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“They Are Skiing On Circassians’ Bones”

Published: 19/02/2014 04:47:51 PM GMT
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SOCHI – One hundred and fifty years on genocide, Circassian activists still recall the horrors their people faced at the hands of thee Russian invaders who killed around 1.5 million Circassians and expelled a similar number from their inherited land. “They tried to forget us, as if we never even lived there,” Circassian architect Abdul...(more)

SOCHI – One hundred and fifty years on genocide, Circassian activists still recall the horrors their people faced at the hands of thee Russian invaders who killed around 1.5 million Circassians and expelled a similar number from their inherited land.

“They tried to forget us, as if we never even lived there,” Circassian architect Abdullah Makhmudovic Berisov told CNN on Tuesday, February 18.

The pain expressed by Berisov, 67, was shared by thousands of Circassians who witnessed the opening ceremony of 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the city deemed once before as their capital.

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When the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games unfolded last February 7, Circassian could not see a single reference to their people, who lived in Circassia for millennia, according to Frankie Martin, a research fellow at American University's School of International Service in Washington.

In the 19th century, Russia coveted their land and brutally defeated them, decimating entire tribes.

Russia killed around 1.5 million Circassians and expelled a similar number.

“It was our land,” Circassian artist Sheomir Guchepshoko, 32, said.

“But during the opening of the Olympic Games, they said it was a Greek land, and then after that it was Russian land. They didn't say anything about the Circassian part of Russian history. And it really hurt.”

Guchepshoko added that Sochi Olympics are a tragic reminder of what was lost during the Russian-Circassian war that ended in 1864.

Other activists asserted that the Olympic venue at Krasnaya Polyana was built on what they say is the mass burial site of the Circassians' final defeat.

In these Olympic Games, “athletes are skiing on the bones of our ancestors,” one activist

“It would be like Germany deciding to build an Olympic Park on Auschwitz.”

Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.

The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Sochi city, home to 20,000 Muslim residents, has no single mosque as Muslim leaders have been pushing for a new place to worship since 1996.

Can’t Forget

Years after their genocide, Circassians are demanding the inclusion of their story of crushing defeat, widespread killing, and mass deportation to the Middle East and elsewhere in the Russian history.

“When I was a child, it was if I was a guest in my own country. But slowly, I found some information about our history, and now I understand. I am a Circassian,” Guchepshoko said.

“I started to think about it. It's like there was a hole in my heart, and now I want it to be filled.”

Learning Circassian history was prohibited in school, he says.

Despite setbacks, Circassian activists point out that there were efforts to preserve parts of their culture when the area was part of the Soviet Union.

To this day, there is an autonomous region not far from Sochi reserved for the Adyghe, a subset of the Circassian people.

In Maykop, the Circassian language is spoken on the street and shares a place next to Russian on historic landmarks.

Last year, workers constructed a monument to the Circassian people in a scruffy park next to a mosque that was built in the 1990s.

In the mean time, their efforts to be recognized by the Russia authorities have failed after the Olympic organizers refused to move the remains of those lost in the battle at Krasnaya Polyana to a separate cemetery.

They also rejected the creation of a special museum to house precious artifacts that would be recovered during that resettlement.

Adam Bogus, leader of a Circassian council in Maykop, said they have also asked for a portion of the cultural program in the Olympic opening ceremony to acknowledge the Circassian chapter of Russian history.

“We believed the Olympic tradition would be observed here ... until the very last minute,” he said.

“And that too did not happen.”

Facing danger of being forgotten, the artist has an exhibit in Maykop, the capital of the Adyghe region, about 150 miles north of Sochi, which paints a tale of a 101-year-long war and the tragic exodus

“I want to show the truth,” he said.

“Because some young people, people who live here, they don't know about their own history.”

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here

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