Now, no one really expects the Russians to promote the Sochi Games as "The Sesquicentennial of Circassian Ethnic Cleansing." But I also will be surprised if today's opening ceremonies even show any hint of those who were pushed out 150 years ago. Some in the Circassian diaspora have even claimed that the Olympic site is built over the site of a mass grave from the Russo-Circassian War, but I do not know if that is the case. What you're unlikely to see at the opening is a lot of Circassians.
|P.N. Grunitzky, The Mountaineers Leave the Aul*|
There is still an Adyghia Republic within the Russian Federation, but it does not include Sochi. There are still many Circassians in Russia, but not on the Black Sea Coast where Sochi stands. The size of the diaspora is hard to estimate, due to intermarriage and the fact that the Arabic and Turkish words Tcherkess, variously spelled, is sometimes used to refer to Chechens and other Caucasians speaking unrelated languages.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest population is in Turkey, the nearest part of the Ottoman realm to Old Circassia; in the Arab Levant, Jordan has the biggest population by far, but there are significant populations in Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and to a lesser extent Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and even Egypt. One still meets the occasional red-haired and blue-eyed Turk or Arab who is stereotypically Circassian, but most aren't that distinguishable from their neighbors. But they remember their past.
This CBC article looks at the way indigenous culture was handled t the 2010 Vancouver games and quotes:
Canadian scholar John Colarusso argues that Russia should take a similar approach to the Vancouver Olympics in its opening ceremony – prominently embracing and showcasing indigenous culture.
The 2010 Vancouver Games marked the first time in the Olympics history that indigenous people were recognized as official partners. Four First Nations bands also played prominent roles in the opening ceremony.Well, yes, but British Columbia's history of treatment of its indigenous people, whom it now calls First Nations, is very different from that of Russia in the Caucasus, or for that matter a certain neighbor of Canada's to the south. (Hint: where did Sitting Bull go after the Custer battle? Canada, of course, which took him in.). It would be wonderful if Sochi emulated Vancouver. And if Vladimir Putin rode at the head of the opening parade on a unicorn. I don't expect we'll see either.
Next fantasy? We can, however, remember that Sochi was built on land which until just 150 years ago (again let me emphasize the 150th anniversary is THIS YEAR, which particularly offends Circassians).
Old Circassia around 1740: (this and all other pictures in this post are from Wikimedia Commons.)