AuthorLitvinova, Tatiana N.
  1. Introduction

    The majority of states in the modern world are multiethnic because they incorporate more than one ethnic group. Furthermore, the state borders were established without taking into account historic territories and boundaries of the ethnic habitats. So many ethnic groups in the world such as Kurds, Basques, Lezgins, and others spread outside state borders. On the other hand, ethnic diaspora communities are found in foreign countries due to migration of the population. Both these cases--non-ethnic state borders and migration--result in divided societies.

    An ethnic group is usually inclinedto form and articulate its identity and sometimes to declare a self-determination program. That is why the problem of divided ethnic groups takes on considerable significance in national politics and foreign affairs. Political processes in nation states often encounter the politicization of particularistic group identities based on ethnic, religious, cultural and social differences in society. The danger of the ethno-cultural component erosion forces some ethnic groups to actively form elements of self-consciousness that would help them stand up against culture and lifestyle unification that nation building presents. The consolidation of an ethnic group split among different states can become an instrument and a path to cultural and ethnic revival.

    This investigation has the focus on ethnic diaspora and minorities of Circassians of the North Caucasus found in different states and geographical areas. Circassians (Adyghe) is a common name for several related ethnic groups living in Russia and those who have dispersed far from their homeland mostly to Middle East countries, including Turkey. Their history and social activity at present became the subject of research after the collapse of the USSR. One of the latest books devoted to this people written by Adel Bashqawi (2019) depicted Circassians as an ethnic group, which preserved their identity "for the duration of both tyrant tsarist imperial and Soviet/Communist eras" and only in the 1990s "started to become enlightened with information". How far can ethnic self-consciousness and mobilization advance Circassians in the wake of cultural resurgence? Marat Grebennikov (2015) considers that Circassians' mobilization in Russia can hardly be stopped, and this fact being ignored by Moscow can have far-reaching consequences. On the contrary, Sufian Zhemukhov (2008) argues that "Russia's attitude toward the Circassian world has been generally positive and helpful". Veronika Tsibenko and Sergey Tsibenko (2015) studied the historical background on the transformation of the Circassian question and concluded that a sharp increase in the interest in Circassian problem after 2007 was conditioned not only by internal processes of Circassian national movement mobilization, but by foreign policy factors and international perception as well. Different authors turned to examining the politicization of Circassians historical memory after the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014 (Uznarodov 2016, Akkieva and Kocev 2016) when ethnic resurgence started to be used as a factor of politicization.

    The Circassian diaspora in Turkey is often regarded as part of North Caucasian people (Gafarli 2014), the descendants of immigrants from the Russian-Turkish wars period of the 19th century, whose political activity depends on Turkish relations with Russia and Georgia. The Circassian ethnic mobilization that began in the late 1980s due to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the revival of close ties of Russian Circassians with the diaspora in Turkey "heralded a new chapter in the actualization of the Circassian question on the international arena" (Tsibenko 2016: 441).

    The article covers several questions: the causes of division among Circassians; the level of communication between Circassians' organizations in Turkey and back in their homeland; the political projects and experience of ethnic recovery and political consolidation. As research methods, the authors used content analysis of program documents, resolutions, and news publications from the websites of Circassian organizations, as well as the media monitoring.

  2. Theoretical approaches and methodology

    The theory of divided ethnic groups is still not developed enough. However, rich conceptual basis can be found in theories of ethnic identity and ethnic mobilization.

    In the study of ethnic politics Milton Esman (1994: 6) names two types of ethnic groups: 'homeland societies and immigrant diasporas'. In case an ethnic group represented by homeland society and diaspora abroad the main methodological question is what criteria define them as still the same ethnos. Anthony Smith (1993: 50-51), the representative of primordial approach, gives six reasons for ethnic identity: 1) ethnonym; 2) faith in the common origin; 3) historical memory; 4) culture; 5) territory; 6) a sense of solidarity. Primordialism recognizes the natural strength of ethnic identity passed from generation to generation and caused by the sense of consanguinity and origin which can survive the fact of territorial division.

    Unlike the primordial concept the constructivist theory suggests that a nation state blurs ethnocultural differences by the very fact of its existence (common schools, army, legal regulations, economic practices) and the policy targeted at defending the national principle of matching the state and its cultural borders (Gellner 1983). Thus, ethnic self-consciousness depends not so much on the language, religion or common culture, but on the shared history and solidarity around common symbols. This can explain why diasporas who have lived in an alien community for decades and centuries can forget the language but remember the origin and feel in touch with their motherland.

    Brendan O'Leary (2007: 886) made an essential contribution to the development of the divided people theory. He interpreted the externally determined division of an ethnically homogeneous group (Kurdistan) as a negative phenomenon, but the internally determined division of parts of a nationally or ethnically heterogeneous formation (Austro-Hungarian Empire) as less dramatic and even positive.

    The political mobilization and attempts to consolidate a divided ethnic group depend on whether the parts of ethnic entities are under oppression or discrimination. According to William Safiran (1991: 83-84), diasporas are communities of emigrants, dispersed from their place of origin, who preserve the historical memory about their homeland; who consider their country of origin a place of possible return; who are trying to preserve and restore their homeland, and who regard their group consciousness and solidarity as quite important. Diasporas/or minorities in a multiethnic state usually demand "nondiscriminatory participation as individuals in public affairs" with equal access to education, employment, public services as well with the opportunity "to maintain institutions that perpetuate elements of their inherited culture" (Esman 1994: 9).

    There can be two theoretical models of divided ethnic groups' political activity observed. The universalist dimension views a diaspora as the group constituting a post-national identity. Modern diasporic communities exemplify a growing stream of the so-called 'globalization from below' (Brecher 1993: 123). In this case the cultural contacts between parts of divided nation and their political activity are not converted into struggle for self-determination.

    On the other hand, the particularistic approach presents the model of ethnic group /or diasporic nationalism. James Clifford (1994: 307) emphasizes the difficulties of assimilation of the groups "that maintain important allegiances and practical connections to their homeland or dispersed community" of the same origin. Thus, those minority groups who cannot be merged with a national system create a political program of recovery and consolidation, which sometimes contradicts the territorial integrity principle and conflicts with host state authorities.

  3. Causes of division and ethnic resurgence of Circassians

    The Russian Empire colonization of the North Caucasus during and after the Caucasian War (1817-1864) led to the expulsion of Circassians and other indigenous groups. These lands were assigned to Cossacks and Russians. The eventual result of the Russian success in the region was a "series of refugee waves in the third quarter of the XIX century, by boats, carts and on foot, from the North Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire" (Kaya 2005: 217-218). Thus, nowadays almost all ethnic groups living in the North Caucasus have their own diasporas in Turkey, which make up a significant part of the population and influence political decision-making.

    The Circassian diaspora is scattered across the Balkans, Anatolia, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Germany, USA, Holland. However, the Turkish Diaspora of the Circassians is the most numerous.


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