CIRCASSIAN DIASPORA IN JORDAN
(self-identification, ideas about historical homeland and impact on North Caucasian developments)

Anastasia GANICH


Anastasia Ganich, Research associate, The Caucasus and Central Asia Training and Coordinating Center, Institute of Asia and Africa, Moscow State University (Moscow, Russian Federation)


Today, the subject of the North Caucasian diaspora in the Middle East and the historical, social, cultural, political and ethnographic features of its emergence and the present state are actively discussed in Russia and abroad. This interest is heated by the past and present role the Caucasus played, and is playing, in trade, economy, policy, and religious life of many countries as well as the role that people of Caucasian origin played, and are playing, in the East (Egypt of the Mamelukes and the Ottoman Empire in the past, and Turkey, Syria and Jordan today). The public is inclined to associate, at least partially, the events unfolding in the Caucasus with the North Caucasian diaspora. A detailed study of the Caucasian War of the 19th century and the phenomenon of muhajirs has produced a valuable body of knowledge about the past of the Adighes, Abkhaz, Chechens, the peoples of Daghestan, and the Ossets.

While the past has been thoroughly investigated, the present of the diaspora in the Middle East remains a lacuna. This article is one of the few attempts in the Russian historical science to provide a sociological description of the Circassian1 diaspora at the present stage, to analyze the situation inside the diaspora in Jordan, to discuss the problem of its self-identity, the ideas about the Caucasus, Russia and the diasporas future, and to reveal its contacts with the historical homeland and its impact on the developments there.

The article is mainly based on the field materials I collected in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Abkhazia, and in Moscow in 2001-2002. I also found interesting materials about the Rodina (Homeland) Foundation in the Center of Contemporary History Documents of Kabardino-Balkaria (CCHD). I would like to mention the data obtained through polling the youth and activists of the Circassian Charity in Jordan on 12-21 April, 2002. This is a pilot project the results and conclusions of which should be treated as hypothetical and corrected in the course of further research.

Here I have concentrated on the Adighes while there are also Chechens, Ingushes, Daghestanian peoples, Abkhaz, and Ossets (called Kushkha, mountain dwellers in Arabic), Karachais, and Balkars there. Their total numerical strength is estimated at 100 thou.2

My fieldwork in Jordan was based on questionnaires in Arabic that contained 61 questions grouped according to subjects: personal information; history; culture; the role and place of the Circassian community in public and political life of Jordan; self-awareness of the Circassians rooted in their ideas about historical homeland.

I worked in two cities (Amman and Irbid) among students, civil servants, and creative intelligentsia. The majority of the polled lived in cities; 79.6 percent among them held university degrees.

Among the polled 44.5 percent were Kabardins, as well as Bzhedugs, Shapsugs, Abadzekhs, Khatukais, and Ubykhs.3 Age-wise the respondents comprised four groups: under 25, from 25 to 40, 40 to 60, and over 60. The answers were differentiated accordingly. The Adighes live in Amman, an-Naur, Wadi az-Sir, Az Zarqa, al-Rusafa, Jarash, Bayadir, Marj el-Hammam, and Azraq. In some places they live in compact groups, in others they are dispersed. This circumstance indirectly affects the self-identity level. The families living in compact groups use the Adighe language more often and the impact of ethnic traditions is more obvious.

The problem of ethnic self-identification is a complex one: it consists of many elements ranging from an awareness of belonging to any ethnic group to the level of knowledge of a corresponding tongue and observance of traditions. Each of the elements has specific feature of its own determined, to different degrees, by outside factors, namely, ethnic, social, cultural and educational milieu. A single article and the available materials do not allow me to discuss all of them, therefore I shall limit myself to some of them.

More than a half of those polled regard themselves people of Caucasian origin and mentality and citizens of Jordan; merely 24.1 percent look at themselves as Caucasians alone and 10 percent regard themselves only Jordanians. The latter can be caused by three reasons: integration in Jordanian society; the states ethnic policies (it is declared officially that there are no ethnic minorities in the country; all people are Jordanian citizens and have equal rights and possibilities; the Constitution describes population as part of the Arab nation and makes no religious or ethnic distinctions); conscious individual choice: people have to decide whether they should isolate themselves from society in which they are living and in which their descendants will also live.

