The Lobbying Activities of the North Caucasian Intelligentsia in the Centers of the European Diplomacy, Episode 1

  • 30/12/2023

Haydar Bammat’s First Appeal before the Big Four of Versailles

After the proclamation of independence, the authorized representatives of the North Caucasian Government led by Haydar Bammat pushed all possible opportunities to build a confederative union with the Transcaucasian nations and to obtain recognition from the central powers who were dominating the war during the spring and summer of 1918.
Despite the failure of talks in Batum, Bammat continued diplomatic activities in Istanbul to find solutions for the territorial disagreements in the Caucasus and to gain the support of the German Empire for the independence of the Republic of North Caucasus.  Nevertheless, the apparent hypocrisy of the German policies did not give any chance for Bammat’s endeavor to find a compromise.
When Bammat was preparing for a diplomatic trip to Berlin to express Caucasian cause in the German capital, the balance of powers had started to change on the fronts of World War I and the allies started a counter-offensive with the help of the USA who finally decided to land troops in Europe.  Bammat who obtained a travel visa from the consulate of the Austro-Hungarian Embassy in Istanbul on October 14, set out for Europe on October 26, 1918, together with Professor Aziz Meker and Ismail Abay(ev).  The World War had already been over with the victory of the Allies when Bammat and his friends arrived in Vienna on November 15. Bammat decided to head towards Switzerland instead of Berlin from there onwards.  He arrived in Bern on November 24, 1918, and started the lobbying activities before the diplomatic bodies of the Allies without wasting time.
Thus, Bammat had penned his first appeal to the Ambassador of France to Switzerland, Mr. Paul Dutasta who later became the General Secretary of the Versailles Peace Conference where the faith of Europe was decided.  In a way, this was the kick-off appeal for the North Caucasian diplomacy before the superpowers. The text, originally in French, is translated into English as follows: [1] (Click on the link to access the original document)

Berne, 28 November 1918
Ambassador of France in Bern

According to the testimonies of historians such as Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny, etc., the Circassian peoples of the Caucasus have occupied from the earliest ages the territory between the mouths of the Don and the Volga, in the north the eastern shores of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea as far as the mouth of the river Ingur in the west; the Ingur River, the Caucasian chain to the Apcheron peninsula in the south; the western shores of the Caspian Sea from this peninsula to the mouth of the Volga. Throughout ancient times, this territory was the undisputed heritage of the Circassian peoples, who often dominated territories beyond the limits indicated above.
The great invasions at the beginning of the Middle Ages, which poured uninterrupted streams of people from Asia into Europe, were first and foremost met with the Circassian peoples. Placed at the northern limit of that great Asiatic-European corridor called the Caucasus, even the vanguards of the white race always must suffer the first shocks of these continually renewed invading masses. The Circassian peoples of the Caucasus struggled throughout the Middle Ages against this world of enemies which the reservoir of mankind that was Asia constantly sent towards Europe, so that throughout the Middle Ages they always struggled, always suffered, and were obliged to retreat to the South.
But in many cases, the resistance of the Circassian peoples spared Europe the horrors of the invasions of the Asian peoples. The waves were broken or divided, and the evils that could result from the invasions were profoundly attenuated.  Finally, the Circassian peoples had begun to reconstitute themselves politically during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Muscovite power, eager for conquests of the countries of the South, came closer to them amid their work of reconstitution. Once again, the North Caucasian peoples had to resort to arms and defend their national heritage against the invaders from the north.
There is no other example in the history of humanity like the struggle of the Circassian peoples against the colossus of the North, as much for the bitterness and inordinate length of the struggle (1760-1864) as for the disproportion of the forces involved: on the one hand, the largest empire that man has ever been able to forge, and on the other, the Circassian peoples united in small federative republics,  defending their freedom, their institutions, their homes. This arena of unequal and age-old combat has had the gift of attracting literary men, generous spirits lovers of the beautiful and the noble. Many Englishmen and Frenchmen, such as John Bell, Taitbout de Marigny, etc., have been able, with great difficulty, to lift a small part of the veil which hid the horrible drama which was being enacted in this remote corner of Europe. Through books and publications, these men tried to make known to the Western public the horrors of this long and unequal struggle. The English statesmen tried to study the Circassian question by sending agents into this field of carnage. Inspired by the reports they received, and convinced by these same reports that the Circassians were the only people of the Caucasus, who, with the support of the West, and especially of England, could stop the advance of the Russian armies towards the East and the Persian Gulf, the English State Officers tried to put the Circassian question to the Congress of Paris which ended up the Crimean War (1856). The diplomacy of Napoleon III, who thought it useful to bring about a rapprochement between France and Russia for French policy on the continent, opposed this proposal, and the age-old drama between the Muscovite and the small Circassian peoples continued in all its horror as in the past.
