Staunton, May 3 – Facebook and other online social networks have become “a genuine salvation” for Circassians who are divided not only among various Soviet-created republics but between the 500,000 still in their North Caucasus homeland and the far larger number – as many as five million -- living in the diaspora, according to Svetlana Apsheva.
The Circassian journalist says that members of her nation have long been aware of the possibilities that social networks provide but that their power was most clearly manifested last week when Circassians in various countries marked the Day of the Circassian Flag and came together in virtual space (caucasustimes.com/ru/cherkesskie-seti/).
Prior to their defeat by the Russian army and the expulsion of many of them to the Ottoman Empire in 1864, an action in which so many died that it qualifies as a genocide, Circassians went into battle under their national flag. Not surprisingly, the Russian occupiers did everything possible to erase it from Circassian memory.
But the Circassians have never forgotten their flag, and when Soviet power collapsed, the Adygey Republic declared it the official one of that Circassian republic. And since 2010, Apsheva says, Circassians in other republics of the North Caucasus and around the world “have annually celebrated the Day of the Circassian Flag.”
Thanks to online social networks, she continues, this holiday and the flag on which it is based “have become ever more popular” and a rallying point for the Circassian nation. This year, the celebration “became really massive: in Adygeya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Turkey, tens of thousands of people went into the streets” with the falg.
She cites the words of Circassian activist Aslan Beshto who says that online social networks are today “the chief instrument for the coordination of actions” among Circassians and that as such, these online media are “for the majority of Circassians who live in 55 countries a real salvation” by helping to restore and strengthen their sense of unity.
Yemuz Bayazit,, a Circassian journalist in Turkey, says that his co-nationals there have been celebrating the Day of the Circassian Flag already for five years and that the number of participants has increased each year largely as a result of social media. And Adnan Khuade, an activist in Adygeya, adds that these celebrations remind everyone of the genocide and exile.
As such,Khuade says, this holiday and the social media which have allowed it to spread have placed “a priceless role in the consolidation of the Circassians over the last ten years.”
Today, as a century ago, Apsheva concludes, “the 12 stars” on the Circassian flag “symbolize the unity of Circassian sub-ethnoses and the three crossed arrows symbolize the nation’s unity and peace-loving intentions.”