Fatima Tlisova Speaks To The Parliament Of Finland
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FINROSFORUM 2009 | Helsinki 25-26 May 2009
The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum held its third annual conference,FINROSFORUM 2009, in Helsinki on 25-26 May 2009. The event organizers include their partner organizations in both Finland and Russia, including the Human Rights Group of the Finnish Parliament. The conference had received major backing from the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The main themes of the two-day conference were the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities as well as the question of political prisoners in today’s Russia. The conference venue had taken place in the Parliament House in the city centre of Helsinki. The languages used were Russian and English with simultaneous interpretation.
is the presentation that the Circassian Journalist, Fatima Tlisova had
presented when she spoke on Circassians in Helsinki, Finland and particularly
to the Parliament of Finland about history, culture and current situation in
regard to Circassia, which is considered the first time ever, that anyone had
spoken on Circassians in Helsinki:
Fi maxywo fywo!
I would like to express my gratitude to the
Finrosforum, to the members of the Parliament of Finland and EU for inviting me
and especially for the opportunity to talk about the Circassians, for whom this
time of the year is very special.
On May 21st Circassians all over the world commemorated the 145th Anniversary of the
Circassian Genocide and paid tribute to the victims and survivors. The Picture
you see on the screen has been taken in New York five days ago before the building
of Russian Consulate. It is the first time in contemporary History that
Circassians called for Freedom in their collective statements, using the slogan
“Free Circassia Now” that I have chosen to be the Topic for my presentation
Who are the Circassians,
known also as Adyghes?
I would like to
read briefly an extract from the research called “The forgotten Genocide”
written by American scholar Steven Shenfield in combination with the quotes
from the article on Circassians written by Canadian professor John
“Few surviving ethnic groups are more ancient
than the Circassians.
You will find no
place called ‘Circassia’ on any contemporary map. However
their ancestors lived in roughly the same area of the Northwestern Caucasus
since 1500 BC. Circassia in the middle of the eighteenth
century, prior to tsarist Imperial conquest, occupied an area of 55,663 square
kilometres – rather greater than the area of Denmark – and possessed an
indigenous population in excess of two million.
During much of
their history, Circassians existed independently. The stratified and militaristic
society of the Circassians prevented them from being conquered for thousands of
years. They enjoyed close cultural and trading ties
with the ancient Greeks, especially with the Athenians, and even participated
in the Olympic Games.
centuries of military alliance Russia broke the agreement and attacked
Circassia. The Circassians fought against Russian conquest for over a century,
from 1763 to 1864 – longer than any other people of the Caucasus. Their final
defeat in the 1860s led to massacre and forced deportation, mainly across the
Black Sea to Turkey.
Genocide and Exile
Circassians, then, perished from death in battle, by massacre, drowning,
hunger, exposure and disease? Prior to the Russian conquest, the Circassians
(including the Abkhaz) numbered about two million. By 1864, the north-western
Caucasus had been emptied of its indigenous population almost in entirety.
About 120-150,000 Circassians were resettled in places elsewhere in the Empire
set aside by the Russian government. About 500,000 were deported to Turkey; in
addition, thirty thousand families - perhaps 200,000 people - had emigrated
voluntarily in 1858, prior to the deportations. That still leaves well over
one-half of the original population unaccounted for, to which must be added
those who-died at sea or on arrival. The number who died in the Circassian
catastrophe of the 1860s could hardly, therefore, have been fewer than one
million, and may well have been closer to one-and-a-half million.
The scholar asks:
Did the Russian
conquest and deportation of the Circassians constitute the deliberate genocide
of a people, or was it ‘only’ a case of ethnic cleansing carried out with
brutal disregard to human suffering? Obviously the Circassian tragedy set a
precedent for the Armenian genocide, implying that what happened was at least
comparable to genocide”
Circassians in exile
that befell the Circassians in the 1860s put their survival as a people at risk
both inside the Russian empire (and later the Soviet Union and its successor
states) and in exile.
However, among the
great majority of Circassians living in exile, the Circassian identity was
better able to hold its own against narrower identities. The challenge it faced
was of a different kind - that of gradual assimilation into the host societies
of Turkey and the Middle East. Over time the exiled ‘Circassians’ tended to
become ‘Turks (or Jordanians, etc.) of Circassian descent’. Nevertheless, even
in Turkey the younger generation still speaks Circassian. In Jordan,
Palestine-Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries that formed part of the
Ottoman empire, compact communities of Circassians still exist. In Jordan,
Circassians exercise important functions as military officers and businessmen.
Two Circassian villages remain in the Balkans, one in Kosovo and one in
In the Homeland
The effects of the
Soviet period on the ethnic identity of the Circassians, as on that of other indigenous
peoples, were complex and shifting. Certain aspects of the
indigenization policy did serve further to weaken and fragment Circassian
identity. In 1927 what had previously been a single Circassian literary
language was split into two separate literary languages: Kabard-Cherkess and
Adygei. Also Circassian groups were, both in the 1920s
and later, arbitrarily put together with the Karachai and Balkar, who speak a
Turkic language, to form mixed ethnic territories
The later Soviet
period witnessed a return to the policy of Russification.
rights in the North-western Caucasus
It is very common observation that the
human rights conditions in the North-western Caucasus are more the less stable
in comparison with the Eastern Caucasus. However what I am going to show on the
next two slides are the evidence that the Human rights policies of the Russian
state are obviously not less violent on the territories that are not announced
as the zone of war or co-called counter-terror operations. I have to alert the
audience that the next two slides are extremely difficult to watch.
As the Winter
Olympics in Sochi approaches, the Circassians remind the world that Circassian
blood spilled in Sochi was a systematic attempt to eradicate the whole Nation.
An international celebration of the Olympic Games on this holy ground will be
viewed as an atrocity by the millions of Circassians around the world and the
many thousands of scholars that are currently working on shedding light on this
hidden secret of human tragedy.
On the Memorial Day, the Circassian
Diaspora in the United States made a public statement. I would like to read for
you briefly an excerpt from the statement, as a response to the question
concerning the future of Circassians:
Our focus for the observance will be to Free Circassia Now, to recognize
the Circassian Genocide and to stop the Sochi Olympic Games.
It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Circassian men, women and
children were killed, and more than one million others were expelled from
It is long past time to formally recognize the Circassian Genocide. If
we ignore history, then we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur remind us that we must do more to prevent
this from ever happening again.
On this anniversary, we must remember the victims and survivors of the
Circassian Genocide. The persecution from the past continues to plague the
current Circassian population under the control and enforcement by the Russian
Federation to this very day. We must provide the leadership to ensure that
this human tragedy is not repeated.
Seven generations of men in my family died fighting for
the Freedom of their Homeland. Seven generations of women in my family became
widows at the age of 30, including myself.
This pain lives in my heart. The blood of the
generations of Freedom fighters runs in my veins as well as in the hearts and
veins of millions of Circassians around the globe. We deserve our Freedom, and
The Independence is not something never experienced
for the Circassians. What you see on this slide is the Declaration of
Independence of Circassia, addressed to the courts of Europe in 1837. Europe
ignored the brutality of Russia against the Circassian people struggling for
survival, and that is the story of how the tolerance supported genocide.
Today the Nations of Europe can fix the mistakes of
their ancestors. We, Circassians, around the World call for your attention, and
support on our long way to our beloved Homeland. Free Circassia is the only
future for our Nation, this is the goal that we, 6 millions of the Circassians,
are going to achieve for the holy memory of our ancestors and for the safety of
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