Chairman of Kafdagi Association which executes activities as a civil society organization in the North Caucasian republics, Att. Yusuf Tas has evaluated the changes in social and religious structure between the dissolution of USSR and today. On the other hand, he also mentioned about the strategy that could be determined by Turkey and Russia within the region.
Tas has drawn attention that the religious and social structure in North Caucasus has changed after the dissolution of USSR in 1991; alcohol consumption decreased and prayer rate has increased above the average than Turkey. Tas said: “In most of the North Caucasian republics, alcohol consumption per person has decreased almost half in Turkey. Rates of performing prayer sometimes exceed the average in Turkey”. Kafdagi Association has been conducting projects related with education, aid, and culture in 9 republics (7 of them dependent on Russia and 2 of them independent); and it also plays the role of a bridge to attract investments into the region for development. Yusuf Tas is an attorney and also the chairman of association; and his origin from Circassia has caused him to spend more time on this issue.
– In 1991, after the dissolution of USSR, what kind of changes happened in social and religious structure?
First of all, a rapid moral and social dissolution was experienced due to loss of state authority. Also, a tendency to Islam has started in all Muslim regions. Re-facilitation of state authority and the strong cultural structure of Caucasian people have helped to re-accumulate the social and moral dissolution. Religious tendencies were invaded by Salafi and Vahhabi ideologies, in compliance with the world conjuncture. Many people suffered. Some people have gone to their homelands from Turkey in order to tell them about religion. after many problems, the point we are today is the almost half drop of alcohol consumption per person in many North Caucasian republics. Prayer performance rates are more than average in Turkey. The image of non-religious and alcohol-consuming people in 1990s and 200s has decreased in North Caucasian Republics. Level of knowledge is still not as requested, but in many regions people want to learn and live Islam while protecting their own culture.
-What can be the common strategy between Turkey and Russia in Caucasus?
Republic of Turkey and Russia Federation can establish the legal grounds together and provide the establishment of economic and cultural relations between millions of North Caucasian and their homeland. This can cause the establishment of permanent and strong economic and social ties between Turkey and Russia.
-What should be the policy of Turkey in Caucasia?
When we say Caucasian policy in Turkey; only Southern Caucasia comes to mind, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. As it can be understood, Turkey has no specific policy on North Caucasia. This has several reasons such as the existence of Northern Caucasus in Russia Federation and the result of war on Chechnya in favor of Russia. But, the most important reason is the introvert structure of Turkey. Although there are millions of North Caucasians in Turkey and they have ties with their homelands; Turkey has established its foreign policy within the scope of not engaging with people in this region at all. In the new era, this policy has changed in many areas; but there are no visible impacts on Turkish foreign policy in North Caucasia. Republic of Turkey should recognize the existence of millions of North Caucasians in its territory who are named as Circassians and should determine its North Caucasian policy in a way to protect their language and culture, also establishing good ties with their homeland.
9 REPUBLICS IN NORTHERN CAUCASIA
There are nine republics in North Caucasia. Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia have declared their independence from Georgia. Other 7 republics are dependent on Russia. These are Adige, Karacay Circassia, Kabardeys Balkarya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan.