Circassian Diaspora in Turkey: Stereotypes, Prejudices and Ethnic Relations, by Ayhan Kaya

Ayhan Kaya
Istanbul Bilgi University, Department of International Relations

Nedret Kuran-Burçoğlu and S. G. Miller (eds.). Representations of the Others in the Meditarrenean World and their Impact on the Region, Istanbul: The ISIS Press, 2005: 217-240

‘Our grand-grand parents did not untie their bales for the first fifty years with the expectation of return to the homeland sooner or later; I, myself, haven’t yet untied the bale in my soul.”

(A 30-year-old Abzekh male from Eskisehir, interview, 2001).


In the summer of 1998, Prince Ali of Jordan, who was raised by a Circassian family, organised a trip with a special team composed of ten security guards of the Jordanian King. They were all dressed in ‘authentic’ Circassian warrior costumes and accompanied by horses having a special meaning in Circassian culture. These horse riders went all the way along from Amman to North Caucasia through Syria and Turkey. They received a very warm welcome in those Circassian villages and towns they visited in both Syria and Turkey. Circassians in Turkey were in fact shocked at the sight of all those authentically dressed Caucasian men with their horses, who resembled the mythical figures behind the Caucasian mountains. Every village organised festivals to welcome their kins. This was an opportunity for many Circassians, or Adygei as they name themselves, in Turkey to realise that there were also other Circassians who have shared a similar destiny in long distances. Those imagined distant kins have suddenly become real. This incidence is just one of many indications displaying the recent Circassian ethnic resurgence in Turkey. Circassian associations and some Turkish TV channels (CNN Turk and NTV) recently exposed the video-film of this journey with the soundtrack of Loreena McKennitt, who also belives to be Circassian descent, to a wider audience. This journey has made the Circassians in Turkey publicly visible.

This article primarily aims to explore the basic dynamics of the current ethnic resurgence within Circassian diaspora in Turkey. In doing so, the author shall also address some of the other key issues related to the Circassian diaspora such as the ways in which stereotypes, prejudices, inter- and intra-ethnic relations, and cultural reification are being produced and reproduced in diaspora context. Before scrutinising these issues, a literature survey both on the Circassian diaspora in Turkey, in particular, and diaspora, in general, shall be made in order to situate the Circassian diaspora experience vis-à-vis the processes of globalisation.

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