Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Program: 4th Circassian Day in Europe

EP Circassian Day 05.10.2009

"Diaspora and Homeland"
European Parliament, Brussels
Hosted by Ska Keller, MEP. The Greens

8:15: Departure from Hotel
8:45: Arrival at the Visitors' Gate of the Paul Henry Spaak Building, the European Parliament
9:00-10:30: Presentation on the Workings of the European Parliament (organised for the group from Berlin) to be followed by a meeting with Ms Ska Keller at PHS Visitors' Section

10:30 - 10:45 Greeting the Guests and Registration for the event (ASP 1st Floor, 1 G2)

11:00 - 12:00 Conference: "Circassians: Diaspora and Homeland"
Welcoming Remarks by

Mr. Admiral DASDEMIR
President of the Federation of European Circassians

Mr. Cem OZDEMIR (tbc)
Co-Leader, Alliance 90/The Greens

Ms. Ska KELLER - (TBC)
MEP, the Greens

Session I: Circassians in Diaspora

Dr. Mitat CELIKPALA - "Circassian Diaspora in Turkey"
Department of International Relations, TOBB University, Ankara, Turkey

Prof. Dr. Sevda ALANKUS - "Circassian Diaspora in the Middle East" University of Economics, Izmir, Turkey

Mr. Zeynel Abidin BESLENEY - "Circassian Diaspora in Europe"
School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK

Mrs. Cicek CHEK - "Circassian Diaspora in the United States "
Circassian activist in the US

12:00-15:00 Lunch & Informal meetings

15:00-15:30 Meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Jerzy Buzek MEP (tbc)

15:30 - 17:00 Session II: "Circassians in the Homeland"

Dr. Samir KHOTKO - "Circassians in the Republic of Adygeya, RF"
Adygeya State University, Department of History, RF

Valery KHATAZHUKOV - "Circassians in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, RF"
Director, Kabardino-Balkaria Human Rights Centre

Maxim GUNJIA - " Abkhazia in the Limelight"
Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Abkhazia

Prof. Erol TAYMAZ - "Abkhazia in Contemporary World Affairs"
Department of International Affairs, Middle Eastern Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

17:15: Group Picture by the Official Photographer of the EP

18:00: End of the Event

A new English-language Web site for the government of Abkhazia has been launched

For centuries, the Republic of Abkhazia, which is located at a strategic crossroads between Europe and Asia, has struggled to maintain its centuries-old culture and identity. Since the devastating 1992-93 war with Georgia, the Abkhaz government has worked hard to rebuild its economy and reach out to the world.

Miles of pristine Black Sea coastline and tree-covered mountains have made Abkhazia a favorite vacation spot for visitors from Russia and other neighboring countries. Our nation is known for its wines and unique cuisine.

Last month, Abkhazia celebrated the one-year anniversary of its official recognition by Russia and Nicaragua, an event that has propelled us onto the world stage. They were recently joined by Venezuela. On September 30, we invite the world to join us in celebrating the 16th anniversary of our victory over Georgian forces.

This website contains information on visiting Abkhazia, as well as promising investment opportunities in trade, agriculture and manufacturing. If you know someone who might share your interest in Abkhazia, please invite them to visit:

--Government of the Republic of Abkhazia

Friday, 25 September 2009

Statement from Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh in Advance of President Saakashvili's UNGA Speech

September 24, 2009

Statement from Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh in Advance of President Saakashvili's UNGA Speech

President Saakashvili is one of the most dangerous leaders in the world. He has convinced his allies that he supports democracy, yet his own people know that he jails critics and crushes dissent. He speaks of peace, yet he triggers war. His brutal attack on the civilians of South Ossetia in 2008 and his refusal to take responsibility for the unnecessary deaths and widespread damage that resulted is a tragic reminder of his dangerous behavior. His recent confiscation of ships delivering peaceful goods to Abkhazia is yet another example of his reckless decision-making.‏

I understand the United Nations must provide a forum for world leaders, even those who have consistently displayed an inability to tell the truth. But for the U.N. to debate the future of the Abkhazian and Ossetian people without even hearing their voices is unconscionable and smacks of an era when colonial powers unilaterally determined the fate of smaller nations.

