|Circassian nationalists (see below) protesting the Sochi Olympics|
|There’s no snow on the ground, but that’s okay, we bought some rolls of this kind of tarp stuff.|
After a few vodkas, no one will care.
|Putin lights the fuse—um, I mean flame.|
|Russia’s Olympic Organizing Committee at work|
|Your tax rubles at work in Syria|
|Vladimir Putin waiting for a presidential aide to bring a phone book to stand on|
for a photo-op with fellow mass murderer Bashar al-Assad
|An anti-Iran protest at the last Olympic games in Vancouver, in 2010|
|All of Iran’s ethnic minorities are mistreated.|
|The head of Kosovo’s Olympic committee—|
even though Kosovo is not in the Olympics
|Kosovars wave Albanian flags at a protest|
|Unlike these summer Olympics, Palestine won’t be sending athletes to Sochi,|
but its cause will be heard there.
|The unofficial Olympic sharpshooting team sent by Palestine to the Munich games in 1972|
|We haven’t seen the last of Femen.|
One of the more high-profile Olympic boycott movements has been by those in the Republic of Georgia who want to stay out of the Sochi games in anger over two rogue territories within Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia set up as “independent” puppet states after Georgia tried to reclaim the rebel regions in a 2008 war. Only Russia and a handful of inconsequential small nations recognize the two republics as independent, so there was never really a question of whether they would compete themselves. The International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) shut down that idea quickly last year, and Moscow is not pushing the point (as I wrote about last year in this blog). (Nearly all residents there are also, or only, Russian citizens, so Abkhazian and South Ossetian participation will be under the Russian flag.) But Georgia is incensed at the Games being held so close to the conflict zone: the Abkhaz–Russian border is a mere 3 miles from Sochi. And Russia recently upped the ante by declaring a “security zone” around Sochi which extends deep into Abkhazian—i.e., Georgian—territory. Georgia said this week, with days to go, that it is keeping open the option to boycott the games. That would hurt Georgia’s three slalom-racers, who are already in Sochi, more than anyone. But Georgia is desperate to raise international awareness of what Russia did to their small country in 2008, so they may just play the boycott card. Even if they don’t, there will be protests. (Related recent article from this blog: “Is Ossetian Reunification Just Russian Irredentism by Another Name?”)
|An anti-Russian protestor with a Georgian flag|
|Ukrainian protestor demolishing a Lenin statue recently|
(but why was it still standing in the first place?)
|Members of the political collective Femen expressing their opinion of Ukraine’s President Yanukovych|
Perhaps the cause of the most public vilification of Russia in the eyes of the world lately has been a result of recent legislation against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people—and lots else too. The law criminalizes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and is worded so that essentially publicly admitting that you are gay can put you right in prison. This kind of bigotry is hugely popular in ultra-patriarchal Russian culture and is being used by the Kremlin as an issue to whip up resentment of the West, where gay rights have made gigantic strides just in the past decade. In addition to boycotts of Russian products like vodka, the cause has created a giant worldwide movement to boycott the Sochi games. (No country has quite taken that step—though the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands is notoriously absent from the list of participating nations.) Putin has said that no guests or athletes at the games will be prosecuted under this law, and that might open the door to all sorts of visible protests.
|Activists in London in 2012 protesting Russia’s hosting of the 2014 games|
2. The Circassians
|This is how Russians treated Circassians in 1864,|
and Circassians never forget.
For Circassians, this is no accident. It is the neo-Czarist Putin dancing like a Cossack on the mass grave of Circassian men, women, and children. To them, this is like holding a celebration at Auschwitz. There are just under a million Circassians (also called Adyghe people) remaining in Russia (compared to possibly as many as 3 million in Turkey), but unlike even many less numerous nationalities in the Russian Federation they do not rule their own republic. They are divided among the Adyghe Republic just north of Sochi, where they are outnumbered by ethnic Russians three to one, and in two republics where branches of the Circassian nation share power with Turkic-speaking peoples: the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, which is only 11% Cherkess (Circassian), and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, where Kabardins, who are Circassian, are 57% of the population. (Some also classify the Abkhaz (see above) as Circassian.) Circassian grievances are numerous: they want exiles to be allowed to return home, they want the international community to recognize what happened to them as a genocide, and they want a single autonmous republic that they can run themselves. Some even want independence. And these Olympics have set their tempers aflame. There voices will be heard this month in Sochi.
|Circassians marking the 1864 genocide (see also photo at top of article)|
The Circassians (see above) are traditionally warlike but for the most part have not used violent means to advance their goals in modern Russia. That cannot be said of a network of terrorists mostly from other Caucasus ethnic groups, even some foreign ones, that have used Circassian and other grievances to mount a violent Islamist insurgency in Russia’s Caucasus mountains. This group, known as the Caucasus Emirate movement, names itself for an imaginary Islamic state which they assert is the rightful government of the North Caucasus region, including the three Circassian and part-Circassian republics (see above), Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia (even though it is majority Christian), Dagestan, and even all of the nearby ethnic-Russian (i.e. Orthodox Christian) dominated regions, including Sochi itself in Krasnodar Krai. The North Caucasus has been Muslim for centuries, but traditionally it is home to mystical strains of Sufism and other beliefs that were quite at odds with severer, harsher forms of Islam practiced farther south in places like the Arabian Peninsula and Iran—and were also liberally mixed with millennia-old indigenous traditions from these ethnically diverse mountains. The picture changed drastically when the Soviet Union ended and Chechnya waged a war for independence. To an extent, the Chechens won, and for a while in the 1990s Chechnya became de facto independent until Putin reabsorbed the republic in a Second Chechen War that was even more brutal than the first. (See an article from this blog listing the Chechen exile government’s President Akhmed Zakayev as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”) Tens of thousands of Chechen civilians were killed as the capital city, Grozny, was reduced to rubble in what remains the worst violence of any kind in Europe since the Second World War.
|Two Caucasus Emirate mujahideen with their flag|
|Volgograd after a visit from the Caucasus Emirate movement|
|Cossacks arriving in Sochi last week|
Related articles from this blog:
“10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the [London 2012] Olympics” (July 2012)
“Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012)
“Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (August 2012)
“Somaliland’s Own Mo Farah Clinches Olympic Immortality” (August 2012)
“Separatist Football Update: Carnage at a Dagestan–Netherlands Match, Alderney vs. Sealand, Barotseland’s National Team” (August 2012)
“Abkhazia & South Ossetia Won’t Compete in Sochi Olympics, I.O.C. Declares” (October 2013)
“‘Separatism’ Added to List of Things Russians Aren’t Allowed to Talk about” (November 2013)
“10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2014” (December 2013)
“Games Begin! Ukrainian Hijacking, Putin Rounds Up Dissidents” (Feb. 8, 2014)
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]