Friday, 4 April 2008

Circassians Hope to Use Development Corporation to Expand Ties

Window on Eurasia, by Paul Goble

Baku, April 3 – Three Circassian republics in the North Caucasus – Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and Adygeia – hope to use a regional development corporation proposed by Russia’s Southern Federal District not only to build physical infrastructure but also to expand social and political ties among themselves. On Monday, the Moscow newspaper Kommersant described the corporate scheme the Russian authorities back and its limited and very specific concrete purposes in a lengthy article entitled “North Caucasus Republics Unite in a Corporation” (

But the next day, a Circassian news portal, in reproducing the story, gave it a very different title -- “KBR, KChR and Adygeia Unite in a Corporation” – one that underscored what the leaders of these three ethnically related republics see as its broader cultural and political meaning (

The idea of creating a Corporation for the Development of the South of Russia was put forward last Friday by Dmitry Pumlyanskiy, an official of the coordinating council of industrialists and entrepreneurs of the Southern Federal District, “Kommersant” reported.

He said that such a new open stock company could initiate “transportation and energy products which would be financed from the investment fund,” would involve six or seven regions of the Southern Federal district, and would focus its attention first on improving highway transportation.

Pumlyanskiy indicated that the original members of this corporation would be the governments of Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Adygeia and Stavropol kray. Except for Stavropol and North Ossetia, of course, all of these republics are populated primarily by Circassians.

And the leaders of these three Circassian republics were especially enthusiastic about this project, the Moscow paper said, clearly viewing it as another means to reestablish the ties Stalin and other Soviet leaders sought to destroy in order to prevent this national group from being able to defend its culture and advance its political aims.

Over the past decade, the leaders of these three republics have already taken many steps in this direction, including organizing the exchange of cultural groups and students and, what is particularly important, having each of their main newspapers issue a special issue about one of the other Circassian republics at least once a month.

With regard to the current project, Adygei Economic Development Minister Aslan Matyzhev was especially enthusiastic. He said his republic simply had to “participate in the corporation. And Kabardino-Balkaria President Arsen Kanokov called the corporation “a completely reasonable” idea that he said he fully supports.

While his republic already works with private investors, Kanokov continued, “if a new structure which really allows for better integration of our projects appears,” then he and his republic “will work with it.” Indeed, the only people who have not signaled that they approve of it are Moscow bureaucrats, some of whom may see its political subtext.

And consequently, it is far from clear whether this corporation will ever be formed or have the impact that these Circassian communities hope for. But even as they wait to see, one of them is working to reach out to the five to seven million Circassians who live in the Turkey, Jordan and other parts of the Middle East.That is Karachay-Cherkessia, whose government this week announced plans to build an international airport to connect the republic with the outside world and allow its citizens to travel without as now having to travel to the airport at Mineral’nye Vody some distance away (

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