Number 197 | May 21, 2012
For over a century, from 1763 onwards, the peoples of Circassian lands situated in the north-western Caucasus defended their homelands against Russian expansion.
The Circassian people, who by and large adopted Islam in the eighteenth century, were almost entirely affected by the terrible destruction of their communities and the forced displacement from their historic homeland during the last decades of the Tsarist regime. Russian General Yevdokimov was tasked to execute this policy of forced displacement as of 1860 with newly formed mobile columns of riflemen and Cossack cavalry.
The final defeat of the Circassians by Tsarist soldiers on 21 May 1864 led to the exile and massacre of what is estimated to be no fewer than one million and possibly close to one-and-a-half million Circassians. This tragedy is widely regarded as the worst instance of ethnic cleansing of the nineteenth century. The north-western region of the Caucasus known as Circassia was almost completely emptied of its indigenous population. Those who survived the brutalities fled over land and across the Black Sea and found refuge in Ottoman territory.
Today, Turkey is home to the descendants of this exodus like so many millions of others who were forcibly displaced from the Balkans and Caucasus as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
On May 21, the 148th anniversary of this grave tragedy was commemorated by Circassians in Turkey, the United States and across the world.
For more information of the forced migration and mortality of Ottoman Muslims and others, please visit here.