The majority of the respondents believed that to be an Adighe meant to have a certain set of positive traits such as honesty, bravery, self-respect and respect for others, etc. Students replied in the following way to the question: What does it mean for you personally to be a Circassian?: This means good life for me and my people in this country from the point of view of history and customs. I havent seen similar things anywhere. This means an involvement in good society and a hope to return to our historical homeland (T.M., 22); I am proud to be Circassian and thank Allah for this. I would not like to be anything else despite certain problems (N.G., 22); To be a Circassian means to be an alien. Today a Circassian is a remnant of civilization and culture that were killed off. The Circassians could only be blamed for having the souls ill fitted for the present world in which mercenarism and cruelty are reigning supreme. To be a Circassian means to be higher than the time we are living in (K.M., 21); We are all aware of our Circassian blood and Arabic mentality. Islam comes first, ethnicitysecond.4

We have come to a difficult and very important problem of correlation between the ethnic and the religious in the minds and everyday life of diaspora members. The majority clearly stated that with them Islam came first, being Circassians, second.

This should be discussed at greater length. Today, the Adighes of the diaspora are more religious and more devout than the Adighes in the Caucasus. This was not always the case: in their ethnographic descriptions of the Caucasus many 19th-century authors spoke about the local religious situation as a coexistence of pagan, Christian, and Muslim elements.5 This was especially true of the Adighes and Abkhaz. The peoples of the Northeastern corner that Imam Shamil (1834-1859) found responsive to the ideas of a Muslim state were the only exception. In the Northwestern corner the local people rejected his calls to fight infidels. For a long time the Adighes remained only formally devoted to Islam and displayed tolerance toward followers of other confessions despite the active efforts of the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire that dispatched Muslim preachers in huge numbers to the Caucasian bank of the River Kuban and Kabarda.6 Influenced by its environment the diaspora grew more Islamic; some of its traditions also changed. Positive answers to the question: Do all your customs correspond to the Islamic norms? comprised 45.4 percent, Some of them, 17.6 percent; negative answers, 16.6 percent. The use of liquor, more freedom in relations between the sexes and even certain dances were described as a departure from Islam. This is caused by a natural influence of the dominating culture and ideology on the ethnic minorities. The same process can be observed in the Caucasus, the only difference being that the ethnic communities numerical strength is enough to reproduce traditions and develop them. I am convinced that the opinion about traditions as something immutable and static is only partially correct. Traditions do change with time and under pressure of new social conditions in which some of the traditions become unacceptable or too complicated to be observed. While in the Caucasus with large ethnic communities traditions can be changed and adjusted, in the diaspora that has limited contacts with the historic homeland and is exposed to influences of its social environment those of the traditions that do not fit in the new homeland are abandoned. Within the diaspora the customs are bequeathed along the male line and are not supported by outside influences. They are realized within the narrow and constantly narrowing communal and family circle: old people die while the youth grows up under strong Arabic cultural influences. On the other hand, those of the customs that have survived are more archaic and conservative: the diaspora is following more modern or generally accepted rules such as respect for the elders and women, hospitality. Marriages are usually conducted according to the Circassian customs.

All respondents agreed that the cultural heritage and the language should be preserved as a means of their communitys continued existence as part of the Adighe mother ethnos.

Names are one of the indicators of ethnic awareness: 45.4 percent of the polled give Circassian names to their children; 21.3 percent prefer Arabic Muslim names while 30.5 percent use both. The difference is partly explained by the respondents ages: in the past Arabic names were preferred (among the respondents over 40), today Caucasian names are in fashion. To a certain extent this can be taken for the Circassians desire to stand aside from the rest of society and to emphasize their ethnic affiliation. This is especially typical of the youththe age group more inclined to demonstrative ethnic self-awareness.

The table below shows how values are distributed among the age groups.

