Sochi Olympics Stirs Nationalism of an Exiled People

World

Last July, Doku Umarov, a shadowy militant leader operating in Russia’s North Caucasus, urged Muslims through a video message to launch attacks on the Winter Olympics, which begin this week in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The events to be held there, Umarov claimed, constitute “Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors.” His dark pronouncements, as well as terrorist strikes that recently hit a southern Russian city, set the tone: Sochi’s Games have become the most anxiety-ridden and militarized Olympiad in recent memory. If there is any sort of dancing to be done, it will involve quite a few heavy army boots. But what of those ancestors’ bones?

Long before the punk-rock group Pussy Riot or global gay-rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community clamored loudly against the events in Sochi. The Circassians, whose history of dispossession and exile Umarov opportunistically invoked…

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