The Circassians: A Forgotten Genocide? (PDF)0


The massacre of the Circassians, a forgotten people, serves as the subject of Stephen D. Shenfield’s essay. The Circassians were forced to resettle after the tsarist conquest of their territory. Their homeland rested in the northwestern Caucasus and on the northeastern shore of the Black Sea--along the southern border of the Russian empire. Before the Russian invasion, Circassia possessed two million people and an area of 55,663 square kilometers. They fought against Russian invasions from 1763-1864 and ultimately were defeated, with many Circassians being deported to Turkey. The decision to deport the Circassians came in 1860; the Russians invaded from the north, accompanied by mobile columns of riflemen and Cossack cavalry; four thousand Circassian families left for Turkey. In 1862, Russian soldiers burned Circassian villages and trampled the crops; those who fled died in the forests and mountains of hunger and exposure. The Russian General Babich took his soldiers south, burning Circassian villages along the way. In May 1864, the remaining Circassians bonded together in a frenzied battle and emerged triumphant over the Russian invaders; the victory, however, proved to be short-lived because the Russians returned with more artillery and soundly defeated the Circassian men and women; dissatisfied by only killing the Circassian adults, the triumphant Russian soldiers sought out the children and shot cannon shells at them.

It was really the first intentional large-scale genocide of the modern times, as well as the model case of the consequent tradition of ethnic cleansing. It was also the largest single genocide of the 19th century.
The Circassian genocide ended at about same time with the launching of the Jewish deportations in 1880s, when more than three million Circassians had been expelled from the territories occupied by Russia. The numbers of those who were killed, are not known. Anyway, it meant 90 per cent of the whole Circassian population. Anssi Kullberg, ''The Eurasian Politician'' - October 2003

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