A Circassian View on Kiev Conference Regarding Symbolic Rare Case of Independence
June 5, 2023
With great pleasure Circassian and other peoples and nations of the Caucasus’ delegates have participated in an extraordinary conference that took place in Kiev at an exceptional timing (May 2023). It is held in these circumstances related to what happened and is still going on under the influence of direct Russian colonial ambitions and hostilities in Ukraine and the Caucasus.
Conference Expresses the Yearning for Freedom
The international conference that is “dedicated to the 105th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Mountain Republic,” has led to shedding memory once again on an exceptional occasion for the peoples of the Caucasus, which is an independence that did not last long. A memory dear to the hearts and minds of freedom lovers in the Caucasus who spent decades defending their freedom and independence against the forces of evil and darkness. This event triggered the necessity to end the era of oppression of the weak and advocacy of the strong.
Independence of the Mountain Republic lasted between March 1917 and November 1922 when Mountaineers or Highlanders proclaimed the establishment of an alliance of the united Mountaineers of the Caucasus. Even though it faced many pitfalls, and the participants were exposed to a turbulent ride, it is a symbol that can be used as a guide or compass to steer towards a common goal that aspires to reach the peoples and nations of the Caucasus when conditions are appropriate.
However, it was replaced by the “Mountain Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic or Mountain ASSR” in 1922. That was followed by a typical and eventual Russian Annexation on July 7, 1924. Although this happened at the beginning of the formation of the Soviet Union, which emerged from the womb of the Russian revolution, whose goals were to grant freedom and the right to self-determination to the peoples and nations that the Russian Empire had subjected to its authoritarian rule. Thus, given the policy of fait accompli of this situation, as these peoples remained imprisoned in the great prison that was in the vastness of the territories of Russia and the Soviet Union, and Russia to this day, while the legitimate rights of peoples and nations of the Caucasus and beyond were not granted.
The union was ultimately in accordance with the policy of fait accompli, taking into account that Circassia was not represented entirely, due to the nature and conditions resulting from the Russian occupation of vast areas of the historical territories of Circassia,. That made it necessary that members had to consider this fact in a phased manner, in form and content as per reality on the ground. The vast majority of the population located between the Western Caucasus Mountains and the coast of the Black Sea, were exposed to extermination, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement. The Circassian inhabitants were replaced by foreign settlers.
Thus, the Kabarday region was located in the east, in the interior part of Circassia. It was one of the main members of the then Mountain Republic. The union took place between members and sections of the peoples and nations of the Caucasus, and decided that it would be eventually accomplished in steps and stages. Taking into account the Declaration of Independence, which was their main demand that they have always called for and fought defensive wars for it.
A paragraph of research conducted by “The Institute of Economics and Social Sciences of Bilkent University,” Turkey, is quoted hereunder. It elaborated on the circumstances that helped to emerge the Mountain Republic in the early 20th century. It stated: “by the last quarter of the 19th century, the Russians managed to suppress and subjugate the region. They settled the Cossacks and other Russian populations in the North Caucasus and severely changed the balance of population and power in favor of the Russian Empire. As a consequence, disturbances broke out in the entire North Caucasus in 1865, 1877, 1898, and 1906 that resulted in the arrival of new refugees from the North Caucasus to the Ottoman lands” (source: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/52925868.pdf).
Implementing Usual Colonial Policies in the Twenty-First Century
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed Russian ambitions in the lands, resources, and waters of its geographically and ethnically closest neighbor, and the possibility of rolling this invasion, if successful, to other European countries. No doubt that the situation of the war has reached ‘the point of no return’ in a dilemma from which it is difficult to withdraw from. There does not seem to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon to stop the aggressive war that leads to total withdrawal to the international borders. This is a situation similar to the Russian colonial policies pursued in the Caucasus since the eighteenth century and before.
Those who belong to the indigenous Circassian nation, do not miss the opportunity to draw anyone’s attention to the status of the Circassian Question. At the same time, I would like to address the ambitions of some parties, who declared that they have rights over the occupied lands of Circassia. This means that such parties act according to the colonial changes made by the military authorities of the Russian Empire. Changes included administrative, demographic, geographical, and other structures of the occupied Circassian lands located specifically in the northwest of the Caucasus region since the sixties of the nineteenth century.
However, as a matter of logic and what is acceptable to everyone involved in this issue, we must focus on the impossibility of taking any step or action in this direction without the targeted peoples and nations obtaining their freedom, the right to self-determination and independence. After that, a referendum must be arranged under an international supervision to find out the opinion of those being polled, whether to agree or disagree to join the Union. It is not permissible to conclude a union between peoples subjected to colonial domination or that these peoples are restricted to express their opinion in one way or another.
Circassian Participants’ Role
On the impact of this unprecedented event, the lessons that emerged as a result of undesirable interactions and perhaps unintended misconception must be drawn and extrapolated, but we must take advantage of them to change the stereotypical nature of what is happening in the Circassian arena from time to time. What happened does not change any of the results created by the occupation of Circassia by the Russian Empire, and the administrative divisions that Russian military leaders began to establish in 1860, strengthened and consolidated by the abhorrent occupation and forced annexation over decades. This is considered an illegal matter that requires restoring rights and changing the situation to what used to be before the occupation. In the midst of criticizing some of the points that came in the draft resolution of the conference, it cannot be a matter that changes the fact that all Circassian activists are eager to restore the Circassian legitimate rights undiminished, because they are not willing to concede these postulates.
Those who did not miss participating in this exceptional event are recognized for their opinions and positions that do not budge an inch from what is known about them in terms of soundness of opinion and clarity of vision. It is assumed that the opinions and positions of the critics are also not far from the basic Circassian demands. In any case, logic necessitates that dialogue, communication and frankness take place in order to clarify positions, especially for those who are not familiar with the nature of the measures taken, which I am certain that behind the hill is what’s behind it. Common sense dictates containing any misunderstanding rather than exaggerating it, because Circassian activists, in all their whereabouts, are concerned not to create problems and disturbances for themselves, because that offends them all alike.
Freedom loving peoples and nations of the Caucasus will prevail and emancipate because they are defending their very survival and their legitimate rights. With a minimum standard of objectivity, it is not impossible to reach a form of confederation when conditions are ripened to have a kind of solid Pan Caucasus gathering, similar to the European Union for example. This should take place when it becomes possible to unite between free and independent peoples, and after conducting a referendum to approve that future project. Thus, it will lead to joint cooperation in all fields, between Circassia and other nations and partners of the Caucasus especially in the areas of collective security and common defense.