Turkey’s Circassians were exiled to the Ottoman Empire in the wake of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in 1864, resettling most notably in the Danubian provinces, Thessaly, Syria, Central Anatolia and the southern shores of the Sea of Marmara. As experienced veterans of the wars with Russia, many Circassians were recruited into the paramilitary groups of the late Ottoman Empire and later fought on both sides in the Turkish Civil War. Here, Caner Yelbasi reveals the complex and important role played by the Circassians of north-western Anatolia in the chaotic years after 1918. Because many of the key Circassian actors either sided initially with The Ottoman Government or later broke away from the `national’ movement led by Mustafa Kemal in Ankara, official Turkish historiography frequently labelled them `traitors to the nation’. This book revises this narrative by revealing the overlapping and sometimes conflicting bonds of kinship and political loyalty that inscribed their presence in heartlands of the empire and the republic. Yelbasi shows that the Circassians played an important role in the establishment of the early republic and how the Turkification policies of the Kemalist regime in the two decades following 1918 disrupted their world. Using a wide variety of primary source material, including Ottoman and Republican archives – as well as memoirs, the press and secondary literature – this book sheds light on a minority who, unlike the Kurds or Armenians, are yet to receive scholarly attention in Turkish Studies. It will thus be a vital resource for scholars in Middle East Studies, Turkish Studies and Ottoman Studies.
Circassians of Turkey War, Violence and Nationalism from the Ottomans to Atat rk