What is the legacy?

Multiple perspectives on commemorations of tragic events such as the Circassian Exodus

21 May is a Day for remembering our tragic losses as a nation and for looking back into our history closely. Yes we should remember, but not with hate and bitter feelings; rather with opened minds, and with understanding of the historical facts, so we can learn from the mistakes that were made in the past. And this is the message I want to give to the young generation. We should learn to appreciate our own culture, our own language, each other... and have a belief in our future. Don’t open your hearts for hate or a new conflict, but open it for love for your motherland and your nation, who survived despite all the tragedies and hardships.

Dr. Mohydeen I. Quandour, Author, Film Director, Composer



Much has been written by historians and social scientists about the nature and importance of commemorations for nations: they are simultaneously symbols and events; collective and personal; political and cultural. Most importantly however they are both about the past and the future. The way in which the past of a nation is remembered is instrumental in the making of its futures. Therefore, while marking with grief the dispersal of the Circassians from their homeland, let May 21 also represent the joy of a nation that is coming to know itself.

Seteney Shami, Eurasia Program Director, USA


May 21 in 1864 was celebrated by the Russian imperial society as a day of joy marking the end of the so-called Caucasian Wars. The festivities held in Akhchipskh in order to commemorate this ‘historical event’ consisted of a church service thanking god for bestowing victory upon the Russian troops, a military parade and a banquet in honor of the royal family and those responsible for the ‘final subjugation’ of the Caucasus.

Irma Kreiten, Southampton University, UK


I do not think such commemorations are a good idea because the memory of yesterday’s miseries can lead to tomorrow’s. Warfare is one of the engines of history – people live in this place and not that, speak this language and not that, have this religion and not that as the consequences of victory or defeat in war. The Circassians lost a long and brutal war and many of them went into exile as miserable refugees. But all peoples have the same past; all have been losers, all have been winners. …Therefore,  commemorations of past tragedies can fuel present disputes that will lead to future tragedies. They should be matters of history to be dispassionately remembered and assessed. These events happened and, in most cases, had the losers been the winners, they would have done the same to their enemies.

Patrick Armstrong, Political analyst, Canada