Thursday, October 7, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Circassians Increase Efforts to Secure Recognition of 1864 Genocide

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 7 – The Circassian community is intensifying its efforts to gain international recognition for the Russian killing of their ancestors in 1864 in Sochi where Moscow wants to hold the Olympic Games in 2014, the 150th anniversary of those horrific events.
Last week, Circassians continued to lobby the Georgian parliament, many of whose members appear prepared to hold the Russian Empire responsible for the events of 1864 and to give Moscow a black eye in advance of the planned Olympiad. But in addition and, perhaps to greater effect, the Circassians asked the Estonians to push their cause in European institutions.
The International Circassian Council turned over to members of the Estonian parliament in Tallinn an appeal for assistance and then in Brussels met with Indrek Tarand, an Estonian representative to the European Paarliament as well as with the members of that body’s sub-committee on human rights (
The Circassian appeal began with the assertion that “the Circassian people is a victim of genocide,” something it insisted the international community must take note of, especially given Moscow’s preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games and Russia’s failure to protect human rights or the environment there.
“In recent years,” it continued, the situation in the North Caucasus with regard to human rights has become sharply worse, and incidents of the persecution of journalists have achieved a critical level. In addition, the Russian government [in its preparations for Sochi] has ignored all ecological norms,” something that has already had a negative impact on people living there.
“Circassians living through the entire world together with their compatriots do not intend to accept the existing situation and thus want to gain the attention of the international community to these facts,” the appeal said, in the hope and expectation that “civilized countries” will take a clear and forceful position against what Moscow is doing.
“The reputation of Estonia as a reformist country, member of the European Union and NATO,” it continued, “permits the hope that this appeal will receive the necessary attention of the Estonian government and society, promote timely intervention in this situation, and guarantee an active part in the resolution of these questions by its partner countries.”
Meanwhile in Georgia, support for the Circassian position appears to be growing. Alexander Rondeli, a prominent commentator, said that justice required reaching a conclusion about the events of 1864 on the basis of facts, even though Moscow would use any Georgian declaration on this point against Tbilisi (
Most Georgians who have looked into the matter have concluded that “the physical destruction of the Circassians by Russia on an ethnic basis in the 19th century” took place, although debates about the interpretation of specific facts continue, all the more so because of the complexities of the relationship between the Russian Federation and Georgia now.
Moscow, however, invariably tries to blame Georgia for anything bad that happens in the region especially when it can be tied to the Sochi Olympics, Rondeli pointed out, and many people dismiss Georgian responses as nothing more than tit-for-tat, without being willing to examine the evidence offered by the various sides.
Consequently, even though most Georgian experts accept that Russian Imperial officials killed Chechens on an ethnic basis, the key characteristic of a genocide, Rondeli continued, Georgian officials cannot ignore that “the fact of recognition by Georgia of the genocide of the Circassians will also be used against Georgia.”
Indeed, he pointed out, “a decision of the Georgian parliament [on this point] will be used for anti-Georgian propaganda,” and that reality means that even those who have seen the evidence and reached a conclusion about historical truth have “various opinions” about what they should do next.
As for himself, Rondeli said, it is his view that simple justice requires taking a position. “If they force us to recognize historical facts which in reality do not exist, then why cannot we join with the voices of those who assert that [the killing that took place in Sochi 150 years ago] was a genocide?”

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