Nations Far Beyond North Caucasus May Seek Recognition Of Genocides – Analysis


In the wake of Georgia’s recognition of the Circassian genocide, the head of the Volga Center of Regional and Ethno-Religious Research says, “it cannot be excluded” that there will soon be similar “campaigns” seeking similar international recognition of Russian-conducted genocides against the peoples of the Middle Volga and Siberia.

In an essay on the “Novoye Vostochnoye Obozreniye” portal yesterday, Rais Suleymanov whose center is part of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research argues that there is no reason to believe that the efforts to secure international recognition of genocide in Russia will be limited to the peoples of the North Caucasus (

Indeed, he argues, both the purposes of the Circassian “campaign” and the way it was carried out make it likely that enemies of the Russian state will soon seek to repeat the Circassian model elsewhere in the Russian Federation, in the first instance in the Middle Volga and then among the peoples of Siberia.

According to Suleymanov, the use of the charge of genocide by Georgia and especially its President Mikhail Saakashvili is “directed at the intensification of anti-Russian attitudes in the Caucasus and more broadly in the future, in all national republics of Russia, including those in the Urals-Volga region and Siberia.”

Georgia’s action, he says, is intended to change the attitudes of “the current generation of North Caucasus peoples of Russia … toward their own country and citizens of which they are” and make them view it as “a state criminal which did not simply include the Caucasus in its own territory but wiped out their ancestors, driving htem from their historical lands.”

Putting it blluntly, Suleymanov says, this effort is intended to “insert into the consciousness an dhistorical memory of young Caucasians the idea that the presence of Russia in the Caucasus is illegitimate,” a view Russians with the exception of “part of the liberal intelligentsia” overwhelmingly reject.

Yana Amelina, the head of the Sector of Caucasus Research of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research, told Suleymanov that she fully agreed that Georgia’s sstep was political and “directed at the further complication of Russian-Georgian relations.” Tbilisi clearly hopes to destabilize the Caucaus and to embarrass Moscow concerning the Sochi Olympics.

Vladimir Belyayev, a professor of political science, sociology and management at the Kazan Technical University, agrees with this analysis as well. And Suleymanov reports that Irina Shebotnev, a member of the Jewish community in the Tatar capital, is angry that anyone would seek to extent the concept of the Holocaust to the Caucasus.

However, there are some supporters of Georgia’s action in the Middle Volga, Suleymanov continues. Rafiz Kashapov, the president of the Naberezhny Chelny section of the Tatar Social Center (TOTs) and a leading Tatar nationalist, says he has backed the Circassian effort since 2005.

Given that others now think the same way or can be made to think that way, Suleymanov argues, “one should not think that the campaign initiated from abroad for the recognition of genocides supposedly committed by Russia (read the Russian people) over the course of its history will be limited to the Circassians only.”

According to him, there is a well-developed political technology that may be applied to other parts of the Russian Federaiton. “Everything will begin,” the Circassian effort shows, with “the foreign and Russian liberal press” writing stories about “mass murders supposedly committed by Russia against the civilian non-Russian population.”

Of course, in the case of the Middle Volga, this will focus on events in the mid-16th century rather than the 19th as in the case of the Circassians, Suleymanov says.

“Then there will be organized in foreign countries inte3rnational scholarly conferences and various ‘round tables’ at which with a wise view will be reported on numerous ‘Holocausts’ committed by Russia agains the Tatars, Bashkirs, and the peoples of Siberia.” There may even be documentary films “about ‘the bloody policy of Russia’ and several ‘scholarly’ books.”

“The goal of the entire ideological campaign will be to change the historical memory and worldview of non-Russian peoples in which their own Russian state, the citizens of which they are will be viewed as an enslaver, a criminal and finally simply as the source of evil,” against which a struggle will be viewed as “liberating and noble.”

The strategy of the foreign world is “obvious,” Suleymanov says. “If part of the population will conceive their own state as illegitimate than this will only make possible the development of internal disintegrating consequences.”

And thus it is “possible that we will soon hear declarations by local separatists of Tatarstan about how horrible it is” that Moscow wants to “hold in Kazan the Universiad 2013 or the world football championship in 2018 – in this case ‘on the bones of the Tatar people,’” rather than the Circassian one.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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