and Strengthening Institutions to Prevent Conflict;
- Remedy and Protection of Vulnerable Groups;”
- Human Rights Defenders at Risk.”
Extinction Risk of Circassian Language and Culture
A main goal is to avert extinction of the Circassian language and culture. In case the language is retreated, receded, or lost (God forbid), it will be risky for the existence, survival, and future of the afflicted Circassian nation. Attention should be focused on the avoidance of losing the most important elements of the nation’s very survival as a dignified nation that possesses a distinct civilizational extension.
Circassian scholars and researchers found themselves occupied in responding to Russian plans aimed at making fundamental changes in some characters of the Russian alphabet, which is formed basically by the Cyrillic alphabet. The changes could necessarily affect various characters utilized by the Circassian language. This is a good example for the Circassians to benefit from, bearing in mind the tendency by some Circassian scholars in diaspora demanding to change the alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin. This will enhance reviving and developing a unified Circassian language associated with presenting a modern alphabet that would be easier to learn and utilize. This may eliminate the division of the Circassian language into two languages, which was created during the Soviet era.
“Olga Vasilyeva, the Russian minister of science and education, five days ago announced that as part of a new orthographic reform, seven letters now part of the Russian alphabet will be dropped as of 2020, a change that not only Russian traditionalists but Circassian linguists oppose. Vasilyeva says that next year Russians will cease to use the letters ы and ъ in place of which will be used the letter ь. In place of ё will be used е, and in place of ц, х, ч, ш, and щ will be introduced a single new letter still being discussed and to be announced later).”
The Circassians intend to save the letter “Щ”, which would fundamentally change the Circassian alphabet’s characters in case the plans are executed, and they intend not to allow such alteration. “This will represent the greatest change in the Russian alphabet since 1917 and is certain to become the subject of controversy. The first to weigh in against it, however, are not Russian traditionalists who can be expected to complain but rather Circassian linguists who say the elimination of Щ will make it impossible to express the sound values of their language. Linguists from the Adgyey Republic Academy of Sciences have sent a letter to the ministry of enlightenment asking that that letter be preserved. “We cannot replace the letter Щ,” they say, because it is needed to express certain sound patterns in Circassian. Without it, the language would be distorted and impoverished.”
The changes are made without consulting or knowing the opinion of other peoples, which are contrary to the wishes and desires of many peoples and nations that have different languages but are using Cyrillic alphabets. Not all of them are ready or able to accommodate a change due to the difference between the Russian language and other indigenous peoples’ languages.
Apparently, the Russian government is developing the language in order to fit the spirit of modern times and information technology. They eventually find it preferable to change some of the alphabet’s characters to make it more practical for the citizens. “Veronika Yashurova, deputy to Vasiliyeva, said in response that ‘the ministry will never go against the interests of the people. This reform is being carried out for the people. Fewer signs means less bureaucracy, fewer grammatical errors and higher scores on school tests.’”
There is much evidence that the Russian State is continuing its policy of expatiating and accelerating the assimilation of indigenous peoples and nations that the tsarist Russian Empire brought under its rule. It’s neither strange, nor coincidence, nor surprising to be persistently hammered by Russia’s obsessive policies, which are declared and enforced in a way that marginalizes those who are supposed to be partners in a so-called federalism. There is much evidence that the Russian State is continuing its policy of accelerated policies of assimilation and acquisition of the indigenous peoples and nations that the tsarist Russian Empire brought under its subjugation, during the nineteenth century and before. It seems that it has reached the level of pressing to acquire implementing cultural fusion for all the conquered nations in a unified majority Slavic culture.
“The self-immolation of the famous scientist, philosopher and public figure Albert Razin remained almost unnoticed by the wider Russian public, and even its democratic, liberal part, which, it would seem, was to sound the alarm about this. The tragedy occurred in Udmurtia in protest against the infringement of the native language. This event, for obvious reasons, caused a huge resonance in the republics that are part of the Russian Federation, and initiated a heated discussion. This is not unexpected. The problems associated with the preservation of native languages and cultural identity are acute for all peoples living in Russia. They became even more aggravated after the State Duma adopted a new edition of the federal ‘Education Law’ a year ago, as a result of which teaching of native languages became virtually unnecessary.”
Negligence to respect the rights of vulnerable and dominated peoples and nations, which are supposed to be associated in what is described as federalism, is considered contrary to international laws and norms. This is noticed to be promoted by some authorities’ advocates of intentional acquisition policies. “Academician Valery Tishkov,” who is a “former nationalities minister and director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and a close advisor to Vladimir Putin on nationality issues,” has thoughts to market and publicize academic and media outlets. Thence, this contravenes to absorptive methods, both nationally and culturally.
