Musa Shanib: The 21st of May Sounds The Alarm Again!

(Also known by the Russianised name Yuri Shanibov)
May 2009 

Dear Circassian World visitors,

We will commemorate the 145th anniversary of the tragic defeat and brutal dispersal of the Circassian people on the 21st of May 2009. Against this background, we share here the thoughts of Dr. Musa Shanib(ov) regarding the significance of this date, and the challenges the world Circassian community currently faces. We acknowledge with thanks the insights Dr. Shanib has shared with us. 

Profile: Musa Mukhamedovich Shanibov

President of the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus (CPC), Chairman of the Congress of Kabardian People. Born 25 May 1935 in the city of Nalchik in the Kabardino-Balkar ASSR, he graduated from the Law Faculty of Rostov University, a Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Doctor of the Chair of Political Science of the Kabardino-Balkar State University. He worked in the post of Secretary for Ideology at the Kabardino-Balkar Regional Committee (VLKSM: All-Union Youth Communist League of Lenin). Founder and Scientific Director of the Centre for Sociological Research of the Kabardino-Balkar State University. Doctor of Sociology of the International Personnel Academy (Kiev, The Ukraine); Doctor of Sociology of the International Open University (California, USA); Honorary Professor of the Abkhazian State University. From August 1989 he was Chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Assembly of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus; from 1992 First Deputy-Chairman of the Congress of the Kabardian People. In September 1992 he was arrested on a charge of inciting inter-ethnic strife, which gave rise to disturbances in Kabarda; on 27 September he fled and from October 1992 found himself in Abkhazia. For his part in the war he received the title Hero of Abkhazia.

On Shanibov's initiative, the headquarters of the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus was set up in Gudauta for the provision of help to Abkhazia. According to his own statements, he felt himself secure only in Chechenia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He considered that it was the politics of Russia and Georgia which led to the Caucasian War.

The Russian (Русский) version in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here (245 KB) 

CIRCASSIAN WORLD: What significance does the tragic date of the ending of the Russo-Caucasian War have for the Circassian world?

MUSA YURI SHANIB(OV): The Circassians began to mark the tragic date of the ending of the Russo-Caucasian War in 1961. This became a symbolic clarion, rousing the Circassians from a century's enforced silence. The awakening affected all the disconnected parts of the Circassian world which had been scattered to 53 countries by irresistible hostile forces. This clarion restored to the Circassian world the memory of their ancestors' unprecedented, century-long heroic struggle for Motherland and Liberty. Furthermore, 'Clarion – 21st May' gave an understanding to the young generation, reared in the historical Motherland and abroad, of the truth concerning the tragic fate of the Circassians in the past; this gives hope for the future, even though there are difficulties in the present. 'Clarion – 21st May' from the moment of its revival showed to the Circassians themselves and to the whole world the main value of the Circassian world's past, present and future, namely Liberty, which gives one the chance of living in accordance with one's own national character and mentality. The brilliant Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, who became the first rhapsodist of the Circassian world, clearly wrote about this in the poem 'Izmail Bey':

Fear of neither violence nor the grave
Could from their native steppes
Separate them: shame of fetters
Was brought to them by hostile forces!
Sweet to the Circassian is silence,
Sweet is his native land,
But freedom, freedom for a hero
Is sweeter than motherland and calm.

«Clarion – 21st May» gave all Circassians the chance to appreciate that the search for Liberty forced upon the greater portion of the Circassians in foreign regions was a tragic error and that Liberty has high value only when obtained in the Motherland. As the second millennium moved into the third there were signs that in the near future the disparate Circassian world might be able to take decisive steps towards unifying Liberty and Motherland. The tragedy which dispersed the Circassians across the entire world might swing round and take on a positive aspect. As the Russian proverb says: «Nothing bad without something good». The Circassian diaspora will then be able to bring together in the Motherland the positive experience of progressive development from 50 countries. The first condition of recognising and utilising such an opportunity is guaranteeing the unity of the Circassian world. This unity, above all, must be constructed through intensive intercourse, the almighty word and all-conquering wisdom in thoughts, in hearts and deeds by all Circassians, no matter in which countries they live and in which languages they converse. Then, even far removed from the Motherland and in conditions of temporary loss of some part of the mother-tongue, the Circassian world will not lose its own identity — in thought and heart, mind and action the people will for ever be together. And this will give to the Circassian world the possibility of successfully deciding the problems facing it in the new millennium. So may it be!


CW: Which year from the history of marking the 21st May has been for you the most memorable?

