Monday, April 6, 2009

Window on Eurasia: ‘Unprecedented’ Russian Pressure on Circassians Radicalizing Young People

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 6 – “Unprecedented” pressure by Russian force structures on traditional Circassian organizations, pressure Moscow officials justify by charging that Circassians support separatism, is having the effect of radicalizing some younger members of that nation who say they can no longer trust Circassian movements that work closely with the Russian authorities.
Efforts by Russian force structures to restrict access to a Circassian forum in Nalchik on Saturday infuriated young people from the countryside who were shut out and said they could “no longer trust the fate of the people to existing social organizations like ‘Adyge Khase’ which ‘work at the direction of the government” rather than reflecting the interests of the people.
They added that they intend to create a youth national movement in Kabardino-
Balkaria to be called “Dzhe mak’” or “Call,” a group that they suggested would be the lease marginalized movement” among the various parties, groups and organizations that exist among Circassians in the North Caucasus.
Ibragim Yaganov, who was involved with the preparation of Saturday’s forum, told journalists that organizers had encountered “unprecedented pressure from the side of the force structures,” with “members of the organization committee repeatedly called to the KBR interior ministry and republic office of the FSB “
He said that the officials had done so as part of an effort to charge the Circassians with separatism,” a false charge that he suggested they viewed as “extremely useful” for the authorities because it would allow them to attack a civil movement in much the same way they have attacked religious fundamentalists but with fewer risks.
(An indication of both the extent of the pressure Russian authorities put on this meeting and of the sensitivity of the events was the way it was covered. Originally, covered the meeting, but these were quickly taken down ( with the meeting so far covered only by Circassian websites.)
Zamir Shukhov, the head of the World Circassian Brotherhood, welcomed “our brothers from Shapsugia, Adygeiya, Cherkessk and Abkhazia, all places with significant Circassian populations, and thanked them for “coming to support” the Circassians of the KBR (
Other speakers at the session, including Yury Shanibov, a professor who had been the leader of the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus and who called attention to the problems Circassians have had as they try to recover lands which belonged to their ancestors but which Moscow has given to other peoples (
Aleksey Bekshokov, the leader of the Union of Abkhaz Volunteers, read a declaration denouncing suggestions that the former defense minister of Abkhazia had been a member of an illegal underground armed formation and saying that such “slanders” offend “Abkhaz-Circassian society” (ibid).
And Mazhid Utizh, a Circassian who had returned to his native country from Turkey, described the problems he and others like him still face in resuming their lives in the North Caucasus, problems which he said reflect not only a violation of the provisions of the Russian Constitution but of international law (ibid).
The meeting adopted three resolutions: on the social-political situation in Kabardino-Balkaria, a second on land reform, and a third on the problems of repatriation. But almost certainly, the events taking place outside the hall were at least as important as those occurring within it, the result of Russian policies that are producing exactly what Moscow says it fears.

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