Karachayevo-Cherkessiya

   / Karachay-Cherkess Republic
   An ethnic republic of the Russian Federation. Formerly an autonomous oblast within Stavropol, the region was renamed the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast (AO) during World War II when Joseph Stalin ordered the deportation of the Karachay to Central Asia. The Karachay were rehabilitated by Nikita Khrushchev and permitted to return to a restored Karachay-Cherkess AO in 1957. Karachayevo-Cherkessiya gained republican status in 1992 in response to federal fears that ethnic separatism and Cossack-indigenous rivalries would lead to a Balkanization of the region.
   The republic is part of the Southern Federal District and the North Caucasus Economic Region. Karachayevo-Cherkessiya is mostly mountainous, and borders Krasnodar, Stavropol, KabardinoBalkariya, and the Republic of Georgia. The capital is Cherkessk, which was built on the site of a former Cossack stanitsa (settlement). It covers 14,100 square kilometers and has a population of 439,000. Collectively, the Turkic Karachay and Caucasian Cherkess account for about half the population of the republic, representing 39 percent and 11 percent of the population, respectively. Ethnic Russians, including large numbers of Cossacks, form about a third of the population. A number of Cossack organizations support secession from the republic and reincorporation in the Stavropol Krai or accession to Krasnodar. The other important ethnic groups are the Circassian Abazins (7 percent) and the Turkic Nogays (6 percent), as well as small numbers of Ukrainians, Armenians, and Greeks. The predominant economic driver in the republic is industry, particularly petrochemicals, metalworking, and building materials. Agriculture, mining (coal, lead, zinc, copper, and gold), and timber are also important.
   The republic’s first president was the decorated Soviet military veteran Vladimir Semenov, an ethnic Karachay. His 1999 election victory stoked ethnic problems, as many Cherkess refused to accept the defeat of their candidate Stanislav Derev, who had secured 40 percent in the first round of voting compared to Semonov’s 18 percent. In 2003 Semenov was replaced by the banker Mustafa Batdyyev, also an ethnic Karachay. Born in exile in Kazakhstan in 1950, Batdyyev and his family were repatriated six years later. He has been at the forefront of Russia’s embrace of separatist leaders in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetiya and Abkhazia, the latter bordering the republic.
   Expressions of pan-Circassian solidarity have colored relations between the republic and Abkhazia, as well as attempts at greater coordination and cooperation with Adygeya and Kabardino-Balkariya. Batdyyev has also curtailed press freedoms in the republic by forbidding government employees from speaking with the media. In 2004, he was forced to flee when an angry mob stormed a government building and ransacked his office over the murder of seven prominent businessmen, all of whom were leaders of powerful clans in the region; his son-in-law Ali Kaitov was previously linked to the killings. The high-profile murders were symptomatic of a larger epidemic of crime and violence in the North Caucasian republic.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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