SHANIB: The most memorable not only for me but also for many was 1991, when timed to coincide with this date in May was held the Universal Circassian Congress. The Circassian world from all over the globe came together for the first time since the end of the Russo-Caucasian War. This was a glorious and joyful event, when Circassians who were born and grew up in different countries of the world embraced one another as brothers «with tears in their eyes». Then was established the International Circassian Congress, transformed later into the International Circassian Association [ICA]. As president of the first organ of Circassian unity in history at my suggestion, which was handed to the president of the republic via the Rector of our university, Prof. V. Tlosmanov, was elected Yuri Kalmykov, a great Circassian of the 20th century and Marshal of Justice of Russia. Under his leadership and after his demise, which was a tragedy for the Circassians, the ICA has done great work to secure the unity of the Circassians, the rebirth and development of the Circassian world. And today the ICA continues to work to decide the questions currently pertaining to this noble effort.


CW: Each year, as time goes by, differs from another. Does the political situation in the Circassian world in 2009 lend anything special to the tragic date of 21st May?

SHANIB: The political situation in the Circassian world over the last two years and in the current year of 2009 must be judged to be complex. And an especially complex situation is unfolding precisely in Kabarda and Cherkessia. Neither in the ruling politicial circles, nor in intelligentsia-circles, nor in the social movements do they yet recognise that Kabarda and Cherkessia are at the present time at the centre of the attention of powerful international and Russian anti-Caucasian forces. In the afore-mentioned centres the powers and intellects of Kabardino-Cherkessia are not even close to sensing what is happening and what the said anti-Caucasian forces are doing against the interests of the Circassian world. In actual fact, what these anti-Caucasian forces have declared publicly to the whole world about the future of the peoples of the Caucasus cannot but rouse serious anxieties.

This future of ours was «diagnosed» by the Deputy Speaker of the Russian Parliament, leading Caucasus-hater, V. Zhirinovsky, who presents himself in the guise of a prophet while pretending to be a little buffoon. It is plain that he was giving voice not only or not so much to his own personal opinion or the opinon of his Liberal Democratic Party. This opinion stated by him is, without a doubt, shared by a certain section of the supreme leadership of Russia. In his pre-election programme Zhirinovsky declared in the parliament of Russia that in a single hour the fifty peoples of the North Caucasus will lose their senses and, it is unclear how or why, will abandon the territories they have inhabited for millennia; the 39 nations of Daghestan will depart for Iran; the Chechens and Ingush will go to Georgia; North Ossetia will be relocated to the South, whilst the Ingush (our prophet has forgotten that he has despatched them to Georgia and has assigned them one further route to travel), the Kabardians, the Balkars, the Karachays, the Cherkess, the Abazinians, the Nogais, the Adyghes will be transported to Abkhazia. And, as a result, in the view of Zhirinovsky, Southern Russia, the North Caucasus, will by 2030 be «cleansed» of the non-Russian population, which is hostile to Russia. In similar roguish fashion, V. Zhirinovsky and his supporters are hammering into the heads of the fascist portion of the Russian population the idea that the peoples of the North Caucasus are the chief foes of the Russian people. Voters, casting their ballot for Zhirinovsky's party, do not understand that the main and most dangerous enemy of the Russian and other peoples of Russia is Zhirinovsky himself, and thus they give him their votes. In the elections to the parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria the party of Zhirinovsky – 5 Zhirinovskians – got into the new parliament, and among them there were two Kabardians who perhaps will start, according to the prediction of Zhirinovsky, a campaign for the resettlement of Kabardians to Abkhazia!

I have written in many outlets on this and other current problems. But not one of them has received a normal response. Thus, the «new» (more precisely, the resurrected old) leaders of the Kabardian social movements have refused even to discuss the materials set forth by me. The social activists of the Circassian diaspora in the world's leading countries are even less aware of this situation. I have tried to draw the attention of the Circassian activists in Turkey and Germany to the concrete written materials handed to these leaders by me personally and which reveal in point of concrete facts the seriousness of the anti-Kabardian/anti-Cherkessian programmes, plans and measures pursued by international and Russian forces. They did not even understand what was being discussed in my materials. For this reason they already now avoid me when they visit Nalchik for a session of the International Circassian Association and even refuse to meet...

