Circassians around the world commemorate “ Circassian Genocide and Exile” of 1864

Circassian “Genocide” march in Istanbul to commemorate the Circassian tragedy. Photo credit: The Times

Each year on 21st May Circassians around the globe commemorate the national tragedy that befell on their nation in and up to 1864 which resulted in Circassia’s occupation by the Russian Empire at the expense of the hundreds of thousands of Circassians who died either in the battlefield or during their expulsion by the Russian Army from their motherland into what was then the lands of the Ottoman Empire. The final outcome was the disappearance of Circassia from the map of the world, dispersion of the Circassian population in diaspora, marginalisation of remaining Circassians in their homeland amongst the colonising Cossack and other Slavic settlers.

Nevertheless, one hundred and fifty four years have passed since the Russian army celebrated the completion of the occupation of Circassia and the Caucasus on 21st May 1864 (according to old Russian calendar). During that time, not only have Circassians managed to survive through many political upheavals and challenges but they have also created a vibrant and proactive political platform for Circassian politics both at home in the Northern Caucasus and in diaspora in such places as Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Western Europe and the USA, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union 1991.

This platform has been home to a political activism that has produced clearly articulated objectives and demands to ensure the continuity of their communities. The survival of the Circassian language, participation of Circassians in the political life of the host countries on Circassian-specific goals, recognition of their national tragedy of the 19th Century by nation-states, first and foremost by Russia, as well as the federative union of the Circassian inhabited lands and republics in the Northern Caucasus, such as Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, Adygeya and some coastal areas in the Black Sea.

Despite losing some if its strength and momentum immediately after the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Circassian political activism has since come back with a renewed vigour, especially in historical Circassia, utilising in the process some hitherto unused channels such as arts and sports in a way laden with Circassian nationalist symbols.

Throughout this week, Circassianworld will provide visual images of Circassians’ commemorative events and marches across the world` in its quest to shed light on Circassian politics and what the future holds for Circassian activism.

CircassianWorld | London / 21.05.2018