Paul Goble, Windows on Eurasia
Baku, February 17 – Circassians are taking advantage of a unique Internet project to pose questions to the four men running for president of the Russian Federation. And while it is unclear whether they will get any answers, their questions say a great deal about what many in that nation are thinking.
On February 5th, the Russian human rights organization GOLOS launched a website, www.8voprosov.ru, and invited people to send in their questions which later this month, the group will tabulate, select the eight most frequently posed, and send them to the candidates for answers.
As of this morning, 700 people – 60 more than 24 hours ago -- had sent in questions on a wide variety of issues ranging from national defense to same-sex marriage. But perhaps the most intriguing were those sent in by members of the Circassian community concerning how the future president would deal with them.
A major reason for this is that leading Circassian websites, including www.elot.ru, www.newcircassia.ru, and www.natpress.ru, have featured articles about this effort and encouraged their visitors to take part, both by posing questions and casting their votes for the ones they most want asked.
Among the questions the Circassians have posted on the “Eight Questions” site are:
• “Would you support at least as a theoretical possibility the unification of the Adygs (Cherkess), Adygeis, Shapsugs and Cherkess of the Karachai-Cherkess Republic into a single region within the framework of V.V. Putin’s initiative for the ‘amalgamation’ of existing regions?” (http://www.8voprosov.ru/node/20)
• “Why aren’t the Circassians, who have the largest diaspora among the peoples of Russia not included in the program for the return of compatriots living abroad?” (http://www.8voprosov.ru/node/523)
• “The 2014 Olympiad will take place on land where the genocide of the Circassians took places as they were being destroyed and exiled from their homeland. Do you intend to support Russia’s recognition of the genocide of the Circassians?” (http://www.8voprosov.ru/node/563)
Other questions from Circassians were more general: does the candidate support the slogan “Russia for the Russians”? Will he oppose the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church to impose religious instruction in the schools? And will he include more non-Russians in the top jobs of the country so as to better reflect its real ethnic composition?
Those who pose these questions may not be a representative sample of all the members of the Circassian community, but they are hardly atypical either. And by bringing these questions to the attention of Russian leaders in this way, ever more Circassians are likely to ask them even if Russian officials do not provide any answers.