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16.03.2010 12:20 natpress
Source: Caucasus knot 04 March 2010
(translated by Asker Soht)




Asker Soht (Chief of the Press Service of the Ex-President of Adygea Khazret Sovmen): Dialogue is the only acceptable formula for a civilized solution of accumulated problems.

Last years events actualized problems in the West of the Caucasus, which can be collectively specified as a Circassian issue. Exclusively for The Caucasian Knot, Senior Research Associate of the Civilizational and Regional Studies Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences Naima Neflyasheva discussed them with Asker Soht, one of the most active members of the International Circassian Association, Chief of the Press Service of the Ex-President of Adygea Khazret Sovmen.

- Lets return to the main for the North Caucasus event of January 2010, when the North Caucasus Federal District was established by the Edict of the President of the Russian Federation D. Medvedev. In the context of the new Caucasian policy of Dmitry Medvedev, the establishment of the North Caucasus Federal District is a natural phenomenon. Features of traditional social organization and, as a consequence, of political culture of the North Caucasian peoples, are quite specific. They require a governance model different from other Russian Federation regions. However, Adygea, the only of North Caucasian republics, was not included into the new district, though all problems of this small republic are similar to overall Caucasian problems, and its development trends have the same vector. Besides, new districting is artificially breaking relationship between Adygea and two other republics Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, where the Adyghes are titular peoples. What do you think about this? Does it seem probable that a new impulse will be given to the project of merger between Adygea and Krasnodar Territory?

- I disagree with the thesis that all problems of the Republic of Adygea are similar to overall Caucasian problems. In my opinion, Adygea is the only North Caucasian republic, where all preconditions for effective modernization and development are present. I just feel inspired by the fact that the Republic of Adygea has not entered the disaster circle outlined by the Edict. It should be remembered that division of the state into federal districts has nothing to do with its territorial system. The administration of the federal district as such is only a coordinator of federal structures. And nothing more. I dont find threats to the unity of our people and especially to its nationhood in this decision.

- It is known that geographical and administrative separation of the Adyghes in the Russian Federation is one of problems of the present-day Adyghe ethnos. On the other hand, there is an idea of merger of the Adyghes into one subject of the Russian Federation it is supported by some Adyghe social movements, for example, the Circassian Congress. This idea is very popular among the young people and is actively debated at the Circassian portals forums. Dont you think that most likely this project will hardly be implemented after the establishment of the North-Caucasus Federal District?

- The idea of merger of Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia and the Republic of Adygea into one federal subject is not at all on the agenda of Adygea social life. At the moment, it is a virtual problem, which is practically not debated in our republic at any level. Moreover, it is by no means interrelated with the establishment of the new federal district.

The President of the Russian Federation clearly formulated objectives of the establishment of the North Caucasus Federal District: counter-terrorism, economical and social modernization, stabilization of socio-political life in the region.


With respect to plans on the merger of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and the Republic of Adygea into one federal subject, I expressed my viewpoint on the matter many times: I do not see political preconditions for this. In my view, the idea has a right to exist, but, at this historical stage, it cant be implemented for a variety of reasons, and will remain same over the next decades. Setting up and solving problems of such level should rely not only on the public consensus in republics (as a matter of fact, there is lack of it in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and the Republic of Adygea), but be actively supported, on the whole, in the Russian society by leading political parties and leaders of the country. Failing all this, the idea as such will become a factor of political manipulations, acute ideological struggle and have extremely unfavourable political repercussions. That is why, it is counterproductive to put continued emphasis on it.

- What is productive then?

- Today, we have to concentrate our efforts, first of all, on the development of horizontal relations, active interaction with the Circassian Diaspora. Population Census coming in 2010, which induces a launch and widening of the campaign for registering all Adyghes of the Russian Federation under a single ethnicon the Circassians; intensification of the Circassian youths contacts; creation of a common available information space; assistance in learning the mother language, studying culture and history in countries of the Diaspora; protection of rights and interests of the Adyghes, assistance to returnees and their adaptation at historical homeland here are problems, which, in my view, our generation is destined to solve.

- The development of horizontal relations was also mentioned at the Public Forum The Caucasus: Tradition and Modernization, which was held in Nalchik on November 30th, 2009, on the initiative of the member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation Maxim Shevchenko. What is the benefit of horizontal relations formation for stabilization of the present-day North Caucasus, and actually, what is that?