Table 1

 

Up to 25

25-40

40-60

Over 60

Total

%

Arabic

2

3

3

 

8

7.4

Caucasian

23

2

10

4

39

36.1

Arabic and Caucasian

3

3

15

5

26

24.07

European

4

2

7

 

13

12.03

All

8

4

   

11

10.2

No definite values

 

1

   

1

0.9

Undecided

3

1

4

1

9

8.3

Choice of occupation is no less indicative: from the very first days in Jordan Circassians preferred the army, police and civil service in which they reached high posts. Today, Circassians are gradually turning to engineering, medicine and science as the preferred occupations. The communitys status is changing. One of the respondents described this as follows: There are no longer Circassians on the very top. It seems that today they are gradually ceding these positions to Arabs though part of their former influence can be still felt.

Preservation of the native tongue as a vehicle of cultural heritage and a sign that the community is still alive is one of its major tasks. I personally observed families with three generations living under one roof (grandparents, parents, and children) in which the parents used the Adighe language when talking to grandparents, a mixed tongue when talking among themselves, and Arabic when talking to their children. The knowledge of the Adighe among the young is limited to everyday vocabulary. This causes a lot of concern among the older people who organized lessons of the Adighe in the Prince Hamzah bin Talal School not far from Amman. The teachers complain that this has not worked: outside the school the pupils still talk in Arabic.

The linguistic problem is closely connected both with the subjective and objective processes taking place in Jordanian society as a whole and the Circassian community in particular. First, the present settlement pattern of the Adighes decreases the number of compactly living families that narrows down the sphere of the Adighe language. Second, the number of interethnic marriages between Adighes and Arabs is growing. Even if 63.8 percent of the respondents frown at such marriages, 30 percent totally accept them as normal. They say: We are living in one society after all. This is indicative: part of the community favors an integration into Arabic society since it no longer expects to have any future in the historical homeland.

Let us analyze the answers to the second group of questions related to the ideas of the Circassian diaspora about the Caucasus, Russia, and their future. I believed it necessary to find out where the respondents get ideas about their historical homeland, what they think about it, whether they are interested in the Caucasian history and whether the genetic memory about the tragedy caused by the Caucasian War of the 19th century is still alive. While providing practically no information about the past, oral history makes it possible to find out what people, the youth especially, think about the past. Their knowledge is based on the stories inherited from the older generations; people also read books on history, they turn to personal archives, TV and amateur films made by diaspora members. Over 71 percent of the polled know when their ancestors came to Jordan; their answers help specify the dates of immigration waves, though allowances should be made for the specific nature of oral information that with time distorts facts. Here I shall use the data obtained through polling since they do not contradict the periodization of the Caucasian muhajir movement accepted by historical science. There were seven migration periods: after 1800, between 1846 and 1869, between 1870 and 1889, between 1890 and 1900, between 1901 and 1917, between 1945 and 1950, and after 1980.

Russian historical science abounds in analyses of the main reasons for such migration, the main being economic, political, and religious. According to the majority of the respondents, their ancestors migrated for religious reasonsthey could not live in a non-Muslim state. Archive documents report: They say that they went to Turkey because, on the one hand, they had heard a lot about the sultans generosity and because they wanted to live under Muslim rule. On the other, they were oppressed in their homeland and their customs were constantly violated. For example, soldiers did not hesitate to enter their harems.7 In addition, there were rumors that conscription would be extended to all Caucasian Muslims.8

Today, Circassians in Jordan say the same. Here are two opinions: They are not living according to Islam, this was why the Circassians dispersed. It is very important that here in Jordan we are living according to religious laws in the Land of Islam (dar al-islam) (N.Kh., 21) and The difference between us and the Circassians in the Caucasus is in our conduct, customs and piety. They have moved away from religion a great deal, and their family ties are not as strong as among us. We are more devoted to the Circassian customs and Islam than they are (L.B., 23).