The Circassian peoples, cut off from the rest of the world by the irreparable political mistake that Georgia had committed to calling the Russians into Transcaucasia, were divided in two by the armies of the Czars, who had been able to penetrate at length into the center of Circassia, and had divided it into two parts, continued the struggle for their independence, in the face of the negligence of the Western world which could not help. European civilization placed at Russia's disposal all the engines of destruction and gave her carte blanche for the destruction of the Circassian peoples, whose high moral and social value was recognized by all who had been able to penetrate this blood-soaked country. Europe, which struggled and suffered for four years to annihilate despotism, remained at that time a reckless spectator before this struggle between the most oppressive and degrading despotism and the free citizens of the Circassian republics.
The eastern part of the country, Dagestan, of which the illustrious Shamyl had organized the theocratic republic, and the western part, or Circassia proper, continue the struggle to be able to help each other without being able to communicate with the rest of the world.
In the end, the unconscious mass, organized by European science and pushed forward by the traditional knout, prevailed over individual value. The last fortress of Shamyl, Gunib, was taken, and our national hero who had been taken prisoner was taken into the center of Russia.
The Western Circassians were not discouraged despite all the Russian armies made available by the conquest of Dagestan. The general assembly of the Circassian peoples in June 1861 decreed the levy en masse and the continuation of the war to the utmost, at the same time as it sent to Paris and London a deputation composed of 4 people, intending to intervene France and England, centers of freedom and generosity, to save the last remnants of this people who had been bleeding for a century. The delegation was well received in London; it was carried in triumph by the English people through the streets of the capital. They received many pleasant words, but to the great misfortune of Circassia, they could not obtain the effective intervention of England, home of liberty.
Russia, whose prestige as a great power had long been at stake, seeing the weakness or indifference of the Western peoples, redoubled her efforts, rebuilt her armies, and besieged Western Circassia with an army of 300,000 under the command of Count Evdokimoff. After a continuous effort of three years, this army was able to penetrate that unfortunate Circassia (1864) which it completely devastated, in which it committed atrocities that the pagan armies of the Roman emperors dared not commit during the horrible expulsion of the people of Israel from Palestine, two thousand years ago. Nothing was sacred to the Russians: neither old age, nor childhood, nor the sacredness of woman, could disarm the cruelty of the Czar's soldiers. In many localities, old men, women, and children, everything has been massacred by the Cossacks and the regular arms of Holy Russia: in others, the inhabitants have been torn from their homes, driven pell-mell under the threat of mitrailleuse and bayonets, to the shores of the Black Sea, embarked on frail skiffs and entrusted to the fury of the waves of this sea.  Thus it was that in the fatal year of 1864 alone, 750,000 Circassians were expelled from their country by Russian brutality. Others followed this first emigration. But the Circassians, who emigrated or remained in their country, never abdicated their freedom and independence. They never lost any opportunity to protest against Russian rule or uproot it through insurrections or uprisings. In 1877 there was an insurrection in Abkhazia and another in Dagestan and other insurrections occurred in 1902 and 1906 in various parts of the Circassian territory.
Everyone knows that the laws of the ancient empire of the Czars were not conspicuous by their liberalism. The Circassian country did not even know these retrograded laws, so still militarily occupied and under the continual threat of cannons and machine guns. Circassia was under siege from 1864 until 1917.
It was under the regime of the state of siege that the general war found the Circassian peoples for whom it was not easy to decide. They could not lose this unexpected opportunity without denying their entire past filled with centuries-old struggles for freedom and independence. They could not desire the victory of Russia, which would have made her yoke still more execrable; but on the one hand, the English and the French, to whom they were accustomed to address themselves in moments of national distress, were the allies of that hated Russia which had annihilated their political liberty and dispersed them outside their fatherland, while Turkey, which they often saw side by side with the French and English, and which by its Asiatic territory touched the Caucasus;  was in the opposing camp, that is, among Russia's adversaries.
