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The Circassian Genocide

Walter Richmond

Publication Year: 2013

Circassia was a small independent nation on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea. For no reason other than ethnic hatred, over the course of hundreds of raids the Russians drove the Circassians from their homeland and deported them to the Ottoman Empire. At least 600,000 people lost their lives to massacre, starvation, and the elements while hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homeland. By 1864, three-fourths of the population was annihilated, and the Circassians had become one of the first stateless peoples in modern history.

Using rare archival materials, Walter Richmond chronicles the history of the war, describes in detail the final genocidal campaign, and follows the Circassians in diaspora through five generations as they struggle to survive and return home. He places the periods of acute genocide, 1821–1822 and 1863–1864, in the larger context of centuries of tension between the two nations and updates the story to the present day as the Circassian community works to gain international recognition of the genocide as the region prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the site of the Russians’ final victory.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Series Information

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pp. 2-2

Title Page

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pp. 3-3

Copyright Page

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pp. 4-4


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pp. 5-6


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pp. vii-8

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pp. ix-12

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to John Colarusso for his enthusiastic support of my work on the Circassians and for his expertise on the Circassian language. I’m deeply indebted to Ali Berzek, who compiled the archival materials used in this study, and Zack Barsik, who provided me not only with those materials...

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pp. 1-8

On May 20, 2011, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution that labeled as genocide the “preplanned” mass killing of Circassians by the Russian Imperial Army in the 1860s. The resolution also stated that those who survived but were driven from their homeland and their descendants should be recognized as refugees...

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1. "The Plague was Our Ally "

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pp. 9-31

In June 1808 Izmail-Bey Atazhukin, a Kabardian nobleman and colonel in the Russian Imperial Army, asked for permission to cross a quarantine line from Fort Konstantinovskaya into Kabardia with a shipment of desperately needed salt. Technically, anyone who wanted to cross the line was supposed to undergo a twenty-day...

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2. A Pawn in the Great Game

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pp. 32-53

The destruction of Kabardia remained hidden from the world. When Ermolov conducted the raids that nearly annihilated the Kabardians, not a single European newspaper took notice. As the European powers were vying for supremacy in a post-Napoleonic world, there was little interest in an obscure corner of the Russian Empire...

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3. From War to Genocide

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pp. 54-75

In concluding his description of the final conquest and expulsion of the Circassians in the 1860s, Russian officer Ivan Drozdov tried to justify the wholesale death and destruction that his army brought upon them: “Mankind has rarely experienced such disasters and to such extremes, but only horror could have an effect...

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4. 1864

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pp. 76-97

The final Russian assault on Circassia began at the beginning of November 1861.1 Estimating the remaining population of Circassia at two hundred thousand, the Russians assembled sixty-five combat battalions, twenty-five Cossack divisions, and one hundred cannons.2 Mortally afraid that the British would interfere...

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5. A Homeless Nation

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pp. 98-110

The death and disease that beset the Circassians on the Black Sea coast followed them to Anatolia. Impoverished and ill, the deportees quickly learned their ordeal was far from over. In December 1863, after only a handful had arrived, Russian consul in Trabzon A. N. Moshnin reported that the refugees were dying...

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6. Survival in Diaspora

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pp. 111-130

In 1881 British captain Claude Conder arrived in Amman during a campaign against Druze tribesmen. The town had been uninhabited as recently as 1876, and Circassian migrants were just beginning to reclaim the ancient site of Philadelphia.1 Conder described the physical and psychological damage...

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7. Those Who Stayed Behind

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pp. 131-148

In 1863 military consul to the Russian Embassy in Istanbul F. A. Frankini submitted several proposals for “the establishment of peace” in the western Caucasus to War Minister Milyutin. To Frankini’s suggestion that the Circassians be given hereditary rights to their land as Alexander had promised, Milyutin replied...

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8. The Road to Sochi

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pp. 149-170

With these words Russian president Vladimir Putin unwittingly declared war on the Circassian people. His implication that the ancient Greeks were the first inhabitants at Sochi struck Circassians worldwide as the most blatant and public attempt yet to erase their history. Most likely, Putin believed linking the Prometheus legend...

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Epilogue: The Cherkesov Affair

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pp. 171-178

In the early morning of December 6, 2010, a group of young Russian men got into a fight with a few young men from the Caucasus. During the clash Yegor Sviridov, a Russian, was shot and killed. An investigation identified Aslan Cherkesov, a twenty-six-year-old Circassian, as the trigger man. A drunken brawl ending in a homicide was really...


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pp. 179-201


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pp. 203-213


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pp. 215-218

About the Author

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pp. 217-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780813560694
E-ISBN-10: 0813560691
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813560670

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 829460103
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Circassian Genocide

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Subject Headings

  • Circassians -- Russia (Federation) -- Caucasus, Northern -- History.
  • Russia -- Relations -- Russia (Federation) -- Caucasus, Northern.
  • Caucasus, Northern (Russia) -- Relations -- Russia.
  • Genocide -- Russia (Federation) -- Caucasus, Northern -- History.
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