If the United Nations is serious about promoting peace in the Caucasus, then it will use its influence to persuade President Saakashvili to renounce violence against his neighbors and to participate in an honest dialogue about a peaceful way forward.

Abkhazians have welcomed back tens of thousands of refugees to the Gal region and have established policies to ensure their safe return and resettlement. We are moving forward to build our nation’s future and secure our position as responsible and productive
members of the international community.

Sergei Bagapsh, President, Republic of Abkhazia

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Black Sea Wars, by Patrick J. Buchanan - September 22 - In August, the Georgian navy seized a Turkish tanker carrying fuel to Abkhazia, Georgia’s former province whose declaration of independence a year ago is recognized by Russia but not the West.

The Turkish captain was sentenced to 24 years. When Ankara protested, he was released. Abkhazia has now threatened to sink any Georgian ship interfering in its “territorial waters,” but it has no navy.

Russia, however, has a Black Sea Fleet and a treaty of friendship with Abkhazia, and has notified Tbilisi that the Russian coast guard will assure, peacefully, the sea commerce of Abkhazia.

Not backing down, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili – who launched and lost a war for South Ossetia in 48 hours in August 2008 – has declared the blockade of Abkhazia, which he claims as Georgian national territory, will remain in force. And he has just appointed as defense minister a 29-year-old ex-penitentiary boss with a questionable record on human rights who wants to tighten ties to NATO.

We have here the makings of a naval clash that Georgia, given Russian air, naval, and land forces in the eastern Black Sea, will lose.

What is Saakashvili up to? He seems intent on provoking a new crisis to force NATO to stand with him and bring the United States in on his side – against Russia. Ultimate goal: Return the issue of his lost provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back onto the world’s front burner.

While such a crisis may be in the interests of Saakashvili and his Russophobic U.S neoconservative retainers, it is the furthest thing from U.S. national interests. President Obama should have Joe Biden, Saakashvili’s pal, phone him up and instruct him thus: “Mikheil, if you interfere with the sea commerce of Abkhazia, and provoke Russia into a Black Sea war, you fight it yourself. The Sixth Fleet is not going to steam into the Black Sea and pull your chestnuts out of the fire, old buddy. It will be your war, not ours.”

Nor is the Abkhazian crisis the only one brewing in the Black Sea.

Last month, Russian naval troops blocked Ukrainian bailiffs from seizing navigational equipment from a lighthouse outside Sevastopol, the Crimean base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet for two centuries.

The Sevastopol lease, however, runs out in 2017. And Kiev has informed Moscow there will be no renewal. Russia’s fleet will have to vacate Sevastopol and the Crimea, which belonged to Russia before Nikita Khrushchev ceded the entire peninsula to Ukraine in 1954 in a “brotherly gesture” while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

Russia also bears a deep animus toward Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, for trying to bring his country into NATO. Yushchenko, whose approval rating is in single digits, has been seen, ever since the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution of 2004 that brought him to power, as America’s man in Kiev.

Moreover, as religious, cultural, ethnic, and historic ties between Kiev and Moscow go back centuries, Russians remain unreconciled to the loss of what they regard as the cradle of their country.

What is America’s vital interest in all these quarrels? Zero.

The idea, mentioned in hawkish quarters, of having the Sixth Fleet take over the vacated naval base at Sevastopol would be as rash and provocative an act as having Chinese warships move into Guantanamo, were Havana to expel the United States.

But that is unlikely to happen. For Obama appears to be rolling back the George W. Bush policy of expanding NATO into former republics of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are already members, and Bush and John McCain were anxious to bring in Ukraine and Georgia. But, as Bush’s inaction during the Russia-Georgia war revealed, America is not going to fight Russia over who controls Abkhazia, North or South Ossetia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, or Georgia. All are beyond any vital interest or legitimate sphere of influence of the United States.

