Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kadyrov’s Annexation of Ingush Territory Latest Fallout from Putin’s Crimean Anschluss, Kyiv Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 20 – To a remarkable degree, Irina Pavlenko says, Ramzan Kadyrov has followed the Crimean scenario in his drive to annex portions of Ingushetia, including Grozny’s insistence that the Chechens and the Ingush are one people and should not be divided territorially as they were not in Soviet times.

                The deputy head of Kyiv’s Center for Research on the Problems of the Russian Federation argues that what Kadyrov has done in fact is “’a Crimean boomerang’ for the North Caucasus,” something Moscow has precipitated as a result of its own actions in Crimea but may not be able to stop (

                Why the Kremlin allowed Kadyrov to carry out “a mini-‘Crimea is ours’” operation and take part of the land from a neighboring republic is “a complicated question,” Pavlenko says.  It is possible that Moscow fears that this is the lesser evil in a situation in which Kadyrov could destabilize the North Caucasus in other ways.

            Or it may be that Putin needs Kadyrov for so many other tasks, including seizing portions of Ukraine or developing ties with the Saudis, that the Kremlin felt it had no choice but to go along. Or it may be that Putin isn’t willing to tell Kadyrov that the Chechen leader can’t seize some one else’s territory given that that is exactly what the Kremlin leader has done.

            As for Yevkurov, she continues, it seems clear that he felt he had to go along lest Kadyrov demand even more, although the Ingush leader conceded far more territory and oil-rich territory at that to Chechnya than he got in return.  And as a result, “the situation developed further along the lines of a Ukrainian scenario,” with the Maidan in Magas.

            There has been one significant difference: the Ingush appealed to Moscow to intervene; but the Kremlin washed its hands of the matter, insisting that the territorial transfer was something the two republics should deal with on their own.  That attitude only made the situation worse as far as the Ingush were concerned.

            They and “not without basis fear that the territorial pretensions of neighboring Chechnya are only part of another, more global plan for the restoration of a single Chechen-Ingush republic which existed before the disintegration of the USSR.” Chechen suggestions that the two nations are in fact “one people,” another echo of the Crimean case, only feed such fears.

            “The Caucasus traditionally is a quite explosive place, and any conflict here threatens to grow over into bloody clashes,” Pavlenko says. That prompted delegations from neighboring republics to flood into Ingushetia in the hopes of calming things down. But Kadyrov holds a trump card: he alone has his own 30,000-man armed force.

            That makes the situation extremely dangerous for the Ingush, the Ukrainian expert says, because it is not clear that Moscow is prepared to put its own forces in play as long as Kadyrov is involved – and as long as Moscow is avoiding any coverage of what is going on between Chechnya and Ingushetia.

            It certainly appears, Pavlenko argues, that Moscow hopes the Ingush will simply get tired of protesting and will fall in line with what Kadyrov wants. But “the land question is very sharp in the North Caucasus as is the question of honor and dignity.” Unless pressed by Moscow, Kadyrov isn’t going to back down – and that appears unlikely.

            Consequently, Pavlenko says, the Russian authorities are likely to try to ease the situation by replacing Yevkurov and his team or by seeking to divide the Ingush opposition by playing up divisions within it. How successful Moscow will be with either step remains unclear at least at present.

            What all this shows, the Kyiv analyst concludes, is that stability in Russia is very much a relative thing and that the protests in Magas over the past month like the Maidan in Ukraine four years ago promises to produce more “unexpected developments” in Russia itself.

Putin’s Russian Guard Seeks New Controls over Gun Owners

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 20 – Operating on the nearly universal principle of not letting any crisis go to waste, the Russian Guard in the wake of the Kerch school shooting has proposed new regulations requiring gun owners to notify officials where they are keeping their guns if they take them on a trip of more than three days’ duration.

            The measure, as posted on the official site (, imposes this requirement not only on Russian citizens but on foreigners who may be bringing guns into the Russian Federation for hunting. It also proposes new rules governing the transportation of weapons on domestic Russian flights.

            The imposition of the new rules almost certainly will require a further growth in the size of the Russian Guard, and it will beyond doubt give the Russian government yet another way to bring charges against Russians who may through negligence or otherwise fail to register where they are keeping their guns while travelling.

            And it puts the Russian Guard on a collision course with gun manufacturers and distributors who have been pressing for an easing of the rules to allow Russians to own as many as ten guns each (

            That is no small thing: According to some estimates, there are as many as 25 million guns in private hands in the Russian Federation today, many of which are not registered with the authorities as required, a number that continues to grow rapidly  (

Does Estonia’s History with Two Orthodox Churches have Lessons for Ukraine?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 20 – Constantinople’s gift of autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox church could have a very different outcome than the violent clashes the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government have predicted or the Russian military intervention that many Ukrainians – and others – fear.

