Amin Samkough the Recipient of the 2024 CRO Circassian Lifetime Achievement Award

Amin Samkough the Recipient of the 2024 CRO Circassian Lifetime Achievement Award

Amin Samkough – A Circassian State and Political Figure and Prominent Educator and Historian (1900-1953)

Amin Samkough is a significant figure in Syrian politics and a renowned educator and historian of the Circassian community abroad who left a lasting impact on both spheres during his lifetime. Born in Quneitra in 1900, Samkough pursued his education diligently, graduating from secondary school in Damascus before continuing his studies in Beirut and eventually graduating as an agronomist. He furthered his academic pursuits at Sorbonne University, where he earned a degree in political economy, dedicating his time in Paris to studying social sciences and collecting materials on Circassian history.

Upon his return to Syria, Samkough became deeply involved in both local politics and cultural activism. He was elected chairman of the Quneitra municipality, where he championed various socio-economic development projects, including oil exploration, road construction, and urban greening initiatives. However, his most enduring legacy lies in his efforts to advance the cause of the Circassian community in Syria. In the 1920s, during the French mandate in Syria, Samkough emerged as a leader of the Circassian national movement. Alongside a group of intellectuals, he worked tirelessly to secure recognition for Circassians as a national minority and advocated for establishing Circassian autonomy in the Quneitra region. Despite multiple attempts to petition the League of Nations for autonomy, their efforts were repeatedly rebuffed.

Undeterred by setbacks, Samkough persisted in his advocacy, successfully securing two seats in the Syrian Parliament for Circassian representatives in 1931. He also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the “Circassian Society for the Promotion of Education and Culture” in 1927, which aimed to preserve Circassian language, customs, and traditions. Under his leadership, the society developed a Circassian alphabet based on the Latin script and published educational materials, including textbooks and the newspaper “Marge,” which disseminated articles on Circassian history and culture.

In 1933, Samkough and his associates opened the first national junior high school in Quneitra, providing education that emphasized Circassian language and heritage alongside conventional subjects. However, their endeavors faced opposition from the Syrian Government, particularly amid rising tensions surrounding Syrian independence and Arab nationalism. An armed clash in 1936 between Circassian youth factions further exacerbated tensions, leading to accusations of collaboration with French authorities against Samkough and his society. Consequently, their activities were banned, and Samkough was dismissed from his municipal position. Despite these challenges, Samkough remained committed to his cause, later forming the “Golan” organization to advocate for Circassian repatriation to the Caucasus, though this effort ultimately met with limited success.

1938 Circassians petitioned the Syrian Parliament and the League of Nations for autonomy and educational rights, yet their demands were largely rejected. Despite these setbacks, Samkough’s legacy endures as a testament to his unwavering dedication to the Circassian community and his enduring contributions to Syrian politics and education. He mastered reading and writing in Arabic, Circassian, French, and Turkish. In his spare time, he indulged in Circassian poetry and music and engaged in writing. Among his works are: “Circassian Alphabet in Latin Letters”, “Circassian Poems,” and “History of the Circassians from Ancient Times to Modern Era”. He published “Circassian War against Czars” in 1948. The manuscript “Excerpts from Historians’ Accounts of Circassians’ Heroism in Their Wars against the Czars” was lost before it was printed during the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in 1967.

After his death, his son, “Burzaj Samkough”, issued a book titled “An Introduction to Circassian History”, which serves as an introduction to his book “History of the Circassians”. The late “Amin Ayoub Samkough” passed away in May 1952 and was buried in the cemetery of “Al Qabratai” neighborhood in the city of “Quneitra”.

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