The caviar paved road and other oddness of Sochi 2014


The fireworks of the grand opening are still echoing on the mountains of Krasnaja Poliana and, at long last, sport is the main topic in Sochi. But, besides the terroristic threats, many critical aspects still remain: the Games are the most expensive ever, the pomp of the venues gives a distorted image of Russia, and the city is off limits to anybody willing to demonstrate against the Kremlin.

The fireworks of the grand opening are still echoing on the mountains of Krasnaja Poliana and, at long last, sport is the main topic in Sochi. But, besides the terroristic threats, many critical aspects still remain: the Games are the most expensive ever, the pomp of the venues gives a distorted image of Russia, and the city is off limits to anybody willing to demonstrate against the Kremlin.

 

The Circassians

The Winter Olympics Games take place just a few hundred kilometers from the North Caucasus region, where rebels are fighting to install an Islamic state, and there have been concerns about security threats posed by an Islamic insurgency that has raged across the region.

The mountains of Krasnaya Polyana are now an pompous ski resort packed with tourists, athletes and Olympic officials. The place is also a favorite getaway for Vladimir Putin. But beneath the layer of snow and glittering venues, are buried the graves of the Circassians who died during the 19th century battle against the Czarist army. “We’re talking about holding the Olympics over a mass grave of Circassians,” said Muhammed Cherkesov, the leader of the Circassian minority in the North Caucasus. Circassians claim they have inhabited the region from prehistoric times. Over the centuries, they fought against the Huns, the Mongols and eventually the Russians. The latters, according to historians, uprooted them from their homeland and perpetrated an ethnic cleansing that killed some 1.5 million people.

In a video posted in July on YouTube, Dokku Umarov, the guerrilla leader who self-proclaimed emir of the Chechen separatist Islamic Caucasus Emirate in the southwest of the Russian Federation, said that Russians “plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us”. Umarov also called on his mujahideen to use “maximum force to disrupt these satanic games”.

Sochi is under a virtual state of emergency: more than 30,000 policemen have been deployed in the city, army units patrol the area, and even six Pantsir-S  air defense systems have been positioned in the region to protect the airspace. And a new counter-terrorism law has been issued to increase powers against terrorists.

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