Circassians experienced one of the most tragic exiles in the history of humanity, when the war between Russia and Caucasus ended on 21st May 1864. Seventy percent of the population were forced to leave their homes. Thousands of them died on the road to exile. The survivors were scattered over the Ottoman Empire.
"We embraced our loved ones and went to war..."
Caucasus has been an area of conflict for imperial powers, for hundreds of years. In early 1800s, Russian Empire’s desire of expanding and the European countries‘ (mostly British Empire’s), Ottoman Empire’s and Iran’s strategy of not letting Russia have Caucasus have led to many decades of wars. Caucasus nations showed an extraordinary resistance to maintain their freedom and protect their country. The Ottoman Empire and European countries seemed to support the Caucasus nations in the wars in Chechnya, Degestan, Northwestern Caucasus, and Abkhazia at the beginning, but later on, left them alone and helpless against the tremendous military power of the Russian Empire.
Russian-Caucasus war ended with the defeat of Circassians in the Kbaada valley (now Krasnaya Polyana) near Sochi on 21st May 1864. Thus the war which lasted for hundred years was over, with Russia taking over all Northern Caucasia. An estimated 500 thousand Northern Caucasians had died during these wars.
"We embraced our land and left for exile..."
Circassians, forced to leave their country during the war experienced the greatest and most dramatic exile in the history of humanity when the war ended. According to historical records almost 1.500.000 Circassians were exiled from their homes in Northern Caucasia and sent to the Ottoman Empire. In other words, 70% of the Circassian population was exiled. This tragic exile led to movement of hundreds, gathered in ports like Tuapse, Sochi and Sohum to Ottoman cities like Varna, Samsun, Sinop and Trabzon; they were then distributed to Anatolia, Middle East and Balkans. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives on the way, due to starvation, diseases and cold weather.
Many Circassians, scattered to the Ottoman Empire have been trying to exist in the history of Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Middle East and Balkans for almost 150 years. Today the population of Circassians is limited to 800 thousand in their homeland in Northern Caucasia and their population in the diaspora reaches 5-6 millon in Turkey and other countries.
We had beautiful countries... and wind winged horses...
We had beautiful songs... and eternal dreams...
THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE WITHOUT FORGETTING THE PAST
We, the children of a tragic exile, have not forgotten what we have gone through. We will not forget it.
Our homeland Caucasus is still at the center of international power games today; we are still living wars and exiles. We are having difficulties in maintaining our identities against assimilation in the diaspora. We are losing our language, culture and identity day by day.
On behalf of Circassians in the diaspora, we call out to the world (all the nations, countries and international organizations): Support us to maintain our existence (our language, culture and identity). Don’t let other Caucasian languages disappear like Ubykh (Ubih/Wubih) language .
On behalf of Circassians in the diaspora, we call out to the successors of the empires involved in this exile, particularly Russia and Turkey: End this historical injustice and pave the way for us to embrace our homeland. Facilitate our returning to our homeland. Provide us dual citizenship. Provide direct and comfortable transport from Turkey to Abkhazia and to Northern Caucasus. Let us live in peace and stability...
On behalf of Circassians in the diaspora, we call out to the Western imperial powers (USA and Europe) that make Caucasus a region of competition and conflict: Get your hands off of Caucasus !.. We do not want to be the victim of your interests.
On behalf of Circassians in the diaspora, we call out to those who see Caucasus as a region for religious expansion and dispute: Let us be !.. Let Circassians decide on their beliefs and way of life freely.
On behalf of Circassians in the diaspora, we call out to the Russian Federation: Do not forget that Sochi, where the Winter Olympics will be held in 2014, is the historical homeland of Circassians. All the countries where Olympics are held, honored the indigenous nations; honor the Circassians in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
We want to reconcile with history. We want to look to the future without forgetting the past.
We want to add home coming songs to our exile elegies.
It’s time, we know. Longing has built up. Necessities, obligations have accrued. It’s time to return, we know. We are a nation in exile…
Let luck and courage be with us…
We want our songs and dreams and our beautiful countries back.
We want our future, without forgetting the past…
By Sezai Babakuş