Friday, 29 May 2009

Hurriyet: Conference held about Abkhazia

ISTANBUL - Caucasus experts will gather in Istanbul on May 30-31 for the Independence of Abkhazia and Future Scenarios for Caucasus Conference. The two-day conference will take place at Istanbul’s Bilgi University.

The conference will host a number of internationally renowned experts, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Caucasus adviser, John Colarusso.

The conference is organized by Abkhazia’s Friends Initiative in cooperation with Bilgi University, and with contributions from the Beşiktaş Municipality. Experts from the United States, Canada, Russia, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Abkhazia will attend the conference.

New balances in the region formed after Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence in August 2008. Regional policies of Russia, the United States, the European Union and Turkey will be discussed and predictions about the future of the region will be made.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Window on Eurasia: FSB Seeks to Suppress Coverage of Circassian Issue

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 28 – Operating on the principle that if “there is no publication, there is no problem,” the FSB has sought to reduce to a minimum coverage of the Circassian issue both in Russia and abroad, efforts that reflect Moscow’s concerns about it and unfortunately point to more trouble ahead in the North Caucasus.

In an article posted on the portal today, Avraam Shmulyevich, an Israeli researcher who has written extensively on the Circassians, says that “the FSB and Russian bureaucrats responsible for nationality policy have taken the strategic decision to ‘cover up’ the Circassian problem” (

Last week, Circassians in the North Caucasus and around the world marked the 145th anniversary of their forcible expulsion from their homeland by tsarist authorities and the genocide that resulted. But in contrast to earlier years and despite this being a “round” date, this commemoration was “completely ignored by the federal mass media,” Shmulyevich notes.

But the powers that be in Moscow did not limit themselves to the Russian media: they sought to restrict coverage of this event by people living abroad, including Shmulyevich, who as the head of the Eastern Partnership Institute has written frequently about the Circassians and other ethnic groups in the Caucasus.

Shmulyevich reports that in advance of the May 21 anniversary he received several messages from Russia asking him “reduce [his] activity” as far as covering the Circassian question is concerned. But he continues, these recommendations were supplemented by direct media attacks on him.

One Russian Internet article said he was trying to “create a Circassian nation” and “destabilize the situation in the Caucasus, and others insinuated “in the good old traditions of Soviet anti-Semitism” that he as an Israeli Jew was working against Russia and Russian interests (

Another said that he was seeking “the separation of Chechnya and the entire North Caucasus” from Russia as a prelude to “the establishment of ‘Greater Circassia’,” independence for the Crimean Tatars and the Middle Volga, and the separation of Xinjiang from China (

And still a third set of Runet articles, all inspired by this FSB effort, accused him of being part of an international conspiracy seeking to promote a pan-Turkic “network” of states directed against Russia ( and

Such ill-informed commentaries, Shmulyevich says, would not be worth answering if it were not for the fact that they highlight the very importance of the Circassian issue the FSB and its allies are seeking to play down and that they show the ways in which the FSB is attempting to manage the news not only inside Russia but abroad.

As Shmulyevich points out, “the ‘Circassian question’ really exists.” There is no need for “dark forces” to invent it. And both the Circassians living in the Russian Federation and those in the diaspora have “a whole list of problems and demands which for years they have been trying without success to bring to the attention of the federal authorities.”

In the past, nearly all and even now most Circassians would like to find a solution to these problems within “the Russian legal field,” Shmulyevich says. That will not be easy, he continues, given the extraordinary complexity of the situation in the North Caucasus and Moscow’s current approach of denying that any “Circassian” problem exists.

As evidence of that, he points to the “schizophrenic situation” in which Moscow “celebrates the anniversary of the voluntary and peaceful inclusion” of the Circassian republics into Russia even as people in those republics recall the century-long fight they put up against being absorbed by Russia and their subsequent expulsion from that country.

But the problems in Moscow’s approach are not only ideological, the Israeli analyst says. On the one hand within the Russian Federation, the FSB and GRU continue the Soviet-era policy of “divide and rule,” setting groups against each other, even though this almost certainly will lead to explosions and further radicalization.

And on the other, these services are promoting what they say they oppose, namely Islamist radicalism, because when they attack anyone who opposes the local regimes as “an extremist,” they add cachet to that charge and throw “gasoline into the fires” already spreading across the region.

Abroad, he points out, the FSB “is working among the Circassian diaspora,” urging its leaders not to raise the issue lest the situation for their co-ethnics inside the Russian Federation deteriorate, a classical Soviet-era strategy that traces its roots back to the “Trust” Feliks Dzerzhinsky set up under Lenin to work against the first Russian emigration.

