As these different sources show the official position of the Russian Government is consistent although the position in the internal dispatches is more hardline than the one used in communications with foreign ambassadors. At the same time not everyone at the time or since agreed with the official policy towards the Caucasus.
You cleaned up and destroyed the rebellious autochthon [native] nations in West Caucasia in the last 3 years. We can recover the cost of this long bloody war from this fertile land in a very short time.
Tsar Alexander II in a dispatch to General Yevdokimov
At the end of the war, when Grand Duke Michael came to Caucasia, Circassian Elders visited him and they said that they were defeated, and they demanded to be allowed to live in their lands accepting Russian administration. The answer Grand Duke Michael gave was: “I give you a month. In one month, you either go to the land that will be shown to you beyond Kouban, or you go to the land of the Ottoman Empire. The villagers and mountaineers who are not leaving for the coastal region in one month will be treated as prisoners of war.”
Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich, Governor General of Caucasia 1862-1882
We should send the Mountaineers by force to the places we want. If we need, we should deport them to the Don region. Our main goal is to settle Russians in the regions on the skirts of the Caucasian Mountains. But we shouldn’t let the Mountaineers know about this.
Head of General Staff Milyutin, Imperial Caucasus Armies
The Russians say that a fair offer was made to all the mountaineers [Circassians] to move into the plain, and to enjoy there, with an ample donation of land, some of the privileges of local self-administration. If the tribes had accepted the offer, the settlement of the people would have cost a vast sum to the Russian Government.
Lord Napier , British Ambassador, St Petersburgh, 19 May, 1864 To Earl Russell, British Foreign Secretary
The things we did in Caucasia were very similar to the negative things that Spaniards did during the war in the American lands. I wish God almighty would not leave any blood marks in Russian history.”
N. N. Rayevski, a General in the Russian army at the time who refused to participate in this campaign.