- I do not support active involvement of the Circassians in overall Caucasian processes. Interaction is a two-way street. From this perspective, the Eastern Caucasus is unable to give us anything positive. We dont have leverages over the socio-political situation in this Caucasian region. Our area of responsibility is Krasnodar Territory, Adygea, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. On the basis of this thesis, it is more advantageous for us, at the present stage, to focus on developing horizontal relations within our people, to reopen the Diaspora in its whole variety to ourselves, and historical homeland with its successes and problems to the Diaspora. It is impossible to restore the unity of the people in the absence of available information space and active human contacts. 99% of the Diaspora Circassians have never visited historical homeland, 99% of the Russian Federation Circassians have never been to the Diaspora that is the area of focus.

- It seems to me that such an approach, when those horizontal relations, mentioned by you, are severely restricted only by the limits of their region, will lead to isolation. It is a throwback to medieval clanship, which is simply destined to fail in the present-day world. And I cannot agree with you that the Eastern Caucasus is unable to give us anything. In Dagestan, for example, four opposition periodicals are being published, traditions of political culture are more advanced there than in the Western Caucasus, and the culture of political polemics is higher.

- The isolationism is needed by todays realities. An inextricable tangle of unresolvable contradictions is being formed in the Eastern Caucasus. In fact, there is a war on there. In spite of our apparent historical and cultural unity, today it is a different world, and we have to distance ourselves from it in all senses. Our goals and objectives are different. We must preserve stability, predictability and clear understanding of our apparent desires by the country we live in. Otherwise, we shall be unable to solve any problem our people are facing.

- There is no doubt that Population Census of 2010 will play a certain part in creation of common Adyghe cultural space. Being one nation united by history and system of values, the Adyghes are variously named in different subjects of the Russian Federation. Such name as the Adygeis, actually, was created by the Soviet time and, on the whole, was always rejected by the Adyghes living in the West.

- The coming Population Census will become a peculiar kind of barometer reflecting development trends of our people. Undoubtedly, I do support the return of a single name the Circassians, to the Adyghe ethnos. I am looking forward to the Census as such and its results.

- At present, one more problem the situation in Karachay-Cherkessia, causes more and more concern of all Adyghes. There is a tough ethnic confrontation, an estrangement between the authorities and the society, which complicates social problems: lack of prospects for the youth, unemployment, unsuitable living conditions. How do you assess the socio-political situation in the republic, and, in your view, what provoked numerous political meetings of the Circassians, their demands to withdraw from the Karachay-Cherkess Republic?

- I dont want to make extreme statements on the situation in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. On the other hand, you can't fail to notice extremist publications in the Karachay-Cherkessia mass media, which dishonour national dignity of the peoples of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, protest actions, mass clashes of the youth. All these seem to prove that authorities of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic are not able to establish a dialogue with the society and lose control of the situation in the republic. This is equally neither in the interests of the people of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, nor in the interests of regional authorities.

Dialogue is the only accepted formula for a civilized solution of accumulated problems. Violence is totally unsustainable. In this regard, I put high hopes on the leaders of the North Caucasus Federal District and Mr. Khloponin, in person. Problems in Krasnoyarsk Territory were no less serious, though ethnically uncoloured, and he solved them with success. An additional point is that Khloponin has no relations with local administrative and business elites of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, what allows him to remain above-the-fray. I am certain that the newly appointed Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy will have all necessary leverages for systemic stabilization of the situation existing in the republic.

- I would rather touch on one subject, the omission of which will make simply impossible a talk on the present ethnopolitical situation in the Western Caucasus. I mean the necessity to understand at the national level the tragic effects of the Caucasian War, cultural and demographic disaster, which overtook the Adyghes in the 19th century. I mean a subject of the genocide against the Adyghes during the Caucasian War. The well-known contemporary historian from Saint-Petersburg Yakov Gordin wrote that the acknowledgement of the genocide against the Adyghes was no less important for Russia than for the Circassians themselves, that one couldnt close eyes to the unpunished cruelty shown by the Russian Empire while implementing its plans of conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century. It may sound ironic, but it was Russian historiography such authors as Dubrovin, Potto, Berge, Fonvil, which left us the evidence of horrors of exodus of the Adyghes to the Ottoman Empire, of tragedies of separated families, of Motherland loss grief. On the other hand, dont you think that continued touching on the subject of genocide by regional politicians and political movements is becoming one way of political manipulations?