The European Charter for Reginal Languages or Languages of National Minorities makes the preservation of these languages the responsibility of the state in which they are spoken. ‘A desirable norm’ perhaps, but hardly ‘an obligatory one,’ Tishkov says. But ‘in our country,’ he continues, ‘all the same it would be better to study the language of a big people.’
‘In themselves,’ ‘ethnic languages of course have value for the representatives of various nationalities. But it is of an order less important let us say than that of social status, professional opportunities and the right to take part in the all-Russian process’ -– a dismissal of the provisions of the Russian constitution regarding nations and their languages.”
Further information on this important subject is being detailed, “‘Characteristically,’ Khakuasheva says, ‘all of these definitions are more than doubtful: First, Russia, in (consisting of many nations) hardly differs from other multi-national countries and particularly more (radically);’ there are more nations in such countries as India, Brazil and Indonesia’. Second, what Tishkov says is less a description of existing reality than “an assertive promise of Russification.” And his third point, “does not leave any hope for ‘the equality of subjects of the Russian Federation as established and guaranteed by Paragraph 65 of the Constitution.’”
Russian officials have not learned from all the evil events and tragedies created by colonial and imperial wrong doings. They have recklessly exposed the peoples of the Caucasus in general, and the Circassians in particular, to unbearable national disasters, whose repercussions have not yet ended. Time and experiments have proven that the Russian State policy is still going to continue to take further selfish, sadistic, and high-handed steps that only express authoritarianism and tyranny. These conducts are incompatible with the spirit of modernization, which are supposed to be overshadowed by the values of tolerance, mutual respect, coexistence, and respect for human rights.
“Tishkov, longtime director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and a nationalities minister in the 1990s, has been pushing this idea for a long time, the Circassian scholar says, most prominently in two articles, one of 2008 and a second from 2017. In them, Tishkov makes the following argument: ‘First, Russia is a state with a population consisting of many nations and in this is its radical distinction from other countries of the world. Second, Russia is a nation state of Russian nation with minorities, the members of whom can become Russian or recognize the state-forming status of the Russians.’ And ‘third,’ the Moscow scholar says, ‘Russia is a nation state with a multi-ethnic Russian nation, the basis of which consists of Russian culture and language and in which are included representatives of other Russian nationalities (peoples).’”
There is no other way but to put the record straight and to admit the irrefutable facts. The dots have to be connected in order to clarify the scene and thus, to select the appropriate methods to determine what to do. “The KBR scholar calls for lobbying the national interests of the native peoples of the Russian Federation at the state and regional levels in the frameworks of the constitutions and to speak about ‘the real advantages’ that can be obtained by bilingualism rather than a shift to a single language. Khakuasheva says that at a time of crisis, the peoples of the Russian Federation retain ‘a saving ethno-centrism which instantly comes into play following an outburst of chauvinism. Ethnocentrism bears a defensive, compensatory character. It is a responsive reaction and a form of resistance’ to chauvinist behavior by the majority.”
Proper awareness requires dealing with the situation professionally and with dedication. In this way, international laws and norms should be consulted, which should be the path of those who are working to preserve the key elements of the nation’s survival. “‘At the present time,’ she concludes, ‘compensatory ethnocentrism is being experienced by all the peoples of the Russian Federation, including the Circassian world split apart at the time of the Russian-Caucasus war. It represents an attempt to regain lost national foundations, including a disappearing language, maintaining ethnic integrity, and overcoming the dramatic situation of the Circassians in the historical motherland and diaspora.’”
The spirit of democracy and participation in government within a constitutional federalism requires that all those who are supposed to be partners have equal rights and all privileges. “‘The return of democracy is the single real alternative to today’s destructive trends,’ she argues. ‘However, taking into account compensatory ethnocentrism, democracy in all probability will take on a national coloration. Such a prospect is the only chance for the return and preservation of the moral core in Circassian culture.’ That is because, Khakuasheva says, ‘over the course of a long historical evolution, (Circassan culture) has governed the development of the people in the framework of adyge khabze, the etiquette of the Circassians, which always presupposed and presupposes now a genuine humanitarian course of development of the individual and society.’”
Unequivocally, the survival of the nation in the medium and long term may be determined by the survival of the culture and language. However, the reality on the ground shows that neither the Russian State nor the international community are interested to preserve the human heritage so far, or it is likely to have a positive attitude in this area. “As long as a language lives, the people will not perish.”
