Remembering a Nation Drowned in the Black Sea

Remembering a Nation Drowned in the Black Sea

By: Maria Khan – Pakistan

22 May, 2024


‘We need Circassia but we do not need Circassians themselves at all,” said Russian Emperor Alexander II during a visit to Maykop in 1861. While the world silently witnesses the genocide of the Palestinians, it is essential that we remember such events in the recent past. History has always been brutal and human life has always been of little value as it is today.

21 May commemorates the day of the Circassian Genocide, something that the world is quite unaware of. Most of the people don’t even know what this place even is and honestly, I have never read this name before except in utopian novels. To be precise, Circassians are an ethnic group present in the northwest of the Caucasus region.

Whether it was their Sunni Muslim identity or Russia’s quest for Russification, they were constantly targeted by the Russians. The last conflict between them and the Russians occurred on May 21, 1864 in an area close to today’s city of Sochi, near the Black Sea Port.

Circassians are known for their resilience, will power, and strength. These factors may somewhat be attributed to the region where they are located. During the Russo-Circassian War, they opted for guerilla warfare tactics in order to overpower the Russians. However, 1864 marked the end of the war when thousands of Circassians (almost 90%) were forcefully expelled to the Ottoman territories.

The Ottoman Sultan set up a Refugee Commission under Nusret Pasha to relocate these refugees. However, most of them either died on the way or broke down after reaching there as they couldn’t survive the changed weather pattern and the harsh conditions. The region where most of them were relocated was called Danube Vilayet in Ottoman controlled Bulgaria.

The already inhabiting Christian population was not quite happy with the Sunni Muslim immigrants, and the lack of basic necessities to cater such a huge number of migrants further added to the problem. With Nusret Pasha being replaced with Midhat Pasha, conditions became a bit better but the increasing crime rate was still an issue.

Years apart, as Russia now welcomes participants in the World Youth Festival held in Sochi, many remember their martyred ancestors. While many acknowledge it as a Russian territory, we forget who this land actually belonged to. The natives are either buried in the Black Sea or scattered around the globe, in quest to find their true identity.

It is painful to see colonizers celebrating on a land where indigenous culture once thrived. The pain of injustice eats one from inside. Not only is this genocide forgotten but so are the indigenous people who once inhabited this region.

Share Button