Speech of Former President of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, Valery Kukov on the 130th Commemoration of the End of the Russo-Caucasian War / 1994
We have met on this day of the month of May, to revive national memory and recall the events of the past and the judgment of history. This sad occasion – the 130th anniversary of the end of the prolonged Caucasian war and by which the Circassian presence became vulnerable, it makes us remember once again the black pages in the history of our people and even all mankind in order to understand the causes of the tragedy that befell the nation and how we can prevent its recurrence in the future, and in this way, historical errors will be corrected. But history doesn’t teach, except who wants to learn, and we must go back to the past again and again because we believe that many of today’s phenomena have a clear relationship to what happened in the distant past.
Circassian princes, leaders and politicians had an important role in determining the fate of the Russian state in the most difficult stages of history. They had been an honest support for the reformist Tsars — Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, and even replaced them in the leadership of the mighty Russian state at times, as they contributed to the establishment of the Russian army and in the fight against various external enemies of Russia.
We say all this to remember that the Circassians were not for the Russians at the time an unknown stranger people, a notorious indigenous population or thugs as we were depicted by some historians, but our relations remained until a certain time, civilized as they say. It was in the interests of the Circassians to live in peace and harmony with their great neighbor, where Russia also benefited greatly from this. But the circumstances have changed and Tsarist Russia became more and more aware that it had no opportunity to compete with the major powers present at the time without having fixed positions in the south and reaching warm seas. Consequently, the ruling elite of Russia has come to the conclusion that, to achieve its long-term plan, a complete takeover of the Caucasus region is required.
The military campaign launched by Peter the Great against the Persians clearly showed that controlling the Caucasus would not be easy. First, it was necessary to seize the center of the Caucasus, where Kabarda was occupying the central part of the the Caucasus region and controlled the roads linking eastern and western Caucasus and the shortest path leading from the North Caucasus to the regions beyond the Caucasus. Under these circumstances, and after the Russo-Turkish War of 1735-1739, Kabarda was recognized as an independent entity by the international community, which ran counter to the imperial aspirations of both Turkey and Russia. In spite of the fierce resistance and heroism that the peoples of the Caucasus have demonstrated in the fight against colonialism, their outcome was inevitable. The Tsarist generals pursued the scorched earth tactics, and had no mercy on the elderly, women, and children.
In his memoirs, the Russian general Rayevsky wrote: “Our actions in the Caucasus are similar to what the Spanish invaders did during the conquest of America, but I do not see here the exploits of the heroism nor the successes of the conquests of Bizarro and Cortés. May the great Almighty does not leave the Caucasus invasion a bloody mark in Russian history similarly to what the impression of those conquests have imposed on the Spanish history”.
Unfortunately, those who used to determine the policies in Russia at that time are not General Rayevsky and not Pushkin or Lermontov, but rather the persons whose goal was not only to invade the Caucasus by all legal or illegal means, but also to cleanse a large part of this territory from its inhabitants. While this is what actually happened and the major outcome was tragic for the Circassians. History has never witnessed humanitarian wars, but the Caucasus War still holds a special place in terms of the size of losses, duration and cruelty. The most painful thing is that the Tsarian leadership was not satisfied with invading the Caucasus, but decided to implement a more criminal plan to expel hundreds of thousands of people — where the vast majority of them were Circassians — from their original homeland. This criminal act put the most numerous Circassian people among the peoples of the Caucasus at those times on the verge of mass destruction.
From the political and legal standpoint, the actions committed by the Tsarist rule against the Circassian people can only be described as genocide, which is classified in the international legal system as one of the most serious crimes against peace and humanity. In our country, as well as in the Circassian diaspora, many people expected Russia to officially recognize this dark page of the history of its relations with the peoples of the North Caucasus. Today, President Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin addressed in the name of democratic Russia, the peoples of the Caucasus on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the end of the Caucasus War, in which the President expressed his condolences and sympathy to all peoples of the Caucasus and their fellow citizens living around the world. We need to achieve understanding and solve the problem of returning our citizens at the international level by working at the federal level and relevant international organizations. We believe that an integral part of this problem is related to the issue of dual nationality. Circassians’ dispersion often served the interests of their opponents and made it easier for them to achieve their goals. So, if we want to get rid of the terrible consequences of genocide once and for all in order to truly revitalize the nation and its culture, we must be united. May 21 is not only the day of national mourning for the innocent victims of the bloody war, but it is an occasion that brings us back to the events of the past to say that we have not forgotten anyone or anything. Life continues and has a worthy and admirable place for the Circassian nation as well.
Translated and published by “Jordan Association of Caucasus Circassian Friends”
28 May 2020