The heads of three Circassian political organizations have sent a formal protest
to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in connection with disparaging
insinuations by the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal
District, Vladimir Ustinov.
The three leaders -- Aramby
Khapay, who heads the Adygeya branch of Adyghe Khase (Circassian
Council); Azmet Skhalyakho, a Russian State Duma deputy who
simultaneously heads the Krasnodar Krai branch of Adyghe Khase; and
Madzhid Chachukh, chairman of the Shapsug Public Parliament -- refer to
media reports of Ustinov's December 22 address to senators from
southern Russia. Specifically, they claim "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted
him as criticizing unnamed "nationalist" activists who allegedly
compound the threat posed to the North Caucasus by Islamic terrorism by
calling for the creation of a pan-Circassian republic.
summary of Ustinov's address published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on
December 23 makes no mention of the proposal, unveiled at a congress of
Circassian youth movements in Karachayevo-Cherkessia in November 2008,
to redraw existing borders between the various North Caucasus republics
to create a Pan-Circassian republic.
In October 2008, Khapay was quoted as saying
he sees "no alternative" to creating such a republic. But in their
protest to Medvedev, the three leaders stressed that their respective
organizations have always acted in accordance with the laws and
Constitution of the Russian Federation, and have never undertaken any
action that would pose a threat to Russia's territorial integrity. They
also denied ever having made any claims on the territory of other
The three leaders went on to condemn
Ustinov's alleged attempt to draw a link between Circassian NGOs and
the "terrorist underground" as "malicious slander," "a blatant
provocation," and clear evidence of Ustinov's "total incompetence" with
regard to the North Caucasus.
Republic of Adygeya President
Aslan Tkhakushinov met on December 29 with Khapay and other leading
members of the republican branch of Adyghe Khase, but it is not clear
from the published report
of that meeting whether Ustinov's alleged remarks were discussed. Participants did discuss the planned education reform
that Adyghe Khase fears will only accelerate the already dwindling rate
of fluency in the national language. They agreed that amendments to the
republican Law on Education that would reinstate the teaching of the
native language in kindergartens will be submitted to parliament.
Russian expert Sergei Markedonov too took issue with some of Ustinov's December 22 remarks. He noted that Ustinov ranked the leaders
of the North Caucasus republics on the basis of their popularity but
did not cite any specific opinion poll. Ustinov reportedly named
Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov as the most popular leader
(over 70 percent approval), followed by Chechen Republic head Ramzan
Kadyrov (55 percent) and Kabardino-Balkaria President Arsen Kanokov (38
percent). Ustinov identified as the least popular
Daghestan's Mukhu Aliyev (22 percent) and North Ossetian President Taymuraz Mamsurov (14 percent).