An interest in their own history never slackens. The diaspora is passionately interested in the period of migrations (42.6 percent); 24 percent would like to know more about their history outside the Caucasian War and the muhajir movement; 57.4 percent of the polled know the name of their ancestral village and its location. They do their best to maintain contacts with the Caucasian relatives which is not always easy (51 percent of the respondents have no such ties). The rest communicate through visits, letters and telephone calls (66.6 percent of them are convinced that there are visible differences between them and their relatives in the Caucasus). Table 2 describes specific manifestations of such differences.

Table 2

Conduct 26
Traditions 27
Language 13
Undecided 29
Arabic and Russian influences 5
Life style 14
We follow the norms of Islam 10
In the Caucasus they drink liquor banned by Islam 2
In everything 7
They live in their homeland 2
Values and mentality 4
We are all urban people while they still work in agriculture as our ancestors 1

The diaspora gets information about the Caucasus and life there from those who visit the historical homeland, those who studied there and those who preferred to return to the Caucasus forever. Contacts were not always possible, they were realized through several social, political, and cultural organizations and foundations. In 1957 the State Committee for Cultural Ties with Compatriots Abroad was set up in the Soviet Union, its branch in Kabardino-Balkaria was opened in December 1966. Today it is the Rodina Charity9 working for closer cooperation with the compatriots and their associations on the basis of historical, language, cultural, religious, and other types of community; support for compatriots in the spheres covered by the international instruments protecting human rights and main freedoms. With this aim in view the Charity contributed to policies and practical measures designed to help compatriots receive education in the native tongue, enter educational establishments in the Russian Federation, be trained and receive on-the-job training in Russia; it is responsible for information, analytical, and publishing activities and works with the media.

Until the late 1980s the Circassian organizations in Jordan concentrated on preserving their ethnic identity and opposing assimilation by Arabs through cultural activities. Their knowledge of the Caucasus was scarce while information that reached them from their historical homeland was scantythis distorted the ideas about the Caucasus. It was said at the ceremony opening the Kabardino-Balkarian Branch of the Soviet Committee for Cultural Ties with Compatriots Abroad that the Syrian Kabardins had no idea about the life of the Kabardins in Kabardino-Balkaria. Some of them even imagined that the entire people had perished during World War II. The most credulous were convinced that the Kabardins and Balkars had already become completely assimilated with the large Russian nation.10 Circassians in Jordan could have thought something similar.

The Committee supplied the Circassian diaspora with audio and video materials about the Caucasus, with books, papers and magazines, and exchanged delegations. True, the number of them was limited while the members were hand-picked, yet such trips little by little filled in the gaps in the ideas about the historical homeland. In 1969 Secretary of the Amman Kabardino-Circassian Society (now the Circassian Charity) Djaudat Hatib Shupash visited Kabardino-Balkaria and brought back six bottles of the local mineral water, maize, sunflowers, and 2 kg of local soil.11

The Branch officials reported: The Adighes hope that the Soviet Government pay attention to the Adighes living in Syria and Jordan and will let them come back to their homeland.12 Since the very first days in the Ottoman Empire and later in Syria and Jordan the Circassians have always wanted to come back.

Starting with the 1860s and 1870s the mountain dwellers, who had arrived in the Ottoman Empire and found themselves deceived in their expectations, applied for a permission to return. The czarist government was concerned with this to the extent that it instructed the Russian consul in Constantinople to refuse outright to register the passports of those people from the Caucasus who became Turkish subjects and who want to come back home.13 This attitude remained practically unchanged during Soviet power: as before the then Soviet Government refused to let Circassians come back under the pretext of scarcity of land and dwellings. Perestroika created conditions under which ethnic values could revive. There appeared ethnic movements and public organizations that protected the rights of those who wanted to come back to the historical homeland. The problem of repatriation was discussed at meetings of the Adighe Khase organization and the October 1990 congress of the Assembly of the Mountainous Peoples of the Caucasus held in Nalchik.

