Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Circassians and the Sochi Olympics

The are several excellent articles in GeoCurrents about the largely forgotten (in the West) Circassian people whose territory was centered in the Sochi region. The majority of these people were either massacred or forced out of the Caucasus in the 19th century and primarily settled in the Ottoman Empire. Russia has three partly Circassian republics, as illustrated here.
Many Circassians outside the Caucasus dream of returning to the area and having a unified republic. However, Russia has imposed immigration quotas and other restrictive laws. Poverty and violence in nearby places, notably Chechnya, have also slowed Circassian migration.

Circassian nationalists have organized a protest movement over the Olympics calling attention to the history of oppression, the disturbance of burial sites including possible mass graves, and the location of the Olympic skiing events at Krasnya Polyana, the site of their last major battle with the Russians.
This skiing facility, the easternmost dot on the map above, is also claimed by some Abkhazians. While linguistically similar to Circassians, Abkhazians have a tense coexistance with them, partly due to their enlisting the help of Russia in their own struggle for independence from the Republic of Georgia.  

For more on the Circassians see the GeoCurrents article that the top map was taken from.

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