The inveterate hatred of the Russians, the sole cause of all the calamities that had beset the Circassian peoples for 150 years, the immediate vicinity of Turkey which had often extended a hand to them, the existence of many Circassian refugees in Turkey, and above all the Anglo-Franco-Russian alliance prevented the Circassian peoples from addressing England and France and asking them to work against their ally Russia. It was these diverse, unfortunate, and very important circumstances that decided the Circassian peoples to work with Turkey and thus with the latter's allies, who were not very popular or little known in the Caucasus.
In January 1916, Germany pledged its support for the independence of the Circassian peoples who would form a confederation with the other peoples in the Caucasus, including the Georgians and Turko-Tatars of Transcaucasia.
When the Revolution broke out in Russia in 1917, the Circassian peoples were the first of the alien peoples of Russia to grasp the exact significance of this revolution and all the benefit they could derive from it for the reconstitution of their fatherland which Russian despotism had torn asunder. To do this, it was necessary to pool all efforts and proceed in order and gradually.
Representatives of all the peoples of the North Caucasus took part in the first assembly in Vladikavkaz in May 1917. This assembly decreed the union of all the Circassian peoples of the North Caucasus and Dagestan and appointed an Executive Committee for the defense of the interests of this Union.
Given the circumstances and conjectures of that time, the political program of this Union was not satisfied with the admission of the Union as a political unit in the future federal Russia. The parties of the Right were still all-powerful, and the Russian army was almost bent: under such conditions, the aspirations of the Circassian peoples could not go beyond the previous limits.
The Russian Revolution of October 1917 brought power into the hands of the Bolsheviks, who were not recognized by the Union of Circassian Peoples, so that from that moment on relations were virtually broken between the Bolsheviks and the Executive Committee of the Union proclaimed a provisional government, which governed, administered the territory of the Union, without having any relations with the Russian central government. The Circassian peoples saw that the time had at last come to throw off the Russian yoke, odious in every way.
The Bolsheviks could not forgive the peoples of the Caucasus, their deeds, and the very pronounced will they showed for the creation of an independent state within historical limits. On the other hand, the Cossacks, blind instruments of conquest, interested supporters of despotism and crime, seeing that all the advantages and privileges which the Czar government granted them at the expense of the Caucasians would very soon be taken away by the new Union government, made an alliance with the Bolsheviks and opened hostilities against the Circassian peoples of the Caucasus. Since that day the peoples of the Caucasus have been fighting against the Bolsheviks and Cossacks united with alternating successes and reverses. The Bolsheviks and Cossacks had inherited the arms and ammunition that the collapsed empire had so long accumulated, while the Circassian peoples found it very difficult to procure the same arms and ammunition for the defense of their native soil.
The North Caucasian Government, which had been obliged to surrender Vladikavkaz to the Bolsheviks at the beginning of March 1918, had withdrawn to Nazran, reorganized its military forces, and retook by force of arms, one by one, all the principal towns, such as Derbend, Petrovsk, Grozny, Vladikavkaz, and the greater part of the railway lines.
In the meantime, in March 1918, the Caucasian Provisional Government had sent a mission to Transcaucasus, composed of its members: Mr. Abdul Medjid Тchermoeff, Mr. Haydar Bammat, Mr. Zoubair Temirhan, and the member of the National Council of Dagestan Mr. Mehmed Kadi, to propose to the Georgians, Armenians, and Tatars the formation of a Caucasian confederation which would be the most logical form and which would preserve all the peoples of the Caucasus from the dangers which might arise from the exterior.
The mixed Transcaucasian government of the time found the proposal to be the best that could safeguard the interests of all Caucasian peoples both internally and externally. But as the relations of Transcaucasus with Turkey soured because the latter demanded the full implementation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk about Kars, Ardahan, and Batum, the Transcaucasian government invited the North Caucasian mission to go and assist the Transcaucasian peace delegation which had been in Trebizond for a month to treat with the Turks.  intending to support the rights of Transcaucasus, whose leaders already accepted the principle of a Confederate Caucasus that would unite all the peoples of Ciscaucasia and Transcaucasia.
