Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Circassians, Crimean Tatars Linking Up to Oppose Moscow, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 25 – The Circassians and Crimean Tatars are linking up as part of a broader plan orchestrated by Turkey and the West to undermine Russian influence in the Middle East and to challenge Russian control of the North Caucasus and occupied Crimea, according to Russian commentator Vladislav Gulyevich.


            Over the two years and especially since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, Circassian and Crimean Tatar activists have been meeting in Istanbul to coordinate their activities and to lobby governments in the region for their political goals, Gulyevich says in a new article on Kavkazoved.infor (kavkazoved.info/news/2014/11/24/krymsko-tatarskie-i-velikocherkesskie-nacionalisty-hotjat-druzhit-protiv-rossii.html).


            Members of the two groups, he continues, are animated by a common opposition to Russia and a desire to find new ways to expand their influence in the wake of the occupation of Crimea in the case of the Crimean Tatars and after the Sochi Olympiad in the case of the Circassians (Cf. fondsk.ru/news/2013/06/14/cherkesskij-i-krymsko-tatarskij-voprosy-po-shodnym-geopoliticheskim-lekalam-21011.html and  fondsk.ru/news/2010/12/27/geopolitika-velikoj-cherkessii-1407.html%20-%20comments).


            Activists in the two movements are counting on support from what they say are the six to eight million Circassians and four to six million Crimean Tatars living in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East, Gulyevich says. And they can be counted on to “intensify their anti-Russian propaganda” against not only governments there but in their homelands.


            Turkey and behind it the West more generally is interested in supporting each of these movements and in their unity as well because these backers believe that this combination of Circassian and Crimean Tatar “nationalist discourse” can “undermine the existing status quo” and promote “an anti-Russian vision of the future of the Black Sea and Caspian region.”


            The conflict in Ukraine, like the conflicts in the North Caucasus, is going to last a long time, and this project of the West is based on that assumption.  Turkey and the West hope that in the future what today appear to be only marginal movements will be the basis of transforming the geopolitics of the region.


            According to Gulyevich, Russia should expect to see “the unification of the Crimean Tatar and ‘Greater Circassian’ nationalists in the international arena,” with the two groups “coordinating their efforts, seeking to attract attention, expanding their activities in the information sphere, and reinforcing one another with their ‘national-liberation’ theses.”


            These two “projects,” although they are typically viewed as completely separate, in fact represent complementary actions on Russia’s flanks in the Black Sea and Caspian region. Both are intended “not only to deprive Russia of a way out to the Caucasus section of the Black Sea littoral but to undermine the stability of the southern borders of the European part of Russia and weaken its position” there.


            Gulyevich’s language is both hyperbolic and infected by the conspiratorial visions which inform so much of current Russian commentary, but he is correct that the Circassians and the Crimean Tatars are finding common ground and that that mutual discovery is helping them to expand their reach and influence particularly in Turkey and the Middle East.


            Their combined effort and Moscow’s attempts to disrupt it thus deserve the closest scrutiny and monitoring because as Gulyevich says what appears to be something relatively marginal now may become vastly important in the not too distant future.






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