|Amman. Roman theatre which became a witness of Circassian tragedy. In the end of 1860th it turned into an asylum of Shapsug exiles|
|Exiles“ means of transport in foreign strange land. The original is 150 years old|
|Circassian mosque in Amman|
We are interested in every
thing what is related to the former USSR and, therefore, the Caucasus which our ancestors always considered (as we consider) their true homeland. We worry together with other residents of Russia about our country, fates of people, future of transformations which inspired us with so many hopes under the token of Perestroyka.
No Circassian wherever he is can“t be indifferent to what happens to Russia.
Living in other country one can hardly perceive all causes which led to crisis a society consisting of hundreds million people. Events of October of 1917 and the current ones have something in common. First of all it is mass of problems whose solution was hindered or which were just disregarded. As is known, history repeats and not always as a farce. If not to use favourable opportunity for correcting the last mistakes society may be doomed.
Certainly, general crisis in the huge country can be caused not by one or two problems, they are numerous. One of them relates to us, Circassians. We want to speak about it in detail.
Principal question in solving national problems is a right of a nation for self-determination. The result of its realization must be atmosphere of full mutual understanding, confidence and respect between people irrespective of race and religion. In spite of the fact that Russian empire, in cosequence of conqests of many peoples, was multinational country. Tsarism virtually ignored national question. The whole territory of the country was divided into provinces which were populated with people from Central Russia. Everywhere unified governing was spread.
However we could regard bolshevism as a phenomenon, bolsheviks, at least, created national-territorial formations. For the first time territorial-administrative names appeared which were established in accordance with national belonging. For the first time loud talks about national languages, national cultures began. As it turned out afterwards, in all that, unfortunately, there was not true generosity but striving to make an impression upon the world community. Much of what was declared concerning rights of peoples and human rights turned out just declaration. Any talk about possibility of true self-governing was considered as a crime against the state bases. All more or less serious economic, political or cultural questions were solved in Moscow. There also boundaries of national territories were determined. As a matter of fact, it was realization of a right of the strong one, and the more stronger was an ethnic massif, the more rights it became. So, when the Soviet Union began to desintegrate the first which managed to gain independence were Baltic republics well known by their strong character and then the rest of the Union republics. But when Chechnya spoke about sovereignty it became subject of persecution.
What a right for self-determination is it if you are told: «You, of course, may separate but if you indeed are going to do it we will smother you»? Certainly, everyone wants to live in large powerful country which is respected by the whole world where people feel better than in some «banana republic». Nobody will run from the good. But this «good» must be really good. Russia, as it seems, has not learned a lesson neither from its own history nor from history of other colonial empires. Meantime, it was in XX century that principles of mutual respect, consideration of each other`s interests, moral responsibility for fortunes of all peoples populating the planet became widely spread. So, any state, all the more super power, must have well-thought national policy.
Without such policy, without consideration of interests of each people, even the smallest, no federation can be strong. Colonies are good when their resources are used, but the time comes when people-conqueror faces the choice: either to violate moral laws or to take responsibility for a people which was either conquered or expatriated.
One of the peoples having a right to make serious claims to the Russian state are Circassians (Adygs and Abkhazes). New Russian leaders demonstrate continuity of Tsarist policy right up to return of symbols of Russian empire.Tsarist epoch in the fate of Circassians
Since that time when Russia saw an opportunity to become super power the Caucasus
became object of special attraction for it. Here moral sententions are not proper. And the
state interests don“t accord with the simple system «the good - the evil» or «moral -
amoral». Political trend determined by circumstances can“t be estimated neither
negatively, nor positively - it just exists and should be taken into consideration.
Quite different matter - methods by means of which this trend becomes reality. And if one can“t say something wrong about Russia“s right for certain role in the world policy and its desire to spread its influence over the Caucasus, but methods of realizing this desire can“t leave indifferent any thinking and feeling person. Certainly, conceptions of the good and the evil depend on morals of an epoch. But in any case the good doesn“t stop to be the good and the evil doesn“t stop to be the evil. If to estimate history of conquest of the Caucasus by Russian empire in this light it must be recognized that in relation to Circassians, Chechens and some other peoples it was long chain of real crimes. Here for the first time in the period called New History such horrible methods of war as genocide and tactics of scorched earth were used in large scale.
