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Offline mayya

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Kabardino-Balkaria Muslims: Echoes of Tragedies
« on: July 31, 2013, 13:49:07 PM »
Kabardino-Balkaria Muslims: Echoes of Tragedies

By Ruslan Kurbanov
Director of Al-Tair Foundation — Russia

Friday, 19 July 2013 00:00


Russians, who conquered it in bloody Caucasian War, today form about one third of the population in both Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia.

Kabardino-Balkaria is one of the unique Muslim republics in Russia's North Caucasus. In its history and culture many ethnic groups, religious traditions, and dramatic episodes are closely intertwined.

The very name of this republic — Kabardino-Balkaria — says that it is homeland for two titular Caucasian people; the first — Kabardians — are the largest ethnic group of the once-great nation of the North Caucasus, Circassians. Circassians today are divided between four regions of the North Caucasus, and in each region they have different names — Circassians (in Karachay-Cherkessia), Adygeys (in Adygea), Shapsugs (in Krasnodar Krai), and Kabardians (in Kabardino-Balkaria).

 
The second group of Kabardino-Balkaria is the Balkars. They are Turkic people and are akin to the Karachay people, who constitute the majority of the population in the neighboring Karachay-Cherkessia.

Thus, in two regions of the North Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia titular peoples are Circassians (Kabardian and Circassian) and Turks (Balkar and Karachay). This Circassian and Turkic neighborhood in the western part of the North Caucasus evolved over the centuries, long before Russian invasion into the region.

Russians, who began to settle in the North Caucasus, and then conquered it in the bloody Caucasian War, today constitute about one third of the population in both Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia.

Entering to Islam


Shari’ah did not occupy its proper place in the Western Caucasus as in the case of the Eastern region of Dagestan and Chechnya.
Prior to the adoption of Islam among the Kabardians and Balkars through the efforts of the Ottoman Sultanate, paganism and vague ideas about Christianity were spread. The Sultanate sought — during very long period, from the late 15th to the 19th century — to subjugate the Western Caucasus, or at least bring it in the orbit of its influence.

The spread of Islam among these people went long and hard. Islam had been accepted mainly by aristocratic elites of these nations, since entering Islam gave them certain privileges in the relationship with the powerful Ottoman Sultanate Muslim neighbor.

As a result, both Kabardians and Balkars have consistently been regarded as Muslim nations at the start of the Caucasian War with Russia. But the penetration of Islam deep into the national consciousness, folk life, and folk culture of the peoples of the Western Caucasus was much weaker than that of the peoples of the Eastern Caucasus — Dagestani and Chechen peoples.

For example, in the west of the North Caucasus, the Circassian and Karachay-Balkar Muslim imams and scholars were not holding senior positions as those held in the east of the Caucasus among Dagestanis and Chechens.

The institution of Waqf, for example, has not been developed among Muslims of Western Caucasus. Thus, Shari’ah did not occupy its proper place in the Western Caucasus as in the case of the Eastern region of Dagestan and Chechnya.

Caucasian War

The Kabardians’ influence in the Caucasus was vivid to the extent that made the famous Russian Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in 1561 marry a daughter of the famous Kabardian ruler Temrük Idarov.

Historically, Kabardians and Balkars reacted differently to the Caucasian war.

At the beginning of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, the Kabardians were powerful and influential people with a long history of statehood. Their influence in the Caucasus was vivid to the extent that made the famous Russian Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in 1561 marry a daughter of the famous Kabardian ruler Temrük Idarov, which after her baptism in Moscow became the Queen Maria Temryukovna.

Exactly 200 years later after this historical marriage, Russian state became much stronger and in 1763 began to occupy Caucasian lands. This led to the beginning of the Caucasian War between Russian Empire and Muslim people of this region, which lasted for a total of about a whole century. Kabardians were one of the first peoples in the Caucasus to enter into this war and desperately resisted the Russian conquest of their lands. Balkars, on the contrary, viewed the Russian presence in the Caucasus in the 18th century as profitable for themselves. The reason behind this was the fact that Balkars were forced to pay tribute to the stronger Kabardian rulers, which made the Russian presence a reliever for them from the heavy tax burden.

In addition, Balkars were closely associated with the Christian Georgia, which made the appearance of Russia, the protector of the Georgian people, in the Caucasus profitable for Balkars.

That is why Balkars had provided relatively little support for the Kabardian rulers in their armed struggle against Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, there were several attempts by the Balkars and Karachays to resist the Russian troops.

As for Kabardians, they desperately resisted the Russian army and resisted Balkar’s rapprochement with Russia, and, surprisingly, relied on the Turkic state, the Ottoman Sultanate.