Early in 1989 the Circassian community of Syria asked C.C. C.P.S.U. General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to grant the right of repatriation and the Soviet citizenship to 234 families. In December 1990 the Circassian Charity received an official negative answer from the Soviet embassy in Syria.14

Today the problem of repatriation is not as acute as before: those who want to return are few. Others indulge themselves in empty deliberations. According to my poll, 42.6 percent of the respondents are prepared to come back but prefer to wait because of crime and economic instability in the Caucasus. Older people are concerned with their childrens safety. Here are the most typical answers to the question: Why dont you want to return?: This is a totally unknown world, I shall feel an alien there, I dont want to abandon my property in Jordan, I dont want to abandon the land of Islam and go to the land of kiafirs, Jordan is my homeland. Many people are concerned with the problem of fitting into the Caucasian, or broader, Russian society that lives according to different ideas and follow different rules. Many of them know that back in the historical homeland they will have to overcome the language barrier, look for a job and grapple with everyday problems. Not all of them, though, are prepared to a shock when the ideas of the historical homeland prove widely different from reality. A repatriate from Turkey, who in 1992 returned to Kabardino-Balkaria, said: Our granddads and parents told us about the old times in the Caucasus and we imagined it in this way. When we came here, we did not find this. To say that we did not like what we saw is to say nothing. We have been always measuring ourselves against those who lived in the homeland. We were bitterly disappointed. Each of us explains this in different ways. Religion is not the only reason. When we talk about religion, we talk about what changed in general, in the people. They lost many things: humane attitude, and others. Historian Hasan Iahtanigov: At the time when our people were completely devoted to religion they had reason. Today, when there is no longer religion there is no reason either.15

Having failed to adjust to their historical homeland, many of the repatriates go back or join their relatives in Germany and the United States.

In 1998 there occurred the first and so far only official return of compatriots to the historical homeland: about 35 families of Kosovo Adighes returned to Adigey. It was a political act with a history of its own. In 1996 during the first Kosovo crisis the Adighes from Yugoslavia asked for a permission to repatriate. They had found themselves in a quandary: on the one hand, the Albanians accused them of being too loyal to the Serbs. On the other, the Serbs treated them with suspicion because they were Muslims. The leaders of the International Circassian Association headed by B.H. Akbashev repeatedly addressed Russias governmental structures with the same request. In 1998, the official procedure being completed, the first group arrived in Adigey. They received 150 hectares of land at Maikop on which they built the village of Mafehabl. The Samgur Charity and the House of Adaptation of Repatriates helped them find homes and fit into the new conditions. Unable to adjust themselves, some of the families went back to Yugoslavia.16

Russian legislation has not yet taken into account all aspects of contacts with compatriots abroad, which adds problems to the question of repatriation. The law of the Russian Federation related to the compatriots abroad adopted on 31 May, 2002 made the procedure of repatriation to the Caucasus and obtaining Russian citizenship still more difficult. Today, to become a Russian citizen a person should reside in Russia for five consecutive years (starting with the day when the person gets his stay permit and the day when he files a corresponding application) and know the Russian language (Art 13). The new law annulled all previous rules including Art 11 of the Federal Law of 24 May, 1999 (No. 99-3) on the RF State Policy in Relation to the Compatriots Abroad, Point 2 of which said: The subjects of the Russian state who found themselves outside it and deprived of the R.S.F.S.R. citizenship or who lost it without their free and voluntary desire as well as their direct descendants can get Russian citizenship through registration.

The diaspora was very much displeased with the new law: Circassians find it hard to get citizenship because of legal problems and the obstacles created by the Russian authorities (Y.K., 22), We find it hard to get Russian citizenship, which negatively affects the descendants of the Circassian muhajirs (P.K., 23).

