On May 21, our Abkhaz compatriots commemorate the tragic date of the beginning of the Muhajirism of Muslim Abkhazians. In 1867 and later in 1877, more than fifty thousand Abkhazians left their homeland, who were forced by the Russian Empire to emigrate to Turkey due to their struggle for religion and freedom. Abkhazians, along with fellow Circassians and other peoples of the Eastern North Caucasus, were punished for resisting the empire. For some (the Shapsug, Ubykh, Abzakh and others), this process resulted in complete annihilation.
The consequences of the Russian imperial policy in Abkhazia and the resettlement of Georgians alongside the remaining Abkhazians in some of its depopulated areas raised new concerns among Georgians and Abkhazians instead of easing the pain of migration. Today, when the land of Abkhazia is cut off from Georgia, it is important to understand, among many things, what legacy was left by the Muhajirism and how expedient it is to consider it only in the context of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
Unfortunately, Muhajirism has been erased from the Georgian political agenda and historical memory. Its understanding is narrowed for Abkhazians and they perceive it only as their own tragedy. However, this date is not tragic only for Abkhazians. Muhajirism also forced one hundred and fifty thousand Adjarian and Meskhetian Muslims to leave their homeland. Consequently, the target of the then tsarist policy in Georgia was not only Abkhazia. It is important for our Abkhazian colleagues and fellow citizens to pay attention to this aspect of imperial policy in the Caucasus, and in particular in Georgia, and to discuss with Georgians the common Caucasian destiny shared by the then Georgia and today’s Georgia.
The policy of Imperial Russia in the Caucasus has never been aimed at reaching an agreement between the lands and peoples of the Caucasus. The tragic events of the second half of the nineteenth century still play the role of such dividers among Caucasian Muslims, with the active intervention of the current successor of Imperial Russia, the Russian Federation. Today, when we look back at Muhajirism, it is tenfold important to consider the above.
Today, they try to present as if the Muhajirism of Abkhazians was in the interest of Georgians. Most of our Abkhaz compatriots may not think so, however, some are interested in portraying this episode of history as the interest of Georgians in the discussion areas that we watch from here, but have no access to. However, some of the Abkhazians, who were expelled during the first Muhajirism, settled in Adjara, the then part of the Ottoman Empire, and today they make a significant contribution to the construction and development of Georgia, our common home. This "unintentional" result of the Muhajirism shows how important it is to understand this tragic event of the Abkhaz nation together and in its multifaceted aspects.
The Democracy Research Institute believes that the issue of Muhajirism requires the same political assessment from the Georgian Government and proper reflection in the historical memory of Georgia as it was done in case of the recognition of the Circassian genocide.
That is why Circassians and Kabardians in the North Caucasus celebrate this day as a day of remembrance for the victims of the Russian-Caucasian wars. Georgia marked the significance of this tragic day for the Circassian people with a significant political assessment in 2011 and became the first country to recognize the genocide of the Circassians.