ANKARA (AA) - The Circassian exile remains a "deep heart wound" and "a catastrophe" that will be remembered by all Caucasian people, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement Friday.
Tanju Bilgic described the mid-19th century event, which is commemorated every year on May 21, as one of the deadliest mass killings in history.
He recalled that hundreds of thousands of Caucasian people had been persecuted and faced annihilation when Russia invaded Caucasus, forcing survivors to migrate to Anatolia under the then Ottoman Empire.
Circassians under the Russian empire had been subjected to ethnic cleansing. The 1864 war near Sochi resulted in a defeat for Circassians and saw the Russian empire invade all of Caucasia.
According to unofficial figures, nearly 1.5 million Circassians were expelled from their lands, while between 400,000 and 500,000 of them died.
The expelled Circassians mainly inhabited Anatolia and Rumelia; some of them also migrated to Syria and Jordan.
According to official website of the Turkey-based Federation of the Caucasian Associations, also known as Kaffed, “The horrors and tragedy of deportation were never forgotten by the Circassians. The lament, Yistambilak’ue [Going to Istanbul], is still sung by the diaspora Circassians, almost 150 years after the deportation, which is a vivid remainder for their sufferings.”