Individual opinions about the present situation in the Caucasus should not be taken for a communitys common opinion. Individual opinions differ, and this is what is interesting about them. I think that the economic situation in the Caucasus is hard but our life here is unbearable. I want to go back to the land of my ancestors (M.K., 19); I ask Allah to show them the road back to Islam (A.S., 59); The economic situation in the Caucasus is hard and the Chechen war will produce negative effects (D.M., 19); The general situation in the Caucasus is unstable because of the conditions in the region and especially in Chechnia and Abkhazia, which affects the local economy (Y.K., 22); Life in the political system of Russia is destroying the principle that urged our grandparents to resettle. Today we have nowhere to returnthere is nothing there (N.H., 21); We are struggling here to preserve ourselves, the language, traditions, and values that determine our life. And this despite the fact that we are living among Arabs in a Muslim society. There people fight against the Russian state of things that have nothing in common with Islam. What a difference! We are living together with the Arabic and Islamic society and protect it while they are living in a society that has no respect for the religion of our ancestors. Here we are dreaming to go back to the Motherland because a man without a homeland is a man without mother. In our hearts we still see our homeland as the most beautiful land (Sh.B., 22); The Circassians are divided among three republics in which they live together with other ethnic groups. Each of the republics is small; their weak economies are supported from the Center. This means that they cannot extend cultural help to their brothers in other countries to the full extent. They give us Caucasian souvenirs but in fact they need an aid of muhajirs (Z.D., 42).

Today, contacts between the Adighes of Russia and expatriates are limited to three spheres: culture and education, economy, and religion, the latter often associated in the press with crime, money and arms deliveries to Chechnia, and mercenaries.

There are all sorts of public organizations and foundations designed to establish cultural contacts and create a single information space in the Caucasus and the countries with Circassian communities. Since 1932 the Circassian Charity has been operating in Amman. Today it has several departments: the council of the Circassian and Chechen elders, a womens department, a youth club, the Akhli sports club, a library and an archive. The council of elders (Nehyzh khase) settles conflicts, represents the community and maintains contacts with elders of other ethnic groups living in Jordan. The womens department (Tsyhubs khase) founded in 1971 helps Circassian women find jobs, raise children, and organize leisure. In 1974 it initiated an ethnic school. The youth club (Nybzhyshche khase) founded in 1949 publishes the News weekly and organizes TV and radio programs about the community.17

The charity has several departments in the place where Adighes live in compact groups: in Wadi az-Sir (founded in 1961), an-Naur (1961), Suveilikh (1959), Az Zarqa (1964), Jarash (1984), and al-Rusafa (1961). There are also Chechen cultural societies in Jordan.

An International Circassian Association founded in 1991 in Munich is functioning worldwide. It has already held four congresses: in Nalchik in 1991, Maikop, 1993, Cherkessk, 1996, and Krasnodar, 1998 that attracted prominent political figures and delegates from many countries.18 The Adighe International Academy of Sciences founded in 1993 in Nalchik is also strengthening contacts between the diaspora and its historical homeland. It has three research centers: in Adigey, Krasnodar, and Moscow (the latter founded in 1996 is headed by Muhadin Kumakov). It publishes a bi-annual Doklady AMAN and has four branches (in Abkhazia, Krasnodar, Adigey, and Israel). Today, it is contemplating another branch, this time in Jordan.19 Though less active than before, they have not exhausted their consolidating potential yet.

Economic ties are also importantthey provide money to be spent in the cultural and spiritual spheres. There is an opinion shared by activists of the International Circassian Association: business may bring the Adighes together. The acting president of the Public Foundation for Helping Expatriates of the Republic of Adigey, Turkish Adighe Nadjet Meshwez Hattam shares this conviction.20 The regions general instability, the unfavorable economic situation in Russia and, as one of the Arab authors has put it, lack of adventurous flair and confidence in their business abilities among the Circassians of Jordan21 make it harder for them to plunge into economic ventures.

Members of the Circassian communities of Turkey, Syria, and Jordan have contributed to the Islamic renaissance in the Caucasus. The materials collected by the joint expedition in Kabardino-Balkaria in 200222 outline the range of questions and supply preliminary answers. Polling has identified objective facts and has revealed two opinions about the role the Circassian repatriates played in reviving Islam in the republic: one of them was supplied by the repatriates themselves, another, by the local young Muslims-graduates from the Islamic Institute in the city of Nalchik and Middle Eastern religious educational establishments.

