Anzor Kushkhabiev

And longer than


home-sickness lasts

Problems of foreign Circassians


Candidate of history, senior research worker of Kabardin-Balkar institute of humanitarian researches. Author of a number of articles  devoted to history and the current situation of Circassian (Adyg) Diaspora and two monographs:
«Cirkassians in Syria» (Nalchik, 1993); 
«Cirkassian Diaspora in Arab countries (XIX-XX
centuries)» (Nalchik, 1997).

The problem of Circassians“ repatriation arised already in the first years after their mass removal to Osman empire. When they found themselves in Turkey in hard conditions groups of immigrants began to strive for return to the homeland. Afterwards many foreign Circassians made official and non-official attempts to return to the Nothern Caucasus most of which didn“t have success.
Governments of Tsar“s Russia and later of the USSR in the periods of «stalinism» and «stagnation» prevented from repatriation of foreign Circassians. After World War II Soviet authorities motivated their refusals usually by lack of dwelling and lands in the Nothern Caucasus. However, it was since the end of 40th till the middle of 80th years of XX century that regular removals of citizens from various regions of the USSR, as specialists and «manpower», to the Nothern Caucasus republics were performed. And hundreds applications handed in Soviet embassies and consulates in Syria, Jordan and Turkey by foreign Circassians remained without answer.
Still, in spite of the authorities“ negative attitude to this problem, some Circassian families from Syria, Turkey and Jordan began to remove to Kabardin-Balkaria and Adygeia privately in 60th years. Local authorities created for them various bureaucratic obstacles, complicated procedures of  Soviet citizenship“s registration, getting a job, exchange of currency, etc. Some repatriates couldn“t stand such opposition and left the inhospitable homeland. It happened sometimes that local authorities turned out by force compatriots-tourists who desired to remain in the historical homeland.
Situation began to change in the second half of 80th years in connection with conducted in the USSR policy of «perestroyka». Public organizations and national movements which appeared in that period in the Nothern Caucasus republics began to speak up in defence of the rights of compatriots who desired to return to the homeland. At their sessions, meetings and congresses they required from the authorities to solve this problem. Adyg, Kabardian and Circassian public organizations «Adyge Khase» have as one of their principal objects assistance to repatriates. In Kabardian «Adyge Khase» a department of rendering assistance to repatriation of foreign compatriots was created which engaged, mainly, in seeking for dwelling for repatriates and drawing up their documents for receipt of Soviet citizenship. Assembly of Mountaineer Peoples of the Caucasus (AMPC) also spoke up with requirement of granting to compatriots a right of return to the historical homeland. Summoned by initiative of AMPC in October of 1990 in Sukhum Congress of the Caucasus Peoples at which about 30 000 people were present adopted an appeal to General Secretary of OUN Peres de Cueliar, President of the USSR M.S. Gorbachev and President of Turkish Republic Turgut Ozal which, in particular, spoke about necessity of granting to foreign Northern Caucasus communities a right for free return to the historical homeland.
In the beginning of 1989 to the name of General Secretary of Central Committee of CPSU M.S. Gorbachev an appeal from Circassian community of Syria was submitted in which request for granting a right for repatriation and Soviet citizenship to 234 families. In December of 1990 Circassian charity society received from the Soviet embassy in Syria an official denial for this request. It caused negative reaction in Circassian communities of Syria, Jordan, Turkey and also in the republics of the Nothern Caucasus.
In the end of 80th years flow of repatriates began to grow in spite of bureaucratic obstacles. With the aim of rendering assistance to repatriates in Kabardin-Balkaria in June of 1991 Charity fund «Khekuzh» (Homeland) was founded which began render assistance to repatriates in solving two principal problems - drawing up documents and acquiring dwelling. The fund`s staff began to be kept at the expense of its own commercial activities and donations from some organizations and private persons. In 1992 the fund`s affiliates were open in Circassian charity societies of Turkey and USA. Such funds of assistance to repatriates were also founded in Republic of Adygeia and Karachai-Circassian Republic.
The first compatriots who rushed to the homeland were, mainly, representatives of two social strata - part of patriotic-minded intellectuals which declared that they were ready to stand any incoveniencies connected to removal and businessmen who strived to set profitable business going in the Caucasus. More than half of all repatriates were citizens of Syria. Flow of Circassian repatriates began to grow also due to the fact that Russian embassies received a right to consider matters of granting Russian citizenship to those whose ancestors had emigrated from Russia. So, in 1992 Russian embassy gave to Circassians 120 passports.
The problem of repatriation was solved in various republics of the Nothern Caucasus in different ways. To Adygeia foreign compatriots began to return, mainly, after 1990 when Adyg autonomous region was transformed to republic and received new powers. Government of this republic reduced terms of consideration of repatriates“ documents for receipt of citizenship to 6 months, granted hotel for their staying, etc.