It is quite possible that the general public in Russia doesn“t have clear notion about these pages of their homeland“ history since any state presents its history in advantageous for itself light. In this connection it would be reasonable to give an account of some of the most incontestable facts.
In accordance with testimonies of non-biased researchers both modern and of that time when conquest of the Caucasus was performed, number of Circassians in the end of XVIII - beginning of XIX century attained 1,5 - 2 million. Now in the homeland their number is equal to a little more than half a million. It is known that in the conditions of relatively peaceful historical development population grows tenfold during a century. In our case reduction by three-four times takes place.
Vast mountain territories and foothills from the Central Fore-Caucasus till Taman peninsula, from Black Sea coast till Kuban steppes which were once populated by Circassians now are either empty or populated by descendants of former residents of Central Russia and Ukraine.
And the following should be add: just before active actions of Russian army in the Nothern Caucasus among Circassians natural process of ethnic consolidation began. Centripetal trend was supported by people“s historical memory which retained legends about ruler Inal under whose power Abkhazes, Abazins, Ubykhs and Adygs were united. Further events destroyed this trend and dispersed Circassians all over the world and having left for them in their homeland only small parts of territory occupied by them formerly.
Already in XVIII century a campaign of establishing Russian domination in the whole territory of the Caucasus began. The principal method of attaining object was a war. Though, in the middle of the century bloodless Georgia was compelled to ask defence from coreligionist Russia and Russia didn“t fail to use this situation. But between these two countries there was space populated by peoples which were not going to ask support from anybody and wished to live according to their laws granted to them by God. The only fact that the fight lasted virtually more than a century testifies how fierce and non-compromise it was. And it was not because Russia didn“t use all its power: here at the head of Russian troops were such famous commanders as Potemkin, Suvorov, Ermolov, Raevsky, Velyaminov, Zass and many others. No doubt, they were eminent men for their personal qualities. But by the rulers“ will they performed in the Caucasus mission that was by no means noble.
Policy in relation to Circassians and other small peoples of the Caucasus was very cynical: Tsar needed not them but populated by them fertile land and important in the strategic aspect territories. Tactics was corresponding: natives shouldn“t be spared, all means are good in fighting them. So Russian commanders easily exterminated peaceful population, burned villages, cut centenary forests, didn“t spared neither oldmen, nor children. Those who remained alive were forced to submit to laws absolutely strange for them and resettled to places unfavourable for living. Their rights and dignity were constatly violated. It was then widely known to the civilized world. The press of European countries wrote about it.
But in order to intercede for humiliated and enslaved peoples, evidently, big courage and economic interest are required. None of the great powers of that time could do it without taking Russia“s strength into consideration. Here is one of publications of that time in English newspaper «Star» of March 21, 1863 under unambigous title «Russian barbarism in Circassia».
«We received from Circassia news which will excite indignance of all civilized people. In village Khafife in Shapsug region horrible scene took place. Men from this village were at frontier outposts. Taking advantage of their absence Tsar`s soldiers attacked the rest population and started to kill, burn, rob. Among victims there were 18 old women, 8 children and 6 old men. On the back of one of the murdered old women they left a board with the following words: «Come and complain to English queen to whom your deputies went to ask for help». On the body of a small boy such inscription was discovered: «Remain here instead of selling yourself to your protectors Turks. Finally, on the body of an old man whose eyes were punctured the following was written: «Come to your deputies, in Paris there are good oculists». So Tsar`s army spreads civilization. As a result of arsons during the last five years almost all huts situated in the valleys were burnt. Population found refuge in the mountains. Now many families went hungry. In desperation they are going to submit to Russians. Left by Turks and Europe these unhappy creatures are ready to throw themselves into their enemy`s arms. However, most Circassians prefer to die with weapons in their arms».
By the way, Karl Marx turned his attention to this article, and this person“ opinion in bolsheviks“ eyes was an opinion of God in all matters concerning history, philosophy, economics or culture but by no means Russia“s policy in the Caucasus.