While the FSB has had some success among the older generation, its efforts have proved to be “a Pyrrhic victory” at most, because others in the diaspora and especially its younger members recognize that the Russian security services would not be making these efforts if they were not afraid.

Summing up, Shmulyevich says that the Moscow-appointed heads of the Circassian republics along with “Russian bureaucrats and Russian special services working in the media and on international issues” are behaving in ways that suggest “with such protectors and with such an administrative apparatus, Russia doesn’t have any need for [additional] enemies.”

Abkhazia's State Folk-Dance Group to Perform in Turkey

Abkhazia's State Folk-Dance Group "Caucasus" will perform in nine Turkish provinces and towns between May 29 and June 13. The dance shows are being co-sponsored by the Ankara Abkhaz Cultural Association and Cankaya Municipality. The first show of the group will take place in Ankara on May 29. The folk-dance group has 50 dancers and was formed in 1994.

Below is a list of dates and venues for the folk-dance group to perform in Turkey:

May 29: Ankara
May 30: Bolu
May 31: Istanbul
June 2: Inegol
June 3: Eskisehir
June 5: Kocaeli
June 6: Hendek
June 7: Düzce

The skill of the State Ensemble of Folk Dance ''Caucasus'' of the Republic of Abkhazia is fascinating, inspiring and admirable. Its repertoire includes dance heritage of many peoples of the Caucasus

Established 15 years ago in memory of the sons of Abkhazia, killed in the days of the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-93, and volunteers from the Northern Caucasus and Southern Russia, for many years the ensemble united the best dancers of the Caucasus, arrived in Abkhazia at the invitation of the founder of the ''Caucasus''. Members of the ensemble professionally and with inspiration convey peculiarities of each dance of the peoples of the Caucasus - Abkhaz, Adyghe, Ossetian, Daghestani, etc.

The ensemble ''Caucasus'' is the offspring of the People's Artist of USSR and the Republic of Abkhazia, holder of an order ''Akhdz-Apsha'' of II degree Kandid Tarba, for whom choreography has become a profession, meaning of life and the most important thing. Being a bright dancer, brilliant choreographer, skillful organizer, he has long been famed in the Caucasus and beyond. Kandid Tarba was a dancer, then chief ballet master in the State Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance of Abkhazia for more than 10 years.

The audience loved the ''Caucasus'' from first concerts. Already one year after the creation the ensemble went on its first tour to Turkey, which passed with a triumph. In 1996 the ensemble won the main prize of the International Youth Festival in Volgodonsk - a gold medal. On the eve of 1997, took place a successful tour in the North Caucasus republics. In 1999, was held a concert in Moscow, at the Concert Hall named after Tchaikovsky; the ensemble took part in an international folk festival of European states in Germany, in Balingen. In the same year, to the biography of the creative group was added brilliant success achieved at the XIII International Festival of Folk Dance in Turkey ''Bursa-99'', where performed the teams of more than 20 states. The ''Caucasus'' took the first place and the traditional prize - ''Karagöz''.

In 2003, the ''Caucasus'' participated in the celebratory concert in St. Petersburg in honor of 300 anniversary of the northern capital, after which by Decree of RF President V. Putin Kandid Tarba was awarded a medal ''In memory of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg''. At the end of that year, the group went on tour again - through the cities of Tatarstan.

For 15 years of existence, the ensemble has held numerous concerts in the cities of Southern Russia and in Abkhazia. The World Artiysky Committee, the World Assembly of Recognition awarded a gold medal and Diploma with conferment of the title of laureate of ''Artiada of people of Russia 2003'' to the ensemble ''Caucasus'' and its leader, K. Tarba for mastery, preservation of folk traditions, strengthening inter-ethnic and cultural relations between Russia and Abkhazia.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Benetton in Abkhazia

Benetton Turkey, the Turkish arm of Italy’s leading manufacturer, announced the opening of a store in Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia. Benetton Turkey became the first global brand to do so, after opening up a store in Tbilisi, Georgia.

''Abkhazia is the door that opens the historical Silk Road to the sea. It has a strategic importance with its tourism and sea transportation
," said Zeynep Selgur, general manager of Benetton Turkey, in a statement. "Benetton was the first global brand to open a branch in Turkey in 1985. We are proud to continue this trend in Abkhazia. We would like to continue our investments in Turkic Republics and in Cyprus.''

Each year approximately 1.5 million Russian tourists visit Sukhum.