With his cancellation of the U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic – a shield designed to defend against a nonexistent Iranian ICBM – Obama sent two messages to Moscow.

First, Obama believes entente with Russia is a surer guarantee of the peace and security of Eastern Europe than any U.S. weapons system. Second, Obama puts Washington-Moscow ties before any U.S. military ties to NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Which means NATO is approaching an existential crisis.

Almost all NATO troops, except U.S., are gone from Iraq, and the alliance’s minimal commitment to Afghanistan is ending with no victory in sight. NATO’s expansion eastward has come to a halt. Ukraine and Georgia are not coming in. And the United States is not going to place troops, warships, or missiles any closer than they are now to Russia’s frontiers.

“NATO must go out of area, or go out of business,” said Sen. Richard Lugar at the Cold War’s end. NATO went out of area, and is coming back with its tail between its legs. The alternative arises.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Window on Eurasia: Circassian Youth Seek ‘Radical’ Renewal of National Movement

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 14 -- Disappointed with the current state of the Circassian national movement in the North Caucasus, representatives of youth groups from the four nationalities into which the Soviet government forcibly divided the Circassians have called for a “radical” restructuring of the national movement to make it better able to advance the Circassian cause.

At a meeting in Cherkessk on Saturday, delegates adopted a resolution stating that “over the last nine years,” the Circassian organizations created to address “pressing national issues” have not worked in a satisfactory way” and as a result, “a generation of people has grown up who do not know or understand” the extent of the nation’s problems.

The forum said that “most of the large number of NGOs” involved in this process are failing either because they “have no real connection with the public” often “express their personal views” rather than those of the nation, and do not include a sufficient number of young people (Резолюция-форума-черкесской-(адыгской)-молодежи&entry_id=1252947053&comments=comments).

Noting that their nation had been “the victim of genocide” in the 18th and 19th centuries” and of ethnic engineering in the 20th when Stalin divided the nation into four “supposedly different nationalities – the Adygeys, the Kabards, the Circassians and the Shapsugs” – the resolution said that resulting fragmentation had left the nation in a very precarious position.

If these divisions are not overcome and soon, the resolution said, they could lead to “the extinction of the Circassian language, the loss of identity, complete assimilation, and put at risk the existence of the entire ethnic group.” And it pointed out, that this process of the destruction of the Circassian nation is taking place “even faster” in the diaspora abroad.

Like any other ethnic community, the resolution said, the Circassians must work to promote “the consolidation, protection and development of their language and culture, their identity, interests and values,” and thus restore “the unity of the Circassian nation within a single federal subject in Russia.”

That nation would have “a single name, a single literary language, and common national symbols, something that the Circassian national movement had been organized around in the early 1990s but that the International Circassian Organization, which was “created to address them,” has failed to do.

A major reason for that, the youth forum declared, is that government officials sought to control the organization, thus “slowing down all the processes launched by the best minds of the nation in the 1990s.” To restart the national movement, the youth forum said, that group must be “radically reformed” and its leadership must include more young people.

To that end, the forum adopted an eight point program: First, it called for the establishment of a permanent body to be called the Circassian Youth Coordinating Council to help ensure that the values and ideas of Circassian young people have a means of influencing other Circassian groups and the Russian state.

Second, it demanded that Moscow recognize the four groups into which the Circassians were divided as members of a single nation with a single language and allow all of them to be counted as Circassians at the next census and to have Circassian listed as their native language in that enumeration.

Third, it called for the celebration of a World Day of the Circassian Flag. Fourth, it called for move toward “a single standard language for all Circassians” by developing common language textbooks. Fifth, it proposed holding a scientific conference in early 2010 in Nalchik to attract attention to the Circassian cause.

Sixth, it called for delegates at the next congress of the International Circassian Association (scheduled to take place in Maikop October 3-4) to press for the creation of a special youth wing of the Association and the inclusion of young people in the executive committee of the ICA.

