Why Does the Kremlin Fear the Circassians being called “Circassians”?
I’m following an interesting interchange between the world Circassian community, outside observers, and the Kremlin. It started when I saw this article in Segodnya, a Kremlin mouthpiece masquerading as a news source. The original Russian version is here:
West again activates the “Circassian theme”
Funded by American non-governmental foundations, the so-called Circassian Culture Center (CCC) recently published an article about a pseudo-Circassian social activist from Jordan – Adel Bashqawi. This material frankly states that with its help and with the support of the Circassian Cultural Center their American owners intend to make another attempt to destabilize the North Caucasus in the near future.
It is important to note that today there are already several pseudo-Adyghe organizations: the Latvian Circassian Cultural and Legal Center (Muhammad Tlupov), the Jordanian Circassian National Movement (Adel Bashqawi), the International Circassian Union of America (Iyad Youghar). All of them were created by the Americans (they say that even Avraam Shmulevich himself participated as a consultant) to intensify anti-Russian sentiments and try to incite national-separatist sentiments in southern Russia. However, these organizations currently do not have real support from the Circassians and, moreover, exist solely for the sake of the interests of the sponsors of the supposedly “common Circassian position.” Realizing this fact and pursuing the goal of creating a structure capable of influencing the opinion of Circassians living within the Russian Federation, the Americans organized the Circassian Cultural Center in Georgia. The favorable location, adjacent to our country, as well as the anti-Russian policy of the leadership of this former union republic have largely predetermined the main vector and goals of this center.
During its formation, the Circassian Cultural Center relied on Ibrahim Yaganov, who, having finally figured out their real goals, refused to cooperate with his former enemies (Yaganov did not take very long, but nevertheless took part in the war for the liberation of Abkhazia from the Georgian Zviadists and fought on side of the Abkhazians) and even recently received the post of head coach of the Russian national equestrian team. Then the CCC tried to rely on a young, but not years old, ambitious philologist Martin Kochesokov, but, unfortunately, he was ruined by a craving for drugs. However, experts from the CCC and their overseas curators are not giving up and are now trying to destabilize the situation in Kabardino-Balkaria through Jordan. They are trying to do this with the hands of a former Jordanian pilot, retired colonel Adel Bashqawi, who had been cooperating with American special services since his service in the armed forces of the Kingdom.
So, one of the first presentations of this character to the Russian Circassians was held in Tbilisi in January 2018, where a forum was organized under the auspices of the Circassian Cultural Center, with the participation of a motley group of Georgian intelligentsia, as well as Circassian activists from the KBR, Beshtoev, Kochesokov and others, the presentation of Adele Bashqawi’s book (who is described as a Jordanian political scientist and historian) under the title “Circassia, Born to be Free.” It is worth noting that this book was written in English and thoroughly saturated with Russophobia under the sauce of myths about the “genocide of the Circassian people.”
The logical continuation of attempts to draw the Jordanian-Circassian intelligentsia under the evil influence of the CCC and Jamestown Foundation agents was the organization in October 2019 of an international Circassian conference in Amman. The conference, organized by Bashqawi and the chairman of the Circassian Cultural Center, Merad Chukhua, was held with the direct and rather active participation of the Georgian consul and was presented under the guise of presentation of the book by the Georgian poet Dato Magradze “Giacomo Ponti”, translated into the Circassian and Abkhaz languages. This is where the most interesting part begins: instead of presenting the book, the Georgians tried to hold a public relations campaign – they offered Georgian citizenship to Jordanian Circassians, study at Georgian universities, invited them to open a business and incited anti-Russian actions. While the Georgians selflessly promoted themselves, Jordanian Air Force General Mohamed Abaza, a highly respected member of the Jordanian Circassian community, couldn’t restrain himself and spoke, publicly accusing the Georgian representatives of war crimes and the genocide of the Abkhaz. To the surprise of the representatives of the CCC, the Georgian consul and Bashqawi himself, the majority of the invited Circassian activists supported the opinion of the former general, which forced the Georgians to leave the event prematurely.
It would seem, obviously, that the lies of Georgians do not pass even in Jordan. However, after consulting with representatives of the American embassy, the Georgians expelled from the event in disgrace and their puppet friend Bashqawi wrote in their best American traditions that they didn’t have to get away with it, but on the contrary, they put out the pro-Russian Circassians and accused them of in collusion with the Russian consul.
