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GeorgiaTimes: Saakashvili Playing With Circassian Fire

posted by eagle on February, 2011 as CIRCASSIA ADIGA

Saakashvili playing with Circassian fire

2011-02-16 16:45

Militating against 2014 Sochi Olympics Mikheil Saakashvili is ready to use all his tricks. For this purpose he is actively bringing up the "Circassian issue". Mishiko seems to be unaware what kind of fire he is playing with though he has a loyal advisor - president of the United States. As a Georgian opposition asserts, at the last meeting between Georgian president and US leader Barack Obama the latter told him directly to leave Circassians alone with their past and their future.

All mass media reporting on Barack Obama's warning for Saakashvili refer to Lasha Amirejibi from All-People's Council. The oppositionist himself does not reveal his sources. However, there is no smoke without fire and most probably official Tbilisi will have to slow down in the direction of North Caucasus.

Certainly, all this is poorly timed. Olympics are scheduled for 2014, and there is a lot of time to spoil the joyful event. Tackling bygone issues Tbilisi miscalculated the conjuncture: the Circassian issue is no more topical. Despite that, Georgians managed to fish out the topic itself from Cold War archives and find participants. This is Jamestown Foundation that volunteered to help official Tbilisi.

It's not incidental that Jamestown Foundation (USA) started organizing a number of conferences on the Circassian issue in Tbilisi. By that time the study of "genocide of Circassians" had been on for several decades, and US diplomats as well as special services had acquired good links with leaders of Circassian diasporas abroad.

One of the "NGOs" monitoring the Circassian issue is the above mentioned Jamestown Foundation. Friendship between this small non-governmental organization and Georgian leaders is not coincidental.  In 1980s the foundation did a lot of research work on the Circassian topic and has a lot to discuss with Georgians. Particularly after the States' cool-off on the issue following  the collapse of the USSR. Thus, scholars in charge of Caucasus just didn't know how to apply their extensive dossier.

Circassian organizations in Turkey, the United States, Jordan and Syria were communicating actively with US special services in 1970s. Descendants of North Caucasian immigrants traditionally hold prominent positions in state administrations of Middle East, particularly in military circles. With their help the US intelligence started monitoring public opinion in North Caucasus nearly 40 years ago.  Jordan used to have an ad-hoc "Russian department" inside local special service tasked to collect information from Caucasian regions. Americans planned no undermining activities in Caucasus at that time, they simply wanted to know about the life of local population.  This region had always been perceived as a "weak link" in the Soviet Union's architecture.

Foreign special services have never considered the Circassian issue as a special case. For the West and Middle East it has always been just a component of the Caucasian vector. After dissolution of the USSR activities stopped since it was no more necessary to fight Communism and movements of Caucasian emigrants with secession potential were no more interesting. Besides, the borders were opened and information on the situation in Russia's Caucasian republics became publicly available without the help of "info-guerillas" like before.

Then, immediately after the collapse of the Union, activity of a number of organizations like Jamestown Foundation became useless though previously serious money had been allocated to support a staff of serious scholars and issue monthly reports and bulletins.

Voluminous works of the Foundation's scholars on the Circassian issue have been shelved for two decades. Only now, after this long interval, the product manufactured by Jamestown Foundation scholars, has found a new customer - Georgian leaders.

After a visit to the Olympics in Canada last year, Vera Kobalia was not the only trophy Georgian president brought home. He came back as a firm opponent of Sochi Olympics. As we know, this luxurious feast will take place right under his nose, in Russia he so utterly hates and in immediate proximity to Abkhaz border. Realizing that, the president quickly summoned assistants ordering them to "do something" in order to prevent Sochi Olympics.

His assistants "did something" very fast. In Washington they found an entire department of Jamestown Foundation storing tons of paper archives on "genocide of Circassians" and having well-established relationships with the Circassian diaspora in the States. The sides immediately found a common language reviving the ancient "Circassian issue".

Scholars and a dozen of Circassian activists from the USA enjoyed staying in Tbilisi. They immediately held two conferences and there is another one on the schedule - in Batumi this time.

Yet, it's wrong to exaggerate political value of this effort. Times have changed. Firstly, Circassian diasporas are beginning to change their attitude to Russia. The latest move to reconciliation was Russia's adoption of a new law on compatriots that acknowledges rights of Circassians and guarantees repatriation.  This changed habitual operation of organizations representing diasporas. Turkey's derneks (societies, author) that represent Adyg and Abkhaz diaspora withdrew from the association with other North Caucasian communities. Now they pack their suitcases to come back home. Jordan has faced a split inside Chechen and Circassian diasporas. There is nobody in Amman or Ankara to pursue the Circassian issue.

What will Georgian strategists do in this pessimistic situation? Probably, they'd better get back to history textbooks to refresh at least contemporary history. Because there is another nuance why official Tbilisi will fail to take the lead on Circassian issue. The point is that Adygs, divided into various nations in Russia and united into one organic whole in emigration, consider Abkhazia as a center of unity. Firstly, Abkhazians are part of the Adyg group of nations, i.e. they are Circassians in a general sense. Secondly, modern Abkhazia is the only successful state project accomplished by Circassians and thirdly thousands of North Caucasian and Middle Eastern Circassians fought for Abkhazia's liberation from Georgia. Due to all this, Georgia is an enemy to the Circassian community, not a friend. It has no weight.

That is why Georgia is doomed to failure on this Circassian project. As for Misha Saakashvili, he'd better listen to his senior colleague Barack Obama and limit the range of his achievements with the southern slope of the Main Caucasian Ridge.

Anton Krivenuk

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