Fallout from Chechen-Ingush Border Change Likely to Be Widespread and Destabilizing
September 26 – For at least three reasons, the territorial swap of land between
Chechnya and Ingushetia is likely to be both widespread and destabilizing,
despite the uniqueness of a border that arose when the Soviet-era
Chechen-Ingush ASSR split apart at the end of Soviet times. (For a summary
chronology, see lenta.ru/brief/2018/09/26/sunja/).
all, what is most striking is that this change in the
administrative-territorial map happened at all. Vladimir Putin has opposed all
such shifts except in the case of his on-again, off-again regional amalgamation
effort. Indeed, unlike in Soviet times when administrative borders were changed
many times, they have been quite stable since 2000.
marks a major change. Under Soviet rule, union republic borders were changed
more than 200 times and autonomous republic, oblast and kray borders were
changed far more often than that (For a discussion of this Soviet practice, see
this author’s “Can
Republic Borders Be Changed?” RFE/RL
Report on the USSR, September 28, 1990.)
too is something new: For at least some non-Russians, it marks a shift from
their typical status of objects of Moscow policy to something like subjects who
can make demands and protest the decisions their leaders may take and seek to
impose. Those in power can respond with media blackouts and force as they have
in Ingushetia, but they won’t change minds.
third, this event, however much Moscow tries to minimize it as applying only to
Chechnya and Ingushetia, sends a signal to others in the Russian Federation and
perhaps more broadly to the entire former Soviet space that border changes,
long viewed as impermissible and certain to be opposed by Moscow and others,
may in fact happen.
from the point of view of stability in the Russian Federation, it is likely to
suggest to many across the North Caucasus, in the Middle Volga and elsewhere
that they can now promote such ideas, however much of an anathema the Kremlin
and its minions have pronounced against them in the past.
activists, including some in the hierarchies of the federal subjects, are
certain to be thinking about ways they can follow Kadyrov’s lead – and others in
neighboring areas are considering how they may be able to use popular
demonstrations against any change whether initiated by these elites or by