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CIRCASSIA AND THE CIRCASSIANS., The Colonist, Volume VI, Issue 544, 9 January 1863
CIRCASSIA AND THE CIRCASSIANS.
TWENTt-Elvie years ago the name of Circassia burst upon the ear at once as a gleam of hope in time of danger, and as a glimpse of a primitive people exhibiting as a reality what had been cherished only as a romance. At the same moment were presented to the imagination, on the one hand, the enemy of the human race, with all the accumulated strength of numbers of men and vastness of territory ; and on the other, a heroic people who had in their hearts the determination to resist outrage and to deny falsehood. Since then nothing has been heard of Circassia. Those who were careful to inquire, did, however, learn that throughout this quarter of a century the terrible struggle continued ; that the Circassians continued faithful to that last duty of citizens, the unpurchased defence of their homes with their blood ; while on the other hand the masses of Russian troops were defeated, and replaced year by year without making the slightest impression on the people, or (with the exception of a few points on the coast) on the country.
To the south of the desert steppes of Russia, a mountainous tract of land bounded on the north by the Tetek as it flows into the Caspian, and by the Kouban as it flows into the Black Sea, extends &* far as the plateau which constitutes Mingrelia and Georgia. From one end to the other of this country runs a road open to travellers of all nations, but on which the Russian troops cannot travel except some thousand* strong. To the north a small chain of Russian forts is protected by the proximity of the Russian territory, but is subject to attacks from the inhabitants, like that which, a month ago, captured nearly a dozen of them.* Of the eight tribes of the Caucasus, three have persistently kept the Russians at bay —the Lesghiana on the Caspian, theTcherkesses and the Abasians on the north and south respectively of the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
On the. coast of the Black Sea, from Anapa to Poti, the two latter tribes are constantly exposed to the attacks of the Russians, who have here and there succeeded in building forts to assist them in their ravages by sea. These attacks do not consist of operations or campaigns. There are no towns or fortifications to resist them. They are made upon every Circassian village in turn. Masses of troops are sent from village to village to destroy the habitations of the people, tq build from time to time a hostilefort, and thus to conquer from the Circassians, yard by yard, a hostile territory.
In this conflict the soldiers of the vast Empire of Russia are paid by the Russian Treasury, fed by the commissariat. When they perish they are replaced from the vast population of the Empire. The regiment of this year is not that of the next; besides Russia sends thither for destruction her enemies, whom she calls rebels, her criminals, and her disaffected subjects. The Circassians dispense with a treasury; they find their own commissariat, and they go voluntarily from their happy and free homes to endure suffering, wounds, and death, rather than allow them to be contaminated by a foreign occupation. This contest has been handed down from father to son through at least three generations. Only last week the news arrived of a message being conveyed to them that ihey must either give up their arms and live quietly, or giveup their territories altogether. The reply was, VYou may get the arms and the territory together, but you mußt kill us all first.'
This interesting contest is no longer a story that is told of a land of romance. Circassians are walking on our own soil, and are seen in our streets. Two of their chiefs have arrived in London, the bearers of an appeal to the Queen. tfhe humblest of her subject's sending her an address by the post, receive an acknowledgment by her command. This appeal from an independent people, brought by two envoys who have travelled three thousand miles to lay it at the feet of the Queen of England, has been intercepted by Earl Russell, who has ordered the following answer to be returned :—
Foreign Office, Sept. 12,1862. Gentlemen,—-I am directed by Earl Russell to acknowledge the receipt of the petition which you addressed to the Queen on the 26th tilt., complaining of the conduct of Russia in regard to Circasaia, and I am to acquaint you that her Majesty's government cannot interfere iv the matter herein referred to.
I am, &c, E. Hammond.
Hayden, Hadji Hassen Eflfendi, Kustar Ogli Israael EfFcndi.
The'conduct of Russia* is in reference to a treaty made between England. and Russia at the end of a war bet ween England and Russia, in which England assumes that she has been victorious, and that Russia has been beaten.
The position assumed by Earl Russell is one which it is impossible for any human being to conceive, namely, that a state has «one to war with another state to resist an aggression by that state upon a neighbor, and that having compelled the aggressor to
iive yu'Araniees lor her future good cundut t, the victorious State now refuses to entertain a statement respecting the violation of these guarantees, wrested from the Slate which she had thus coerced and punished. When the Circassian Chiefs left the presence of the great exhumer of the remains of defunct races and extinguished States, they exclaimed, 'This office is a great place, but it is not worth so much as our swords.'
