Thursday, January 21, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Adygeya Expanding Contacts with Circassian Compatriots Abroad

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 21 – The Adygey Republic government is expanding its effort to reach the five million Circassian compatriots abroad, developing programs that both track with and go beyond what Moscow has been doing over the past decade to reach ethnic Russians living outside the Russian Federation.
In an interview with posted online today, Vyacheslav Zhachemuk, head of the republic committee on nationality affairs, relations with compatriots and mass information, says that reaching out to ethnic diasporas and viewing them as a resource for foreign and domestic affairs “corresponds to world practice” (
For most of the last decade, he points out, Moscow’s compatriot program has focused on ethnic Russians to the exclusion of other groups. But in its program for 2009-2011 approved in November 2008, the central government called for the development of ties “not only for Russian language people but also for compatriots who speak the languages of peoples of Russia.
Shortly thereafter, Zhachemuk continues, Adygeya adopted its own program for maintaining and expanding ties with “national-cultural centers of the Adygey (Circassian) diaspora” that will take these links to what he described as “a qualitatively different level” than they have been up to now.
Specifically, he said, the republic program sets as its tasks over the next two years “the establishment of an effective system of measures for the support of compatriots living abroad, the development and strengthening of cultural … and other ties, and the provision of support to compatriot organizations as allowed by Russian law and international agreements.”
With the support of the top officials of the Adygey Republic, the program will spend some 3.7 million rubles (130,000 US dollars) both to make Circassians abroad into “voluntary ambassadors” for the republic and to attract foreign interest and investment in the Circassian communities within the Russian Federation.
The economic element of the program, Zhachemuk continues, will build on a strong base: “At the present time, there are 30 joint enterprises [in Adygeya] which involve foreign investors, of which ten are Turkish.” And he adds that Adygeya has developed its own legal framework to assist the growth of this sector.
According to Zhachemuk, his committee has identified five specific tasks in the cultural-political field. First, it plans to support radio broadcasting to Circassians abroad. Second, it will develop an Internet newspaper in Circassian and Turkish to provide more information about Circassians in the North Caucasus.
Third, it has launched its own site to provide information about Circassians in the languages of the countries where compatriots live. Fourth, it has held meetings with Adygeya journalists to talk about how to cover compatriot issues. And fifth, it has begun to cooperate with NART-TV in Jordan on Circassian cultural programming.
His committee, Zhachemuk continues, has begun work on the preparation of a handbook, “Adygeya and Compatriots,” and it is seeking to establish closer ties with Circassian groups around the world, participating in their conferences and activities and inviting their members to visit Adygeya.
Zhachemuk's committee can be expected to hew closely to and officially promoteMoscow's line on all major issues, but his organization's work is creatingchannels that will simultaneously allow for greater Circassian unity and alsofor the sharing of ideas, including opposition to the Sochi Olympics, that theRussian government may not like.
Consequently, the rise of a Circassian compatriots program represents a majorstep forward for Circassians both within and beyond the borders of the RussianFederation, a development that officials in Adygeya may be able to exploit topromote not only their interests but those of their nation broadly conceived.

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