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Literature

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SHEVCHENKO'S POEM KAVKAZ

Honoring the Caucasian Nations' Struggle for Independence
from Russia's Tyranny





The poem Kavkaz (1845) by Taras Shevchenko is presented as a literary work which continues to illustrate the political reality of today.

The poem appears both in the original Ukrainian and in English translation.

In Kavkaz, Shevchenko bemoans the death of his friend, artist Yakov de Balmen, who, as an officer in the tsarist army, perished during the conquest of Circassia in 1845.

Over the last 200 years, the gravest threat to the Caucasus has been from Russia. Since its colonization of the region in 1818, Russia has engaged in suppressing rebellions and deporting populations into Siberia and Kazakhstan. Historically, the Chechens have been the most active opponents in the struggle. Both Imperial and Communist Russia successfully annexed the Caucasus, and both met persistent Chechen resistance.

Despite proclamations of independence by various Caucasian nations after 1991, Russia unrelentingly persists in exerting its political influence, in invading Caucasian territory and conducting genocide among its inhabitants.

According to Dr. Charles Fairbanks (Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at John Hopkins University), there's no one in power really in the world who has any kind of real serious strategy for ending this. Furthermore, from a global view, it is most insulting that despite Chechnya's de facto autonomy, the international community still considers the area Russian.

Nevertheless, in Kavkaz, Taras Shevchenko appeals to all sleeping nations from the Moldavan to the Finn to rise up against Russia's tyranny. In the words Fight and ye shall overcome! he encourages the Caucasians in their struggle. The poetic image of Prometheus, chained to a Caucasian mountain and pecked by the eagle for time eternal, symbolizes the undying spirit of their selfless heroism.

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"Caucasian Landscapes" Photography by Evgeni V. Isenko

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