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Documentary: People & Power - Abkhazia: A forgotten country

Al Jazeera - People & Power - Abkhazia: A forgotten country - 13 May 09 - Part 1

People & Power - Abkhazia: A forgotten country - 13 May 09 - Part 2


Historical Maps: Abkhazia at various times in history

The maps included here give an idea of the frontiers of Abkhazia at various times in history. The Abkhazians call their capital /Aqw'a/, but it is more usually known in other languages as Sukhum (Sukhum-Kalé or Sukhum-Kaleh in the period of Turkish influence along the Black Sea's eastern coast; /soxumi/ in Georgian). The ending -i in the form /Sukhumi/ represents the Georgian Nominative case-suffix, and it became attached to /Sukhum/ from the late 1930s when (Georgian) Stalin (Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) and his Mingrelian lieutenant in Transcaucasia, Lavrent'i Beria, began to implement a series of anti-Abkhazian policies. Abkhazians today, for obvious reasons, resent the attachment of this element from the language of a people they see as oppressors.


Declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of the SSR of Georgia on Independence of the SSR of Abkhazia -
21 May 1921

The Menshevik’s power, being bourgeois by its nature, oppressed the revolutionary movement of the national minorities and bred the antagonism between the certain minorities residing in Georgia throughout the centuries.

Soviet power has a different approach to this issue, advancing the principle of fraternal relations and equality between all workers.

The right to self-determination declared by the Great October Revolution is recognized as the best remedy for the eradication of national prejudices and the strengthening of relations between the workers.

On this basis, the Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia recognizes and welcomes the establishment of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia and believes that the relations between the Georgian SSR and the Abkhazian SSR will be decided at the first Congress of the workers and peasants of Abkhazia, as well as of Georgia.

Let the workers of both socialist republics decide the forms of close and fraternal cooperation.

Revcom of the Georgian SSR


In 1921, Abkhazia and Georgia became Sovietized. On 31 March 1921, an independent Soviet Republic of Abkhazia was proclaimed. On 21 May 1921, the Georgian Bolshevik government officially recognized the independence of Abkhazia. But the same year, under pressure from Stalin and other influential Georgian Bolsheviks, Abkhazia was forced to conclude a union (i.e., confederative) treaty with Georgia. Abkhazia still remained a full union republic until 1931, when its status was downgraded, under Stalin's orders, from that of Union Republic to that of an Autonomous Republic within Georgia. This act of incorporation of Abkhazia into Georgia was conducted without the approval and against the will of the Abkhazian people and caused mass protests in Abkhazia. Thus the creation of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic within Georgia was not the result of the granting by the Bolsheviks of autonomous status to one of the republic's minorities, as it is often alleged, but was rather the forced convergence of two neighbouring states by the incorporation of one of them, Abkhazia, into the other, Georgia.

Vladislav Ardzinba, first president of Abkhazia, stated: “In 1931 Abkhazia was transformed into an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. Seemingly it was the only republic whose political status changed under pressure from Stalin not upwards but downwards”. (See Pravda, newspaper, 14 July 1989).

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Saturday, 9 May 2009

Secrets of the Circassian Saddle

by Pawel Krawczyk, Poland (

If you measure tradition of horsemanship by its equipment, the Kabardian horseback riding culture has definitely something to say. For example, there's only a few unique saddle types actually being used in the world (and plenty of slight modifications) - and the Circassian (Kabardian) saddle is one of them, not resembling any other saddle.

The Circassian saddle is unique in its construction and deeply thought details which evolved over several hundred years of documented history of horsemanship in Caucasus and probably several thousands year before. Because most male Kabardians spent significant part of their life in the saddle, travelling thousands of kilometers each month during military operations, the saddles were designed fulfill several basic aims:
  • rider's comfort,
  • horse's comfort,
  • rider's stability,
  • durability of the saddle.
One you look at the Kabardian saddle (same as Circassian). it may look big, heavy and keeping the gravity center very high. But once you sit in it and make a few steps you suddenly discover ancient saddle makers' wisdom. After 15 minutes of trot you start to like it, after 1 hour of trot you love it and after whole day of trot you wouldn't change it for anything else.