            That possibility, which may be a slim one, is suggested by the experience of Estonia over the last 25 years where an Orthodox church subordinate to Constantinople and another Orthodox church subordinate to Moscow have coexisted despite the threat of problems when that situation was created.

            To be sure, Ukraine is not Estonia. Not only is it larger and more significant for its congregants and for Moscow, but the church issue there has become more intertwined with politics and the Ukrainian church is much closer now to the formation of a single national church than was the case in Estonia.

            Nonetheless, the possibility is worth exploring at a time when tensions are increasing, and Kristina Bondareva, a journalist for Yevropayskaya pravda, presents a useful outline of the Estonian case and its possible implications for Ukraine as it moves forward (

                “The experience of Tallinn is useful as an example (or anti-example) for Kyiv’s further actions, she continues. As in Ukraine, the history of Orthodoxy in Estonia is complicated; and as in Ukraine, that history casts a shadow on today.

            After Estonia achieved independence in 1918, its Orthodox community wanted to have its own church. In 1920, Moscow Patriarch Tikhon recognized the church there as autonomous.  But that wasn’t sufficient for the Estonian faithful, and in 1923, they successfully sought a tomos of autonomy (but not autocephaly) from the Universal Patriarch in Constantinople.

            The Orthodox church in Estonia became the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, but when the Soviets invaded and occupied Estonia, the Moscow Patriarchate on its restoration during World War II “annexed” the Estonian Orthodox. In 1944, some Estonian Orthodox went into emigration where they retained their autonomous status under Constantinople.

            After Estonia recovered its de facto independence in 1991, the EAOC was registered as the only Orthodox Church in the country, and the Moscow Patriarchate lost control of all the churches there it had used during the Soviet period because Estonians viewed it as part of the occupation. Moreover, Tallinn didn’t officially register the Moscow church until 2002.

            Moscow religious and civil was furious, routinely denouncing Tallinn for discriminating against Russians and Russian believers, condemning  Constantinople for interference in what it claims as its canonical territory, seeking redress at the Council of Europe and even involving the US by asking President Clinton to put pressure on the Estonian government.

            The Estonian case was “especially sensitive” for the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1990s because then Moscow Patriarch Aleksii II had served as metropolitan of Tallinn and Estonia. But Moscow’s complaints did prove effective, and in February 1996, Constantinople declared its tomos of 1923 restored, infuriating Russians still more.  

            But despite that, Bondareva continues, “the two opposing sides were able to find a compromise,” and “several months after the tomos, Moscow and Constantinople agreed that in Estonia would two churches would function simultaneously, and the parishes themselves would choose under whose jurisdiction they were” Moscow’s or Constantinople’s.

            As a result, the EAOC now has 72 parishes and three bishoprics, while the Estonian Orthodox church of the Moscow Patriarchate has 37 parishes and two bishoprics.  The former thus has more churches but the latter has more faithful, “about 85 percent” or 150,000 believers in Estonia. 

            The Russian church seeks to maintain control over the Russian-speaking population, EAOC experts say; “but in the final analysis, they understand that it is significantly better to be a European in Estonia and to have all rights and to speak Russian then to be part of something far from clear on the other side of the border.”

            One interesting detail, Bondareva says, is that because of problems with the recruitment of priests, “among the priests of the EAOC are ethnic Russians while among the priests of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate are Estonians.”

            Today, the journalist continues, these two Orthodox communities “form the largest religious group in the country. If earlier Estonia was considered traditionally Lutheran, now this is not he case: ever more citizens consider themselves atheists.”

            But this is not the end of the story, Bondareva says. “Two years ago, the EAOC metropolitan began to speak about the possibility of establishing a single Orthodox Church of Estonia and proposed to the metropolitan of the Moscow church to unite with him under the aegis of Constantinople.”

            That move was the product of a decision at the All-Orthodox Assembly in Crete in June 2016 which held “the coexistence of two essentially similar churches in one country to be unethical.”  But the Moscow Patriarchate did not attend that meeting, and its church in Estonia showed “no enthusiasm” for unity.

            Indeed, for such unification to happen, many issues would have to be addressed: who would lead the church, whom would it be subordinate to, and who would get church property.  With the Moscow Patriarchate now having broken with Constantinople, the chances for any movement in this direction seem remote.

            Not surprisingly, the two Orthodox churches in Estonia take different positions on Ukrainian autocephaly: the EAOC supports it, while the EOC MP is totally opposed.

            Bondareva ends with the suggestion that the situation in Estonia is less a model for Ukraine than a lesson. The history of Orthodoxy in Estonia shows that “the peaceful coexistence of two churches is possible” in a single country; but it also shows how difficult that situation can prove for the faithful and for the countries involved.