Why is it that American ideologists, after some information lull, have again actively taken up the promotion of Circassian problems and are trying to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus? The answer is not obvious, but simple – the Russian authorities are confidently seizing the initiative. Confirmation of this is the position Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed during his visit to Kabardino-Balkaria on November 29, 2019, where at the All-Russian Council on Interethnic Relations in Nalchik, he criticized the policy of federal television channels in terms of coverage of interethnic relations and stated that stories on an ethnic theme must be present on Russian television. Separately, Putin noted that “this topic is inexhaustible, and you need to deal with it constantly, as your health.” Perhaps there is nothing to add to this.
It is also worth saying that the world learned about the existence of Adel Bashqawi only in April 2008, after he took part in the so-called “Seminar of the Circassian charity association” in Amman “on the work and results of conferences at Harvard and William Patterson University.
I’m used to reading this sort of nonsense in Segodnya, but this one caught my attention. I found it interesting that the Kremlin is apparently more frightened than they ever have been of a Circassian repatriation movement.
The above piece had a link to another humorous article, “Agent Provacateur of Hatred Toward Russia.” This one was a direct attack on Paul Goble, who runs the blog Window on Eurasia and has been involved in many governmental and non-governmental organizations. The article from Window on Eurasia it was attacking, I assume, is this one.
As you can see, there is nothing calling for separatism in the piece. It’s a summary of the recent movement to have Circassians all classified as one ethnicity instead of four. The reason for the current classification is purely bureaucratic: Kabardino-Balkaria was considered the “Left Flank” of the Caucasus front during the Russo-Caucasian wars, separating the Kabardian tribe from the rest of the Circassian nation. The Circassians living in what is now Karachaevo-Cherkessia were designated “Cherkes,” the Russian form of “Circassian.” Adygeia, where the other significant population of Circassians live, was derived from the endonym for the Circassians, “Adyge.” Finally a small group of Circassians of the Shapsug tribe evaded deportation in 1864, and thanks to the local Cossacks (who realized the Shapsugs’ experience in the region would be invaluable in developing the very difficult terrain) they avoided deportation. For a while their small enclave was known as the Shapsug Autonomous Region, but in 1945 it was renamed Lazerevsky Region, in honor of the Russian admiral who bombarded the Shapsugs in the final stages of the “war” (which by then was a simple ethnic cleansing—the Russians even used the term “cleansing” repeatedly in their communiqués).
The Segodnya article, which undermines its credibility entirely when the “author” forwards the debunked story about Martin Kochesoko’s “drug” arrest, attempts to conflate the movement to create a single ethnonym for the Circassians with separatist ambitions, which are not mentioned in Gobles’ piece. This is similar to the approach the Kremlin took when the Tatars moved to be reclassified as a single ethnic group (they too are artificially divided into pseudo-nations: Kazan, Crimean, Siberian, Kryashen, etc.) However, the Tatars are a much larger nation than the Circassians.
Furthermore, the article is simply wrong when the “author” asks “why is it that American ideologists, after some information lull, have again actively taken up the promotion of Circassian problems?” There has been no lull. Dr. Goble has consistently written pieces about the Circassians’ struggles over the past several years, and pieces have been published by the Jamestown Foundation. So as I see it, the Kremlin is trying to re-frame the Circassian push for a single ethnonym as the first step in a separatist movement. The piece isn’t really meant to convince anyone; it’s just fodder for Russian chauvinists like the young woman I met in 2005 who told me that Chechnya is an inseparable part of Russia, but that the Chechens aren’t Russian. Orwell’s Doublethink in action!
What’s most interesting, however, is that the Kremlin is so concerned about the Circassians getting to call themselves by the same name they’ve resorted to publishing gaslighting pieces. With the Chechens under the thumb of a brutal dictator, the Circassians are the last nation in the Caucasus with anywhere near the population to make some sort of dent in the Russian colonial system. The anti-Olympics campaign and the Syrian refugee crisis have galvanized the world Circassian community in a way that poses an actual threat that the Circassians may one day demand the return of their stolen homeland. If that happens, separatism may spread throughout the Russian “Federation.” I think it’s a very real possibility, although not in the near future. And I can find one thing to agree with the Segodnya hit piece on: if that happens, there will be turmoil unlike anything we’ve seen in the Caucasus for a long time. That I don’t look forward to, but like so many conflicts in the world as a result of colonization, it seems inevitable.