Kabardian Saddle Construction

The Kabardian saddle is based on a tree similiar to the ones used in army saddles, spreading the weight of the rider on horse's back. Nowadays saddle makers Podium and especially McLellan make trees of similiar shape. The tree is relatively short, but itself it lies on a long and elastic, leather pad, which prevents the saddle from blocking horse's shoulders movement while spreading the weight on a longer part of the back. Biggest secret of the of the saddle is a square-shaped pillow, made of soft leather and stuffed with mountain goat's hair. Thanks to the specific shape it's not only comfortable but also with body pressure it squeezes around rider's legs, stabilizes him and amortizes him protecting both rider and horse. The pillow is extremely helpful during long time trails, especially in trot. At the same time, the pillow helps to keep (or actually enforces) correct body posittion in the saddle. Contrary to what you might think looking at the photos, the rider is not located high - in the very middle pillow is not filled with hair and rider's hip its located just over the tree, as in English saddles. Kabardian saddles are usually used together with traditional breast collar and crupper. These, and the head collar are all made from natural leather with very little sewing used. For example, head collars and halters (kab. nokhta) are made only with knots. Another interesting detail of the Kabardian saddle are three girths, with the last one going far back on the horse's belly (this one is optional, and if used it's not very tight). This improves saddle's stability a lot during steep descends and ascends in the mountains. Three independent girths also provide more redundancy in case one breaks.

Kabardian Saddle Nowadays

Saddle makers who saw our Kabardian saddles at various competitions all over Europe expressed great interest in this saddle and saw many interesting details in the saddle design, some of which we pointed out above. This type of saddle seems to be great idea for people who cannot sit well on the horse - like riding riding students, beginners and especially disabled children, who attend hippotherapy sessions. Comparing to the ordinary English saddles, it's very difficult to fall from the Kabardian saddle. While you sit on the saddle, your weight is keeping you "fastened" with the pillows. But once you raise a bit in the stirrups (or the horse falls down), they release you immediately. Probably that's the biggest secret and most interesting future for the Kabardian saddle in XXI century. Cost nowadays A complete set of Circassian tack is around 1500 EUR, a price comparable to a good Western saddle - amount of leather used is also similiar. Decorative saddles with silver elements can cost 3000 EUR or more. Important thing to remember is that these decorative saddles are very beautiful, but not very comfortable to ride and quite heavy. That's why most of people in Caucasus use nowadays use a mix between old and new technology - a Russian army saddle made with wood and steel plus traditional leather tack and - of course - pillows. Such set can cost less than 500 EUR.

Photos copyright by Catherine Michelet and Paweł Krawczyk

Thursday, 7 May 2009

CRIA Interview with Prof. George Hewitt

“Federalisation Remains the Best Way for Georgia to Avoid Outbreaks of Further Internal Disputes”

Interview with Prof. George Hewitt

Professor, London School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)


The Spring 2009 issue of Caucasian Review of International Affairs (see: contains George Hewitt's interview entitled 'Federalization remains the best way for Georgia to avoid further internal disputes'. The original, full and unedited version of that interview is presented here.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Window on Eurasia: Might the US Recognize Abkhazia and Turn Moscow’s Victory into Defeat?‏

Window on Eurasia, by Paul Goble

Vienna, May 6 – The United States and even more likely Turkey might change course, recognize the independence of Abkhazia, move to include both Abkhazia and Georgia into Western institutions like NATO and thus transform Moscow’s victory on the ground in August 2008 into a major geopolitical defeat, according to a Moscow analyst.

In what he acknowledges is a highly speculative article, Andrey Serenko, a political analyst at the Moscow Foundation for the Development of Information, argues that however improbable it may seem at present, the US and Turkey might recognize Abkhazia as part of a broader strategy of ousting Russia from the Caucasus (

And while the Moscow writer may be wrong both overall and in detail, his argument is worth exploring not only because it reflects a habit of mind quite frequently found in the Russian capital at the present time but also because it highlights the fluidity and openness of a situation in the Caucasus that most analysts are inclined to see as far more fixed than in fact is the case.

Despite the fact that much of the fighting between Russia and Georgia took place in South Ossetia rather than in Abkhazia – in fact, there was no fighting there during the recent war -- “the main goal”of both Moscow and Tbilisi was the latter because control of that breakaway republic was seen as controlling so much.

“If Tbilisi had been able to return Abkhazia to its control,” Serenko suggests, “the fate of the Russian Black Sea Fleet would have been fixed” and against Russia, whereas if, as happened, Abkhazia gained its independence as a result of Moscow’s actions, Russia’s ability to project power in the region would remain great.

Given the geopolitical importance of Abkhazia, the Moscow analyst says, it is implausible that the West will simply continue to repeat its declarations of support for the territorial integrity of the Republic Georgia and do nothing to counter the consequences of Russia’s victory there last summer.

One possible scenario, Serenko continues, would involve the following steps: “The United States could conduct shuttle talks between the Georgian and Abkhaz leaderships and on the basis of their outcome declare that Washington, following Moscow, will recognize the independence of Abkhazia.”

