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Abkhazians and Circassians - from brotherhood to hostility?
04/12/2012 14:53
Giorgi Tsiklauri

Another meeting of the Abkhaz-Abaza World Congress has created a new round of the growing confrontation between the Abkhazian political elite and Circassian (Adyghe) national movement. Many expected that the congress, held on November 22-23rd in Sukhumi, would have focused on the pressing subject of urgent repatriation, or rather evacuation of Circassians from burning Syria to their historic homeland. However, the Congress, well-known for its warm relations with official Moscow, did not pay much attention to the issue which the Kremlin threats with apparent coolness.

Position of Sukhumi

Briefly mentioning "new dramatic trials" that fell to lot of their compatriots on the Arab land, in its address to the world community the Abkhaz-Abaza Congress began, strangely enough, to criticise statements in support of Syrian Circassians voiced in Tbilisi as well as Georgia's recognition of the genocide suffered by the Circassian people in the XIX century by the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, from which significant part of the Circassians found themselves scattered in fifty countries.

According to the text of the statement, "compassionate statements of Georgian politicians regarding the Circassian issue, their attempts to play the role of the only champions of the rights and interests of all Circassians - is nothing but hypocrisy and political speculation". And “path to stabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus" in some odd way lies "through further strengthening of political independence of Abkhazia." Therefore, international organizations are invited to "put historical and legal reasons that led to restoration of Abkhazian statehood at the heart of matter ".

The Abkhaz-Abaza World Congress also pledged to "consistently work to consolidate all of Abkhazians, Abaza and Circassians." However, the word "consolidation" should clearly be put in quotation marks, given the response of the Circassian side. Moreover, fuel was added to the fire by Abkhazian "president" Alexander Ankvab, whose speech at the congress many Circassians found simply insulting.

According to Ankvab, "Circassian question" is the "burden" that prevents "to move forward." Moreover, it is a "political gamble aimed at destabilizing the situation in the Caucasus." And though "Abkhazians are inseparable from Circassians," the main point is that "dangerous dwelling on" Circassian question” can create big problems for us all". Who are this us? Ankvab used this word when addressing the Congress but clearly he did not include in its definition the Adyge - because for them the "Circassian issue" is fundamental, and what other problems may threaten the people that are scattered as diasporas around the world the Abkhaz leader did not elaborate.

Special zest to the speech was given by abundant expressions of loyalty to the Russian Federation. To the extent that "the interests of Russia is more important to Abkhazia than the interests of countries-residence of those Caucasian (Circassian) diasporas that gathered in Sukhumi this day. However, hardly anyone was fooled by the mention of these countries – it is easy to read between the lines that it were Circassians that were meant there. And, the online edition the Voice of Circassia directly called this statement "anti-Circassian escapade of Ankvab."

Circassian response

The same edition published a detailed commentary of one of the most influential leaders of the Circassian movement, coordinator of the public movement Circassian Union Ruslan Kesh: "Attempts to deny the Circassian issue, which has been repeatedly made by the President of Abkhazia - Mister Ankvab, and which is supported by some political forces, and part of the public in Abkhazia, as well as attempts to present actualization of the Circassian national movement as machinations of hostile ("Western" and "American") security services - can be seen as the formed anti-Circassian policy of the Abkhazia authorities and part of its public. "

At that Kesh said that Abkhazians are carrying out “big anti-Circassian ideological work" in the diaspora which "later will be reflected in practical activities of the Abkhaz leadership."

He stressed that "the problem of Abkhazia, in any context, did not appear in the negotiations of the Georgian and Circassian parties when working together on the issue of recognition of the Circassian genocide." Therefore, interference of the Abkhazian side in this question is "completely incorrect, and the form in which it is done, is, in its essence, hostile to the Circassians." In addition, "accusations of the Abkhaz-Abaza Congress against Georgia - the state, which was the first in the world that recognized the genocide of Circassians seem like hypocrisy and political speculation."

Ruslan Kesh recalled that "none of the Georgian politicians ever claimed to be "the sole champion of the rights and interests of all of the Circassians" and this is well known to members of the Abkhaz-Abaza Congress." Attempts of leaders of the congress "to make assessments on cooperation and actions of the parties that have nothing to do with them show that it is they, and not Georgia, that are trying to play the role of the only champions of the rights and interests of all Circassians. And Circassians, of course, did not authorize this. "

At that, Kesh said, "the question of international recognition of the Circassian genocide committed by the Russian Empire, is one of the most important directions of the Circassian national movement.” In this connection, the Congress “should focus on its own issues rather than play the role of a Trojan horse in the Circassian question, which, at that, would be unsuccessful. "

Anatomy of the question

Noteworthy in this confrontational debate is that over and over again it is initiated by the Abkhazian side - although, objectively, it is not in the interests of Sukhumi to incite hostility against Circassians. After all Abkhazians saw them as kindred peoples, guaranteed help and reliable rear in the conflict with Georgia. Circassians tend to attribute this to accountability of the Abkhazian elite to the Russian Federation - saying that Abkahzians cannot say anything on the "Circassian issue” until they are under so much control. But one still has to explain why the Abkhaz say anything at all on this subject. If the Russian factor does not allow them to even render moral support to their "brothers", it would be logical to be silent. Especially since the Circassian leaders repeatedly and in plain text offered Sukhumi to choose this course of action – saying that they understood everything and did not expect help from them, but Abkhazians at least should not interfere!

