An Avalanche in the Olympics: Part 2

An Avalanche in the Olympics: Part 2

Shamel Dishack, Contributor

The Circassian Case

Location proves to be a damning mistake for the Sochi Olympics. The setting of the 2014 Olympics contains a historical background, tainted with blood, tears, and atrocities. Taking place during the 19th century, Sochi was the final Circassian stronghold, prior to their conquest by Tsarist Russia in 1864. The outcome of the 100-years Circassian-Russian War (1763-1864) resulted in the expulsion of nearly the entire populations of the Circassian nation to the Ottoman Empire, and consequently, the deaths of arguably more than 500,000 due to starvation and diseases.

It is not surprising that the Circassian public has shown deep interest in the announcement of an Olympics in Sochi. On March 21, 2010, a Muslim diaspora was established calling for cancellation of the Olympics unless Russia recognized the mass killing that took place. Highlighted by Reuter’s “Russian Olympics Clouded by 19th Century Deaths,” the Circassian Diaspora has united many Circassians worldwide under a banner that includes organizations such as No Sochi, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International.  A housing of a joyous Olympic celebration, on the 150th anniversary of atrocities, has led many to argue that the establishment of the games in Sochi can be compared to establishing the same games in Auschwitz. Walter Richmond’s “The Circassian Genocide: Yesterday and Today,” reports that the atrocities stretched from violations of conducts of warfare, terrorizing villages and noncombatants, and forced relocations, to executions of women and children. According to Reuter’s article, this has led figures like Liza Jarkasi (Co-Founder of No Sochi, a lobbying group of 30 organizations) to believe that “The Games are part of Russia’s policy of eradicating Circassian history.”

Though this event has not been fully acknowledged in the American media, efforts were made by neighboring nations to earn justice towards the Circassian mass. In The NewYork Times Ellen Barry’s “Georgia Says Russia Committed Genocide in 19th Century,”  we read that the Republic of Georgia voted on May 2011 to recognize the ethnic killings of 1864, perpetrated by the Tsarist Regime, as genocide. Causing backlashes between Russia and Georgia, the Republic hopes to spread the story of the Circassian people, establish close ties with its neighboring republics, and strike the fragile Russian image after the war of 2008. The declaration brings hope for a potential boycott of the Olympics and world recognition of the Circassian case. Guram Chakhvadze, a member of Parliament from the National Georgian Democratic Party, said “This is Caucasian solidarity, a centuries-old tradition — much greater than Russia and the Russian empire.”

However, there are Circassians who prefer an establishment of the Olympics within the land of Sochi. They believe that such an event would draw attention towards the history of the Caucasus. Optimistic in attitude, they also look at Sochi as an advantageous way to boost the Circassian national agenda. With that in mind, such an event brings more good than harm. A sign of positive outcome can be seen in the inclusion of Circassian culture component within the Olympics itself.

All Circassians share the common theme of the existence of the horrible scenery back at 1864 and would witness the day of enlightenment. In “Sochi Olympics and the Circassian Neo-Conservatism” by Sinar Dishack (this writer’s father), it is stated that “No one can argue or dispute the tragedy and the misfortunes Circassians face. [However] the old Circassian conservative politics threatens to undermine the contemporary viable opportunities in advancing Circassian national objectives in addition to the economic opportunities in the North Caucasus.”

The Sochi Olympics can be viewed by different perspectives, but the goal is to use this event as an opportunity to bring attention to the long lost history of the Caucasus, and such a moment must be grasped tightly when presented.