Adyg by origin, a citizen of Abkhazia and Finland Iskhak Kushkha fulfilled the promise given to Abkhazian friends whom he met in his historical homeland, and opened a national cultural center in Helsinki.
In the capital of Finland, Helsinki, a small Abkhazian cultural center has been operating for about a year, which was opened by an artist-designer, a repatriate from Turkey, an Adyg by origin Iskhak-Sadyk Kaimaz (Kushkha).
Today, Iskhak Kushkha is in charge of the center he created and says that his main goal is "to be the voice of his people and historical homeland."
"Art is a part of my life; it enriches my view of problems. In the environment where I am, in the context of my exhibitions and artworks, I try to be a beacon of the history and culture of Abkhazia and Adygea, to be the one who voices the existing problems and makes efforts to solve them," the artist explains.
Culture, art, Abkhazia
Meetings of compatriots and other events of the center are already taking place in a specially rented room, but in order for it to become self-sufficient, the Kushkha private art gallery is also located here.
"I plan to draw attention to the Abkhazian Cultural Center by exhibiting works of European and Finnish artists. I am going to organize an exhibition of Abkhazian and Adyg artists here. There are plans to organize and hold exhibitions of Finnish artists in Abkhazia. Our road is full of long and tiring difficulties, but I believe that we will succeed," says Kushkha.
Today, at the first opportunity, using existing professional and friendly ties, he tries to tell others about Abkhazia. For example, an article about the activities of the Abkhazian Cultural Center and the work of its leader has already been published in the "Kumposti" art magazine of the Helsinki microdistrict Kumpula.
He has many plans, up to holding concerts of musical and folklore groups, Abkhazian and Adyg artists in Helsinki.
A deed starts from friendship
Iskhak-Sadyk Kaimaz (Kushkha) has been living in Finland for 25 years and is a citizen of this country. However, as an ethnic Adyg, in 2019 he also became a citizen of Abkhazia. It was during his visit that he made new friends - they were the Adviser to the President of the country Rismag Adzhindzhal, public figure Astamur Paptsaa and writer Dmitry Gabelia.
Rismag Adzhindzhal recalls that on August 15 (Volunteer Day is celebrated in Abkhazia on this day - ed.) 2019, in one of the cafes on the Sukhum promenade, where he invited his friends, volunteers in the PWPA, a man in a national costume was sitting at the next table that drew attention.
"My friend Astamur Paptsaa drew attention to a stranger sitting separately in a Circassian coat. He told our Kabardian friends: "This is certainly our man! You need to get to know him!" This is how me and Iskhak met. He speaks Turkish, English and Adyg. Our first acquaintance happened, thanks to Kabardian volunteers, in the Adyg language. Then we already communicated in three languages little known to us. He hardly knows Russian, and we know very little Turkish and English. Using gadgets, we somehow improved our communication," Adzhindzhal smiles.
On one of the following days of communication in a conversation, they "somehow collegially" came up with the idea of opening an Abkhazian Cultural Center in Helsinki.
"Of course, in the current situation, only a citizen of Finland could open the Abkhazian Cultural Center in Helsinki. Iskhak fulfilled his promise to us, which, I believe, rendered a service not only to me, but also to his new official homeland - the Republic of Abkhazia," Rismag Adzhindzhal believes.
The Adviser to the President is confident that the center will help to involve compatriots living in Finland in the process of promoting the interests of Abkhazia.
"I remember how in the nineties, when our country was in an information blockade, we were annoyed by the distorted surname of our first President "Ardzinba" with an emphasis on "и" (Russian letter) in foreign media. However, I also remember how our friends in Moscow broke through the information blockade. I remember the names of Anna Broido and Vyacheslav Rumyantsev. As fate would have it, when a person came who could do something similar in Northern Europe, we were very happy. I consider myself lucky to meet such a person as Iskhak Kushkha. For our partially recognized country, any relations with countries that have not recognized us are promising," says Rismag Adzhindzhal.
He expressed the wish that in the future the issue of possible financing of Abkhazian centers abroad to be considered at the state level.
"I hope that the new composition of the Parliament, when forming the country's budget, will find time to work out the issue of supporting Abkhazian Cultural Centers located abroad. In addition to Helsinki, the Abkhazian Cultural Center has been functioning in Nalchik for several years. I am also involved in solving problems related to the creation of a new Abkhazian Cultural Center in the city of Vladikavkaz," Rismag listed.
The first steps of the Finnish Abkhazian center
Over the past year, the Abkhazian Cultural Center hosted exhibitions and events, including several meetings with Adyg and Abkhazian refugees from Syria who moved to Finland. According to Kushkha, there are more than 150 of them.
In agreement with the municipal authorities of Helsinki, two rallies-exhibitions were held, the purpose of which was to draw attention to the recognition of the Republic of Abkhazia by the international community, and two exhibitions about Abkhazia were held in the gallery and in the central library of Helsinki. At exhibitions, the artist presented his works and information about Abkhazia to the guests.
The head of the center evaluates the past events as successful.
"The information content of the exhibitions is about my work and my own financial means. Every work has a material dimension, but there are things that can be done without money! I am working to continue what I started. It is important to work tirelessly to create rational projects and put them into practice," the head of the center believes.
Through the efforts of Iskhak Kushkha, a department of Abkhazian and Adyg books was created in the same central library. So far, the number of books is limited, but the existence of such a department in the Helsinki library is important.
"Works representing our languages have found their place in the Helsinki Library! I thought during my stay in Abkhazia about this project. Abkhazian friends gave me books in the Abkhaz; I brought them here in my car. Books in the Adyg language are from my personal library. I asked my friends to help replenish the list of literature presented, but so far, only one person has responded. It is important that the department was created in the library, and I am working on increasing the number of books and creating a wide archive. We need more books in the Abkhaz and Adyg languages. Friends who want to donate books to the library can contact me," Iskhak Kushkha addressed the readers of the WAC website.
Flag as a symbol
Another interesting fact that Iskhak-Sadyk Kaimaz (Kushkha) spoke about is not related to the activities of the Abkhazian Cultural Center, but will impress Abkhazian car drivers: Kushkha was the one who first legally entered Europe by a car with an Abkhazian license plate. He left the Republic of Abkhazia by his own car, drove through the Russian Federation and entered the Republic of Finland.
Enthusiast and entrepreneur, artist and patriot, Iskhak Kushkha intends to continue working to introduce people from Finland to their beloved historical homeland.
"Our work will be more clearly framed when the restrictions associated with the coronavirus are lifted in the world. I want to say thank you to the WAC information portal for the interest shown in the Abkhazian Cultural Center and in me. I follow the activities of the World Abaza Congress. Currently, our center is only going through the path of formation, but in the future, we should participate in the activities and meetings of the WAC. I wish success to my brothers working in the World Abaza Congress. Big hello to the Motherland - Abkhazia!" the head of the Abkhazian Cultural Center wished goodbye.