- The topic of the Circassian genocide is one of the most complicated political, humanitarian and scientific problems. During the Caucasian War of the 19th century, our people had to overcome unmerciful and inhuman genocide acts, which specially gained in scope in the course of deportation from Circassia to the Ottoman Empire. I would like to mention that deportation is also qualified as a crime against humanity. So painful a past obviously requires understanding from positions of humanity and morality, and cruelty and inhumanity require censure. It was that what caused our desire to seek acknowledgement and censure of the Circassian genocide at the national level. International law does not regulate this procedure: some states confine themselves to statements of their heads, resolutions of their parliaments, other states adopt additional regulatory legal acts, which establish administrative and criminal responsibilities for neglecting the adopted resolution.

In the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation officially acknowledged and censured deportation of the Circassians into the Ottoman Empire. We, Circassian organizations of Russia, the International Circassian Association, believe that these are acts of genocide, which have to be acknowledged and censured. This position was stated in the Appeal of the Adygea and Kabardino-Balkaria parliaments to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, and it will stay unchanged. The subject of the genocide against the Circassians will not be removed from the agenda until it is officially acknowledged and censured. Everyone, within whose power is to solve this problem, must be conscious of this.

There is no doubt that the subject of the genocide against the Circassians is being actively used in the ideological struggle. Traditionally, jingo analysts and publicists turn to this subject. Their aim is clear. On the one hand, they want to ruin historical consciousness of our people, on the other hand to develop enemy image of the Adyghes, some fifth column in the Russian society. New phenomenon of our life is a genuine interest to our past from Georgian, and not only Georgian, analysts. They became unusually more active after the City of Sochi was elected the Host City of the Winter Olympic Games and the Georgian aggression in the South Ossetia was stopped by Russia. Our republics have built consensus on this problem, which was fixed by appropriate decisions of parliaments, and, therefore, the subject of the genocide against the Circassians can not be the factor, which destabilizes the social life in the region. As regards the coming Olympic Games in the City of Sochi in 2014, quite a good example was shown to us by Canada and its respect for the history and culture of indigenous population.

- Speaking of that, since we touched on the subject of the OlympicsOpening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Vancouver showed the entire world an example of solicitous attitude to traditions of four American Indian tribes, in the territory of which Vancouver had been established. But this information is not new to the present-day Olympic practice. Preservation of cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, in whose historical homeland the Olympic Games are held, usage of their symbols and folk images these subjects became organic parts of the Olympic tradition, one of priority orientations in preparation for the Olympics. Same happened both in Sydney, in Lillehammer and in other Olympic Games host cities. Opening of the latest Winter Olympic Games took up a new subject at least, on Circassian sites in Internet a subject of comparison of Sochi and Vancouver in terms of attitude towards indigenous peoples cultures.

- The example of participation of indigenous peoples of Canada in the opening ceremony, cultural programme of the Olympic Games in Vancouver is completely applicable to the Olympic Games in the City of Sochi. Much to my regret, today we have an example of total neglect of the indigenous populations culture during preparation for the Olympics-2014. Recently, the Krasnodar Territory delegation started out for Vancouver, where the solemn ceremony of the Olympic flame handover to the City of Sochi was being held. The room on the delegation was found for the Kuban Cossack Chorus, the unthinkable number of officials of different levels, but no room for Circassian organizations, Circassian ethnographical dance companies, etc. Many Circassian public associations consistently hold a constructive position on the Olympics-2014, and still there is a time limit to settle this problem in the spirit of mutual respect and consideration for interests. An alternate approach will only cause protests.

- What do you think about protest actions of American Circassians in Vancouver those were representatives of the 6,000-strong Adyghe Diaspora in the USA, who picketed at the entrance to the Russian House?

- It should be remembered that protest actions in Vancouver were organized by descendants of those people, who suffered genocide and deportation to the Ottoman Empire. They are supersensitive to our past, the more so because for them, in some specified sense, our past is the present they were exiled from their homeland. All my heart and soul are with them. But lets remember that we live not in the age of colonial wars. The 21st century is the age of peace and cooperation, respect and consideration for mutual interests. There are large debates about the problem of the Olympics-2014 in the Circassian world. Even the attitudes of Circassian organizations in Russia vary. It seems to me that the open dialogue with the society, where we live now, will help to devise a formula acceptable from a moral point of view. Id rather say again: Vancouver showed us a good example.

- A short time ago you came back from Nalchik, where the meeting of Executive Committee of the International Circassian Association (ICA) was held on February 19th-20th, 2010. As far as I know, there were decisions made on the Olympic Games in Sochi. Will you, please, give a detailed account of the ICA position on this issue?

