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International conference on North Caucasus issues

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 25
Some days ago an international conference was held in Tbilisi dedicated to the problems in the North Caucasus. The major outcome of the conference was that Circassian representatives asked the Georgian Government to recognise the Circassian genocide carried out by Russians in the 19th century, when they claim two million Circassians were exterminated in what is now the Krasnodar region of the Russian Federation, which until the 19th century had been a Circassian homeland. About 1 million Circassians were forced to leave Russia and emigrated to Turkey.

One of the last battles between the Russian regular forces and Circassian troops took place at the site where the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are due to be held. The Circassian delegation is preparing an application to the Georgian Parliament asking it to recognise the genocide of the Circassian people. Georgian analysts and specialists in Caucasus issues think that discussing Circassian problems is very important for Georgia for a variety of reasons. The Circassians are a related people to the Abkhaz and are very influential in Abkhazia, as Circassians even participated in the military operations against Georgia. Current Georgian-Circassian relations can also be addressed within the context of the present confrontation between Georgia and Russia. For this reason Circassian national movement leader Patima Tlisova thinks that there is a quite substantial probability that the Georgian Parliament will recognise the Circassian genocide as Georgia could use this as a political tool against Russia.

MP Nugzar Tsiklauri has stated that the Georgian Parliament will by all means consider the Circassian people's request but this could be a very long process. The situation is quite complicated. Acknowledging this genocide will irritate Russia, and analyst Mamuka Areshidze thinks that Armenia will then demand that Georgia also recognise the Armenian genocide. Any kind of decision should be taken only in Georgia’s interests.

Chairman of the Caucasus People's Confederation Zaal Kasrelishvili thinks it unlikely that Parliament will recognise the genocide, however he considers that more attention should be paid to the problems of the North Caucasus people. If we dig deeper into this issue we might discover that the Russians have committed acts of genocide against several North Caucasus peoples, such as the Circassians, Abkhaz, Chechens, Dagestanis and Muslim Ossetians, at different times. Several hundred thousand Chechens were killed during the two Chechen wars conducted by Russia against one of its regions at the end of the last century, and Chechen nationalists insist that this is another unrecognised genocide.

There are certain issues, in particular ones involving Russia, to which the international community turns a blind eye. Things like genocide are only taken seriously when they receive wider resonance, as we can see from the international reactions to the Nazi holocaust and the documented genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia and various other places. Here we may have another reason why Russia is determined to put itself on one side of the fence and Europe on the other.