Monday, September 14, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Circassian Youth Seek ‘Radical’ Renewal of National Movement

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 14 -- Disappointed with the current state of the Circassian national movement in the North Caucasus, representatives of youth groups from the four nationalities into which the Soviet government forcibly divided the Circassians have called for a “radical” restructuring of the national movement to make it better able to advance the Circassian cause.
At a meeting in Cherkessk on Saturday, delegates adopted a resolution stating that “over the last nine years,” the Circassian organizations created to address “pressing national issues” have not worked in a satisfactory way” and as a result, “a generation of people has grown up who do not know or understand” the extent of the nation’s problems.
The forum said that “most of the large number of NGOs” involved in this process are failing either because they “have no real connection with the public” often “express their personal views” rather than those of the nation, and do not include a sufficient number of young people (Резолюция-форума-черкесской-(адыгской)-молодежи&entry_id=1252947053&comments=comments).
Noting that their nation had been “the victim of genocide” in the 18th and 19th centuries” and of ethnic engineering in the 20th when Stalin divided the nation into four “supposedly different nationalities – the Adygeys, the Kabards, the Circassians and the Shapsugs” – the resolution said that resulting fragmentation had left the nation in a very precarious position.
If these divisions are not overcome and soon, the resolution said, they could lead to “the extinction of the Circassian language, the loss of identity, complete assimilation, and put at risk the existence of the entire ethnic group.” And it pointed out, that this process of the destruction of the Circassian nation is taking place “even faster” in the diaspora abroad.
Like any other ethnic community, the resolution said, the Circassians must work to promote “the consolidation, protection and development of their language and culture, their identity, interests and values,” and thus restore “the unity of the Circassian nation within a single federal subject in Russia.”
That nation would have “a single name, a single literary language, and common national symbols, something that the Circassian national movement had been organized around in the early 1990s but that the International Circassian Organization, which was “created to address them,” has failed to do.
A major reason for that, the youth forum declared, is that government officials sought to control the organization, thus “slowing down all the processes launched by the best minds of the nation in the 1990s.” To restart the national movement, the youth forum said, that group must be “radically reformed” and its leadership must include more young people.
To that end, the forum adopted an eight point program: First, it called for the establishment of a permanent body to be called the Circassian Youth Coordinating Council to help ensure that the values and ideas of Circassian young people have a means of influencing other Circassian groups and the Russian state.
Second, it demanded that Moscow recognize the four groups into which the Circassians were divided as members of a single nation with a single language and allow all of them to be counted as Circassians at the next census and to have Circassian listed as their native language in that enumeration.
Third, it called for the celebration of a World Day of the Circassian Flag. Fourth, it called for move toward “a single standard language for all Circassians” by developing common language textbooks. Fifth, it proposed holding a scientific conference in early 2010 in Nalchik to attract attention to the Circassian cause.
Sixth, it called for delegates at the next congress of the International Circassian Association (scheduled to take place in Maikop October 3-4) to press for the creation of a special youth wing of the Association and the inclusion of young people in the executive committee of the ICA.
Seventh, it suggested creating “a committee to counter the historical falsification” of the past of the Circassians. And eighth, it called on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to support legislation on the Circassians that would allow more of the diaspora to return to their North Caucasus homeland.
This resolution is important not because the organizers are likely to achieve all of their goals but rather because it is a reminder to their Circassian elders to take a more active stand lest the current leadership find itself swept away by the more numerous and more assertive young and to the Russian powers that be to be more forthcoming lest they face a larger challenge.

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