The part of the Circassian territories which has been most pressed is the small triangle of which Anapa is the apex, and of which two of the sides are the Koubon aud the Black Sea. This tract is thus exposed to constant attack by sea, besides that, being a champagne country, it affords less facility of defence even by land. Yet no impression has been made on it till during the last few months. But now the small-pox has carried off great numbers of the people, and a murrain has attacked their cattle. Inconsequence of these misfortunes, one of the Delegates who is from this part of the country is seeking the moans of escape for this section of the people. They have applied to the Turkish Government. Prince Metternich replied to the Envoy of the Poles in 183X1—•' You must first obtain a decision from the Governments of Paris and London. We cannot move without having the assurance and security that they are determined to do the thing in earnest—to check Russia once and for ever.'
Similar was the answer of the present Turkish Government to the Circassians. They have applied to Paris. Louis Napoleon's reply was, 'We will take you away from Anapa and we will send you (o Algiers.' The Turks would willingly receive the Circassians as they received the Hungarians, but the Circassians cannot get away.
The treaty of Paris says, • The Black Sea is interdicted to the flag of war, and opened to the commerce of all nations.' The declaration of Paris says, * The neutral flag covers the cargo.'
Yet from the moment those words were written, down to the present, a fierce contest has been waged in this neutralised se*. The few vessels allowed to Russia by that treaty, under the name of police, have been used to transport troops to the coast of Circassia. She has surreptitiously armed merchant vessels for the same purpose. By these means it is that she has been able to rebuild the old forts, and to add new ones. The Circassians are imprisoned on the one hand; and other people are hindered from the lawful commerce with them on the other. These deputises now amongst us, have only been able to reach our shores by running the risk of capture, which means being sent to work in the gold mines of Siberia; there to be subject to forced labor with the lowest criminals until death. Before returning to their homes they will again have to run the same risks-, and there will be no imperious despatch sent to St. Petersburg as to Washington, to reclaim them as 'Southern Commissioners.' Their very harbors are entered by Russian vessels to destroy any Turkish craft that may be there seeking for trade.f The knowledge that there still exists in the world such a people as the Circassians ought not to be without its effect on those who are engaged in this country in arresting the progress of evil. They have neither death nor wounds to fear. Here is no burning of their homesteads over their heads, or of their crops in the ground. Here is no watching by day and lying in ambush by night. Here whatever oppression we suffer is our own doing, and the enemy, our own Government, has no power except what it derives from our baseness.*
It will depend on whether there are in this land any hearts to feel for bravery or to commiserate undeserved suffering, whether the appeal now made by the Circassian chiefs from the Government to the people of this country shall be converted into a means of restoring England, or perverted into an instrument by which Russia shall be enabled to effect in Circass/a, by the betrayed confidence of its people in Europe, that which for so many years she has been unable to effect by any power of her own. The Circassians, like the Poles, the Hungarians, and other warlike nations, are being prepared for the time when, despairing of maintaining or recovering their own independence, they will form not only the vanguard but the main body of the armies with which Russia will Occupy Constantinople, Teheran, Calcutta, Vienna, and Paris. Under the walls of Calcutta, she will already, as she herself has said, have conquered London.— Safurday Review.
* 'By a letter received yesterday from Constantinople, we learn that the Circassians have fought six or eight times against the Russians, and have taken possessions of from eight to ten forts. Afterwards three Russian steamers from Obokh, with a great number of soldiers, arrived to attack the Circassians. The Russians finding them in force in that direction, were obliged to retire with the loss of three-fourths of their number/— Morning Star, Sept. 27. f ' A small vessel from Trebizond, with seventy Circassians, about to return to their homes, was captured the other day by a Russian steamer and conveyed to Soukham Kale\ where the men were imprisoned. Hadji Kirandoug Bey got ready twenty thousand Circassians to rescue them and attack the place. Hamit Bey, Governor of Soukham Kale", when he heard this, went to the Russian commander and told him that if Hadji Kirandoug came he should be obliged.to join him, but advised him to avoid the attack by giving up the prisoners. The Russian commander asked for. six days to write to Tiflis, but Hamit Bey told him the Circassian army would not wait. The prisoners were thian transferred to the Bey's houi«7— lhidi
CIRCASSIA AND THE CIRCASSIANS., The Colonist, Volume VI, Issue 544, 9 January 1863
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