Within Russia

That number of Kabardian and Balkar people that remained in their lands under the Tsarist and then the Soviet Russia were powerfully influenced by the secular culture. Mosques and madrasahs (traditional Islamic schools) in their lands were virtually wiped out in the Stalin years.

In addition, during his war with Germany, Stalin deported all the Balkar and Karachay people to Siberia and Middle Asia. During this deportation, Balkar and Karachay people lost about a third of their population; only after Stalin's death, 13 years after their eviction, Balkars were allowed to return to their lands.

Islamic culture among Kabardians and Balkars turned to be more eroded than among Dagestanis and Chechens. Instead of preserving their Muslim heritage, Moscow has tried to turn the Kabardino-Balkaria and adjacent Karachay-Cherkessia to the industrial and tourist showcase of the Caucasus.

In those republics the best alpine resorts in the country were built, in addition to factories, plants, and universities. Much effort has been spent by Moscow on the development of the national intelligentsia — poets, scientists, writers — in the Soviet tradition.

Despite all these efforts, the revival of Islam among Balkars and Kabardians has begun immediately with the collapse of the Soviet Union, although it was of a smaller scale than in Dagestan and Chechnya. Nevertheless, the fear of the revival of Islam has forced the authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria to begin large-scale reprisals against local Muslims.

As a result of repression, in 2005 about 200 young Muslims with arms stormed all the securities structures of the Kabardino-Balkaria, Ministry of Interior, Federal Security Service, centers on the fight against extremism, etc.

After a few days of fighting, the rebellion was suppressed and about 90 people from the attackers were killed and hundreds of people arrested, while 58 defendants still on trial on charges of involvement in the rebellion.

The Marginality of Separatism

 
Despite all these efforts, the revival of Islam among Balkars and Kabardians has begun immediately with the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Photo: The Economist)

As for the Balkars, the idea of ​​separation from Russia is not being discussed. However, among the Circassian community, part of which is Kabardians, there are supporters for the idea of ​​restoring the Great Circassia, which owns the minds of the Circassian national leaders in Adygea, Karachay-Circassia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Moscow's refusal for the Circassian diaspora to return to the Caucasus is fueling the ideas of separatism. Today, after the migration of the 19th century, 80 percent of Circassians live abroad.

The difficult situation of the Circassians in Syria, which may not be eligible for asylum in Russia, also has an impact on the problem.

Georgia — offended by Russia for recognizing the independence of the former Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia — is trying to inflate the separatism among Circassian. In retaliation, Georgia recognized the Russian genocide against Circassians during the Caucasian War. In addition, the independence of the Circassians from Russia in recent years has been concerning some Israeli commentators and bloggers.

Despite all this, the correspondent of the newspaper "MK" Marina Perevozkina writes, "Today Circassian separatist organizations in Russia are few and marginal, and the idea of ​​the Great Circassia seems rather utopian."

Another view of the struggle for independence from Moscow materialized in the formation of armed Jihadi groups fighting the government for the creation of the region of the Caucasian Emirate. These groups include both Kabardians and Balkars.

These armed groups have long been a headache for the authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria. They kill government officials and police officers, religious leaders supporting the authorities, and tourists, and are considered as terrorists in Russia.

Snatching the National Tragedy?

In recent years "the Circassian question" has taken a strong position in Caucasus agenda.

Interestingly, in recent years, these armed groups began using the Circassian tragedy of the 19th century and Balkar tragedy of Stalin years to justify secession from Russia.

Such interest from jihadis in the national tragedy of the Circassians and that of the Balkars is starting to worry national leaders of these nations themselves. Since the jihadists snatch from their hands the national flag and the national tragedy of both peoples.

"Lately, the Caucasian Emirate turned its attention to the Circassian problem — is written in a special statement of Circassian activists — and they are using the Circassian issue for their struggle under the banner of Islam."

According to those Circassian activists, "This news has been widely discussed among Circassian leaders, and all see it as a provocation and discrediting the interests of the Circassian people and Circassian movement." However, experts note that in recent years "the Circassian question" has taken a strong position in Caucasus agenda.

The deputy head of the Caucasus studies department at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Sergei Mikhailov, said that "this situation is not so much a consequence of objective reasons, it is the result of skillful communication and outreach work on the use of the Circassian factor in the more general anti-Russian campaign.”

"Impending Olympic Games makes some powers that are hostile to Russia raise the issue, while it is not the most important issue for the Caucasus today," said Mikhailov.

http://www.onislam.net/english/politics/europe/463617-kabardino-balkaria-muslims-echoes-of-tragedies.html
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 13:51:50 PM by mayya »