Syrian Circassians returning to Russia’s Caucasus region

Almost 2,000 Circassians have returned to northern Caucasus region so far, while Russian human rights body pushes President Putin to allow return of up to 10,000 more Circassians

Photo by: Giedre Steikunaite
Photo by: Giedre Steikunaite

Syrian Circassians fleeing the war in Syria are returning to their historic homeland in the northern Caucasus region of Russia.

According to a spokesman for Yury Kokov, the leader of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, thus far an estimated 2,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the region from Syria.

Most of them are "Syrian Circassians whose ancestors used to live in the Caucasus," the spokesman announced on Thursday.

On the same day, the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society and the Human Rights Council (HRC) appealed to the Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept more refugees from Syria.

Speaking to Russian broad sheet newspaper Izvestia, HRC member Maksim Shevchenko said Russia could potentially take in up to 10,000 refugees of Circassian origin.

Currently, approximately 80,000 ethnic Circassians live in Syria after their ancestors were forced out of the northern Caucasus by Russians between 1863 and 1867.

"These people are from the Caucasus, but many were forced to leave at the end of the nineteenth century because of the Caucasian War. They are our fellow citizens, former inhabitants of the Krasnodar region and Adygei,” Shevchenko said.

“If Russia recognizes officially their right to resettlement, it would close a terrible chapter in the Caucasian War."

However, in a statement issued on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “hardly likely” that Russia would participate in any programme to aid Syrian refugees.

While confirming that some Syrians had traveled through Russia  to reach Norway, Peskov criticised Europe for the current refugee crisis.

“We expect that for the most part that expenditures [for dealing with refugees] will fall on the countries linked to causing the catastrophic situation,” Peskov said.

Russia, a key ally of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, accuses the West of causing the civil war in Syria, which has claimed over 230,000 lives and displaced around 12 million people both internally and externally since fighting began in March 2011.

The war has triggered the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, with more than 350,000 refugees, most of them Syrians, risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean in an attempt to enter Europe so far this year, far exceeding last year's number, which was 219,000.

Some 2,600 refugees have died while making the voyage in unseaworthy boats.


TRTWorld and agencies