Georgia became the first country to recognize 19th century massacre and deportations of Circassians by the Tsarist Russia in the northwest Caucasus as “genocide”.
The Georgian Parliament passed a resolution on May 20 saying that "pre-planned" mass killings of the Circassians by the Tsarist Russia in second half of 19th century, accompanied by "deliberate famine and epidemics", should be recognized as "genocide" and those deported during those events from their homeland, should be recognized as "refugees."
“This [decision] is not directed against the Russian people,” Giorgi Gabashvili, a senior ruling party lawmaker, said during the discussion of the draft at the parliamentary session on May 20.
“The Russian people should not be permanently living under the burden imposed on them by their leaders in the 19th century, 20th century and 21st century,” he added.
Another senior ruling party lawmaker Givi Targamadze said that the Parliament should also consider “situation surrounding other peoples” of the North Caucasus.
“This process will lead us to a powerful and a significant Caucasian unity,” MP Givi Targamadze, who chairs parliamentary committee for defense and security, said.
The only lawmaker who spoke against of the resolution during the parliamentary debates on May 20 was MP Jondi Bagaturia, who said that although “it is impossible not to show solidarity towards the Circassian people,” emotions should be put aside.
“Will not it look unfair in respect of Armenians?” MP Bagaturia said, referring to multiple requests from Georgia’s Armenian community to recognize the massacre of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide. Such appeals, made by the Armenian community almost every year in April, remain unheeded by the Georgian lawmakers.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, Nugzar Tsiklauri, who chairs parliamentary committee for diaspora and Caucasian issues, responded that linking these two issues was inappropriate. He said that Armenia and Turkey, “Georgia’s two friendly nations”, would address differences in the process of “a positive dialogue”. He said that Georgia’s meddling in this process would mean “playing unclear and unjustified role.”
Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), which is a leading party in the parliamentary minority group, did not voice its position during the debates. MP Giorgi Akhvlediani of CDM told Civil.ge after the vote that his party abstained from voting because the decision was taken too hastily and the decision might be inappropriate from the political point of view.
The ruling party lawmakers first announced about the intention to consider possibly of recognizing mass killings of Circassians as genocide in April, 2010. The announcement was made a month after Tbilisi hosted a conference, Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The Circassians & the Peoples of the North Caucasus Between Past and Future. The conference was organized by Washington-based Jamestown Foundation and Tbilisi-based Ilia State University’s International School for Caucasus Studies with the participants including, among others, representatives of Circassian diaspora.
At the end of the conference, on March 21, 2010 participants made an appeal to the Georgian Parliament requesting to recognize deportations and massacre of Circassians more than a century ago as genocide.