The North Caucasian mission, under the chairmanship of Mr. Haydar Bammat (Minister of Foreign Affairs) Abdul Medjid Tchermoeff and Mr. Mehmed Kadi of Dagestan, went to Trebizond to enter into relations with Turkey and the other powers and to reconcile the interests of Transcaucasus, which through its leaders adhered in principle to the idea of the Caucasian Confederation,  and to support, if necessary, the interests defended by the Transcaucasian delegates.
On the one hand, since Turkey demanded the full implementation of the Treaty of Brent-Litovsk by making only a few minor concessions concerning Batum, and on the other hand, the Transcaucasians and especially the Georgians could not surrender that city, and the mediation of the North Caucasian mission couldn't reconcile the opposed proposals.
Before the departure of the Transcaucasian delegates, the North Caucasian mission made a written declaration to the presidents of the Ottoman and Transcaucasian delegations, in which it declared that, despite the times and circumstances, the confederative form which would embrace all parts of the Caucasus was the form which would best suit all parts of the Caucasus and that it was sure that this form would safeguard the present and future of the Caucasian peoples.
From Trebizond, the North Caucasian Mission went to Constantinople, where it was received by the Ottoman Government, to which it explained the aspirations of the Circassian peoples of the Caucasus for independence and their clear desire to separate completely and definitively from Russia. Having obtained from the Ottoman Government a promise that this independence would be recognized by it and that it would endeavor to have it recognized by its allies, the North Caucasian mission proclaimed on May 11, 1918, the independence of all the Circassian peoples in their historical territory;
Since that independence had already existed de facto for a year, the said proclamation was merely a confirmation of it.
The mission brought to the notice of all the powers a proclamation that it had just made. It was the consecration of a goal for which the Circassian peoples of the Caucasus had struggled and suffered for a century, a goal for which half the population had completely sacrificed itself in the terrible years of 1860-1864.
The Circassian peoples of the Caucasus, through their representatives Haydar Bammat, Tchermoeff, Zoubair Temir-Khan, and Ali Khan Kantemir, took part as an independent state in the Batum Conference, which was to regulate the boundaries of Transcaucasus with Turkey, and the external situation of the Caucasian peoples.
In June 1918, the North Caucasian peoples concluded a treaty with Turkey, which had hastened to recognize their independence.
It was natural for the Circassian peoples who have the same political and economic interests as the peoples of Transcaucasia, the Georgians, and the Armenians in negotiation with the Germans who had their representative in Batum, General Von Lossow, to follow the same path and enter into negotiations with the latter in their turn.
The negotiations begun in Batum with the German delegation were interrupted by the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Republic into its integral parts, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (Caucasian Tartars), and by the departure of the said delegation.
But the exchange of views and notes between the chairman of the German delegation, General von Lossow, and the chairman of the North Caucasian delegation, Mr. Haydar Bammat, sufficiently testifies that the German Government was ready not only to recognize the independence of the Union of Circassian Peoples of the Caucasus but also that it was ready to give its assistance and support for the State development of the Union.
On the day of the departure of the German mission, its chairman secretly communicated to the chairman of the North Caucasian delegation that he was in the process of concluding political and economic treaties with Georgia and proposed the conclusion of similar treaties with the North Caucasian government. The North Caucasian delegation, which had never wanted to be too close to Germany, avoided responding to this proposal.
At Poti, the Georgians concluded the treaties in question with the Germans, which allowed the Germans to occupy Georgia militarily.
It is by this reserve shown towards Germany by the peoples of the North Caucasus that the radical change in German policy towards the North Caucasian Government is explained. This change was already very remarkable from the first days of the delegation's arrival in Constantinople. The negotiations in Batum where the representatives of all the Caucasian republics traveled to continue their work with the allies of Turkey were interrupted.  Despite the formal promises that it had made in January 1916 to the peoples of the Caucasus to group them into an independent confederate state, and despite the promises that it had given in May 1918 at Batum to the North Caucasian delegation, the German Government contented itself with forcing the Russian Government to recognize only the independence of Georgia by an additional treaty to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and left the Circassian peoples at the mercy of the fury of the Bolsheviks. The Circassian peoples were freed from all the relations they had had with the Germans through the fault of the latter and now free, morally, they could resume their traditional policy, that is to say, renew their relations with England and France. The North Caucasian Government, despite the presence of the Turks in Baku and the Germans in Tiflis, hastened to make known to the British Government, through the Turkish Ambassador in Berne, a Circassian by origin, its desire to see Baku reoccupied by the British army in collaboration with the North Caucasian troops.