Seventh, it suggested creating “a committee to counter the historical falsification” of the past of the Circassians. And eighth, it called on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to support legislation on the Circassians that would allow more of the diaspora to return to their North Caucasus homeland.

This resolution is important not because the organizers are likely to achieve all of their goals but rather because it is a reminder to their Circassian elders to take a more active stand lest the current leadership find itself swept away by the more numerous and more assertive young and to the Russian powers that be to be more forthcoming lest they face a larger challenge.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

“Circassian circle” dancing show takes place in Maykop

NatPress - Authors of the dancing show “Circassian circle” invite all the inhabitants and the visitors of Adygeya capital! Only one day in Maykop!

On September, 30th at 7-00 p.m. in the State philarmonic society of Adygeya Republic (Maykop, Pionerskaya street, 300) there will be the dancing show "Circassian circle" in which spectators could see created at the high-professional level and with love the image of Adygs and the peoples of the whole Caucasus in an original interpretation with using the modern technologies. Information by phones 53-12-77, 53-46-01.

The dancing show "Circassian circle" in Maykop! The show comes to its end, and it becomes close on the stage: tens spectators come to the actors to thank them personally. Inhabitants of the republic “Circassian circle” were touched in the part of their hearts which is given for ever to the small native land, to the ancestors and to what the ancestors bequeathed to new generations. That was the end of the short, but the triumphal tours which had marked the first anniversary of "Circassian circle”.

The unusual folk-show had been already seen in Adygeya, Karachaevo-Circassia, Moscow and St.-Petersburg. In Cherkessk the applause lasted nearby half an hour. And in the northern capital the youth, not having remained sitting in the hall, started storming the stage, wishing to participate in the incendiary dancing. Nalchik citizen Robert Saralp gave his compatriots a unique opportunity during the show to feel as an integral part of the one and huge world civilization. “ Not a people - neither numerous, nor small - can survive alone in the modern world. We are all a part of the world community, and only through the universal prism we should look at what was, what is and what will be to my people. My people is a part of the mankind”, - the author of "Circassian circle” explained the idea that has begun the project to which he been going long enough.

The graduate of well-known "Schuka" Robert Saralp, the actor of drama theatre and cinema, he played the leading roles in Shoghentsukov’s theatre. But he really found himself in the genre, apparently, alien to the Caucasian mentality - clowning, having organized in 1991 the legendary troupe "Butterfly". The main clown of the world Vyacheslav Polunin invited him to the well-known “Snow show” that blown up the theatre life and travelled triumphally around the world for more than 10 years.

Polunin entrusted the star role to Saralp, who also became the diplomaed director. It was already the second season “the yellow clown” in Robert's performance collects notices on the Broadway. “Snow show” is the sweetest ode to loneliness in the world without borders. And only true clown can talk to the world in the universal language - the language of love, beauty and pleasure, not demanding additional explanatories. That inspired Robert to creation of "Circassian circle”.

The name “Circassian circle” was thought up by no the project’s founders at all. The dance with such a name was popular in Europe in the XVIII century and was considered quite secular. In many countries it is remembered so far though in the course of time it lost similarity with the dances of Circassians and has another name.

In Scotland – “Irish jig”, in Italy – “tarantella”.

Costumes of Madina Saralp specially made for the show, remind of everything in the world - ballet clothes, theatrical requisite, fancy and ball dresses. But a Kabardian would not doubt that somebody from among his ancestors … could wear all of that.

The unusual footwear for the performers was made by Nalchik citizen Aslan Kerefov; the stylized Circassian hats for mountain men – by Svetlana Kholmanova, and the well-known master of the national ornaments Vyacheslav Mastafov incurred creation of the accessories.

