Staunton, October 22 – Reported plans by Vladimir Putin to liquidate the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation either in advance of the March 2018 elections or just after could founder on the chief reason many Russians would like to see that happen – Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya.
And if that should prove to be the case, it would constitute an irony of ironies because Putin himself is responsible for what Chechnya has become and certainly is aware that any moves against other republics would further radicalize opinion there and might lead to the destabilization not only of that republic but of the North Caucasus as a whole.
Last week, Moscow commentator Oleg Kashin argued that there is “a broad consensus” now within Russian society about the value of doing away with the republics, pointedly noting that the behavior of Chechens in general and Kadyrov in particular have mobilized Russians against the republics in general (https://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalnovash/2074020-echo/).
Valery Khatazhukov, the head of a human rights group in Nalchik, told Radio Liberty’s Valery Dzutsati that while some in Moscow may be talking about this and viewing the appointment of an outsider in Daghestan as a start, any more in that direction would be “an absolutely foolhardy step” (kavkazr.com/a/uprazdnenie-respublik-s-oglyadkoi-na-chechnyu/28799980.html).
Moscow’s earlier efforts to amalgamate regions, including the so-called “matryoshka” republics surrounded by other predominantly Russian regions founded precisely in the North Caucasus when Circassian resistance put paid to the idea of combing Adygeya with Krasnodar kray, Khatazhukov notes.
And Eduard Urazayev, the Makhachkala observer for Ekho Moskvy, argues that even the changes in Daghestan don’t point to an end of the republics. The new Kazakh-Russian governor won’t be any more able to cope with clans and corruption than the Russians who have long controlled the force structures in Daghestan.
Any moves to destroy the republics would generate opposition not only from republic elites but also from the non-Russians who view the republics as one of the last lines of the defense of their nations, especially at a time when the Kremlin is seeking to limit or even destroy education in their native languages.
Nowhere would that resistance be greater or cast a larger shadow if it were to emerge than in Chechnya where an effort to disband that republic would undoubtedly re-energize the war against the Russian occupation, a war that Kadyrov has kept in hand not only by his repressive actions but also by his independent moves.
That is a risk Putin can’t afford to take, especially in advance of the elections. And thus at least for now the Kremlin leader appears to have been blocked by a monster of his own creation; and the non-Russian republics of his country appear likely to survive as the unintended consequence of his policies.