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Moscow puts restrictions on Circassian immigration to the North Caucasus

In other news – Government Proposes Opening Up North Caucasus for Returning Russians (click to read)

Circassian issue

source: UN refugee agency

The Russian Ministry of Education recently awarded, on a “competitive basis,” funding for the education of foreign students to some of the country’s universities. Circassian activists expressed indignation over the fact that no educational institutions in either Kabardino-Balkaria or Adygea received funding for foreign students. Both Circassian-dominated republics had used in 2011 adn 2012 educational exchanges to provide a safe haven for Syrian Circassians by placing them as students in regional universities.

An official in the Adygean government, Asker Shkhalakhov, told the Ekho Kavkaza news agency: “We contacted our [Adygean] university prior to the refusal of quotas and they told us: ‘They [Moscow] asked for documentation. They are giving us some quotas, although fewer than the 50 that we asked for.'”

In the end, however, the republic was refused any funding for foreign students, the official said (http://www.ekhokavkaza.com/content/article/25009619.html).

An estimated 1,000 Syrian Circassians have managed to flee to the North Caucasus since the start of civil war in Syria. The majority of the refugees arrived in their ancestral homeland in 2012, when the situation in Syria became dire. Circassian businessmen were behind the financial help of the refugees, since Russian state officials only made several vague declarative statements of support.

Occasionally, Russian officials rejected Circassian demands that Russia should help Syrian Circassians return to their homeland in the North Caucasus.

The Kabardino-Balkarian State University was excluded from state quotas  (financing) for foreign students in 2012 even though it had hosted Circassian students from Middle Eastern countries in all previous years, including during the Soviet period.

In 2012, the republican university accepted 120 foreign students, including 108 Circassians from Syria. The president of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov, reportedly paid for their first year. Kanokov and the Russian Ministry for Education reached a verbal agreement that eventually the state would finance the further education of these students in Nalchik. However, the ministry did not make good on its promise. Now, the Circassian activists claim the Russian authorities failed to deliver even the little they promised (http://www.ekhokavkaza.com/content/article/25009619.html).

Vladimir Putin in Jordan Circassian toyal guards funny awkwardVladimir Putin is greeted by Circassian Royal Guards in Jordan

While the Circassian activists have repeatedly been disappointed by the Russian reaction to their aspirations, they see Georgia as a neighboring exemplary state. The Circassian turn to Georgia is especially stunning given that many Circassians fought against Georgia in the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-1993. In 2011, the Georgian parliament officially recognized the Circassian “genocide” by the Russian Empire, and Circassian activists started seeing Georgia as an ally rather than a foe.

Ibgragim Yaganov, an active Circassian figure and a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhaz war, visited Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital)  on several occasions, each time giving a glowing assessment of the Georgian evolution into a modern state and a champion of the rights of all Caucasians. Following critical remarks from the Abkhaz authorities on his positive statements about Georgia, Yaganov visited Abkhazia in June 2013. He admitted that he “lost the feeling of being a victor” in the Georgian-Abkhaz war because, in comparison to Georgia, the de-facto Abkhaz state does not seem to have prospects for becoming an independent country.

“The prospects that I have not seen in Abkhazia, I see in Georgia. This Georgia is very different. I do not want to fight with such a Georgia. I want to have friendly relations with them. This is my right as a free individual” (http://hekupsa.com/mnenie/blogi/936-cherkesy-adygi-cherkesskij-vopros-genotsid-cherkesov-cherkesskie-lidery-velikaya-cherkesiya-cherkesskaya-diaspora-adyge-khabze-adygag-e).

The efforts of the Russian government to restrict Circassian immigration to the North Caucasus may result in the increased spread of separatist ideas among residents of the region. If Moscow does not allow the repatriation of ethnic Circassians from war-torn Syria, the Circassians may well start thinking that they should have a state of their own to decide such urgent matters for the benefit of their nation.

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