Composer Anzor Uvizhev created a surprising music. It is the music of a mountaineer knowing both the folk melodies of the whole world and the classics, as well as jazz and blues. A mountaineer who understands how men of various people can talk to each other, not saying a word. Understands what feelings the mountains’ music causes in somebody’s soul, whether it were the tops of Scotland, Mexico, Caucasus …

Circassian Olympiad tamed Elbrus

NatPress - September 11 - In honour of the World Circassian games of 2012 on September, 8th an expedition from seven persons climbed onto Elbrus. One of the authors of the project Sufian Zhemuhov observed the climbing. The other author of the project Alexey Bekshokov, chairman of the Union of the Abkhazian volunteers, handled the climbers for fixing on Elbrus the Circassian flag which on September, 27th, 1993 was fixed above the building of the Government of Abkhazia at its clearing by the Kabardian reconnoiter-assault group.

“Our climbing, - Sufian Zhemuhov said, - had two purposes: on the one hand, the climbing to Elbrus will focus attention to our project which overall objective is let the world know Circassians better. On the other hand, we anticipate the opening the World Circassian games when in 2012 as the symbolical opening of Circassiad would be ignition at top of Elbrus of the Olympic fire which will be carried through the subjects of Russian Federation where Circassians live, as well as across the countries with Circassian Diaspora”.

Handing over to the participants of the climbing certificates of honour on behalf of the Union of Abkhazian volunteers, Alexey Bekshokov told: “This climbing is a historical moment. For the first time for the sixteen years after fixing of the Circassian flag on the building of the Government of Abkhazia now it is fixed on the highest top of Europe. I think the World Circassian games are the project, worthy such honour”.

Ahmed Psheunov, Abkhazian volunteer who had sponsored the climbing, accepting on behalf of the Union of Abkhazian volunteers the Diploma “Ambassador of Circssiad-2012”, assured that the organization would try to justify the mission it was entrusted and would devote to that its separate direction in the activities. His son Ali, a member of the expedition, expressed his pride to that he had taken part in the climbing.

Kazbek Shibzuhov, guide of the expedition, noted that for his memories it was the first Circassian ethnic project in honour of which climbing on top of Elbrus was organized. The other participant of the expedition a television cameraman Alim Eleev who was shooting the climbing, offered to include in the program of Circassiad- 2012 a high-speed climbing as a show kind of sports.

At the top of Elbrus the members of the expedition met two foreign groups of the climbers and together with them loudly proclaimed for several times in English: “Kindness begets kindness”, - the Circassian saying which became the slogan of Circassiad.

The head of the Belgian group of climbers led by the well-known climber Rudi Van Snaik, who had subdued the highest tops of all the continents, including three times climbing to Everest, expressed his interest in the project of Circassian Olympiad and supported the participants of the organized climbing.

One of the members of the other international group of the European climbers Rudolf Fekhbauer, an engineer from Germany, was interviewed by the Russian TV-channel "World" in which he expressed a pleasant surprise that Russia organizes Circassian Olympiad before the Sochi Olympiad. “By means of this Russia shows the world that it respects the peoples living in its territory as recently China during the Peking Olympiad had shown tolerance and humanity concerning to the problem questions of the internal policy”, - the German climber declared.

After returning of the expedition to Nalchik on Abkhazia square the ceremony of awarding of the diploma “Ambassador of Circassiad-2012” to the Union of Abkhazian volunteers took place. The text of the diploma says:

“The union of Abkhazian volunteers is the Ambassador of Circassiad-2012 - the World Circassian games. In honour of it on September, 8th, 2009 on the top of Elbrus the Circassian flag which for the first time had been fixed by volunteers Azamat Khagazheev and Aslan Abaev above the government building after the storm by the division of the armed forces of Abkhazia - Kabardian reconnoiter-assault group Muaed Shorov on September, 27th, 1993 during clearing of Abkhazian capital Sukhum by the Abkhazian army, is set up”.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Venezuela to recognize S.Ossetia, Abkhazia as independent states - Chavez

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that the country now recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.

Venezuela joins the recognition of independence of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the South American leader said during his visit to Russia.

He added that Caracas will soon take action to establish official diplomatic links with both countries.

Commenting on the news, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: “We always said it was the sovereign right of every nation to either recognize them or not to, so this is a big commitment.”

