Olympic Sochi: diversity, unity, friendship

By Alexey Vlasov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza

A round-table conference entitled ‘Modern Russia: unity in diversity of Olympic Sochi’ organized by the North-South Center for Political Analysis within the framework of the young journalism school of Russia and Trans-Caucasus has ended in Sochi.

The Sochi mayor, officials of regional administration, community organizations, Syrian Circassian students of the Kabardino-Balkarian State University, Russian experts of interethnic relations, as well as young journalists from Azerbaijan, Abkhazia, Armenia, Georgia and South Ossetia attended the talks.

Ismail Agakishiyev, moderator of the talks and a Russian political analyst, said that the Krasnodar Territory was a unique political and ethnic platform and Sochi was the capital of the Olympic Games, a place of the crossing of cultures, and cohabitation of many peoples. The information space depicts Sochi and the Krasnodar Territory as a unique multinational and poly-religious region.

Alexander Frolenkov, Head of the Council for Ethnic Unities of Sochi, noted that the Olympic Games in the region were an opportunity to demonstrate the ethnic diversity of the territory and Russia, respect to traditions and customs of local peoples. Anatoly Margiyev, Head of the Alania ethnic and cultural organization of Sochi, is confidence that “without tolerance and hospitality, Sochi would never become so popular among tourists.”

Representatives of the Abkhaz, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Ossetian, Greek and Georgian communities have described realization of the Unity in Diversity Concept in Sochi and the Krasnodar Territory. Their speeches clarified that absence of interethnic controversies in the region was a result of hard work and healthy partnership of public organizations and local authorities.

Attendants of the round-table conference noted the contribution to the diversity of cultural heritage of the Adyghe people on the Black Sea coast of the North Caucasus. It is clear that culture of Circassians will play a well-desrved role in the upcoming Olympic Games. Trans-Caucasus journalists visited the main Olympic stadium called Fisht (the Grey Head Mountain in the Adyghe language) and Auguy Shapsug Aul, one of the most picturesque villages of the Adyghe-Shapsug people.

Chachukh Majid, Vice President of the International Circassian Association, Head of Adyge Khaseh of the Black Sea Adyghe-Shapsugs, emphasized at the conference that “the small ethnicity Shapsugs has full opportunity to preserve national culture, traditions, customs. The palette of colours of Olympic Sochi will have a piece of unique culture of our people.”

Bibars Kumok, a Syrian Circassian student of the Journalism Faculty of the Kabardino-Balkarian State University, reminded that foreign Circassian communities from Jordan and Syria had recently visited Sochi and met local residents and regional officials, visited Aguy Shapsug *Tuapsinsky District) and Bolshoy Kichmay (Lazarevsky District). They had become confident that Russia was paying great attention to preservation of traditions of Circassian people and strengthening of ties with the foreign Circassian diaspora.

Heads of national public organizations were unanimous in evaluating the peacekeeping role of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Caucasus has been an arena of wars and clashes for a long time, the Winter Olympics oppose the tragic pages of the region’s history with ideas of peace, humanism, friendship and mutual respect.

Young journalists from South Caucasus states taking part in the round-table conference saw that Russia was offering peoples of the Caucasus the chance to concentrate on peaceful constructive work and cooperation. In this context, the Sochi Olympics are not just a public project supported by the Russian society, it is also an important factor for consolidation of Russian peoples, especially the ones living in the Caucasus.