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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Efforts by Moscow and Ankara to Exploit Circassians Make Role of Circassians Elsewhere More Critical, Ozdemir Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 21 – Cem Ozdemir, a Circassian who serves as a Green deputy in the German parliament, says Moscow and Ankara have adopted such an instrumental approach to the Circassians, with each using that nation for its own purposes, that the role of Circassians in other countries in ensuring the survival of that people is more critical.

            The Russian and Turkish government, albeit for very different reasons, have sought to reduce the Circassians to an ethnographic curiosity, one where its members celebrate their traditional dances and marriage ceremonies but give up their language and collective identity (oezdemir.de/2020/10/13/interview-mein-vater-war-ein-tscherkesse; in Russian at justicefornorthcaucasus.info/?p=1251682700).

            Circassians in Germany – and Ozdemir says there are more than 10,000 – like Circassians in Israel, Jordan and other countries thus have a special responsibility to keep the Circassian language and Circassian identity defined in its own terms alive. They face problems to be sure – including money and teaching cadres – but they have a chance.

            Most attention to Circassians has focused on those still in the homeland, which is still within the current borders of the Russian Federation, and the largest community abroad, which is in Turkey. But in both cases, the powers that be have had a profoundly negative impact on the development of the nation.

            That does not mean that these communities should be ignored either by other Circassians or by those concerned with Circassian life, but it does mean that more attention should go to Circassians in other countries who despite their smaller size are able to keep language and identity alive without the deforming influence of the state.

            The Circassians of Germany founded their first community organization in 1968. Now there are Circassian clubs in Wuppertal, Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg, Hamburg and Stuttgart. “For many Circassians, democracy and diversity in Germany were the reason to publicly view themselves as a minority and to celebrate their culture.”

            As a result, Ozdemir continues, the growing number of Circassian organizations in Germany want to “convey their culture and language not only to their children but also to the people of their new home. They want to be seen there not only as having impressive folklore but also as an endangered ancient culture that can only survive if it is backed and its links to the homeland are maintained.”

             

Window on Eurasia — New Series