Association rejects claim that Circassians were assimilated in Turkey

Circassians were essential elements in both Ottoman Empire period and in founding of Republic, says official

2021-12-02 05:29:07

KAYSERI, Turkey 

The Federation of United Caucasus Associations, which represents Circassians and other communities, has rejected allegations that Circassians were assimilated in Turkey. 

Speaking to Anadolu Agency about a documentary shown by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), Cemil Gorucu, the deputy head of the federation, said Circassians have always been treated as equal citizens.

“Circassians were essential elements in both the Ottoman Empire period and in the founding of the Republic. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic, most of his comrades were Circassians," Gorucu noted.

He said that is why Circassians gave their lives in the Battle of Kut al-Amara, Canakkale, Sarikamis, in the War of Independence and became citizens of the Republic of Turkey.

"Germany should look in the mirror and make an assessment like that. It may have taken on a role of confusion in political developments. We have no problems in terms of non-governmental organizations established to keep our traditions, customs and culture alive,” he said.

“[The] Adyghe [language] can be chosen as an elective course in secondary schools. At the same time, there are Circassian language and language studies at Düzce University and Erciyes University. They have cultural departments. No other country gave us this. If the Republic of Turkey has provided us with this opportunity, Germany should take a look at itself first. We have all the rights of first-class citizens in Turkey.”

The Circassians, a predominantly Muslim people, suffered greatly under Czarist Russia and were subjected to ethnic cleansing.

A war in 1864 near the Black Sea port city of Sochi resulted in defeat for the Circassians and saw the Russian Empire invade all of Caucasia, a region extending from the eastern Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

In a plight similar to that of the Crimean Tatars, nearly 1.5 million Circassians were expelled from the region to east of the Black Sea when it was overrun by Russia in 1864. Up to half a million are believed to have died.

Most of the Circassian exiles were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, settling as far away as present-day Jordan.