21st May 2021, is the 157th anniversary of the Circassian Genocide and Exile.

Hatko Schamis
(Spokesperson for the Circassian Movement)

We Circassians (Adyghe) are the native people of Circassia. Our national traditions, language, culture and way of life have been shaped in this land over thousands of years. Throughout the history we have had to fight many aggressors to defend our national values, freedom and independence and we have paid the price for our resolve dearly.

But the expansionist and imperialist policies of the tsarist Russia from the second half of the 18th Century onwards resulted in our national tragedy, the consequences of which we are still suffering from.

Today is the anniversary of our national liberation war in 1864 against Tsarist Russia that lasted longer than a century and ended in our defeat. As a result, our Circassian homeland was invaded, all villages and settlements were destroyed, our fields and crops were burned, and our people, including women, children and the elderly were exiled. All aspects of Circassian existence were deliberately destroyed.

Even Adolph Berge, the official historian of the Russian-Circassian War, reported that hundreds of thousands of Circassians died in the war and more than 90% of the survivors were exiled, and thousands would die on their way to the Ottoman lands due to cold weather, famine and disease. Eighty thousand Circassians who managed to stay in their homeland made up even less than 10% of the original population remaining from Circassia.

Based on the reports of those who witnessed these events themselves, it can be concluded that the war that the tsarist Russia waged in Circassia against the native Circassian population in the 19th century cannot be considered as an ordinary military operation.

Russia’s aim was not only to acquire land but to forcibly remove or destroy Circassians and other tribes, who had taken part in the struggle for the freedom and independence of Circassia, from their homes.

In the last one hundred and fifty seven years that have passed since the end of Russian-Circassian War, the political system in Russia has changed multiple times but the attitude towards Circassians has remained intact:

The assimilationist policies towards the Circassians who still reside in their historical homeland continue unabated while the exiled Circassians' descendants are prevented from returning to their homeland.

Today in the Russian Federation there are around 750.000 Circassians (Kabardians, Cherkess, Adyghe and Shapsough) living in an area that constitutes even less than 20% of their historical lands. Furthermore these Circassian communities are scattered through six different federal units like Kabardino-Balkaria, Karacay-Cerkessia and Adyge Republics; Krasnodar and Stavropol Krays as well as 'Mezdegu' of North Ossetia. Despite claiming to adhere to democratic principles, the Russian Federation is still continuing with the tsarist Russia's policies against Circassians.

Moreover, more than six million Circassians still live in diaspora in over fifty countries facing the loss of their language and culture.

We have appealed to the Russian State Duma many times for official recognition of the Circassian Genocide, but the Russian authorities, unable to overcome their ethnic and religious prejudices, refused to take legal and moral responsibility for the brutality of the Russian state in the past.

The Russian Federation should acknowledge as a fact that the tsarist Russia subjected Circassian people to a genocide and forcibly removed them from their homeland. The Russian Federation should realize that having to live in scattered communities within various units of the Federation and in many other countries is the greatest existential threat to Circassians. And this threat is the biggest obstacle to peace and tranquility in our region.

With the statement of recognition, Russian Federation would have taken a major step in acknowledging a great historic injustice and to bring our people together in our historical homeland Circassia where we can live without fear of the future. This could help us build a bridge of peace between the Russian and Circassian communities.

Thus, we demand that:

  • The Circassian Genocide and Exile should be recognized and May 21st be officially designated as “Circassian Genocide and Exile Day” worldwide.
  • The Russian Federation should set up a legal framework by which Circassians can live in their motherland as a united and sovereign nation.
  • Assimilationist policies in our historical homeland must come to an end and support must be given to the survival of our linguistic, culture and religious identity.
  • Circassians living in the diaspora should be given the status of "Exile Nation", as was the case with UNPO's decisions in 1997 and Georgia in 2011; It should take measures to facilitate and encourage the return of those who want to return to their homeland, support them financially and morally and prepare the legal infrastructure of "Return to Homeland".
  • Circassians must be granted privileges to obtain citizenship easily, to own property and find employment in their historic homeland, regardless of precondition of living in Russian Federation.
  • Necessary relations must be established with relevant states in order for the Circassians living in diaspora, so that they can continue living their identity, language and culture.
  • Necessary steps must be taken to ensure safety and security of the Circassians living in conflict zones, such as in Syria.
  • Pressure targeting the locals in our motherland must be stopped concerning Circassian National issues.
  • Circassian communities are one of the most democratic and peaceful peoples on Earth. As with the peoples of the world, they also wish to live in peace without having to worry about the future. They demand justice, rights and law. The Circassians wish to see the solidarity of the world. There must be a place for the Circassian people, their history and motherland Circassia in this great planet.
  • On the 157th anniversary of Circassian Genocide and Exile, we respectfully commemorate those who have fallen for the independence and liberty of our motherland, and look into the future with hope.

Circassia Movement