Artist tries to bring part of Russia's history to light - CBS46 News

Circassian artist tries to bring part of Russia's history to light

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Sheomir Guchepshoko is a Circassian artist who has created an entire gallery of paintings focused on the Circassian genocide.  (Source: CNN) Sheomir Guchepshoko is a Circassian artist who has created an entire gallery of paintings focused on the Circassian genocide. (Source: CNN)
Some Circassians say Sochi's Olympic ski slopes are built on the bones of their ancestors. (Source: CNN) Some Circassians say Sochi's Olympic ski slopes are built on the bones of their ancestors. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – Long before Sochi was Russia's Olympic showplace, it was home to the Circassian people, an ethnic group expelled by the Russians in the 19th century. Some Circassian artists say the Olympic ski slopes are built on the bones of their ancestors.

A folk song mourning the death of a prince killed in a war fought long ago between Russia and the Circassians is a piece of tragic history.

The singer's Circassian ancestors once dominated what today is part of southern Russia

"Zaimudin is showing me this 19th century photo of what a Circassian man used to look like," reporter Ivan Watson said. "It's very clear that this man looks very much like a warrior."

Russia won its war against the Circassians 150 years ago. The last bloody battle of the conflict was fought in Sochi, the site of the Winter Olympics.

Holding the Olympics on the 150th anniversary of the Circassians' last stand is a historical and geographical coincidence that has left some Circassians profoundly disturbed.

"Are these Olympics a source of pride for you?" Watson said.

"No," Circassian artist Sheomir Guchepshoko said. "No. I don't want to watch. I don't want to hear about it. I want to show the truth."

He created an entire gallery of paintings focused on what he refers to as the Circassian genocide.

"We lose land, we lose people," Guchepshoko said. "Thousand, million people. That's why we can't forget about it."

Part of what infuriates Circassian in the city of Maykop, which is located about 150 miles north of Sochi, is that no mention of the 19th century massacre and deportation of the Circassians was made in the run up to the Winter Games.

In fact, the subject seems to be taboo during the Olympics. When some Circassians tried to protest, accusing Russia of building ski slopes on the graves of their ancestors, police detained dozens and refused to respond to allegations from activists that some of the detainees were later badly beaten in police custody.

Guchepshoko knows his grim, historic message could anger Moscow.

"If I will keep silent, nobody, nobody will know about this problem, this part of our history," Guchepshoko said.

That history and culture, nearly destroyed more than a century ago is being kept alive by singers and story tellers who are determined to share their traditions with the next generation.

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