Circassian people expressed its attitude to the war in hundreds of legends and songs narrating about burning peaceful auls, death of dozens and hundreds innocent persons, exploits of homeland“s defenders and sufferings of people exiled from native lands. Songs and legends devoted to that time remained in oral tradition up to now, after almost a hundred and fifty years since the war was over.
Inventive for cruelties of all kinds Russia“s rulers tried to breed strife between Circassians and Cossacks who lived peacefully side by side with them. They pictured Circassians to the world as non-civilized savages whose accustoming to advanced culture was possible under the aegis of Russia.
It can“t be said that they didn“t succeed in this mission at all. Though, the war costed to Russian people itself many thousands lives of soldiers and officers. From central provinces to the Caucasus hundreds thousand peasants were driven together by force. At the new place they were met, naturally, as enemies for they occupied lands of indigenous inhabitants who were forced out to less comfortable places or expelled beyond new limits of the Russian empire.
During the war systematic extermination of Circassian region“s population was performed and the last years (war was over in 1834) became chord finale of horrible tragedy. Openly or secretly, but the Russian and Osman empires agreed about that Circassians could freely migrate to Turkey. New Russian administration did all its best to make life of Circassians in their homeland as uncomfortable as possible. It was very often that they faced wittingly unacceptable conditions with an alternative of migration to Turkey. Turkish emissaries on their part persuaded Circassians to migrate to the coreligionist country. They didn“t spare words picturing delights of life under the domination of sultan. People, driven to despair, bloodless by incessant wars, oppression, humiliation, genocide and robbery easily gave in to these admonitions.
The most terrible page of our people“s history was open. Dozens of thousands people went to the Black Sea ports for mooving to new places where, as they thought, there would be no disasters which had persecuted them in their homeland. Exodus began which entailed, naturally, fearful epidemics and death of people.
Only according to official data number of migrants attained half a million people. Scientists believe that the same number left the homeland without drawing up passports. More than a half of the general number didn“t reach those places where they were going to. People tell that the coast“s inhabitants didn“t eat sea fish for a long time because Black Sea ground was strewn with bodies of unhappy exiles. In the places of new settlements in the beginning graves appeared and only then dwellings.
Since the first years of living in foreign strange land among Circassians mass movement for return to the homeland began. Having realized that Osman empire didn“t promise them anything better than Russian empire did, they were ready for everything in order to regain the lost homeland. Petitions to Russian emperor followed but he didn“t need rebellious Circassians. He got their land and wasn“t going to give it back.
In accordance with data of different authors number of Circassian population in the end of XVIII century - beginning of XIX century was equal to not less than a million people and it might be even two and a half a million. As a result of mass migration from 500 thousand to a million people left the homeland. Half this number died of hardships, hunger and epidemics in the way.
During the war, in battles and as a result of raids on peaceful auls a huge number of people died and this number doesn“t let itself to any account. After official completion of war and establishment of Russian administrative governing number of Circassians who remained in the homeland amounted to not more than 1/5 - 1/6 of the former number and soon this number once more reduced by half. So, from 200 thosand Kabardians 30 thousand remained, from 250 thousand Shapsugs - only several thousand. It was still worse with Abadzekhs, a little better - with Bjedugs. From once numerous Ubykhs no one survived!
Those few who didn“t want or for any reason couldn“t leave the Caucasus found themselves islets among alien environment and with the time had to be absorbed by it. It didn“t happen only due to inexhaustible vitality of once numerous and proud people.
In foreign strange land where Circassians little by little acclimatized themselves and began to grow roots, crisis, which threatened to annihilate the nation, passed with the time. Feeling of self-preservation replaced despair. People realized that in order to preserve themselves as a nation they nedeed to preserve the best people“s qualities - dignity, natural intelligence, traditions of ancestors. Due to that many Circassians became eminent commanders and politicians, remarkable writers, diplomats, scientists, businessmen.
But nothing could make up for the lost homeland. Circassians are strangers in any part of the world besides their historical homeland.
It is not difficult to imagine feelings of Russian people reading impartial judgements
about Russian policy. But it should be noted that we, Circassians, never confuse imperial
rulers with Russian people. Everything that is written here was suffered during many
decades by several generations of people who were doomed to sufferings without any blame
and these sufferings continue up to now.
