Address to the Members of the Russian Duma - by Cicek Chek

Cicek Chek
President of the Circassian Association of California/Adyghe Khasa.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the members of the Duma for allowing me to present the thoughts and concerns of my community regarding the challenges facing the Circassian people.  The situation of Circassians is known to many in this room and it is an unpleasant one; Circassians endured a horrific tragedy nearly 150 years ago and are facing their extinction as a distinct culture and people today.   For the sake of time, I will refrain from delving into the details of the tragedies of the past and the crises of the present, as such details can be found in abundance in a growing number of books and scholarly journals. And for the sake of my dignity, I will refrain from being party to any negotiation concerning celebrations on the graves of my ancestors.  Instead, I will use my time in front of you to focus on solutions. Solutions that I believe will benefit Circassians as well as the Russian Federation, in the spirit of cooperation and honesty.  I sincerely hope that such a solution is the goal of everyone in this room here today.

I believe history has shown us that half-measures and symbolic gestures have been insufficient to address what many of us now refer to as “the Circassian Problem”.  That is, the worldwide Circassian population on the brink of losing its culture and identity, as well as persistent and growing turmoil in their homeland.  Serious consideration of the Circassian problem by any honest and objective observer would lead to the ultimate conclusion that only a comprehensive program to restore the Circassian nation can stop and reverse both of these phenomena.  I believe most Circassians are of the opinion that the optimal path to achieve this is through partnership with the Russian Federation.  Clear, honest dialogue and sensitivity to each other’s needs and concerns can ensure a mutually beneficial solution.

The benefit to Circassians to such a partnership is obvious; the survival of our civilization.  For the North Caucasus, the benefits are also compelling.  The dispersion of millions of Diaspora around the world presents a daunting challenge to maintaining ones culture.  Ironically, however, it also provides an enormous advantage in building a thriving economy within their homeland.  Human capital is one of the most valuable resources for any economy, and especially for the North Caucasus.  The benefit of millions of Circassians, who would be true stakeholders rather than economic mercenaries, bringing in their diverse and specialized skills, as well as their tourist and investment capital, cannot be overstated.  This could have an absolutely transformative effect on the region.

Aside from creating stability in the Russian North Caucasus, the Russian Federation would benefit in a no less important, if somewhat less quantifiable way. Circassians are well-known for their loyalty to their countries of residence, as well as anyone who has ever helped them.  This fidelity is often excessive by normal standards and has even been quite self-defeating in a few circumstances.  Nonetheless, it is an engrained characteristic of Circassians.  For the Circassian nation to be saved and rehabilitated in partnership with and with the support of the Russian leadership would no doubt lead to a genuine and indelible affection for the Russian Federation among all Circassians.  This would also allow Russia to demonstrate to all nations its leadership role as a just and progressive force in the world.

Any program aiming to achieve these goals must contain all of the following fundamental requirements, which are the basis of actual policies that will be derived from them, and which I have detailed in my written submission to you:

1). Acknowledgement of Circassians’ unconditional right of return.
2). Development of mechanisms to accommodate and incentivize repatriation.  Circassians should not have to choose between a homeland and a better life.  We are entitled to both.
3). Development of the institutions that will rehabilitate the attributes of a Circassian homeland, such as language, history and culture.
4). Cultivation of an environment of hope, control over one’s destiny and economic industriousness; all of which are closely linked.
In the context of a cooperative partnership with the Russian leadership, we must also add number
5). Acknowledgement of the initial events that created the current predicament of Circassians and therefore define Circassians as a “special case” in terms of Russian policy.

However, it should be clear that these aforementioned requirements will still exist whether or not the Russian leadership decides to support them. These are the prerequisites for our survival and, therefore, will never be abandoned. Despite the assimilation of large numbers of Circassians into their host countries, there are still too many who want to save their nation.  International standards of justice have progressed too far.  Historical information is too easily accessible. Instantaneous communication is too widespread. The importance of these requirements will only become more apparent, and the demand for them even louder and more desperate with each passing year.

In this regard, any concerns that may exist among the Russian leadership about separatism must be put into proper perspective. For Circassians, the goal is obtaining the basic requirements for survival.  Independence, therefore, is a means rather than an end in and of itself.  It is the path chosen when all other doors have been closed and the hope for a compassionate and reasonable partner has been extinguished.  The reality of the situation, which may run counter to what some of you may think, is that the rehabilitation of Circassia is perhaps the single greatest bulwark against separatism, as well as foreign interference in Russian domestic affairs.  If the prospect of a Circassia within the Russian Federation continues to fade, the allure of independence among greater numbers of Circassians is not only more likely, it is assured.   Whether Circassians pursue their aspirations with, and within, the Russian Federation or through a full-fledged independence movement is, at this point, completely up to the Russian leadership.

I respectfully urge the esteemed members of the Russian Duma to choose the path of partnership and cooperation to build a better future for Circassians and Russians alike.  Thank you. 

Written Submission to the Russian Duma

Program to Save and Rehabilitate the Circassian Culture and Nation

Many will agree that a comprehensive national program for the Circassians is long overdue. This program is important not only to mobilize concerned Circassians, but also to limit confusion and misinformation.  Circassian needs and demands must be clearly defined by Circassians themselves, lest anyone else define them for us.  Every demand in this program is supported by international treatise and resolutions such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and even the constitution of the Russian Federation. The rights enshrined in these documents are the basis of this Program. There is also ample international precedence for implementation of the key items called for in this Program. The rights that Circassians seek and are entitled to shall in no way infringe on the rights of non-Circassians currently residing in historic Circassia.

