Hundreds of activists marched and gathered in Kabardino-Balkaria to commemorate the 159th anniversary of the Circassian Genocide and the end of the Caucasian War, despite local authorities refusing them permission to do so.
The march was organised by the Coordination Council of Adyghe Public Associations in Kabardino-Balkaria.
In an interview with RFE/RL, the Coordination Council’s chair, Aslan Beshto, claimed that his group was denied permission to hold the march on the basis that they had supposedly filled out the application form for the rally incorrectly.
Beshto said that he was told he should have provided his passport information and age to the authorities as part of his application — a condition which Beshto claims was never a requirement when organising memorial day marches in the years prior.
Last year’s commemoration of the Circassian Genocide was similarly banned by local authorities.
Kabardino-Balkaria is home to the Balkars and the Kabardians — a subgroup of Circassians and one of the 12 major Circassian tribes.
The Circassian Genocide was the culmination of the 19th century Caucasian War — a military conflict that saw the occupation of the North Caucasus by the Russian Empire.
Hundreds of thousands of Circassians were killed by Russian forces during the Russo–Circassian War — the western theatre of the Caucasian War — while the vast majority of Circassia’s population was deported to the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the war.
A Circassian activist who took part in the rally told OC Media on condition of anonymity that 1,500–2,000 people took part in the march to the Pse Zhyg (Tree of Life) monument — a monument erected in 2004 in memory of the victims of the Caucasian War — where the participants then played traditional Circassian music.
Kabardino-Balkaria’s Ministry of Nationalities and Public Projects held an event of its own, which according to the activist was more pro-Russian; they played old recordings in Circassian which spoke about how the Circassian princes of the 19th century ‘squabbled among themselves, did terrible things, therefore they deserved their fate’.
‘When it was time for the official speeches, I left because I was tired of listening to the same thing year after year: yes, there was a war, but we are part of great Russia. We love our country. It is very good, let’s live together’, the activist told OC Media.