He thanked Chavez for supporting Russia in taking heart in the fate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Venezuela became the third member of the United Nations after Russia and Nicaragua to support the independence of the former Georgian republics.

Russia recognized them shortly after defending South Ossetia from at attack by Georgian forces in 2008.

The majority of other nations, including four other members of the UN Security Council opposed the move, saying that the principle of territorial integrity was more important in this case than the right of nations to self-determination.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

North Caucasus: united we stand, divided we fall!

Sergei Markedonov, 8 - 09 - 2009 - openDemocracy

Responding to oD Russia's recent article by Denis Corboy et al the distinguished Russian commentator Sergei Markedonov disagrees profoundly. Better to pay attention to the threat political Islam poses to our common values and come up with a joint strategy.

The consequences of the ‘flaming August' (as we call the Georgian war) and the ensuing upheavals are still being hotly discussed by experts and politicians in Russia and the West. Unfortunately, though much has been written, this has not led to a significantly improved understanding of what happened in the South Caucasus a year ago.

The reason is obvious. The discussions amount to little more than two monologues. Russian experts and politicians still insist on talking about the ‘state which has risen from its knees', ‘Western double standards', ‘the genocide of the Ossetian people' and ‘defending our compatriots'. Their European and American colleagues inflame fears of a ‘new cold war' and ‘Russian imperialism'. The country is ‘rising from its knees' for them too, but this is has a minus sign next to it. They also talk of the complete transformation of the Russian Federation from status quo power to revisionist, which not even the global crisis can halt in its tracks. What is the outcome of these debates? There is no real debate (if we exclude name-calling and propaganda lynching of one another), which is why there is no understanding of either side's arguments and motives.

It was with these ideas in mind that I took up the article Beware Russia's Three Tinderboxes - a title that leaves no room for doubt. Readers are warned that the West must take account of Russia's aggressive behaviour. From the very first line the authors advise against trying to understand Russia's motives (no question of justifying them), or analysing possible scenarios for accommodating this important (for the West too), if inconvenient, partner. They tell us Russia should be feared. It would probably have been possible to avoid disagreement with the authors, if they had embarked on their article with a ready-made answer, rather than setting out the conditions. But the authorial trio are very influential people who form the Western community's public and expert opinion.

'Denis Corboy is director of the Caucasus Policy Institute at Kings College London and was European Commission ambassador to Georgia and Armenia. William Courtney was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia. Kenneth Yalowitz is director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College and was U.S. ambassador to Belarus and Georgia'.

The authors of this article have both profound knowledge and serious experience, so instead of an angry rebuke and ready answers 'from our side', it would be more constructive to begin a serious polemic around the arguments and facts they put forward. Especially as the arguments are not new. They are deftly grouped together and well described.

The authors' 'warning' came on the eve of the imminent EU and G20 summits, which had to respond to the 'three-dimensional' security threat emanating from Russia. What are the three areas to which the West must pay special attention? They are: increasing pressure on Georgia and Ukraine and terrorism and repressions in the Russian North Caucasus republics with predominantly Muslim populations. As Nikita Khrushchev, that well-known master of the aphorism, said 'the aims are obvious, the objectives defined - to work, comrades!'

Let us briefly examine the threats defined by the authors as the West's primary concern. The combination of words in the first two - pressure on Georgia and Ukraine - reflect an approach that I call 'the football philosophy'. The decision has already been taken which team we support and the complexities of a bilateral relationship are replaced by black and white analysis. The authors consider that 'the most serious Russian challenges in the near abroad are directed at Georgia and Ukraine, two countries which seek EU and NATO membership and have some form of democracy'. The reader is once more presented with a simple formula. It appears that Georgia and Ukraine's conflict with Russia is because they aspire to join NATO and want democracy. Democracy in these two post-Soviet republics could (and should) be the subject of a large monograph, rather than a small article. I should say immediately that I consider the Russian political regime authoritarian and archaic, but surely this is not a reason for handing out democratic indulgences to the Georgian and Ukrainian governments? I should like to see if an impartial reader could find even two differences between the closing of the Russian TV station NTV and the crackdown on Imedi in Georgia. Between the breaking up of the Georgian opposition in Tbilisi on 7 November 2007 and dispersing the 'Dissidents' March' in Moscow, or the 'United National Movement' in Georgia and 'United Russia'. Between the populism of Putin and that of Saakashvili, the storming of Grozny and of Tskhinvali.

