Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ingush Fear Chechnya Will Absorb Not Just Their Territory but Their Nation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – Many analysts have explained the passionate opposition of the Ingush nation to the border accord Yunus-Bek Kadyrov reached with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov as reflecting the sensitivity of all peoples in the North Caucasus to any territorial change given the shortage of land that has arisen because of explosive population growth.

            That is certainly a good part of the explanation, but there is another and deeper one that may matter more – the fact that the Chechens and Ingush are both Vaynakh peoples and share both a common language and a largely common culture. If the Ingush lose their territory, many of them fear that they will lose their nationhood as well, Anton Chablin suggests.

            If Chechnya gains territory, it will also move likely with success to transform the people on it from considering themselves Ingush to viewing themselves as Chechens, he argues in a Kavkaz Post article.  And if that process continues, Yevkurov will not have anything to divide with Kadyrov (

            The Soviet system promoted differences between the Ingush and Chechens just as it did among the people of Central Asia as part of its divide-and-rule policy; but now the post-Soviet Russian government, given Vladimir Putin’s deference to Kadyrov, appears ready to allow Kadyrov’s Chechnya to expand demographically as well as territorially.

            This is likely a one-off approach and won’t be followed by Moscow elsewhere, but the fact that the Russian government appears to be ready to move away from this Soviet policy could generate both fears and expectations among other geographically propinquitous and culturally similar peoples – and that could make the Ingush crisis even more significant.

Seven Messages from Mustafa Dzhemilyev on His 75th Birthday

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – Mustafa Dzhemilyev, who has been fighting for the rights of the Crimean Tatar nation for six decades against occupiers old and new, turns 75 today.  He has lost none of this ability to diagnose the problems his nation faces or to inspire its members and all people of good will with his pointed observations and actions.

            Despite being forced to grow up far from his homeland as a result of Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944, being compelled to spend decades in prison where he still holds the record for the longest hunger strike in history – 303 days – and being exiled again by the Putin regime, Dzhemilyev remains an optimist about the future.

            Now at an age when many are taking their rest, Dzhemilyev has lost none of his commitment, insight or energy, and perhaps the best measure of the man on this round birthday are the seven observations he made in the course of an interview given to Ramazan Alpaut of Radio Liberty’s IdelReal portal (

            They include:

·         First, Putin may call himself a nationalist but he is in fact a fascist, Dzhemilyev says. He does not respect international law and considers it his right to invade and occupy neighboring countries and killing people. “Well,” perhaps, the Crimean Tatar leader allows, “this is a form of Russian nationalism.” But he continues, “not one enemy of Russia has been able to inflict such harm on the Russian Federation as have Putin’s policies,” policies whose errors he should admit but that would take courage and a sense of responsibility, things he doesn’t have.

·         Second, Ukraine for all of its difficulties is not Russia and not Russia in positive ways.  In Ukraine, Dzhemilyev says, “there exists the concept of ‘national minority’ for whom instruction in a native language until the fifth class is obligatory … in Ukraine, there is the concept of ‘indigenous people’” for whom there are even broader rights. “In Russia, this situation is completely different. In Russia open and forced Russification is taking place.”

·         Third, “the Volga Tatars llike the Bashkirs – although the Bashkirs and Tatars are from [Dzhemilyev’s] point of view, part of one and the same people – and the peoples of the Caucasus must get themselves prepared for independence … if the current policy of Russia continues, then that country will face inevitable collapse and certainly the disintegration of this state.”

·         Fourth, what the Russian occupiers are doing in Crimea is not pressure but “the most genuine terror.” The situation has become so bad, Dzhemilyev says, that “this isn’t life; this is some kind of hell.”

·         Fifth, there has been no mass exodus from Crimea because Dzhemilyev and the other leaders of the Crimean Tatars have urged them to remain. If they left, that would give Moscow a victory it doesn’t deserve by allowing the Russian government to send in Russians to change the ethnic composition of the Ukrainian peninsula.

·         Sixth, while the Mejlis cannot formally meet because it is impossible to hold sessions in a place where a quorum could be assembled, the alternative Crimean Tatar organization that Moscow has established are fakes, wholly controlled by the FSB, just as is the case of the Crimean Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD).

·         And seventh, “our people puts all its hope in liberation from occupation. But when this liberation will come, it is impossible to predict. Such totalitarian bandit regimes [as the one Putin has organized and heads] sometimes fall apart instantly and in a completely unexpected way.”

For Kremlin, Khakass Vote Another Testing of Waters for 2024, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – Given the alarm in some quarters about the defeat of Kremlin-backed candidates in four federal subjects in the September gubernatorial elections, many Russian commentators have barely concealed their surprise that the Putin regime allowed the KPRF’s Valentin Konovalov to win without any opposing candidates in Khakassia.

            Some analysts “close to the Kremlin,” the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, explain this decision as being part of a broader effort to discredit the institution of direct elections altogether by showing that protest voting allow someone unqualified to gain office (

                But “protest voting, the readiness to support anyone as long as he isn’t the candidate of the powers, characterizes the population’s level of tiredness in the ruling elite and its rhetoric rather than serves to discredit the institution of elections as such.” Moreover, the authorities “underestimated the strength of the protest electorate.”

            According to the lead article, however, there is another and more appropriate way to view what occurred in Khakassia “and in the country as a whole.”  The political system is designed to be “a cushion of security” for the powers that be. For that to work, those in charge periodically have to test the waters to see whether it retains that capacity.

            The recent losses to the KPRF or the LDPR may be regretted in Moscow but they are not a threat to the rulers, Nezavisimaya gazeta says.  That is because these systemic parties and their candidates “are fighting for their own place in the political sun but not against the system, the power vertical or Putin.”

            Moreover, the paper stresses, “the authorities have a sufficient number of levers to subordinate to themselves any head of a region elected after he enters office.”  As a result, the regime can and indeed on occasion must test the waters. Usually it has been proved right, but “in Khakassia, this maneuver didn’t work.” The protest electorate was too strong.

            As the Moscow paper notes, “the ruling elite is interested in the first instance in 2024. According to existing laws, Vladimir Putin can’t run for another presidential term. Consequently, a successor to him must be found. But a successor is not only a specific person but also a definite model of behavior, an answer to the demands of society.”

            “The political fall of 2018,” the editors conclude, “is one of the first attempts of the authorities to feel the basis under their feet and to understand what this demand may in fact be.” Whatever it learns in any particular case is unlikely to be determinative, but it will go into formulating the answer to the question the powers that be are most interested in. 

            The election of any particular governor does not rise to that level by itself.