Georgian Parliament May Recognise Circassian `Genocide’

Georgian Parliament May Recognise Circassian `Genocide’

The Georgian Times

The Georgian Parliament will be asked to recognise the genocide of the
Circassian (‘Cherkess’) people committed by Russia in the 19th century. A
document to this effect was adopted at a conference held by the Jamestown
Foundation in Tbilisi on March 21 and entitled `Continuing Crime:
Circassians and the Peoples of the North Caucasus Past and Future.’

The alleged Circassian genocide ostensibly happened during the
Russo-Circassian War, conducted in Circassia (present day Russia’s Krasnodar
Krai, republics of Adygea and Karachay-Cherkessia), the northwestern part of
the Caucasus. The war ended in 1864 with annexation of these lands to the
Russian Empire. During the 1860s much of the Circassian population was
expelled from their lands. Historians site figures as large as 500,000 and
greater. A large fraction of them died in transit.This expulsion and other
actions of the Russian military has given rise to a movement for
international recognition of the alleged genocide.

Nugzar Tsiklauri, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on
Relations with the Diaspora, said that the document contains request for the
Parliament of Georgia to recognise the genocide of the Circassian people by
the Russian Empire, though it is not currently recognised by any state. It
is difficult at this point to talk about whether MPs will support the
appeal, however, he said.

Tsiklauri also said that Moscow might be irritated by this appeal but it can
also get upset over anything, including even the March 20 rugby match, which
resulted in a Georgian victory.

The appeal will be officially delivered to the legislature at the end of
May. The Georgian Parliament is likely to recognize the genocide because it
can use the issue as a political weapon against Russia, said journalist
Fatima Tlisova, one of the leaders of the Circassian lobby.

Additionally, the move may elevate Georgia’s standing in the region. `The
fact that the Circassians have decided to have close relations with the
Georgian Parliament opens up a new perspective for us," Tsiklauri said.
"Georgia can now become the regional centre which will influence the
processes developing in the North and South Caucasus,’

The appeal on the part of Circassians is not surprising and relies on many
similar precedents. `Such requests are numerous worldwide," said Mamuka
Areshidze, Director of the Caucasus Institute of Strategic Studies. "Armenia’s
activity has provoked responses and the Parliaments of France, Sweden and
America have adopted resolutions about the genocide of Armenians. Why is it
not possible to do the same for the Circassian people?"

Areshidze said that it will be salutary if Georgia stretches out a hand to
the Circassian people and attempts to discuss their tragedy at a high
political level. He also said that this will be unpleasant for Russia and
`no one in Moscow will be surprised.’

However he said that official Tbilisi must not be led by emotion when
discussing this issue. In 1992-1993 Circassian people fought against
Georgians with the Russians and the Abkhaz separatists. During the August
war in 2008 Circassians also held support actions in favour of Russia in
front of Georgian Embassies worldwide.

Areshidze said that the Circassians thought that by showing this support
they would persuade Russia to agree to recognise the genocide and not hold
the Olympics in Sochi. However, "they did not gain anything from these
rallies," the expert said.

Iad Iugar, head of the Circassian Cultural Institute of New York, said
during the conference that currently the aims of Circassian movement are to
form their own State, to obtain recognition of the genocide and prevent the
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics taking place. The participants of the conference
said that the Olympic Charter directly prohibits holding the Olympics in
places where large numbers of people have been killed and accordingly it is
unacceptable to hold the games in Sochi.

According to Areshidze those Circassians attending the conference in Tbilisi
favoured Abkhazia’s independence from Georgia. `I think the reason for this
is that we have not had any contact with the Circassian nation for a long
time and no steps have been made towards the North Caucasus peoples," he
said. "In this period Russia has been conducting an information war against
Georgia.’

Circassians’ support for Abkhazia notwithstanding, the de-facto independent
republic have not recognized the fact of genocide even though Abkhazians are
a kindred people of the Circassians.

Representatives of Circassian diasporas from different countries, except
Turkey, attended the conference. The Circassian diaspora in Turkey refrained
from attending the conference because it was afraid of spoiling relations
with Russia, said Glen Howard, President of the Jamestown Foundation and one
of its organisers.

By Dali Bzhalava
2010.03.29 11:46

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