October revolution gave to Caucasian peoples hope for change of their fortune for the better. In the beginning, it seemed, this hope came true. So, one of the most important matters in bolsheviks“ program was national one. Equality of all citizens irrespective of nationality, freedom of religion, right of a nation for self-determination and national territory. All this caused great enthusiasm. Through all ideological obstacles we, foreign Circassians, received hopeful information about new order in the land where power belonged to Soviets. Circassians-exiles got filled with a hope for forthcoming return or, at least, improvement of their situation.
Alas, this hope never came true for bolsheviks gave rights in strictly limited frame which didn“t envisage solving so uncomfortable for them problem of Circassians“ repatriation.
What was still made? Peoples received administrative borders of their state formations. It is very good, without doubt. But these territories are mere rags in comparison with the former spaces populated by Circassians. In the place of spacious historical Circassia the following formations were created: Kabardin-Balkar autonomous region (later republic), to the West from it - Karachai-Circassia and farther to the West - Adygeia. More than ten Shapsug settlements on the Black Sea coast, several Kabardian settlements near Mozdok and single auls in the steppe area found themselves beyond limits of created territorial formations and, therefore, without right for development the culture and language. Up to now they remain in this situation slowly dissolving in alien environment. Abkhazia was attached to Georgia and, consequently, isolated from its closely related ethnic formations.
Therefore, once united powerful ethnic massif at first was rendered lifeless, annihilated more than by half, 3/4 of survivors of which were exiled, and then its remainder was dismembered administratively. If Kabarda received status of autonomous republic of Russia, other part of Adygs under common ethnic name Circassians - status of autonomous region included in Stavropol region, western Adygs - status of autonomous region included in Krasnodar region, Abkhazes - status of autonomous republic of Georgia. But some didn“t receive even that.
It would be, evidently, unjust to see in all that only malicious intent and couldn“t-care-less attitude to the national problems on the part of the central authorities. We know what difficult way the Soviet state passed during the first decades of its history and in these conditions great blunders were inevitable. But do we, depraved of homeland, feel better due to understanding it? Would we be superfluous in multinational state under aegis of Russia?
We inherited from our old men a dream of return to the land of ancestors. This land misses badly its legitimate children and if Soviet authorities would have allowed us to return we would be ready with the greatest gratitude to give all our forces, knowledge and skills for the welfare of newly obtained Homeland.
Alas, to all our requests we received either silence or refusal. In «fraternal family of peoples» history of Circassians was distorted in order to please imperial ideology. Fighting of the homeland`s defenders was presented as robbery or foreign espionage, mass exile - as consequency of Moslem fanaticism, colonization of the Caucasus - as noble cultural mission of accustoming savage tribes to European civilization.
Of course, looking from outside it is easy to judge about mistakes of others. But we, Circassians, have this right due to sufferings and humiliations in foreign strange land, when our commanders, writers, philosophers, workers of arts, sportsmen bring fame not to their people but to Turkey, Syria, Jordan or Egypt, when vital potential of the people glorified by Byron and Pushkin is destroyed.
And we have a right to state that one of the hugest mistakes of the Soviet system was refusal to solve national problem in radical manner. It is quite obvious that Soviet Union was really unbreakable while peoples believe in veritable equality and just national policy. And if this faith would be supported not only by words but also by deeds centrifugal forces would not dominate in your country.
WAYS OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM
These notes are by no means recipe for cure of this chronic ailment. But the problem
exists. It is actual both for Circassians and for the Russian state which is interested in
its own welfare and in prosperity of its population. So I dare to state my considerations
concerning to how the problem can be solved to the profit of all parties.
Mankind attained its majority after long centuries of using barbarian and half-barabarian methods for solving urgent problems. For the time being hopelessness of power methods of settling arguments is getting more and more obvious. Seeking for compromises, taking mutual interests into account, refusal from ditates are getting more and more popular. Politicians and the whole society realize more and more clearly impossibility of volitional regulation of historical process and seek for ways to harmony with it. However, each problem have several versions of its solving and while their realizing interests of parties are revealed. Let“s try to look at Circassian problem from the points of view of the Russian state and Circassians themselves.