- During the meeting, the ICA Executive Committee discussed a programme of activities for the next three years, the oncoming visit of the President of the Russian Federation to Turkey, the socio-political situation in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, as well as the Olympic Games coming in 2014. Unfortunately, we failed to agree the text of the Olympics-2014 Appeal of ICA to the President of the Russian Federation D. Medvedev. The work on it is being continued. Protest actions in Vancouver and ignoring of Circassian organizations by the Sochi authorities during the ceremony of the Olympic flame handover from Vancouver to the City of Sochi created an unfavourable background. The ICA Appeal will be addressed not only to the President of the Russian Federation, but also to the parliaments of Adygea, the Kabardino-Balkar Republic and the Karachay-Cherkess Republic for the purpose of official support.

- Youve told more than once about the spiritual liaison between the Russian Federation Adyghes and the Adyghes from the Diaspora. How much influential is the Adyghe Diaspora, and in general, what is the essence of the Adyghe Diasporas importance for Russia?

- More recently, the Circassian Diaspora is exhibiting high activity in establishing contacts with historical homeland. Main ten-year areas of cooperation were stated in resolutions adopted by the World Congress of Compatriots held in Moscow in December 2009. Though it is sad to admit, but there is no system in interaction with the Circassian Diaspora. The responsibility for this rests, in the first place, with the regional level of power. Many regions of Russia, first and foremost, Moscow, Tatarstan, in particular, gained vast experience of cooperation with compatriots. Against this background, everything what was done in Adygea, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic for the past 20 years is beneath criticism. Some progress began to show in Adygea in the last two years. All the same, I cant but mention that few Circassian families, which were repatriated from Kosovo, are still taking shelter at temporary accommodation centers, a large part of them returned to Europe once again. On the whole, the repatriation of the Circassians to the Russian Federation is held more likely contrary to rather than thanks to efforts of authorities of Adygea and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic. The Circassian Diasporas investments are neither protected to the right degree. Alongside with positive examples, an outrageous violation of rights occurred to entrepreneurs from among the Circassian repatriates.

A dramatic example is the fate of the poultry farm of Shovgenovskiy Region in Adygea. In early 2000, the Adyghes from Jordan established the Sunrise Limited Liability Company in Maykop, and put their hands to the reconstruction of the Shovgenovskaya Poultry Farm, which was out of operation for 7 years by then and was ruined completely. Having invested several million roubles, the entrepreneurs reconstructed three of five farm buildings, installed equipment for poultry growing, stored feed reserve and purchased farm machinery. Over 40 jobs were created at the poultry farm. The company brought annual production up to 800-900 tonnes. It was planned to reconstruct and put into operation the rest of farm buildings, to introduce modern technologies of poultry production. At the same time, the company properly paid taxes over 1,350,000 Rbl., and the rental price over 200,000 Rbl.

All of a sudden, the Head of the regional Administration announced the eight times raising of rent. In order not to paralyze the farm, not to leave the personnel out of job, the Sunrise owners left their equipment, machinery, reserve grain (totally for 1,850,000 Rbl.) with new masters and, having concluded the cost-reimbursement contract for 10 months, went away.

Shortly after, the poultry farm managed by a new director stopped paying taxes to the budget, salaries to employees, ran into nearly 13 mln. Rbl. debt, including funds of the budget. Within a year, the company was declared bankrupt.

As regards to personnel training at institutions of higher education, here, a great zeal is shown for inviting rather student from African countries, than representatives of the Circassian Diaspora. Funny enough, but key institutions of higher education of Krasnodar Territory the Kuban State University, Faculty of Romance-Germanic Philology, in particular, the Kuban State Medical Academy express greater interest in attracting students from among the Circassian Diaspora representatives, than the Adyghe State University, the Maykop State Technological University, institutions of higher education of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. As for the cooperation of the Diaspora with the Russian state, year 2010 has every prospect to become historical. But lets not jump ahead of ourselves and wait for actual results achieved on Circassian initiatives presented to the President of the Russian Federation.

- What gives you grounds for optimism?

- The bare fact that on the federal level, as I see it, a certain temper caused by the shiftlessness of regional authorities in cooperation with the Diaspora is being shown. It is enough to read resolutions of the World Congress of Compatriots. It is no secret that draft resolutions were drawn up in the Government of the Russian Federation. If the authorities of federal subjects add at least 10% of all what is said there to their armoury, it would be an undreamed-of breakthrough.

