The Georgian Parliament voted Friday to recognize the 19th-century killings and deportations of ethnic Circassians by czarist Russia as genocide, a move that is likely to inflame tensions between the two countries.
Originally from the northwest Caucasus, Circassians say 1.5 million of their ancestors were systematically killed in a Russian military campaign in 1860-64 to occupy the Caucasus mountain area on the southern border of today's Russia.
The deaths were recorded by Russian imperial historians in 1864. No nation has recognised them genocide.
"We as a representatives of Georgian people should end the 150-year long sufferings of Circassians and restore their rights," said Nugzar Tsiklauri, the head of a parliamentary committee for relations with diasporas and Caucasus nations.
The Georgian resolution says that the Russian empire planned and carried out the ethnic cleansing of Circassians, ultimately displacing 90 percent of them. It also says that czarist Russia artificially spread hunger and disease with the goal of annihilating the Circassians, and that it then resettled other ethnic groups in their land.
The move is likely to strain relations between Russia and Georgia, which have yet to recover from a five-day war in 2008 over the Moscow-backed separatist province of South Ossetia.
The resolution could increase tension over the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia is hosting in Sochi, a resort city in what the Circassians consider their historic homeland.
Members of the Circassian diaspora are demanding the Sochi Games be cancelled or moved unless Russia apologises for what they say was genocide against their ancestors. Some Circassian leaders are demanding autonomous territory within Russia.
Earlier this year Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pointed to Georgia as a potential security threat to the games.
Tsiklauri presented a draft of the resolution, which said: "Killings and deportations of Circassians during the Russian-Caucasian War should be recognised as genocide and ethnic cleansing."
Deportations and turmoil led many Circassians south to Turkey and elsewhere, and their seven million or so descendants are spread across the world from the United States to Jordan. About 700,000 remain in the northwest Caucasus.
The closest the Russian government has come to apologising for the bloodshed was in 1994, when President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that resistance to tsarist violence was legitimate.
Hardline nationalists threatened to demolish mosque in northern village if Muslim residents didn’t do so by end of June
- Victim's father says approves of son's decision not to file charges as may have to leave village
At least 27 cadets killed and 40 more wounded in attack near capital
No group has claimed responsibility for blasts on highway near Zamboanga City
Parliament that usually gathers in April convened in follow-up to rare Workers' Party of Korea congress held in May
Communist Party of China decides deputy, regarded as key ally of president, to replace Lu Wei
Exiled Communist Party leader says government, rebels, to accelerate negotiations
Of 15 safety inspectors underground during accident, 8 managed to escape but 2 remain missing
Police say insurgents suspected in latest fatal attack to hit troubled region
UN says progress slow on Sri Lanka's post-war reconciliation
Over 3,800 turn themselves in to police in southern Mindanao alone ahead of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s inauguration
North Korea responds aggressively to 'military provocation,' as major parliamentary gathering gets underway in Pyongyang
55 Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers boycotting assembly since police failed attempt to arrest their deputy leader
7 Indonesians among 13 crew travelling on tugboat when attacked by Filipino gunmen last week
PM Abe’s gov’t discusses how to lessen UK referendum’s fallout on Japanese economy as Tokyo prepares for July 10 polls
Junta leader insists won’t follow example of UK’s Cameron by resigning if Thais reject draft charter in Aug. 7 referendum