Monday, October 8, 2018

Fearing Their Republic’s Very Existence is at Risk, Ingush Committed to Continue Protest

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 8 -- The anger and passion behind the Ingush demonstrations in Magas reflect not only their sense that they have been misled and betrayed by republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and outplayed by Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov but also their fear that the very existence of their republic is at risk.

            Barakh Chemurziyev, one of the leaders of the protest, tells Sasha Sulim of the Meduza news agency that Ingushetia not only is small and has lost part of its territory to neighbors before but that it has among the highest population densities of any federal subject, 164 people per square kilometer (

            Despite that, he continues, “the head of our republic considers that he has the right to give away almost ten percent of our territory to the use of a subject whose territory is five times larger than ours,” something that will only feed “the appetite of this aggressor who dreams of expanding his territory” at the expense of Ingushetia’s.

            Making the situation worse, Chemurziyev says, is the fact that Yevkurov first denied that he was in talks with Kadyrov about territorial changes and then signed the agreement without any possibility for the Ingush parliament, courts or people to have a voice in the matter, something that has infuriated all of them.

            Yevkurov and Kadyrov talk about their being an even territorial swap, but that is not the case, other participants in the demonstration say. On the one hand, there are numerous Ingush cultural monuments on the land handed over to Chechnya by the agreement. And on the other, beneath that land is oil, which Chechnya will now have and Ingushetia not.

            “We are losing territory, we are losing people connected with these territories and who form our nation,” Chemurziyev says. If the Chechens succeed in making these lands their own, “our republic will disappear.”  As a result, a remarkably large percentage of the population is angry and ready to demonstrate or support the demonstrators

            Some 40 different political groups have come together to support the demonstrators, groups that represent some 80 to 90,000 people or “almost 20 percent of the population of the republic,” activists say. It has been hard in the past to get Ingush to go into the streets, but not this time as what Yevkurov and Kadyrov have done touches the vital interests of all.

            Ruslan Mugoltsev, a Yabloko party member who is involved with the protests, points to another reason Ingush are upset about the proposed land swap.  On the Ingush territory Yevkurov wants to give away live the Orsteroytsy, “one of the Nakh peoples,” whose identities shift between Ingush and Chechen depending on where they live.

            If where they live becomes part of Chechnya, they are likely to make that change, reducing the number of Ingush overall and putting the future of the republic at ever greater risk.

            That Ingush feel so threatened is no surprise given their history: deportation under Stalin, land seizures by North Ossetia in the early 1990s, and now a Chechen land grab assisted by their own ruler. That explains much of their current anger and sense of desperation – and also why they are likely to remain in the streets until they get what they want.

            This is a clear case of what might be called “pessimistic nationalism,” the kind of national identity and movement that arises when a people feels its future is at risk and that if it doesn’t act now, it won’t have the chance again.  That sense lay behind the Baltic movements in the 1980s; it lies behind the Ingush one now. 

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