- There is one more vexed problem it is a problem of Adygs-Shapsugs, who are currently living on the coast of the Black Sea. The Shapsugs represent the Adyghe subethnos having special history and culture, developed traditions of democratic management and a special character. Before Muhajirism events, the Shapsugs were one of the largest Adyghe subethnoses. In the 19th century, many political decisions, vital for the Adyghes, originated from the Shapsugs. At present, only seaside underpopulated auls have remained from the once passionary Shapsugs. In isolation from Adygea, the Shapsugs are headily losing their culture: judging from what is happening on the Black Sea coast I mean, firstly, cheap touristy diversions for holidaymakers, sort of A Visit to an Adyghe, their culture is more and more profaned being changed into the market sale item. And lowering a standard, as you know, is an indication of culture codes destruction. What problems of Adyghes-Shapsugs are especially acute? Who handles these problems? And what is, in your opinion, the score on their solution?

- For the purposes of discussion, present-day problems of Adyghes-Shapsugs can be classified under three groups, which are associated with the realization within the territory of Krasnodar Territory of norms of the Federal Legislation on the protection of the rights of indigenous minorities. In a recent decade, the regulatory legal acts on the economical, social and cultural development of the Russian Federation indigenous minorities, which are adopted at the federal level, have a tendency to place special emphasis exclusively on the peoples of Siberia and Far East and to ignore the Caucasian minorities. In large, this approach hinders solution of many problems. The provision of quoted representation of Adyghes-Shapsugs in the Krasnodar Territory authority bodies continues to be the major political issue. Having afforded the right of quoted representation in Legislative Assemblies of federal subjects to indigenous minorities, later on, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation withdrew that rule.

The situation with the monument to Lazarev and incomplete memorial complex to the Caucasian War Victims in Sochi remain to be a charged matter. The issue of realization of norms of the Federal Legislation on the protection of the traditional way of life and primordial living environment of Adyghes-Shapsugs also continues to be relevant. So far, the appropriate legislation hasnt been passed in Krasnodar Territory.

As regards the experience in solving socio-economic, national and cultural problems of Adyghes-Shapsugs, the Krasnodar Territory authorities are carrying out much work on the subject. In terms of ethnoculture, there is no much difference between the situation on the Black Sea coast and the situation in Adygea, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.

- The subject of monuments to generals Zass and Lazarev, which you touched on, is a subject of the ideological restructuring of the geographical space. This is one of the well-known imperial practices: having integrated new regions, empires purposefully and successively filled the space with new symbols, thus deleting one historical memory and fixing another. Those were kind of imperial memory wars.

Starting in 2008, it has been planned to erect in Maykop a Memory and Unity monument intended, by the design of its movers the Adyghe public movement Adyghe Khase, to remind that, in either event, the Caucasian War was a tragedy for all peoples involved in it. But without budget funds this project is impossible and existing public funds are not sufficient: the estimated cost of the monument is 53 mln. Rbl. What is your attitude towards the events involving the memorial? I shall tell straight off that, actually, I view with some skepticism the idea that in the presence of systemic problems another monument can change something.

- Main problems of the Memory and Unity monument lie not in a financial sphere, but in the very idea of this memorial and its artistic execution. The version I managed to see, in my view, will raise a storm of indignation. It is non-moral to insert into the memorial composition images of personalities, who killed my people. Hopefully, the architect of the concept will approach his task in a responsible manner. Compromise with conscience in this sphere is unacceptable. Unity cant be achieved by treating own people with indignity, by desecrating own past.

- All subjects we touched upon with you are actively discussed in Internet space. Such portals as HEKU.RU and ELOT.RU have long time ago became discussion platforms, which compensate with their highest degree debates for the absence of quality analytical media in the region. Are, to your thinking, worldwide network discussions creative or destructive? To my knowledge, more often than not, you attract fierce criticism and communicate on the Internet under your own name.

- Internet is an open and available space. It is not surprising that these are Circassian resources of Internet network, where full range of problems, which disturb society, is being discussed. Overall, this is a reflection of the current state of mass media in our country: both media resources and society live their own lives. I dare say, there is no point in proving the value and significance of free expression in the 21st century. Basically, the network is visited by anonymous users. Of course, many of them are not intellectually and emotionally ready to discuss complicated subjects. There are those, who provoke society in a professional manner, but in its entirety, as I see it, open discussion on the most vexed problems is better than hushing up silent about all problems. I prefer to debate in the network in my own name. This is my choice, and it is caused by the desire to show that civil position is more important than the ability to scream out radical slogans behind somebody's back.


March 1st, 2010 Caucasian Knot.

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