In 1991 - 1995 Department of visas and registration of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republic of Adygeia gave to repatriates 767 residence permits. 117 repatriates received citizenship.
In rather complicated conditions repatriates found themselves in Kabardin-Balkar Republic where officials didn“t displayed interest in solving this problem. So the problem of foreign compatriots striving for repatriation is not solved on the legislative base up to now. Procedure of drawing up documents necessary for receipt of Russian citizenship lasts too long time. In order to receive citizenship it is required to stay within limits of Kabardin-Balkar Republic without quitting during three years. In case of one departure abroad term grows to five years.
Government and Parliament of Kabardin-Balkar Republic, under pressure of public organizations, took some measures for regulating matters related to repatriation. In 1990 commission for studying this problem was created. In 1992 in Ministry of external relations of Kabardin-Balkar Republic Department of repatriation was created. In the same year Supreme Soviet of Kabardin-Balkar Republic adopted special «Program for repatriation of compatriots living abroad». However, large part of tasks envisaged there was not realized. Activity of above-mentioned commissions and Departament proved to be inefficient because of absence of unambiguous law regulating repatriation of foreign compatriots.
However, flow of repatriates going to Kabardin-Balkar Republic grew in the beginning of 90th years. If by 1990 documents for 100 repatriates were drawn up, in 1993 567 permits for permanent living and 371 residence permits were granted. In total by 1994 Department of visas and registration gave 1342 permits for permanent living in Kabardin-Balkar Republic. In 1992 in Kabardin-Balkaria 92 repatriates received Russian citizenship.
Agreement «On delimitation of subjects of competence and mutual delegation between bodies of the state authorities of the Russian Federation and bodies of the state authorities of Kabardin-Balkar Republic» signed on July 1, 1994 created law base for solving the problem of repatriation. According to this agreement matters of reception and settling down of repatriates - ethnic Kabardians (Adygs) and Balkars coming from abroad passed to the competence of Kabardin-Balkar Republic. It had also political importance because foreign Nothern Caucasus communities saw that Government of the Russian Federation unlike Soviet authorities didn`t intend to prevent from their repatriation.
Common problems for repatriates in the Nothern Caucasus republics were seeking for dwelling, both temporary and constant, and seeking for job. In the conditions of complication of economic situation in the whole Russia accompanied by closing enterprises, growth of unemployment and increase of prices for dwelling the above-mentioned problems get more acute. Adaptation of repatriates is also complicated by the fact that most repatriates don“t speak Russian and don“t know local conditions of life.
A serious problem for repatriates is also raging of crime in the Nothern Caucasus. Many of them underwent persecution on the part of criminals. There were cases of robbery and extortion of money from repatriates and some persons were killed. All these negative realities of the post-Soviet society served as discouraging factor for process of repatriation and destroyed romantic image of the historical homeland as «earth`s Paradise». Already after 1993 flow of repatriates began to reduce.
After beginning of a war in Chechen republic in autumn of 1994 process of repatriation of foreign Circassians and other Nothern Caucasus peoples practically stopped.
The same situation arised in Republic of Abkhazia. Ten foreign Abkhazes who took part in the war (August of 1992 - September of 1993) and decided to remain in Abkhazia for constant living faced a number of economic and domestic problems. They also underwent persecution on the part of criminals. It was a reason for departure of many foreign Abkhazes.
Now many foreign Adygs and Abkhases - businessmen and specialists - express desire and readiness to remove to the historical homeland or establish there joint ventures. But they require the state guarantees concerning safety of their business activities, property, bank deposits, etc.
Therefore, repatriation of foreign Circassians didn“t attain a large scale. The fact that foreign Circassians who many times had declared about their desire to return to the historical homeland didn“t take such opportunity which arised in the present time proves that mass migrations don“t occur due to ideological propaganda or growth of patriotic feelings. Only acute social, economic and political causes (war, discrimination, repressions, etc.) and also natural calamities may compell the whole people to remove. All this proved that mass repatriation is impossible in the private order without assistance of the state bodies of a receiving country. It should be noted that in Israel and Germany repatriation is a matter of the state policy and there special system of  repatriates“ accomodation exists. Later on number of Circassian repatriates may grow if the matter of granting citizenship to foreign compatriots in Nothern Caucasus republics is solved on the legislative level and if governments of these republics render assistance to repatriates in the process of their removal and adaptation.