Olympic Games on the soil of Genocide?

Mikael Storsjö

Last year Moscow lost the contest of hosting the Summer Olympics in 2012. According to the chairman of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Leonid Tyagachev, the decision was not a sports question, but a political question. He pointed out the conflict in Chechnya as a major reason for Moscow’s loss 

Unfortunately, Tyagachev hasn’t learnt his lessons yet. The Russian olympic boss, who is the ski coach of Putin and a frequent tamada (table chairman) at his family parties, is today involved in promoting Sochi for the winter Olympics in 2014. This idea is completely absurd – it’s like planning to celebrate Olympic Games in Auschwitz or Treblinka.

The Circassian people don’t have the lobbying force of Jews or Armenians. Accordingly, the Genocide of the Circassians is almost a forgotten crime against humanity. The Holocaust Industry has quite far succeeded in defining genocide as crimes against Jews, but many people also know about the Genocide of Armenians in Turkey 1915-18. Still, the Circassian Genocide is both proportionally and in absolute numbers much more horrifying than the fate of Armenians some 50 years later.

Once upon the time, the historical Circassia was a great nation of Caucasus. Prior to the tsarist imperial conquest, Circassia covered an area bigger than 55.000 square kilometers east of the Sea of Azov and south of the river of Kuban – an area almost twice as big as Armenia today. The indigenous people of Circassia were in excess of two millions, more numerous than the Swedes at the middle of the 18th century. This people had a very long history on their ancient land, it was a nation of high cultural and social structure. The Circassians enjoyed strong trading ties already with the ancient Greeks, especially with the Athenians. Circassians even participated in the Olympic Games during classical times!

The Circassians fought against Russian conquest during a century, from 1763 to 1864. After the defeat of Imam Shamil in 1859, the Russians were able to concentrate their military forces upon Circassia. This led to a huge massacre and forced deportation of the people. The magnitude of brutality and evilness was unforeseen in human history. The great majority, more than 90 percent of the people of Circassian descent, were forced to live in exile. But those who managed to escape were lucky – at least one million Circassians were killed, and the number of victims of this Genocide was probably even more than 1½ million.

During the desperate fight for the future existence of their people, the leaders of the Circassian tribes gathered at the place where now stands the Black Sea resort of Sochi and appealed for help from the Ottomans and Britains. This appeal was totally in vain. The civilized world of those days didn’t respond more than it does to Chechen appeals in our time.

Now Putin plans to organize Olympic Games on this soil of Genocide. On the web page http://www.sochi2014.com of his campaign for Sochi is mentioned that the town is a “city of diverse ethnic origins with one-third of the population of non-Russian nationality”. In 1864 exactly 100 percent were non-Russians, but this people were killed in order to arrange Lebensraum for the invaders. It’s not possible to kill 1-1½ million people in a few years without extensive cruelty. Let’s cite the Russian historian Berzhe who was an eye-witness of the deportation in the harbor of Novorossiysk:

The late, inclement and cold time of year, the almost complete absence of means of subsistence and the epidemic of typhus and smallpox raging among them made their situation desperate. And indeed, whose heart would not be touched on seeing, for example, the already stiff corpse of a young Circassian woman lying in rags on the damp ground under the open sky with two infants, one struggling in his death-throes while the other sought to assuage his hunger at his dead mother’s breast? And I saw not a few such scenes.

The Olympic Father, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, would turn over in his grave if he knew about the attempts of present Russian leadership to arrange Olympic Games upon the graveyards of a people who sent their best sons already to the ancient Olympic Games.  The Olympic ideals are based upon high principles, i.e.

to contribute to building a peaceful and better world …. in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play“.

Let’s also remind of the “sacred truce” from the first known ancient Games when it was read and stated:

May the world be delivered from crime and killing and freed from the clash of arms.

Russia is today a country in war. The colonial war in Caucasus did neither start nor stop by the final solution in Circassia. In present time the Empire is committing Genocide against the Chechen people and practicing a harsh policy of oppression against all other Caucasian peoples. The idea of arranging Olympic Games in Caucasus, on Circassian land, is cynical and grotesque.

The applicant city Sochi is located in a war zone, a part of the Caucasian Front of the on-going second Chechen war. The distance to Nalchik in Kabardino-Balkaria is some 250 km, to Kislovodsk in Karachay-Cherkessia some 200 km, to Maikop in Adygeya some 100 km, and to the mainland of Chechnya about 400 km, just to mention a few of recent battle fields in Caucasus. The planned ski contest area of Krasnaya Polyana is some 10 km and the Sochi-Adler Airport only 5 km from the border to Abhazia, a region belonging to Georgia but presently occupied by Russia. The Russian attempts to incorporate Abhazia might soon even escalate into an armed clash.

Thus, the security issues of Caucasus should be a major concern among those who plan to bring athletes of the world to the scene. The entire Caucasus is burning today and ready to explode. The reasons can be found in the destructive Russian politics in the region. The colonial warfare in Caucasus is characterized by top-level corruption, economic mismanagement, massive police brutality, political and religious oppression and constant violations of human rights. The uprising of the indigenous Islamic peoples of Caucasus is a natural and justified consequence. Even Dmitrii Kozak, Putin’s representative to the Southern Federal District, has predicted a sharp rise in radicalism and extremism and emergencing of “a macro-region of sociopolitical and economic instability” encompassing the entire North Caucasus and parts of Stavropol Krai

The short victorious war that Yeltsin started in Chechnya 1993 has been far more disastrous for Russia than the Russo-Japanese war that von Plehve started in 1904. The Russian society is quite sick today. The Freedom House rating changed last year to the level “not free”. On the Corruption Perceptions Index Russia is placed at position 126 among 159 countries – well below countries such as Zimbabwe, Nepal and Mongolia. The life expectancy of Russian men is the lowest in Europe, only some 58 years. In spite of immigration from CIS countries, Russia’s population has been sliding down during the last decade, and with present trends the population could drop down below 100 million by 2050, less than Egypt and Vietnam.

The economic growth has been quite high in Russia during recent years, but it is more due to price increase of raw material exports than increase in productivity. The economy has characteristics of a developing country, not of a super power.

The present Russian leadership has apparently an irresistible temptation to build up a new Potemkin scene in the South, this time in shape of Olympic Games. Russia plans to invest 12 billion dollars in the games of Sochi, money desperately needed for health care of the “lumpen proletariat” and in order to take care of tens of thousands of St.Petersburg street children. On the other hand, there is a lot of oil money in Russia today. The problem is that the money is so unequally distributed. Forbes report about a boom in the number of Russian billionaires in dollar. Roman Abramovich is far from the only loyal oligarch in the vicinity of Kreml.

This is the ugly background of the Russian campaign for Olympic Games in Sochi 2014.

However, this situation creates also a genuine opportunity to inform the world about the genocidal and colonist features of Russian politics in Caucasus. The 114 members of IOC (International Olympic Committee) should all be addressed with complete and versatile information about the background and reality of Russian presence in Caucasus well before the IOC session in Guatemala City in July 2007. Also, they should all be informed about what kind of religious and ethnical cleansing may be expected among the regional population if Sochi would be elected.

Probably the election of Sochi as candidate city is only a consolation prize to Russia, a great sports nation, anticipating the final decision in favour of Salzburg. Anyway, it’s an opportunity for Russians to consider if Caucasus is an area important enough to degrade Russia to a second-class member of the world community.

The eight time zones east of Ural covers the major part of Russian territory with a sharply diminishing population – there is Lebensraum and natural resources enough, without any obstinate aboriginal people.

Mikael Storsjö

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