Friday, November 2, 2018

Some Cossacks See Land Claim Against Chechnya as Way to Attract Attention to Their Own Issues

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – Some leaders of the Caucasus Cossack Line, the leading group of Cossacks in Starvropol Kray, have called for annexing two districts of Chechnya in order to restore “historical justice,” an action that has surprised many because Chechnya or at least its leader Ramzan Kadyrov enjoys almost unrestricted support from Vladimir Putin.

            They say they have been encouraged to do that by the recent border accord between Ingushetia and Chechnya and believe that just as the conflict over that agreement has attracted attention to other problems Ingushetia faces a call for border adjustments in favor of the Cossacks can do the same for them (

            But one of the reasons why the raising of this issue is perhaps more potentially explosive than border changes in general is that it is part of the larger problem of the decline of the Russian population in the region compared to the non-Russians. Moscow has always counted the Cossacks as part of the Russian nation; if it can’t, the Russian share would become lower still.

            The Cossack appeal has appeared on the Internet and will be presented to Stavropol and North Caucasus Federal District officials, Sergey Popov, the Cossack activist behind the idea, says.  But it is opposed by many Cossacks as dangerous and by Russian officials and experts as unnecessary.

            Nonetheless, Popov and his supporters are going forward, pointing out that at least ten percent of the population of the two districts of Chechnya they want transferred consists of Cossacks and ethnic Russians and that Grozny under Kadyrov has failed to come up with special policies for these two communities.

            Cossacks have long been pushing for territorial changes in the North Caucasus that would give them their own land and thus a stronger claim to be the nation they know they are (, and

            At least some of them believe that the Ingush-Chechen gives them a chance to raise the profile of their cause, and Russian officials in Stavropol Kray say that if the proposal comes to them in the correct form, they will have no choice but to consider it.  So far, however, the proposal has not been filed with them officially, they say.

            Given Moscow’s tilt to Chechnya as opposed to the Cossacks, their cause may not gain the hearing they seek. But the efforts of Cossacks to piggyback on Ingushetia shows just how serious the conflict in Magas is, however much Putin, Kadyrov and Yevkurov think that with the end of the mass protests, the issue is now behind them. 

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