We should also point out that the Georgian attack in August 2008 was not the first, but the fourth in the last 17 years. It's hard to believe that such knowledgeable authors have no idea of the realities of the 2006 local authority election campaign in Georgia, or the violations of the ceasefire in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The authors don't mention that Saakashvili was trying to 'unfreeze' the two conflicts by using force and provocations (the 'small war' in Tliakana in August 2004, deployment of subdivisions in Kodori in defiance of the 1994 Moscow Agreements). It was he who catapulted his country into the terrible catastrophe of August 2008. After all, until last year no one (including Georgia) had revoked either the 1992 Dagomys or the 1994 Moscow Agreements)!

It is difficult not to object to the authors' comments on Ukraine too. According to them, the country is seeking a way into NATO. But do the esteemed authors not know the results of the Ukrainian opinion polls? Or do President Yushchenko and his team (with their maximum 5% support) reflect the will of the Ukrainian people for them? And I mean the whole people: in the Crimea and the Donbass, who speak Russian and want cooperation and rapprochement with their Russian neighbour. They don't want to secede from Ukraine or set up pro-Russian separatist enclaves, I stress, they simply want to communicate in their mother tongue, which is unfortunately Russian, not English. Or should we label them 'misguided' and 'infected with communist phobias'? But can this approach be considered a Western value?

Leonid Kuchma, the second president of Ukraine, wrote a book called 'Ukraine is not Russia' several years ago. Today another book should be written specially for Viktor Yushchenko and his lawyers 'Ukraine is not Galicia'. This would help them to understand that preserving ethnic diversity and developing multilingualism is in Ukrainian national interest, rather than imperial Russia's. This is the best way of preserving the country's unity. Primitive ethnic nationalism and a stand-off between separate parts of the country will have a much more destructive effect on Ukraine than thousands of statements by Yury Luzhkov or Konstantin Zatulin, who are so often quoted in the EU and USA.

Yushchenko's democracy also needs more critical examination. He has violated procedures (the very foundations of democracy) more often than any other leader in the CIS.

But if democracy is not the issue, then what is? It would appear that many people in the USA and EU do not wish to understand a seemingly simple point. The formal legal act (the Belovezhsky Agreement) and the historical process of the disintegration of the USSR are two very different things. After 1991 the former Soviet republics went their own ways: the formation of these nation states was a very complicated process, so it would have been extremely naïve to even think that it could have been painless or fallen out exactly along the borders drawn up by party bosses of the various former Soviet administrative units with no thought for the views of any of the nationalities concerned.

After 1991 all the newly independent states had to prove that their appearance on the scene was not an accident of fate and that the new citizens recognised their borders. Each republic chose different ways of doing this. Some chose the ethnocentric model (Georgia and Armenia), others the model of a civic nation (Kazakhstan and that same Ukraine). Ernest Renan once described a nation as a 'daily plebiscite', so it it hardly surprising that the plebiscite with a slogan 'Georgia for the Georgians' was unwinnable in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. My esteemed opponents assert that no one recognises Abkhazia or South Ossetia even in the near abroad, but surely recognition is not the main point. For them to exist as they are today needs recognition only from their own citizens. This is what the Turks have been doing for more than 20 years in the Republic of Northern Cyprus, and the population in former Spanish Morocco. It is unfortunate, but true, that the interests of small nations play no part in 'great game' discussions.

