Georgia is swimming in murky waters! By Fehim Tastekin

This report by Fehim Tastekin first appeared in Turkish in his weekly column on 26 May 2011 in the Turkish daily Radikal and has been translated into English by Erdogan Boz.

Georgia is swimming in murky waters!

Georgia recognises the Circassian genocide. The aim is to force the cancellation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The 21 May 1864 evokes among the Circassians the same kind of memories as does the Holocaust among the Jews. The 21 May is much more traumatic than the Meds Yeghem of the Armenians. However, the tragedy has been neglected for far too long. Even the descendants of the Circassians have only recently started to recognise the tragedy of their ancestors. Georgia has unexpectedly delivered a blow to Russia’s stomach by recognising “the Circassian genocide” in a period when Circassian sensitivity has become tangible in line with the process of democratic initiatives in Turkey. It has become the first country to call the tragedy “genocide”. Thus, the Circassian issue has a chance to be carried into the international arena.

On 21 May, at a conference on the Exile in Kayseri, I announced as breaking news that Tbilisi had recognised the genocide. Normally, this would have brought the house down. However, deep silence was the reaction, which the Georgians slander as “Russianism”. This is a harsh label to apply to the generations who, 300-400 years ago, began leaving their homeland cursing Russian cruelty. Thus, the reasons for not applauding the Georgian parliamentary decision must be sought.

Historical apathy

There are two reasons for keeping one’s distance from the Georgians, one being historical and the other one actual: Georgia’s coming under the patronage in 1801 of coreligionist Russia in the face of Ottoman and Persian incursions was a development destined to change the course of the Russo-Caucasian War later in the 19th century. Georgian army officers, trained at St. Petersburg’s military academy for three generations, had by the 1840s become more Russian than the Russians with regard to the imperial interests of the tsars. The Russian army annexed Georgia and set up headquarters in Tbilisi without a squeak of resistance and built military routes fanning out from Tbilisi into the centre of the Caucasus. These were two key factors in the collapse of Caucasian resistance. Circassian resentment at this collaboration, thus, has a history of over two centuries.

Wars waged against South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the post-Soviet period forced the Circassians to make a choice once again. Two thousand Circassian volunteers from the North Caucasus fought for the Abkhazians against the Georgian invasion of their territory in 1992-93. Their leader, Nalchik-born former Soviet general Sultan Sosnaliev, later took office as the Minister of Defence of Abkhazia. Today, the heart of Abkhazia Square in Nalchik still beats to the rhythm of Abkhazia. Volunteers from Turkey were also mobilised. This explains why the administration of Mikheil Saakashvili anticipated the main threat as coming from “non-governmental” actors rather than states in their National Security Document prepared before the war in 2008. It is true that Georgia’s support for the Chechens during the war in Chechenia in the years 1994-1996 helped to moderate the approach towards Georgia and the dissemination of the idea of Georgia being a critical part of an ideal “United Caucasia”, everything went went back to square one with the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia in August 2008. Looking at events from the Ossetian and Abkhazian perspectives, Georgia has done to them what the Russians failed to do. Both the Ossetians and the Abkhazians call the Georgianisation policies pursued during the Soviet period together with the more recent military attacks as ‘genocide’.
The target is the 2014 Winter Olympics

Now, by involving itself in the Circassian issue, Tbilisi is seeking to avenge itself on Russia for repelling the Georgian attack when it to the war on the side of the Ossetians in 2008. Tbilisi wants to make its golden shot the forcing of the cancellation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. These Olympic Games are going to take place in Krasnaia Poliana (Red Meadow), that is, the Kbaada Valley, where the Russian army held its victory parade after the fall of Caucasia on 21 May 1864. While the Circassians, who know only too well why that meadow is red, are campaigning against the games with the slogan “Don’t play games on our ancestors’ bones”, Tbilisi’s involvement in the issue is to expand its own mission. In January 2010, a Russian TV channel named ‘Caucasia First’ started broadcasting from Tbilisi, this so-called ‘Caucasian Friendship Initiative’ being created by the Georgian parliament, and then two international conferences on the genocide were held in Tbilisi. The topic of the third conference, which is to be held in Batumi on 28-29 May, is the unity of Caucasia. At this point, the words of Givi Targamadze from the government party in the parliament on 20 May  “Georgia must lead the Caucasian unity” are of crucial importance. The involvement of the Jamestown Foundation in the issue also strengthens the suspicion that “the USA has been stirring up Caucasia”. However, none of this means that Georgia is unable to find support. For instance, the banner which the Dido people, who were exiled within the country during the Soviet era, carried at a demonstration held in Daghestan on 17 May for the reinstatement of the rights they had lost was the very provocative: “Russia is refusing, Georgia is helping.”

Moreover, there are some Circassians who are in a quandary over “continuing to be content with Abkhazia, whose independence is recognised by Russia, or demanding a Greater Cherkessia with the help of Georgia”, given Georgia’s close interest in the Circassian question. This is one of the goals desired by Tbilisi.

Unity, but how?

It is ominous that the Georgian administration, which has subjected the country to a radical Christianisation process, has been running after Caucasian unity with cross in hand. According to the common belief, Georgia’s only aim is to isolate Abkhazia and South Ossetia, retake control of these two countries now recognised by Russia, and to continue plotting against Russia. In short, Georgia is opening itself to the North Caucasus with a policy aimed at provoking ‘anti-Russian’ sentiments with the help of the USA, while the ‘independence’ demands of native peoples in many parts of Caucasia are increasing. However, history tells us that this tactic is not sufficient for uniting the peoples in the region and for snatching Caucasia from the jaws of Russia. Moreover, it is not convincing for Tbilisi to talk about the unity of Caucasia without changing its offensive policies towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. What is more important is internal peace within Caucasia. What Caucasia needs are new steps towards this ideal.

This report by Fehim Tastekin first appeared in Turkish in his weekly column on 26 May 2011 in the Turkish daily Radikal and has been translated into English by Erdogan Boz.

Source: Circassian World




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