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The Circassian Genocide

The Circassian Genocide

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Circassian Genocide
    Book Description:

    Circassia was a small independent nation on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. For no reason other than ethnic hatred, over the course of hundreds of raids the Russians drove the Circassians from their homeland and deported them to the Ottoman Empire. At least 600,000 people lost their lives to massacre, starvation, and the elements while hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homeland. By 1864, three-fourths of the population was annihilated, and the Circassians had become one of the first stateless peoples in modern history.Using rare archival materials, Walter Richmond chronicles the history of the war, describes in detail the final genocidal campaign, and follows the Circassians in diaspora through five generations as they struggle to survive and return home. He places the periods of acute genocide, 1821-1822 and 1863-1864, in the larger context of centuries of tension between the two nations and updates the story to the present day as the Circassian community works to gain international recognition of the genocide as the region prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the site of the Russians' final victory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6069-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    On May 20, 2011, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution that labeled as genocide the “preplanned” mass killing of Circassians by the Russian Imperial Army in the 1860s. The resolution also stated that those who survived but were driven from their homeland and their descendants should be recognized as refugees. The move was stunning, since the Circassian genocide as well as Circassians themselves had been forgotten by the world within decades of the destruction of their nation in 1864.

    The Circassians went from being an almost legendary people of the northwestern Caucasus Mountains, a subject of travelogues about exotic...

  5. 1 “The Plague Was Our Ally”
    (pp. 9-31)

    In June 1808 Izmail-Bey Atazhukin, a Kabardian nobleman and colonel in the Russian Imperial Army, asked for permission to cross a quarantine line from Fort Konstantinovskaya into Kabardia with a shipment of desperately needed salt. Technically, anyone who wanted to cross the line was supposed to undergo a twenty-day “quarantine,” but Atazhukin had already been in the fortress since March. Under the circumstances, fort commander Major-General Veryovkin saw no reason to detain him. So when he crossed the quarantine line into Kabardia, Atazhukin couldn’t possibly have conceived of the reign of terror that would strike his people as a result...

  6. 2 A Pawn in the Great Game
    (pp. 32-53)

    The destruction of Kabardia remained hidden from the world. When Ermolov conducted the raids that nearly annihilated the Kabardians, not a single European newspaper took notice. As the European powers were vying for supremacy in a post-Napoleonic world, there was little interest in an obscure corner of the Russian Empire, far away from any strategic resources or shipping routes.

    Western Circassia was another matter. The Black Sea had been an arena of international competition for centuries, and while in the eighteenth century it was for all intents and purposes an Ottoman lake, Russia continually pressed for control of the northern...

  7. 3 From War to Genocide
    (pp. 54-75)

    In concluding his description of the final conquest and expulsion of the Circassians in the 1860s, Russian officer Ivan Drozdov tried to justify the wholesale death and destruction that his army brought upon them: “Mankind has rarely experienced such disasters and to such extremes, but only horror could have an effect on the hostile mountaineers and drive them from the impenetrable mountain thickets.”¹ The final horror that Drozdov refers to was really just the culmination of an increasingly barbaric campaign against the Circassians. In the 1830s Russian commanders had already gone beyond war crimes and were committing actual atrocities. It...

  8. 4 1864
    (pp. 76-97)

    The final Russian assault on Circassia began at the beginning of November 1861.¹ Estimating the remaining population of Circassia at two hundred thousand, the Russians assembled sixty-five combat battalions, twenty-five Cossack divisions, and one hundred cannons.² Mortally afraid that the British would interfere once they found out what he was doing, Evdokimov conducted the campaign with frantic speed. He was merciless even with his own men, driving them so hard that at one point they were close to mutiny. When he was informed that the men were dying from the furious pace, his response was “then let them die at...

  9. 5 A Homeless Nation
    (pp. 98-110)

    The death and disease that beset the Circassians on the Black Sea coast followed them to Anatolia. Impoverished and ill, the deportees quickly learned their ordeal was far from over. In December 1863, after only a handful had arrived, Russian consul in Trabzon A. N. Moshnin reported that the refugees were dying so fast that “at the nearest cemetery … dead Circassians were buried so quickly and carelessly that the last rain uncovered the graves and hungry dogs ate off the hands and feet of the dead.”¹ As tragic as this scene was, things would only get worse as the...

  10. 6 Survival in Diaspora
    (pp. 111-130)

    In 1881 British captain Claude Conder arrived in Amman during a campaign against Druze tribesmen. The town had been uninhabited as recently as 1876, and Circassian migrants were just beginning to reclaim the ancient site of Philadelphia.¹ Conder described the physical and psychological damage the settlers were suffering and painted a less than hopeful portrait:

    The Circassian colony at Amman is one of several planted by the Sultan in Peraea. These unhappy people, chased from their homes by the Russians, and again driven from their new settlements in European Turkey by the late war, are now scattered in the wilderness,...

  11. 7 Those Who Stayed Behind
    (pp. 131-148)

    In 1863 military consul to the Russian Embassy in Istanbul F. A. Frankini submitted several proposals for “the establishment of peace” in the western Caucasus to War Minister Milyutin. To Frankini’s suggestion that the Circassians be given hereditary rights to their land as Alexander had promised, Milyutin replied, “Nonsense! Does the author want an enemy that hates Russia to have more rights than the Russian people?” The war minister likewise dismissed Frankini’s warning that Russian actions were instilling hatred in the Circassians, claiming that “the experience of many years has proven that we will never make them our friends.” Finally,...

  12. 8 The Road to Sochi
    (pp. 149-170)

    With these words Russian president Vladimir Putin unwittingly declared war on the Circassian people. His implication that the ancient Greeks were the first inhabitants at Sochi struck Circassians worldwide as the most blatant and public attempt yet to erase their history. Most likely, Putin believed linking the Prometheus legend to the Olympic flame was a clever way to accept the nomination and nothing more. What it did, however, was galvanize the Circassian community in a way perhaps nothing else could.

    This was the worst in a series of missteps the Moscow government made in the first decade of the twenty-first...

  13. Epilogue The Cherkesov Affair
    (pp. 171-178)

    In the early morning of December 6, 2010, a group of young Russian men got into a fight with a few young men from the Caucasus. During the clash Yegor Sviridov, a Russian, was shot and killed. An investigation identified Aslan Cherkesov, a twenty-six-year-old Circassian, as the trigger man. A drunken brawl ending in a homicide was really nothing unusual in Moscow and shouldn’t have attracted any particular attention, but on December 11 several thousand protesters marched from the site of the shooting to Manezh Square across from the Kremlin, shouting nationalist slogans and making Nazi salutes. A race riot...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 179-201)
    (pp. 203-213)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 215-218)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)