Or if they do, then only from the practical point of view. From any point of view it would be wrong to extrapolate the situation in Georgia to Ukraine. The Crimea had no previous autonomous regions which were abolished (as South Ossetia did); even at the high point of pro-Russian irredentism in 1994 no troops were deployed and there were no de facto states or conflicts. Who said they were inevitable? We should not forget that almost immediately after the 'five-day war', Moscow extended the 'Great Agreement' with Kiev for another 10 years. An outstanding demonstration of 'revisionism' and nothing to do with democracy or NATO! All this is part of the complicated process of forming new nation states. Today the post-Soviet formations are repeating the Central and Eastern European experience (they are essentially similar processes) some 6 or 7 decades later and with all the excesses typical of those countries. This is not to justify Russian policies. Understanding the characteristics of the political processes is much more important than propaganda.

Our three esteemed authors regard the situation in the Russian North Caucasus as the third challenge. Here again we have the football philosophy, when responsibility is not shared, but focused on Russia alone.

'The brutal subjugation of Chechnya in two separatist wars since the early 1990s has caused widespread alienation. Human rights activists, journalists, and political opponents of Chechen leader Razman Kadyrov are murdered with shocking frequency. Attacks against police forces, known for corruption and torture of prisoners, are steadily mounting. Spreading violence in Dagestan is particularly worrisome. With two-and-one-half million residents from thirty-odd ethnic groups, it is much more populous than Chechnya and lies on Azerbaijan's northern border'.

But how are the two anti-separatist campaigns in Chechnya connected to the situation in Dagestan today? In Chechnya the separatists were fighting for the secular nationalist project outside Russia. In Dagestan today (as in Chechnya after 2004) the main challenge is not separatism, but radical Islam, so to see the current situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as influencing the North Caucasus (as our esteemed authors do) is a big mistake. A separatist agenda is not relevant for the North Caucasus any more. Today's heroes are different. They condemned Akhmed Zakayev (one of the national-separatist leaders) to death and see themselves as part of the global jihad. This is not only the result of errors in Russian policy (although there were many and they also 'assisted' this result), but also of the complex reflex action which is moving through the Islamic world from Afghanistan to the Philippines.

The current Islamist activities in the North Caucasus have to be seen as part of the general evolution of social thought in the Islamic East from the European nationalist discourse to Islamic fundamentalism. But what is interesting is that Islamists in the North Caucasus today regard the West as their enemy, as well as Russia. The credo of the Islamist 'Caucasian Emirate' founder Dokka Umarov states that 'we are an inalienable part of the Islamic Umma. I am angered by the position of Muslims who see as enemies only the kuffar who have directly attacked them, though they seek support and sympathy from other kuffar, forgetting that all unbelievers are one nation. Our brothers are fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Palestine. Anyone who has attacked Muslims, wherever they are, is our enemy and the enemy of one is the enemy of all' (my italics SM).

So perhaps, instead of using Russia as a threat and secretly rejoicing at her trouble spots, it would be better to work on a joint strategy against those who are opposed to the values of the Western world, values that Russians on the whole share. The founders of the 'Emirate' are for the moment only putting forward a minimal programme: 'our primary aim is to make the Caucasus Dar-as-Salam by establishing sharia law there and driving out the unbelievers. Our second aim is then to take back all the lands which historically belong to the Muslims. These borders lie beyond the frontiers of the Caucasus'. The Western world is just over the Black Sea from the Caucasus. Not such a great distance in today's globalised world!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The international legal status of the Republic of Abkhazia in the light of international law

The international legal status of the Republic of Abkhazia in the light of international law. Paper read at the conference “Independence of Abkhazia and Prospects for the Caucasus” organized by the Friends of Abkhazia Civil Initiative. Istanbul, Bilgi University, 30 May 2009.

Dr. Viacheslav A. Chirikba
Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of the Republic of Abkhazia: Dept. of Geopolitics, Centre for Strategic Studies, Sukhum, Republic of Abkhazia: Chief negotiator, the Abkhaz delegation to the EU, UN & OSCE sponsored "Geneva Discussions" (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia, US, EU, OSCE, UN). (2008)
PhD in 1996, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

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