Alikonovskoe gorge, Honey Falls

Alikonovskoe gorge – shared between the republics of Stavropol-Krai and Karachay-Cherkessia.
A major attraction in the gorge is Honey Falls (Karachay-Cherkessia).
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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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Gumbashi pass, Western Caucasus mountains (Karachay-Cherkessia)

Uzunkol valleys, Western Caucasus mountains, Karachay-Cherkessia

Uzunkol valleys – situated in Western Caucasus mountains, is formed by the confluence of Myrdy river (6km ) and Kichkinekol river (4km ). 

Uzunkol is located in Karachaevsky district of Karachay-Cherkessia, not far from Elbrus mountain which is the highest peak in Europe.

Dombay, Karachay-Cherkessia

Murudzhu lake, Karachay–Cherkessia (Western Caucasus mountains)

Murudzhu lake is a deep blue lake, situated in Karachayevsk district of Karachay–Cherkessia.

The lake is found at altitude of 2.800 meters in Teberdinsky Nature Reserve of the Great Caucasus mountains, not far from Dombay resort.

Adyghe people traditional costume (Circassian men, women)

adyghe traditional costume men Kabardino-Balkaria Karachay-Cherkessia

Adyghe people (Circassians) are people of the historical  Circassia. In the XXth century, the Soviet authorities divided the historic region into different republics  – Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia. The Soviet authorities also divided the unitary Circassian ethnicity into different categories: Kabardins (Kabardino-Balkaria), Cherkess (Karachay-Cherkessia), Adyghe (Adygea republic).

A significant part of the Adyghe population was killed during the Russian-Circassian war, and other Circassians were displaced to the Middle-East following forced migration.

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Below is a rare first-hand outlook on the Circassians, as seen by a British traveler in the 1830’s (before the expulsion of Circassians from the Caucasus).

Click on link Tales of travellers; A view of the world (published in 1838)

Extract

“The Circassians, who dwell in the mountain valleys, are a martial people, trained from infancy in the midst of arms and early habituated to systematic plunder, their exploits in which confer renown. The sole pursuit of the Circassians is predatory war against their neighbors: hence their courage, though individually unquenchable, and formidable in masses, is undisciplined. 

The warlike qualities are kept alive, moreover, by the incidents attending the political division of Circassians into distinct tribes, jealous of, and often at variance with, each other, which produces feuds, inroads, reprisals, all of which are esteemed honorable. Slaves are one of the principal objects of their barter-trade with the Turks. […]

The nation is now considered to consist of 10 principal states or tribes, compromising a population of about 2 millions. These tribes, though not bound by any federal policy, but existing in a state of mutual repulsion, sacrifice all feuds and jealousies, and unite as in one common cause, when the independence of their country is threatened from without.”

The “warlike quality” and the deadly feuds between tribes were a common feature of Caucasus population, being also found among Chechens, Ingush, Georgians etc.

Chechens and Ingush had their unique solid Nakh towers, which were built specifically  as a refuge not only from invaders, but also from their fellow tribesmen during their deadly feuds.

wedding-costumes circassia

Rural slavery was common among Circassians. After the Russian expulsion, Circassian women were sold as sex slaves by Circassian men to the Ottoman empire, when the term of “Circassian beauties” was born.

Read more on the subject in a rare 1856 article Horrible Traffic in Circassian Women—Infanticide in Turkey,” New York Daily Times, August 6, 1856

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Costumes were made of fabrics woolen and animal skin. More sophisticated fabrics appeared after year 1900.