Monday, 30 January 2012

Survey of Circassian Materials on the Web

  • Materials in Circassian (as opposed to materials on the Circassians in all languages) available on the web are puny in both size and content, the survey of websites available in Circassian has revealed an even grimmer picture. Very few portals (websites) provide Circassian materials in a systematic way, namely the organs (newspapers) of the Kabardino-Balkarian and Adigean parliaments and governments and a couple of official portals. To put this in perspective, and conservatively assuming that there are a few tens of billions of websites in the English language, there are about 10,000,000,000 sites in English for each site in the Circassian language!
  • There is a couple of proselytizing (religious) sites that disseminate information in (excellent) Circassian.
  • To demonstrate the paucity of Circassian materials in cyber-space, a number of Google searches (in the 'all languages' configuration) of Circassian seminal cultural words shall be conducted: 'Хабзэ' ('Circassian customs and traditions') [6,970 hits (this is the nominal count; the actual count is much less than this), almost all in Russian]'Адыгагъэ' ('Circassian ethics') [1,350 hits (nominal count), almost all in Russian]'ДжэгуакIуэ' ('Circassian bard') [295 actual hits, almost all in Russian], 'Пшыналъэ' ('melody', or 'song') [120 actual hits, mostly in Russian], 'Джэгу' ('dance ceremony/party') [3,280 hits (nominal count), almost all in Russian]The Circassian cyber writers (in Circassia) use Russian almost exclusively even when they write about Circassian culture and folklore.
  • National libraries in the Circassian republics do not have dedicated websites. Most other republics in the Russian Federation have established good websites for their national libraries.
  • It is possible to make all seminal works on Circassian culture and folklore available online. The site Circassian Online Library is the pioneer in this area. The seminal portal Mass Information Media in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic is also a substantive resource for online books (10 books in Kabardian) and newspapers. However, this good work should be continued and emulated by other Circassian cultural sites. This would substantially increase Circassian language presence in cyber space.
  • The substantive and very informative site of the President of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (used to be in Russian and English, but then English was dropped!) is obviously run by a dedicated team of technical and language experts. Including an expert in the Circassian language to render the information into Circassian doesn't seem like a difficult task. His Excellency the President should set an example to other officials across Circassia by upgrading the status of Circassian, starting with his own website. Next, a portal wholly dedicated to Circassian language and culture must be sanctioned by the President and established as a beacon for Circassians across the world. The President's advisers should become more aware of Circassian issues and counsel the President to render more attention to the demands of the Circassians with regard to their language and culture. Thankfully, the President's website includes a facility to contact the President (from personal experience, I can vouch that messages do reach the President), so Circassian activists who are concerned about Circassian language and culture can relay their concerns directly to the President. Perhaps a culture of positive activism could be fostered among the Circassians.
  • No website for the Ministry of Culture and Information Communication of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic was found. No comment is needed!
  • 'Masters' of the Circassian language – those who can write it in its full glory and wield it at will – are an esoteric group consisting of the graduates of the language and literature faculties of universities in Circassia. The same 'esoteric' argument can be levelled at cultural workers in Circassia. Presently, these are the custodians of the Circassian language and culture.
  • The cyber space in Circassia (and, of course, all over Russia) is totally controlled by the government. By limiting publication in Circassian (in the media, press, and cyber space) the authorities severely restrict manifestations of Circassian culture and nationalism. It is more difficult to control words in Circassian since the Russians (in Circassia) are in general not conversant with Circassian.
  • Despite their numerical minority, the Circassians in the Republic of Adigea are working extremely hard to preserve their language and culture. However, it seems that the battle against assimilation (to Russian language and culture) is being gradually lost (according to some studies). Mass return of the Circassian diaspora to Adigea (and the rest of Circassia) is absolutely essential if the language and culture (and indeed the ethnos itself) are to be preserved. The Adigean authorities must create the necessary conditions to accommodate those in the diaspora who wish to return to their ancestral lands and to provide the needed facilities to make their lives feasible in the Republic. The return of the Kosovar Circassians in 1998 should have been an opportunity to the Adigean authorities to demonstrate their capability of dealing with the diaspora issue, but it seems that they were unable to set a good example for the otherdiaspora Circassians. The Russians (and indeed the Adigeans themselves) should realize that Circassia belongs to the Circassians everywhere and that they have a sacred right to their land. Despite many demands to ease the repatriation process, nothing substantive has been done. Simply put: the Russians don't want the diaspora Circassians to go back home.
