The Circassian Exodus
21st of May is the anniversary of the genocide and exile enforced on Circassian people.
Caucasus has been the field of conflict of imperial forces for centuries. In the beginning of 1800s, due to the demands of the Russian Empire to expand its territory and the opposition of the significant European countries, particularly of British Empire, to this strategy; as well as the persistence of the Ottoman and the Persian Empires not to leave the Caucasus to the Russians, have triggered the wars that lasted for many years. During these wars, Caucasian people demonstrated an extraordinary resistance to protect their freedom and their homeland.
The Russian- Caucasian War was finally ended by the downfall of Northern Caucasia to the Russians. It is estimated that around 500 thousand North Caucasians have lost their lives in this period. Throughout the duration of the war, about 1,5 million Circassian people have been banished from their homeland in North Caucasia and sent to Ottoman lands. In this tragic exile, thousands of people who had been gathered in coastal towns such as Tuapse, Soichi and Sohum, were transferred by ships to Ottoman coastal towns such as Varna, Samsun, Sinop, Trabzon and then dispersed to Anatoila, Middle East and the Balkans. During this crossing, thousands of people died of starvation, illness and cold. When they reached the Ottoman lands, once again they perished from malaria, typhoid and starvation in the banks of the swamps they were placed in.
Every 21st of May, the Circassians are organizing events and mass demonstrations for the recognition of Circassian Genocide, the Exodus and for their plea to eradicate the historical unjustness they have faced.
In commemoration activities of Circassian Genocide and Exodus organized in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Russia, Europe, America and in many cities and towns across Caucasia, they claim back their brothers, sisters and their loved ones who have perished in their exodus by saying that “This sea, this land, this sky are witnesses of our exile. This sea, this land, this sky remember it all like yesterday”. They descend down to the Black Sea coasts, sing requiems in the light of the ‘Nart Fire’ and leave flowers and candles to the sea in the memory of the lost lives.