In the act of declaring our independence we indicated the historical limits of Circassia; but the Russian thrust and colonization before altering the ethnographic map of the northern parts of Circassia, we now ask only the provinces and districts in which we are preponderant. For ethnographic reasons, the whole province of Dagestan, the district of Zakataly, the district of Kuba, the southern part of the province of Stavropol, the part of the province of Kuban lying south of the river of the same name, the whole district of the Black Sea, and the whole district of Sukhum must fall within the limits of the North Caucasian state.
Because of the above considerations, it has been impossible for us, either during the Empire or after the fall of the Empire, to enter into direct relations with the powers of the West, and especially with England, our traditional friend and protector. As has been said above, the presence of Russia, our executioner, in the camp of the Allies was the chief obstacle that prevented us from establishing relations with the Allies, and more particularly with the French and the British. But since July 1918, the North Caucasian representatives, who were responsible for bringing the proclamation of independence to the attention of all the governments, have been working hard to cross the frontiers, the trenches, and the enemy lines to reach the camp of the Entente without succeeding.
The capitulation of Austria and Turkey, and the armistices concluded with the last powers, have at last enabled us to reach Switzerland.
Basing themselves on their sacred and imprescriptible right to liberty and independence and the torrents of blood that they have shed over the centuries either as the vanguard of the white race against Asiatic invasions or to safeguard their liberties, their independence, and their homes against these invasions and those of the Russians in recent times,  in the name of the sublime principles of humanity and high international justice, having as their aim, above all, the protection of small nationalities, enunciated and accepted in America and Europe, the Circassian peoples demand that they should not be sacrificed once again for the alleged necessities of balance or the apparent conveniences of capital. They demand that their full independence must be recognized by France, the home, friend, and traditional guardian of liberty, in the confidence that the intercontinental Switzerland they have thus created will serve as a barrier through which the peoples of Asia will enjoy the benefits that peace and Western civilization will bring them.
The North Caucasian Government is not unaware that France is interested in the affairs of the former Empire of the Czars for its European policy and for the enormous capital that the French people have invested either in the public debt of Russia or in the economic enterprises of that country.
The world war showed that one of the causes of Russia's weakness was its excessive size and the exaggerated number of non-Russian nationalities living on the periphery of the Empire.
The separation of the alien nationalities from Russia proper will undoubtedly be a boon to the latter. It will be like a kind of pruning that will allow better use of the sap of the real Russia, which will still have 100 million inhabitants and will be able to replenish it in a relatively shorter period.
The North Caucasian peoples could pay the debts that the Empire of the Czars contracted in France and which were actually used in the Circassian territory. They will do so with good grace because the agricultural, forestry, and especially mining wealth of their countries is excessively considerable. Oil, coal, copper, lead, and silver abound in the North Caucasian subsoil.
There is no doubt that the North Caucasian Government will grant all facilities and support to French capital already engaged in private enterprises and to those that may engage in the future.
In the East, France has been the standard-bearer of civilization. Its missionaries, its schools, and its publications have brought light to the remotest corners of Asia. After the disappearance of Russian domination on our part, France will resume its civilizing role and our country will have the pleasure of enjoying French culture.
The North Caucasian Government, convinced of the importance of the North Caucasian question for French interests in particular, and of humanity in general, and given the multiple faces of the question and its connections, believes that in the interest of France and North Caucasian peoples.
It would be absolutely necessary to address the issue directly in Paris with the French central government given that the time that separates us from the general peace conference is not long and that we could unnecessarily waste this short and precious time through exchanges of correspondence.
Based on these very important circumstances and considerations, I have the honor to request once again His Excellency, the Ambassador of France in Berne, to kindly facilitate the travel of the delegation to Paris.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the North Caucasian Republic

Paul Dutasta
[2] Haydar Bammat's Travel Documents (Click on the image to access the complete set of documents)
[1] Haydar Bammat Private Archive, The Appeal to M. Paul Dutasta, the Ambassador of the Republic of France to Switzerland dd. 28 November 1918
[2] Haydar Bammat Private Archive, Travel Documents of Haydar Bammat issued in Istanbul in the autumn of 1918