  • If you thought the situation was bad in Kabarda and Adigea, it gets even worse in Cherkessia (the Circassian part of Karachai-Cherkessia). Fortunately, the Cherkess get linguistic and cultural succour from their Kabardian brethren across the border. Of course, the Cherkess also make substantive contributions to Circassian culture (relative to their population size  about 100,000). The Shapsugh fare worst in terms of linguistic and cultural manifestations on the www. Without integration of the Shapsugh Region with Adigea (a measure that is screaming to be taken), the Shapsugh can do little to maintain their language and heritage in the absence of specialized official institutions.
  • There are materials on Circassian culture and other matters (in Russian) extant across Russian Internet sites. Theses and dissertations are available online, but there is no specialized portal that categorises and provides access to them.
  • It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Circassian language in Circassia is being gradually and systematically eradicated from the public spheres, despite being one of the official languages in the three Circassian republics.
  • It would be safe to assume that the policy of marginalization of Circassian is sanctioned by the Russian authorities (at the highest level) and is implemented by the local Circassian officials, who seem not to be worried in the least about their native language and culture and their future. Naming and shaming the miscreants and culprits is bad show, despite the gut urge to do so.
  • Ultimately, the future of the Circassian language is a political matter. Without a political decision at the highest level in the Circassian republics to make Circassian the first language in the educational and public spheres, the status of Circassian will remain inferior to that of Russian. It might not be obvious to the Circassians in the Caucasus, but on the global scale Russian is a provincial language that is of no great consequence in cyber space. The isolation of the Circassians in the Russian sphere is distorting their views of the world and their position and that of their culture in it.
  • On a personal level, I was horrified by these findings and was left with a feeling of helplessness and impotence. Where are the Circassian intellectuals and activists? Why isn't anything being done in this respect? Where is national consciousness and conscience? 'Ignorance', 'indifference', 'reticence', 'collusion', 'treason', 'cynicism', and other such words, swim in one's head. However, knowing what one is up against, so to speak, places one in a better position to reassess the whole endeavour and its purpose, and to ameliorate ones work methods. Sober thoughts after initial shock. 
  • It is quite ironic that the concerned authorities in Circassia took part in the First International Circassian Language Conference on the future of the Circassian language in the diaspora in Amman in the period 15-16 October 2008, organized by the Circassian Benevolent Association of Jordan and the Russian Centre for Culture and Science in Amman. According to the organisers of the Conference, 'The gathering has one major mission: to make sure that this language [language] will not die among its children in the diaspora'. Russian cynicism knows no bounds! If the Russians and their lackeys are really concerned about the Circassian language and its future, they should start with Circassia and reverse the policies discriminating against the Circassian language and restore it to pre-eminence. It does not take for a conference to figure out how to do this. Clear methods and means are well tried and tested: make Circassian the principal language of education (including at the university level) and officialdom (including all spheres of public life), reduce the status of Russian to a secondary language, and introduce more useful languages, such as English and French. This would also reduce the global isolation of the Circassians in the Caucasus, whose universe is limited within the boundaries of Russia.
  • It would be inconceivable for the authorities to acquiesce to such demands for Circassian language resurgence in the absence of duress. Therefore, the only way of safeguarding Circassian language and culture is by actively lobbying and pressuring the parliaments and governments in Circassia to legislate and take action in their favour. The Circassians (everywhere) should start to understand the mechanisms by which Russia asserts its control over its colonies and then they should work diligently to undo them. From a nationalistic point of view, it is both rather embarrassing and shameful that the Russians could always find persons among the Circassians to do their bidding. Pride in one's language and culture should supersede all other considerations.
  • The refreshing phenomena of Adiga Radio and Nart TV in Israel and Jordan, respectively, should be viewed as examples to be emulated by the authorities in Circassia. If the Circassians in the diaspora, with their limited resources, could establish radio and TV stations that broadcast in Circassian, then there is no excuse for a number of such stations not to be set up in Circassia.
  • Although the comments and notes concern the cyber space in Circassia, portals and websites in the diaspora should endeavour to feature more Circassian materials in Circassian. There is only a couple of portals that systematically publish in Circassian in the diaspora. There is only one dedicated online Circassian journal (The Hearth TreeCircassian Cultural Miscellanypublished by the International Centre for Circassian Studies). Those literate in Circassian should lend a hand and render cyber information into Circassian. Circassian culture without Circassian language is like man without oxygen.
  • Having roughly diagnosed the problem, it would be worth investigating what could be done to bolster the presence of the Circassian language in cyber space (a loud signal of the importance of Circassian culture). 

No comments:

Post a Comment