In 1992 the republic acquired the Institute of the Sharia (today the Islamic Institute) founded by Muhammad Heyr Huaj, a repatriate from Jordan. He came to Kabardino-Balkaria late in the 1980s and after several years of residence opened a Muslim religious circle. Together with the local scholar Zaur Naloev and a fellow-repatriate Fuad Duguj he translated the Koran into the Kabardinian.23 At first religious education was provided by repatriates from different countries: at the dawn of Islamic resurrection the first repatriates also became imams of newly opened or old mosques. Muhammad Heyr Huaj, for example, has been an imam of the local mosque in the village of Kenji for many years while another repatriate, Samir Jambiko from Syria, is working as an imam of the lower mosque in the Argudan village. By way of explanation why expatriates became religious leaders one of the respondents said: The local young men were interested in religion, yet it was us, the newcomers, who inspired them and provided an example to follow. There was a definite shortage of experts in the Sharia, the Islamic dogmas and the Arabic among the local Islamic clergy.

While agreeing with this, young Muslims trained in the Arab countries who are now at the head of a religious revival are also aware of the repatriates negative influence on the religious situation: they stressed local ethnic specifics and insisted on reviving local customs, and some other things. Time has come for us to revive Islam by our own efforts. We have enough knowledgeable people. All sorts of organizations based in Arab countries played an important role in the local religious processes by extending financial and information support.

Public funds of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states give money to local enterprises in exchange for a permission to set up branches of Muslim organizations and build mosques.24 The money came from Muslim states, not from the diaspora that cannot allocate millions of dollars for continued fighting in the Caucasus or buy weapons. The media, however, insist on the opposite. I regret to say that there are many unfounded statements of this sort and accusations based on sand. They are hard either to confirm or to renounce. I should say here that Jordan boasts of an efficient domestic and foreign intelligence able to discontinue any attempts at law breaching.

It is common knowledge, however, that during the first Chechen war the Circassian and Chechen communities collected medicines and humanitarian aid, some of their members proclaimed themselves ambassadors of free Ichkeria in Jordan and traveled across the Muslim world with fund-raising missions. One of the respondents told me that in the majority of cases the money never reached Chechnia. While in 1994-1995 an upsurge of patriotism took the form of concrete actions, today it has boiled down to emotional anti-Russian statements and humanitarian aid. My talks with local Circassians and the materials from Russian and foreign press illustrate the dynamics of nationalist feelings in the diaspora. Active phases began during the wars in the Caucasus that attracted North Caucasian volunteers (this happened during the war between Georgia and Abkhazia in 1991-1992 and the first Chechen campaign). There were few of them and nearly all came back home once the hostilities ended.25 In 1994 dozens of Chechens received medical aid in Jordan and left for the front. But when about 500 members of the Circassian community volunteered for the Caucasian war, the elders strictly banned this and ordered the community to limit itself to humanitarian aid. In 1999 the Jordanian government did not permit the community to set up a foundation and organize mass rallies in support of Chechnia.

It should be added that while the Circassian diaspora has somewhat dampened its activity, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey and certain other Muslim states on the territories of which vast pro-Chechen campaigns take place have never slackened their support. In 2000 Ankara hosted a conference of the Caucasian diaspora attended by Said-Hasan Abumuslimov, representative of the president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in foreign countries. The conference passed a resolution that said that independence of Chechnia should be recognized, all those involved in military crimes and other criminal actions in the republic should be punished. The Chechen have an active support of the extreme nationalist party Grey Wolves responsible for mass rallies in front of the Russian embassy. It has assumed the role of an intermediary between the Chechnias representative in Istanbul and the Turkish and foreign media.26

The majority of the Circassian community in Jordan regard themselves as Circassians who possess definite values and traits that bring them closer to the historical homeland. On the other hand, they identify their future with Jordan as the best place for life and career. Even those who in principle would like to return to the Caucasus are frightened away by instability there. The Caucasus is an object of nostalgia and a place brief visits to which are preferable to permanent stay. There is an opinion among the respondents supported by many that they, and not the Caucasian Circassians, have preserved the better features of the Adighes, that their faith is stronger and the family traditions are more consistently observed. The youth looks at itself and the history through a veil of emotions, which creates problems in its relationships with Arabian young people. Naturally enough, elements of the local culture and mentality (Arabic in the case of Jordan) trickle into the Circassians traditional culture and transform certain basic elements of ethnic identity.

