Staunton, May 16 – – Reflecting tensions between the Circassians and the Russian authorities in the run up to the commemoration later this month of the 150th anniversary of the tsarist expulsion of their ancestors and of the readiness of Circassians to defend their rights and dignity, a group of Circassians blocked a highway last night to protest the death of one of their own.
The Circassians took this step in the city of Tlyustenkhabl which is not far from Krasnodar, to demand that the Russian authorities investigate the murder of 25-year-old Timur Ashinov, an act committed earlier this month “by a group of masked men in the city of Krasnodar”.
Circassians have been calling for a serious investigation into who is responsible for the last week but without apparent success. But by blocking the highway, they attracted the attention of the authorities. Almost immediately, the Adygeya republic prime minister and interior minister, the heads of the various districts, and prosecutors from both Adygeya and Krasnodar showed up.
The interior minister called on the Circassians to disperse, but the Circassians said that they would do so only if the authorities agreed to step up the investigation rather than sweep the whole matter under the rug. All too many cases of violence against Circassians and others in the North Caucasus have remained unsolved in post-Soviet and especially Putin times.
After what the Circassian Center release said were “lengthy negotiations,” the Circassians agreed to move their protest from the highway to an area in front of the local House of Culture, and the authorities agreed not to use force as long as the journalists present did not photograph the demo, an action that the local authorities clearly feared would result in an Internet campaign.
Finally, at 2:00 am, Azmet Skhalyakho, the head of the local district, and Adygeya Prime Minister Murat Kumpilov promised that they would do “everything” they could to ensure the investigation of the death and report what their findings to the activists. After that, the demonstrators dispersed.
In the last 24 hours, Russian officials have moved against non-Russian activists in other ways, but all these actions seem to be tied to the upcoming anniversaries of tragedies in the national histories of these groups. The Crimean Tatars, for example, will mark the 70th anniversary of their deportation to Central Asia on Sunday.
Late yesterday, the Crimean occupation authorities searched the house of Mustafa Cemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement who has been banned from entering his homeland. His wife had to be hospitalized after the search was conducted in her husband’s absence.
And today, Moscow police detained Beslan Teuvashev after the latter handed out badges in advance of the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide on May 21. All of the badges were confiscated, even though there was no violation of the law. Apparently, the Russian government plans to try to suppress any commemoration of the tragedy it does not control.