The goal of the Circassian nation is simple and singular; survival. Every call in this Program is rooted in this goal. Every call in this Program is a universally accepted right, not a privilege, and will be sought through any and all peaceful means available. Every call in this Program is interdependent on the other calls. The political, economic and cultural aspects of this document are intertwined and inseparable.  This interdependence is based on two important realities: First, the survival of the Circassian culture is dependent on large-scale repatriation of Circassian Diaspora, especially growing families.  Second, every parent wants to provide their children with an easier, safer and more fulfilling life than they themselves had. The prospect of a harder, more dangerous and less fulfilling life in the homeland will ensure negligible repatriation and the subsequent extinction of the Circassian culture.

Quality of life for Circassians in their homeland is essential not only for repatriation, but for the stability of the entire region.  The forces of religious extremism feed off of an environment of resentment, hopelessness, corruption and fear, and a population that feels powerless to affect its own destiny through peaceful and legal means.   Circassians in the homeland must be enabled to shape their own destiny, in the manner consistent with the noble principles of their heritage, and towards the realization of the universally acknowledged rights they are entitled to.  The alternative is the continued encroachment of a corrupt and foreign extremist ideology, which is contrary to and irreconcilable with the Circassian character and will only bring disaster to the Circassian culture, the Circassian homeland and the Russian Federation itself.

In consideration of the aforementioned, the Circassian Association of California/Adyghe Khasa calls on the Russian Federation to implement the following:

Official recognition by the Russian Federation of the ethnic cleansing, by means of genocide and deportation, of the Circassians from their homeland in the mid 19th century by Tsarist Russia.

Official recognition by the Russian Federation of the Circassians as the indigenous people of the Northwest Caucasus. As such, Circassians are entitled to, and Russia is responsible to grant and support, the rights noted in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[i]

The unconditional right of return for all Circassian Diaspora, anywhere in the world. This will include the elimination of all quotas, financial requirements, residency requirements and language requirements.  Returning Diaspora shall also have the right to maintain dual citizenship and travel freely into and out of their homeland with no restrictions.[ii] The Russian Federation shall allocate the appropriate resources to assist the resettlement of Circassians at a level comparable to such support given to other Russian Diaspora resettlement programs e.g. Old Believers.

The reunification of Circassia into a single, contiguous, autonomous republic. The Republic shall include Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachai-Cherkess, Adygeya, and the Shapsughia region of Krasnodar Krai.

These current republics are based on artificial borders created specifically to separate the Circassians and diminish any sense of national identity, and their borders and status have changed multiple times in the past.  Although Circassians have always acknowledged their single identity as Adyghe and the absurdity of claims to the contrary, the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences recently confirmed that the Circassians are in fact one people, not four.  With this scientific assessment and validation, there is no basis whatsoever to justify the current borders and division of historic Circassia.

The unification of Circassia would not just remedy a historic wrong.  Unification is absolutely critical to cultural preservation and economic development.  What exist today are islands of Circassian populations throughout the historic Circassian homeland.  Those Circassians living along the periphery or within the smaller islands continue to face dramatic pressure to assimilate culturally, legally and politically (as recent attempts to dissolve the Republic of Adygeya into Krasnodar Krai can attest).  Under present conditions, these “islands” will effectively disappear linguistically in no more than two generations, and politically much sooner than that.  Any feasible repatriation program will be impossible in this island-like environment, especially since repatriation and economic development are so closely linked and interdependent. A single and efficient legal and administrative system is required in order to facilitate successful infrastructure development, legal and educational reform, and to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), for which Circassians themselves will play a leading role.  This would benefit everyone in the region, but will be impossible without a unified republic.[iii]

Further, non-Circassian minorities will be guaranteed the rights and protections set forth in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.[vi] In particular, the Karachai and Balkar peoples, who share a historic brotherhood with Circassians and whose historic suffering requires redress, will be entitled to the rights and resources required to preserve and rehabilitate their language and culture in the manner they best see fit.

Immediate cessation of interference in any and all domestic and international Circassian organizations by Russian operatives. 

Russian Federation support and funding for reinstatement of Circassian language instruction in primary schools and universities in the Circassian republic(s).

Protection of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly and the right to develop all institutions required to promote and protect civil society.

Russian Federation support and funding for Circassian language television broadcasting. This should also include mechanisms to share broadcasts throughout all the Circassian republics in order to overcome differences in dialect that have developed between the regions.

Russian Federation investment in infrastructure, higher education and healthcare within historic Circassia. In consideration of the crimes committed against the Circassian people, and in consideration of the Circassians relinquishing any claims to monetary reparations for these crimes, the Russian Federation shall make the necessary investment into the region to move the Circassian homeland toward parity with the countries in which the majority of Circassians currently reside in terms of infrastructure, communication, education and healthcare.

[i] See Declaration at
[ii] See UNPO Resolution at
[iii] See chapters 2 and 3 for relevant international autonomy standards and solutions
[iv] See Declaration at


Circassian Association of California/Adyghe Khasa
P.O. Box 1275, Stanton, CA 90680