One can say that the Circassian community in Jordan is involved in all sorts of activity ranging from events to passive moral support. I can say that there are alien forces acting in the communitys name. This shows that the Circassians in Jordan (minus a small bellicose group of fanatics) are more concerned with their own affairs than with the Caucasian developments. This is true of their communities in other countries: faced with complete assimilation they are struggling to preserve their culture, language and customs and are disinclined to shed blood for alien ideals. The Caucasian diaspora is preaching healthy pragmatism that prevents rash acts of its members.


1 Inside the diaspora the Circassians-Adighes share their name with all people of North Caucasian extraction. This goes back to the first half of the 19th century when the European and partly Russian press covering the events on the Caucasian front were convinced that all North Caucasian peoples had developed from the Circassians. This extended interpretation stemmed from the fact that then the Adighes were the largest North Caucasian ethnic group and influenced their neighbors in many respects. This article uses the word Circassian to describe the Adighes of the diaspora.
2 In an absence of population censuses, this is a tentative assessment. The Circassian Charity has supplied certain information.
3 It should be added that the Ubykhs can be called that with a great deal of reservation: they no longer speak the language though know that their ancestors were Ubykhs.
4 Field materials collected by the author in Jordan in 2002, Notebook 1, Inventory 2, File 6.
5 See: Osman-bey, Vospominania 1855 g., Kavkazskiy sbornik, Vol. 2, Tiflis, 1877, p. 167.
6 See: K.Kh. Unezhev, Traditsionnaia kultura adygov, doctorate thesis, Rostov-on-Don, 1998, p. 75.
7 Foreign Policy Archives of the Russian Empire (AVPRI), Record Group 180, Posolstvo v Konstantinopole, Inventory 517/2, File 5084, sheet 128.
8 Ibid., sheet 149 rev.
9 CCHD, Record Group P-865, Inventory 1, File 2.
10 CCHD, Record Group P-865, Inventory 1, File 2, sheet 1.
11 CCHD, Record Group P-865, Inventory 1, File 47, sheet 24.
12 CCHD, Record Group P-865, Inventory 1, File 13, sheet 18.
13 ASRSO-A, Record Group 12, Inventory 5, File 20, sheet 27.
14 A.V. Kushkhabiev, I dolshe veka dlitsia put na rodinu, Cherkesskiy mir, No. 1, 1998, p. 35.
15 The materials were collected by a research group working on a project Islam v Kabardino-Balkarii, grant of RGNF No. 02-01-00417a, Nalchik, 2002, Notebook 1, Inventory 2, File 9.
16 For more detail, see: G. Chemso, Vozvrashchenie, Maikop, 2000.
17 See: A.V. Kushkhabiev, Cherkesskaia diaspora v arabskikh stranakh (XIX-XX vv.), Nalchik, 1997, p. 176.
18 See: Cherkesskiy mir, No. 2, 1998, pp. 4-5.
19 See: A.V. Kushkhabiev, Cherkesskaia diaspora, p. 197.
20 Field materials collected by the author during the 1999 expedition, Maikop, Notebook 1, Inventory 1, File 5.
21 Uardam Muhammad Ali, At-Tahawwulyat fi-l-Mudzhtamaat al-Mahalliya al-Urduniya min Usul Sharkasiya fi-l-Fitra min 1878-2000 (Changes in the local Jordanian communities as illustrated by the Circassians between 1878 and 2000), Amman, 2000, p. 25.
22 The materials were collected by a research group working on a project Islam v Kabardino-Balkarii.
23 The materials were collected by a research group working on a project Islam v Kabardino-Balkarii, Notebook 1, Inventory 2, File 3.
24 Field materials collected by the author during the 2001 expedition, Vladikavkaz, Notebook 1, Inventory 1, File 1.
25 Field materials collected by the author during the 2001 expedition, Sukhum, Notebook 1, Inventory 1, File 2.
26 See: [www.bestlibrary.ru/texts/tr/bushI/7.shtml].

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