As I was watching the CBC evening national news, I was startled to see a piece on beekeeping near Sochi, Russia. The reporter talked about a group of folks called the Adyghe (Ah-dee-gee), or Circassian, people who have lived in the Caucasus Mountains just north of Sochi for thousands of years. They were among the indigenous people pushed further into hiding when the Russians expanded their empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The news piece reported how the natives were left out of the opening ceremonies and left out of the billions spent on infrastructure in Sochi. Instead, the mountain people were given no new roads, no train station, no attention – even though they are just 50 kilometres from the Olympic venue.
Nevertheless, the Circassians hoped the games would draw some tourists up the mountains. With that in mind, they built a beautiful honey museum and shop – bees, honey, and wax have long been part of the culture and trade of these people. The CBC reporter and camera crew drove up to the villages of Bolshoy (Big) Kishmai and Mali (Little) Kishmai and found they were the only visitors. There were no tourists. As safety is a valid concern throughout Russia, and because there are no decent roads and no promotion of the Circassian area inside the Sochi Games site, visitors simply did not head up into the hills to learn about the indigenous culture. Or to buy honey. It was pretty depressing to see.