06.10. 2010 Circassians standing up for their rights and cultural identity deserve EU support
Tunne Kelam, Member of the European Parliament
Circassians have been subjected to one of the most severe persecutions among the ethnic Caucasian nations. Since the 18th century, when the authorities of the Russian empire started massive ethnic cleansings and deportations of the native population, more than 1.5 million Circassians are estimated to have been killed. The continuation of Russian colonial policies has had a dramatic impact on today's Circassians. Sadly, their situation has not eased in the 21st century.
The indiscriminate way Russian authorities have carried out the preparations for the Winter Olympics shows that this is not merely a problem for one single local nation. It is by necessity a political, social, humanitarian and ecological problem concerning the whole of
First, it is clear that in the course of preparations for the Olympics, the human rights situation in the region has dramatically worsened.
Second, blatantly ignoring environmental standards has damaged the ecological balance and caused severe deterioration of the environmental situation with probably irreversible consequences for the local people.
Third, according to different testimonies and observations, abuses by the political and administrative powers and corruption in the region have reached an unbearable level.
All the listed issues are in serious conflict with the noble ideals of the Olympics. Clearly, the Sochi Winter Olympics cannot be considered a success at the cost of systematic repression of the civil rights and cultural identity of a small native nation, or at the cost of ignoring environmental damage which, in all likelihood, nobody will rectify after the Olympic flag has been lowered. This is the responsibility the organizers must pay for conducting the Sochi Olympics first and foremost to boost the political prestige of
The abnormal and tragic situation of the Circassians and other Caucasian native peoples also demands a prompt response from the EU member states based on common European values. The
The readiness of the Circassians to engage in political dialogue is encouraging. Such an attitude deserves respect. The organisations speaking for the rights of the Circassian people exclude any kind of extremism in their actions and emphasize the secular and just nature of the Circassian movement. The EU cannot leave Circassians alone in their struggle to survive. Their civil and cultural rights and above all, the need to guarantee their identity and language in the foreseeable future, cannot be trusted to the official declarations of the Kremlin’s authoritarian rulers.