"The problem is not that they cannot say anything, but the fact that they try to bend before the masters, - the Abkhazian behaviour was explained to me in a private conversation by one famous Circassian. – There is a Kabardian saying that a slave will bring a head along a hat to his master. So, while Russians pay them so abundantly for this hysteria, nothing will change. "

Thus, the conclusion is that Abkhazians that are supported by Russians started to live for today and stop thinking about tomorrow. Billions of rubles are coming from Moscow. In Abkhazia they are taking care of it with gusto. "In this self-seeking frenzy the main instinct became a fear of a sudden stop of this financial rain. Automatic reflex - to ensure to let it rolling they should make every effort to please the sponsor. And with the latter the Abkhazians have tensions on different sensitive issues. For example - regarding holiday homes or border demarcation. So why not gain favour with the Kremlin at the expense of others? Circassians are handy opportunity here. Twenty-year old "brotherhood" can be easily dismissed because what is the worth of the service that has been already rendered and done? Moreover, as Ankvab said, today "Abkhazia has a strategic partner, an ally, a friend - the Russian Federation."

In addition, there is a political motive. "Anti-Circassian ideological work" mentioned by Kesh, is to rewrite the history of Circassia. In fact, the Abkhazian scenario of the eighties and nineties of the XX century is being repeated. Then, as we know, ideology of separatism was forged and tempered. There was the systematic work of destruction of the Georgian context of the Abkhazian history in order to secure for Abkhazians a moral right to take any action against the "outsider people" in the face of "outsider" Georgians. Today, the same pseudo-historic myth-making machine, at times - with participation of the same people, started to work on the theoretical basis of the Abkhazian claims on Circassian lands. As well as involvement of the Abaza into the Abkhazian project – the Abaza that are being torn out of all Circassian context. It's difficult to understand where the order comes form - from Russia that benefits from all this, or Abkhazians themselves, who have got to the work with obvious enthusiasm.

Moral dimension

However, all these reasons are superimposed on another and deeper background. Originally Abkhazians missed a great chance to keep silent in 2011 when Georgia recognized the Circassian genocide, thus making a dramatic step in its North Caucasus policy. The Abkhazian society experienced a bout of jealousy. After all until then they considered themselves to have a monopoly on the relations with the Circassians, who on their part used to see everything happening south of the Caucasus Mountains purely through Abkhazian eyes. This emotional ton was deepened by fears: maybe Georgians are trying to win over the Circassians to their side on the issue of Abkhazia and whether it will be possible to continue to rely on the Circassian world? Such questions could not not arise in Sukhumi, and on the part of Abkhazians it was only natural to ask them. Politely, of course, and in a closed format, if possible.

However, conversations immediately became public and, at the informal level, aggressive and offensive. While Circassians repeated that still consider Abkhazians brothers, Abkhazians voiced almost direct accusations of treason for Circassian activists having dared to rejoice in a major breakthrough in the most important issue for the Circassian people. Here, as in many other cases, deeply rooted self-centred psychology of a "spoiled child" played a cruel joke with Abkhazians. This is a specific mentality shaped through generations of privileged position. From the Soviet era it created irresponsible, exploitative attitude in the Abkhazian society to everyone around them and blind ignorance of everything that they did not like.

Rudeness and aggression of Abkhazians have another psychological explanation. They found themselves in a difficult situation, having a great moral debt to Circassians - due to the support of the latters during the conflict in Abkhazia and blood kinship. At that Abkhazians cannot support the "Circassian issue" even at the declarative level when "hostile" Georgia brought the issue of the need for rehabilitation of the Circassian people to the international arena. Now everyone can put recognition of the Circassian genocide as a basis for expression of their solidarity. The first ones, logically, should have been Abkhazians. But they are afraid and do not want to lose favour of their patrons. As it was already noted, the best in this situation is to remain silent - Circassians would have understood this. However, through attacks on others their base instincts transform moral discomfort of Abkhazians into attempts to justify their inaction and impotence.

Thus, we have a paradoxical situation. In Tbilisi, indeed, at no stage of the dialogue with Circassians the issue of Abkhazia was raised. But the reaction of the Abkhazians to this dialogue has led to what Abkhazians most feared - deterioration of the Abkhazian-Circassian relations. And here Sukhumi cannot blame anyone but themselves. The word "enmity" has already been voiced. Further development depends, again, mostly on Abkhazia. They still have time to adjust their policies and the course of action in relation to Circassians.
 


 
 
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