1. Russian position
We spoke about it while stating history of the Caucasus“ conquest. Afterwards there
were no radical changes: desire to retain once occupied territories, evidently, is equally
strong for all countries without exceptions and it can be understood. But methods used for
it vary from retaining by means of violence to absolutely voluntary consolidation of both
Russia began from the first of above-mentioned methods and then passed to demography expansion - settling occupied territories with Russians. So, in the modern Adyg republic native population makes up only 20% and in case of any democratic voting the other part will win. In these conditions one can hope only for good-neighbourliness and mutual understanding between different ethnic groups of population.
By the way, as we know such mutual understanding was achieved always when any third party didn“t interfere which was interested in destabilization.
Now the Russian state faces the problem of working out political program in the sphere of national relations based on unconditional recognition of two international declarations: on rights of native peoples and right of nations for self-determination. Historical prospects are such that Russia itself is interested in existence of thriving and friendly state formation within or beyond its limits and not in continuation of Circassian problem which is able to influence negatively on internal political situation and international prestige of the great state. Example of the USSR where national matter was ignored doesn“t need comments.
2. Circassian position
It underwent considerable changes: from armed resistance in the first
half of XIX century to attempt of resolving the problem by diplomatic way. In the recent
years opportunities of contacts and even removal of single persons and families to
the Nothern Caucasus“ republics for constant residence grew considerably. And, judging
from the first impression, it doesn“t lead to any national conflicts. It should be noted
that Circassians always lived in harmony with their neighbours. So Russians, Armenians,
Greeks, Jews who settled near them felt comfortably and were under protection of local
princes. For the time being there are three different positions:
a) to preserve the current situation and secretly hinder from return of representatives of foreign Diaspora. Supporters of this position are usually local officials, adherents of old communist trend who are not accustomed to do something without directions from the centre. They only discredit both themselves and the centre;
b) to create in the Nothern Caucasus a union formation as a member of the Russian Federation. Its supporters expressed themselves for return of Circassians from abroad and for close cooperation with the central Russian authorities on the base of a federative agreement. Such position enjoys wide support of the most foreign Adygs who realize clearly that only being a member of the powerful Russian state may be guarantee of peaceful civilized revival of Circassian people;
c) to separate from Russia immediately and create independent state in the whole territory of historical Circassia including Abkhazia. This idea has ardent supporters but most Circassians are convinced in historical hopelessness of this way;
d) as a result of barbarian actions of Georgian soldiery in Abkhazia there the trend of separation of Abkhazia from Georgia and joining Russia sharply strenthened.
Summing up the above-stated one can formulate the following principal problems facing Circassians.
1. It is necessary to raise a question about return of Cicassians to the historical homeland, to determine preferable places of repatriates“ compact settling and to provide for the state guarantees of their support. Those who are not ready for removal but desire to establish close contacts with the historical homeland must have double citizenship.
2. Circassians, as a people which was subject to genocide in XIX century and up to now living in exile (4/5 of all Circassians are abroad!) must have status of a people-exile what will permit it to rehabilitate itself, though even partly, in its juridical rights and will assist in further national revival.
For the time being urgent necessity of solving these two problems arises. There is nothing impossible or infringing upon anybody“s interests in that. Meantime delay in their solving may be fraught with serious complications. There are forces in the world which are very interested in playing «the Caucasus card» with the object of further weakening of Russia. So «balkanization» of the Caucasus or imparting religious character to this problem don“t conform with interests of neither Circassians nor Russians.
In history of Adyg-Russian relations there were also bright pages and it should not be forgotten. As far back as at the time of Ioann IV we became related with Russia and many Circassians showed themselves as eminent commanders and statesmen. We can remember family of Bekovichs-Cherkasskys who gave to Russia vice-chansellors, ministers. Some of them assisted Peter I to introduce reforms, others were patrons of art. Finally, during World War II Circassians didn“t spare their lives in the fight against fascists.
Circassians also showed themselves remarkably in the countries where they had found themselves as exiles. Among us there are great businessmen, diplomats, trainers, experts in electronics, mechanics, construction, economics. This potential can assist Russia to integrate into the world economic system.
It is only necessary to hear voice of reason, to get imbued with the spirit of responsibility and goodwill. Our problem is waiting for solution. It is complicated but not insoluble.