Sadly, no-one in Kabarda and Cherkessia and among the diaspora abroad notices or imagines that they are failing to notice facts which testify to the preparation in Kabarda of a new round of blood-letting among the muslim youth. Thus, the government newspaper «Kabardino-Balkarian Pravda [Truth]» publishes the defamatory article by some Inalov (in mockery of Prince Inal, the progenitor of the Kabardian princes) about the Kabardians being in the grip of Wahhabism and that it is essential to organise yet another thrashing for them. The Kumyk Kazikhanov and the Ossetian Tsakoev publish in their newspaper «The North Caucasus» libellous accusations against Kabardian muslim youth for their adherence to Wahhabism and that the same fate awaits Kabarda as the shootings and torchings seen in Chechenia. Moscow's «Novaja Gazeta [New Paper]» publishes a lengthy article in which, on the basis of a forgery, it is asserted that the entire Circassian world (Russia's Circassians and the diaspora) are an Al-Qa'eda reserve, potential global terrorists. A certain academician, the Balkar Zalikhanov, and his crew come out with slanderous falsifications against the Kabardian people, and the government of Russia does not put a stop to his threats to organise «bloody armed conflict» with the Kabardians, if they do not yield to him Kabardian lands for the formation on them of a Karachay-Balkar federation... On all these problems I have written to the organs of power in the Russian Federation and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, to the procuracy of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in the cities of Nalchik and Moscow, the security-organs and to the newspapers. But nowhere have I received a normal response, only silence, formal letters and excuses.

Against this background, the previous administration of the president of the republic launched an attempt to change the 21st May into a Day of Remembrance of the Adyghes. Certain social organisations of Kabarda came out strongly against this. And, it would seem, they have rejected the idea for the time being. But, there will evidently be no more measures taken in regard to a Day of Remembrance of the Adyghes, the Circassians – the victims of the Russo-Caucasian War.

The 21st of May sounds the alarm again! It is a call for us remember the main reason for the defeat of the Circassians in the century-long war for their Motherland and Liberty, namely the lack of unity among the Circassians and the absence of common efforts for opposing impending dangerous challenges. In our opinion, the Circassian world is once again faced with impending serious and dangerous challenges. The future of the Circassian world depends on how we answer these challenges. A unified and timely manifestation by the Circassians in 50 countries of the world might fundamentally alter the situation which is developing and being strengthened by anti-Circassian forces. But is such a unity among the whole Circassian world possible, if there is no unity among the elites of the Kabardian people?

Such in general are the specifics of the socio-political conditions in which we shall in 2009 be marking the most tragic date in the multi-millennia history of the Circassians, namely the 21st of May 1864.


CW: Every year you speak at the funereal meeting on 21st May in Nalchik. To what central idea do you intend to devote your speech this year.

SHANIB: If I were to speak at such a meeting in Nalchik this year of 2009, then I would devote my address to the problems laid out in my answer to your previous question. But I'm convinced that I shall not be given the chance to speak at this meeting. Yes, in all likelihood, what is arranged will not even be a meeting. I think that it will be a small farce, somewhat resembling a meeting, that will be played out.

Thank you.

15.04.09 Nalchik


 With the Kabardian volunteers. Abkhazia, Autumn 1993

Shanib(ov) being greeted in Abkhazia by the Chorus of Abkhaz Veterans‏

Shanib(ov) playing mandolin at home, 1970s‏

Shanib(ov) explaining Freud to students, 1970s‏

Prof. Shanib(ov) in his Nalchik state university office, 2003‏

Musa Shanib(ov) & George Hewitt. Sukhum, Abkhazia, 2008

Photo Credits:
+ Georgi Derluguian ''Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus.'' © All rights reserved.
+ George Hewitt

Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the CaucasusBourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus
A World-System Biography

University of Chicago Press, 2005.

by Georgi M. Derluguian

ourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is a gripping account of the developmental dynamics involved in the collapse of Soviet socialism. Fusing a narrative of human agency to his critical discussion of structural forces, Georgi M. Derluguian reconstructs from firsthand accounts the life story of Musa Shanib—who from a small town in the Caucasus grew to be a prominent leader in the Chechen revolution. In his examination of Shanib and his keen interest in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, Derluguian discerns how and why this dissident intellectual became a nationalist warlord.

Exploring globalization, democratization, ethnic identity, and international terrorism, Derluguian contextualizes Shanib's personal trajectory from de-Stalinization through the nationalist rebellions of the 1990s, to the recent rise in Islamic militancy. He masterfully reveals not only how external economic and political forces affect the former Soviet republics but how those forces are in turn shaped by the individuals, institutions, ethnicities, and social networks that make up those societies. Drawing on the work of Charles Tilly, Immanuel Wallerstein, and, of course, Bourdieu, Derluguian's explanation of the recent ethnic wars and terrorist acts in Russia succeeds in illuminating the role of human agency in shaping history.