Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Calls for ‘Circassian Olympics’ Designed to ‘Legitimate’ Sochi Games, Some Circassians Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 30 – Circassians in Jordan say they oppose the idea of a “Circassian Olympics” in 2012 because they believe it is intended to divide their nation and to “legitimate” the Moscow-backed Sochi Games in 2014, an event most Circassians oppose because that competition would take place on the site of the genocide of their people in the 19th century.
Rukhi Shkhaltukh, president of the Jordanian Friends of the Circassians of the Caucasus organization, said during the presentation in Amman of a new “Encyclopedia of the History of the Circassians” this week that his group, “besides its charitable actions, takes on itself the defense of the civil and national rights of the Circassians (www.natpress.net/stat.php?id=3930).
Because of that, he continued, the group “is speaking out against holding the Olympiad in Sochi since the [Circassian] people who had populated this territory had been subject to a genocide,” adding that it “does not intend to support the Circassian Olympic games because they are a means for recognizing the holding of the Sochi Olympics as legitimate.”
While many Circassian groups around the world have denounced plans for the Sochi games – many of the venues for that competition would take place where some of their ancestors were killed and may be buried – Shkhaltukh’s comments are among the first reaction to the June 16th call in Maikop for a special Circassian Olympics two years in advance of the Sochi games.
On that date, the Union of Abkhaz Volunteers of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) and the Historical Commission of the Council of Circassian Public Organizations of the KBR presented a program for what they called the World Summer Circassian Olympic Good Will Games in 2012 (heku.ru/page.php?id=1410).
Suf’yan Zhemukhov, head of the Historical Commission, said “the Circassian Olympiad will as it were take the fire from the London Olympiad and pass the torch to the Sochi Games.” He said the torch would pass “not only through the 12 regions of the Southern Federal District where Circassians live but also in foreign countries where there are Circassian communities.”
According to the organizers, the Circassian Olympiad would include competitions in football, wrestling, judo, boxing, volleyball, basketball, and horse racing, among other sports, and would be financed by voluntary contributions from Circassians, telemarathons, regional budgets, the Russian Olympic Committee and other NGOs.
Speaking after Zhemukhov’s presentation, Arambiy Khapay, the president of the Adyge Khase of Adygeya, said that Circassians in Krasnodar, Armavir, Moscow and St. Petersburg are “preparing for publication an agreed upon position on the Sochi Olympics, a statement that he said “in principle will support the Sochi Games.”
Three things about this announcement support the interpretation the Circassians of Jordan have already given. First, the organizers, most of whom have close links to the breakaway republic of Abkhazia or to Moscow or most likely to both, make no secret that they see the Circassian Olympics as paving the way for the Sochi Games.
Second, the “agreed-upon” statement of the other Circassian groups the organizers promised has not yet appeared, almost certainly indicating opposition to this idea for the same reason the Circassians of Jordan are opposed – anger about Moscow’s roughshod approach to their concerns that the games in Sochi would desecrate the site of the genocide of their people.
And third, by talking about a “Circassian” Olympics, those behind this idea are obviously trying both to divide the Circassians in fact and to present them as divided to a larger audience in order to undercut the objections many Circassians have already raised against the Sochi venue, two goals that are consistent with Moscow’s typical approach to those who oppose it.

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