Consequently, the threat of language extinction is real and serious, where “the senior researcher at the Kabardino-Balkar Institute for Research on the Humanities addresses this combined threat to the future of non-Russian languages in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and more generally. Khakuasheva says the notion that non-Russians can give up their native languages and speak Russian without a risk to their national existence, one promoted by Academician Valery Tishkov and accepted by Vladimir Putin, is simply wrong: ‘In the national republics and regions, the only objective sign of national identity is native language: all other markers are derivative.’”
With regard to national identity, linguistic, and cultural dimensions, the Russian State cannot shirk its moral, legal, and humanitarian responsibilities for the grave violations committed against dozens of peoples and nations that were invaded in their homelands. The peoples and nations who found themselves deceived, discriminated against, cheated, and victimized by the evil foreign troops invading their countries. They created armed conflicts and wars in their own backyards.
“‘The problem of the crisis of North Caucasus languages and cultures can be explained in many cases by general globalization. But in fact, the cause is not so much that than in the distant but destructive consequences of the Russian-Caucasus War, which has become taboo’ for many officials, ideologists and Russian scholars. According to Khakuasheva, ‘at present, the problem of a crisis of identity has arisen,’ because of the problems those with poor knowledge of their native language have both socially and psychologically when they must deal with those who speak it rather than Russian. Indeed, this crisis has grown into an ‘existential’ one.”
Receiving disturbing news in regard to undermining language and culture, the leaders and local governments in the administrative divisions in the Circassian part of the North Caucasus reflects a marked weakness in resisting the onslaught of contemporary burdens, which encompasses the multifaceted elements of the survival of nations such as language, culture, politics, society, and economy. Extinction of language and culture would undermine other important elements such as national identity and national affiliation of both the community and the individual. Ultimately, the main objective is the dominance of the dominant society over all the communities of the indigenous peoples and nations. The main intent is the destruction of their constituents and thus the annihilation of language, culture, and other essential elements of their national survival.
However, usage of Kabardian language in KBR can be considered as an example, and not as an exception when comparing with other Circassians in other parts of historical Circassia.
- “Moreover, the only journal in Circassian (Elbrus) has fallen from a print run of 3,000 in 2000 to 1900 now. Books in Kabardin are issues in print runs of 300 to 500 copies; there is a crisis in the Kabarin theater; and ‘there is not one functioning movie house in Circassian,’ Khakuasheva says.
- In 2001, Moscow signed the UN Charter on Numerically Small Languages. But today 18 years later, the Russian government has not yet ratified it. ‘This means,’ the KBR scholar says, ‘that all this time the state has avoided taking responsibility for the preservation and development of the native languages of its indigenous peoples.’
- In all the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, the titular languages are in trouble, and the actions of the center and the inaction of the republic governments is making things worse, leading to ‘a sharp fall in the general level of native languages,’ one that points to their demise in a generation or two.
- ‘The problem of the crisis of North Caucasus languages and cultures can be explained in many cases by general globalization. But in fact, the cause is not so much that than in the distant but destructive consequences of the Russian-Caucasus War, which has become taboo’ for many officials, ideologists and Russian scholars.
- According to Khakuasheva, ‘at present, the problem of a crisis of identity has arisen,’ because of the problems those with poor knowledge of their native language have both socially and psychologically when they must deal with those who speak it rather than Russian. Indeed, this crisis has grown into an ‘existential’ one.
- What is to be done? The KBR scholar calls for lobbying the national interests of the native peoples of the Russian Federation at the state and regional levels in the frameworks of the constitutions and to speak about ‘the real advantages’ that can be obtained by bilingualism rather than a shift to a single language.
- Khakuasheva says that at a time of crisis, the peoples of the Russian Federation retain ‘a saving ethno-centrism which instantly comes into play following an outburst of chauvinism.
- Ethnocentrism bears a defensive, compensatory character. It is a responsive reaction and a form of resistance’ to chauvinist behavior by the majority.
- It represents an attempt to regain lost national foundations, including a disappearing language, maintaining ethnic integrity, and overcoming the dramatic situation of the Circassians in the historical motherland and diaspora.
- ‘The return of democracy is the single real alternative to today’s destructive trends.’
- compensatory ethnocentrism — democracy in all probability will take on a national coloration.
- Such a prospect is the only chance for the return and preservation of the moral core in Circassian culture.
- ‘Over the course of a long historical evolution, (Circassan culture) has governed the development of the people in the framework of Adyge Khabze, the etiquette of the Circassians, which always presupposed and presupposes now a genuine humanitarian course of development of the individual and society.’”