Circassian Day of Mourning

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The North Caucasus is the homeland of the Circassians. The region stretches along the high peaks of the Caucasian mountain range at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, bounded by Russia from the north and the Middle East from the south.

From 1763 to 1864 the Circassians fought against the Russians in the Russian-Circassian War only succumbing to a scorched earth campaign initiated in 1862 under General Yevdokimov.

On 2 June 1864 (21 May 1864 (O.S.)), the Russian Tsar Aleksandr II declared that the war has ended with the occupation of Circassian land. The Czar approved a decision to deport and exile the entire Circassian people for their refusal to convert to christianity from islam and the constant raids they performed on russian villages.

In 1914, Nicholas II celebrated the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the Circassians as one of the empire's greatest victories. Boris Yeltsin, however, (when signing a peace treaty with Chechnya in the first Chechen War of Independence) acknowledged in 1996 that the war in the North Caucasus had lasted 400 years and was a tragedy.

In Soviet times, Joseph Stalin subdivided the remaining Circassians in the North Caucasus into a series of ethnic groups – the Adyghe (the self-designation of most Circassians), the Cherkess, the Kabardin, the Shapsugs, and several others – as extension of the classic divide-and-rule policy.

In 1990, the Circassians designated the 21st of May as the national Day of Mourning, on which they commemorate the tragedy of the nation.

More than 1.5 million Circassians were expelled — 90% of the total population at the time. Most of them perished en route, victims of disease, hunger, and exhaustion.

They were dispersed all over the world. Some traveled 3000 km on foot or on ox carts. Some roamed for 25 years before settling down.

Today over 4 million Circassians live outside their homeland in over 40 countries across of the world. Many Circassians remember their ancestors who had survived the Circassian Genocide to suffer the miseries of the deportation.

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