Staunton, March 12 – Because they are outnumbered by the Circassian Kabardins five to one and by ethnic Russians two to one in the republic of which they are listed as co-equals, the Turkic Balkars say they want to break away from the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic and form their own Turkic republic.
If that were to happen, the Turkic Karachays would likely seek a similar exit from the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, setting the stage for an increase in demands for a single Turkic republic and a single Circassian republic in the North Caucasus, something that would further undermine Moscow’s control of the situation there.
Because of these longer-term risks, Moscow but not the Kabardins will work to prevent the Balkars from breaking away; but the fact that they are expressing an interest in having their own republic underscores how explosive the situation is not only in the two remaining bi-national republics but across a region Putin claims he has pacified.
Following the official memorial meeting on March 8, the anniversary of the 1944 deportation of the Balkars by Stalin, Balkar leaders held their own session to demand that they be allowed to form their own republic, Belsan Kmuzov of Radio Liberty reports (kavkazr.com/a/razdelit-dvuglavy-elbrus/29093996.html).
Ismail Sabachiyev, the chairman of the Council of Balkar Elders, said that “the Balkar people has not yet been fully rehabilitated” because it does not control the land that it did before the exile. He accused KBR officials of siding with the Cherkess majority rather than the Balkars. As a result, he said, the Balkars need their own republic.
Yusup Ulbashev, head of the Council of Elders of the Elbrus District, seconded his arguments and said that problems “will continue until we fulfill the provisions of the constitution of the Russian Federation. “If we are a people,” he declared, “then we ought to have our own republic.”
Another participant at the independent Balkar session read out a resolution reaffirming the decision of the December 29, 1991, referendum in which the Balkars voted to separate from the Kabardins.
Significantly, Kmosov notes, Cherkess leaders are not opposed to the Balkar initiative. “On the contrary, one of them, Ibragim Yaganov, the former commander of Kabardin volunteers, supported [their call] about the division of the republic.” Bi-national republics have outlived their utility, he said.
But in supporting the notion of separation, Yaganov did not indicate that he was prepared to go along with the dividing lines that the Balkars want. Disputes about those, he said should be settled in court.