Sunday, December 18, 2016

Has Putin Come Up with a Hybrid Way of Destroying Russia’s Non-Russian Republics?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Vladimir Putin’s modus operandi in his “hybrid” actions is to create confusion by spreading the idea that others are doing on their own what he in fact wants and then use confusion on this point to impose his own will.  That is what he did in Crimea, and now he may be applying this tactic inside Russia against the non-Russian republics.

            Evidence for this comes from Tuva, the Buddhist republic bordering Mongolia, where Cossacks or more precisely neo-Cossacks are agitating for setting up a new federal subject in place of the Tuvin republic (тувинские-казаки-появится-ли-новый-субъект-федерации-вместо-республики-тыва/1275759652467508).

            Tuvin activist Sayan Mongush provides important details on what despite all its murkiness may represent Moscow’s testing of a new approach to restart Putin’s program of regional amalgamation to the detriment and even destruction of the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation.

At the end of November in Kyzyl’s Center of Russian Culture, an institution that enjoys Moscow’s support, a Cossack krug assembled and declared the formation of Belotsarskaya stanitsa on the territory of Tuva, an institution that unites about 500 self-declared Cossacks and has ties with Russians in the Tuvan government (

At one level, Mongush notes, this is just fine: a group assembles, declares itself to be an organization and seeks cooperation. But at another it is dangerous because it resuscitates a short-lived Cossack effort in 1919 to declare a Cossack republic where Tuva now is and thus creates expectations that something similar might happen again (

Vasily Konovalov, ataman of the Verkhne-Yenesey Cossack society, has only added to these concerns by declaring that “the Cossacks are showing themselves as in important factor in the strengthening of inter-ethnic stability and the consolidation of society … Tuva’s Cossacks have a lot to do in creating secure border districts” and so on.

Moreover, he points out, “about half of the Cossacks are representatives of the indigenous nationality.” That could not only lead Tuvans to conclude that this organization is not threatening but also be used by Moscow to speak of the supposedly democratic and representative nature of it, just as it did with success in Crimea.

An additional indication that more may be involved in the new Cossack organization than meets the eye is the fact that last week, it was announced that a Cossack representative had been included I the advisory council of the Tuvin interior ministry (

Of course – and this is typical of Putin’s other “hybrid” operations as well – nothing may come of this, especially if people inside Russia or elsewhere object too firmly because one of the aspects of hybrid efforts is the possibilities they offer for deniability. But such moves by Cossacks in non-Russian republics need to be watched lest they become a threat.

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