Today, “no one expects this from the Americans but precisely such a move could change the situation in the Southern Caucasus in in favor of the US, because following such recognition, American investments, major Western companies and NGOs would flood into Sukhumi,” leading at least some Abkhaz to lobby “for friendship with the US.”

Russia is certainly not prepared for such an American move, nor are the upper reaches of the Abkhazian leadership. President Sergey Bagapsh and his colleagues are “sincerely grateful” to Moscow for its assistance in their republic’s gaining independence and for its recognition of that status. And they believe that they can resist any blandishments from the West.

But Serenko says, “serious politicians inMoscow cannot be such optimists. Besides that, there are in Abkhazia, besides Bagapsh, politicians, bureaucrats, and petty businessmen who are striving to become major players and ‘win out’ some personal profit from independence achieved at long last. … Independence in order not to depend on or to take from all …”

“In the event of a successful American entrance into Abkhazia, Sukhumi could be offered the variant which the US and NATO have already proposed to Serbia and Kosovo – why argue and fight over borders? Both Serbia and Kosovo will be admitted to the European Union in which there are no internal borders and then into NATO.”

That formula will eventually work in the Balkans. Why not try it in the Caucasus? “Why should Georgia and Abkhazia fight and argue among themselves? They both an be admitted … [after a decent interval] … into the European Union and into NATO. And then the problem of borders and independence disappears on its own.”

“Is this a fantastic scenario?” Serenko asks rhetorically. “Nomore fantastic than the disintegration of the USSR, the disintegration of Serbia or the recognition of the independence of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” events many said would never happened before they did and were proclaimed inevitable.

One of the reasons that Moscow should be concerned about an American rapprochement with Abkhazia is that if it occurred, “the political successes of Russia [in Georgia in particular and in the Caucasus regionmore generally] would instantly be transformed into a political defeat.”

First of all, the Moscow political commentator insists, “having recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia [last summer], Moscow deprived itself of the right to talk about the principle of the inviolability of the territorial integrity of states and weakened its position in European political projects.”

Second, Russia opened itself to more separatist challenges within, if not today “when in Moscow the powers that be are strong and the threats of separatism do not exist,” but in the future because “no one knows [what the situation will be either in Moscow or on Russia’s periphery] several years from now.

And third, “the independence of Abkhazia achieved by Russia can open the way for a new political project which Moscow would hardly like. The Abkhaz, the Cherkess, the Kabardins, the Adyge, and also their co-ethnics living in Turkey, Syria, and Jordan form one super-ethnos,” collectively and by themselves known as the Circassians, Serenko says.

Their existence could lead to greater activism by Turkey in this area even if the US doesn’t move. Many have noted that Ankara did not follow its Western partners in condemning Russia’s military and political moves in Georgia, and “it must not be excluded that Ankara could recognize Abkhazia” as part of its ongoing effort to project power in the Caucasus.

In that event, Serenko concludes ominously, if not entirely convincingly given the restrained language he used in presenting his scenario, “into the orbit of this game could be included three of the North Caucasus republics” – Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessia – which are included in Russia.”

Monday, 4 May 2009

RT - XL Reports: The Kabardians

RT - XL Reports: The Kabardians, 04 May, 2009

The Kabardians are the main ethnic group of Kabardino-Balkaria, a small republic in the south of the Russian Federation. Approximately 600,000 Kabardians live in Russia. These proud people are brave warriors and skilful land tillers. Their history is a history of battles for freedom, honor and the right to live in accordance with centuries-old traditions which have long since become their way of life… Find out more about the Kabardians on RT.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Circassian World is renewed.

Information is valuable as long as it is shared. has been continuing it’s work on this view since 2005. CW’s one of the most important goals is to create an informational resource for Circassians and non-Circassians who wish to learn more about the heritage, culture, and history of the Adyghe and Abkhaz people.

As you already know CW has moved all documents about Abkhazia(ns) to on January 1st, 2009 and all work concerning Abkhazia is carried on this website.

Since 2005 there has been no work on CW’s design except minor changes. With the latest developments on IT world and improvements on easier transfer of information to web world, CW also felt a need for revision and after working on this for a while CW now finally has a modern and professional look. In the new version of the website there are no documents other than English at the moment. However documents in other languages will be transferred to the site in time. The old version of the website will be kept online for a while and it will be removed later on.

I hope that you valued CW members and all visitors like the new version of the site. You can send all opinions and suggestions to

As the Circassian World website continues to grow, it will continue to work conscientiously to improve its overall purpose to the Circassian global community.

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