JBANC Press Release: February 7, 2014
(Washington, DC) – Circassian-American activists, who trace their roots to the Sochi region in the North Caucasus, participated on February 6 in the first-ever Google+ Hangout organized and hosted online by the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC).
On the eve of the official opening of the Sochi Olympic Games, there has been much criticism of Russia’s handling of events in the lead-up to the Games, including security concerns, Moscow’s clampdown on human rights, environmental disasters-in-the-making, cost and corruption, and quality of construction.
One of the competing narratives has been the story of the native inhabitants of the Sochi region – the Circassians. They have suffered under Russian Tsars, communists, and now the Putin regime, which is being “culturally insensitive” by hosting the Olympics in Sochi, according to Tamara Barsik, Director of Communications for the International Circassian Council.
Joining Ms. Barsik were Nart Shekim, writer, producer and director of the documentary film “1864: The Circassian Genocide,” and “No Sochi 2014” founding member and social media activist Dana Wojokh.
Their efforts, which include a very energetic online and media presence, have helped cast a sympathetic spotlight on the history of the Circassians and Sochi, which is in the heart of their native homeland.
As the 150th anniversary of their ethnic cleansing and expulsion from Circassia approaches, the Circassian participants pointed out that their story needs to be told and understood also in today’s context. The fact that their history continues to be ignored and misrepresented by Moscow is a lesson for other nations that have suffered or are suffering similar fates.
Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians can relate to the tragic legacies of occupation, human rights abuses, and historical denial wrought upon them by an imperial Moscow. The persistence, organizational abilities, and activism of the Circassian diaspora is very instructive.
The program was moderated by JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau and produced by intern Lita Juberte. JBANC looks forward to continuing the series of interactive online discussions, in order to provide relevant, timely, and thought-provoking topics of interest to its communities and networks.
The video to the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUlIp9R_Kcg and posted online on JBANC’s website and Facebook page.
JBANC represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association in the U.S., and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.