To the President of the International Olympic Committee
The Honourable Mr. Jaques Rogge
Dear Mr. President:
We write to appeal to you as Circassians, the descendants of the exiled indigenous population of the North-West Caucasus. While we completely support the honorable goals of the Olympic Committee, and consider this movement as vital for building friendship and mutual understanding, we are strictly opposed to the bid to hold the Winter Olympics in the North-West Caucasus in the area of Sochi.
The region of the Black Sea coast in the North Caucasus saw a monstrous genocide perpetrated against the native Circassians at the hands of the Russian state in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Russo-Caucasian war was a bloodbath that resulted in the extermination or exile of more than 90% of the indigenous inhabitants of this region. Indeed, the Circassian sea coast from Anapa to Abkhazia became a massive cemetery for our nation.
At this time the aim of the Russian Empire was not only the colonization of our homeland, but the full extermination of the Circassian population. During the war the Russian army annihilated civilian population centers – including children, women, and the elderly. In the process, thousands of villages were destroyed. By 1864 the Circassian resistance was smashed, and the Russian army entered a period of unprecedented and inhumane ethnic cleansing. Massive numbers of the inhabitants of Circassia were drowned up and down the Black Sea coast in the process of violent deportation, while hundreds of thousands of others died from famine, cold, and epidemics.
A policy of mass exile of Circassians continued until 1914, and was only stopped by the onset of the First World War. Presently, less than 8% of Circassians live in their indigenous homeland, and are divided into different administrative regions of the Russian Federation. Almost all are deprived of the right to their own lands.
The Circassians have repeatedly appealed to the highest Russian authorities to recognize the facts of the genocide of our nation, and to open an unimpeded path for the return of the descendants of exiled Circassians to their homeland. These requests have always been ignored or denied.
We are aware from media reports that an appraisal committee of the International Olympic committee has visited Sochi. Frankly, we are shocked at the cynical behavior or demonstrated by Russian leaders. While displaying the great beauty of Kransnaya Polyana (meaning Red Valley), these officials did not consider it relevant to explain that it was so named because of the Circassian blood shed in the final battle for independence, or that it is the location of mass graves of the victims of Russian genocide. Russian leaders are prepared to invest billions of dollars in a bid to hold the Olympic Games, and explain that this is in an effort to strengthen friendship between nations. However, over four million Circassians live dispersed in fifty countries of the world, and Russia refuses to invest any resources in the return of these exiled peoples to their homeland. We believe that the restoration of historical justice and the relationship of the Circassian peoples will first and foremost build friendship and mutual understanding between nations.
This land is rightfully ours, and was given to us by the Creator God. This land is also ours according to standards of international laws that note the rights of indigenous peoples. As Circassians, we regard the holding of the Olympic Games on our homeland in the places of mass graves and genocide as an act of vandalism. This clearly does not correspond with the high principles proclaimed by the International Olympic Movement. Therefore, we respectfully ask the International Olympic Committee to deny the bid of Russia to hold the Olympic Games in 2014.
Radio-Adiga - The Circassian Voice
Nafna - The Circassian Association of Israel