chapter  5
1 Pages

International issues

Circassians, the former Soviet countries, and the West
ByRobert W. Orttung, Sufian N. Zhemukhov

Even as he delivered the speech that clinched Russia’s bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, Putin made a political mistake provoking the Sochi games’ first international problem, one that became known as the Circassian question (Goble, 2014). While reflecting on Sochi’s history in his speech to the IOC (Putin, 2007), Putin failed to mention the Circassians, the indigenous people of the region, in spite of the fact that Sochi was once the capital of Circassia and the Russian conquest of the Black Sea coast, in 1864, resulted in the mass killing and exodus of Circassians from the region (King, 2008b; Richmond, 2013). Putin’s omission was a mistake characteristic of an authoritarian leader, similar to China’s decision to ignore the Tibet problem during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. By contrast, the Australian and Canadian leaders avoided such mistakes as they honoured their ‘First Nations’ during the 2000 Sydney and 2012 Vancouver games.