Sunday, February 10, 2019

With Border Changes, Moscow is Opening a Pandora’s Box in Which Not Even Hope Remains, Cherkasov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 9 – In the Greek myth, Pandora opened her box, allowing all sorts of evils to escape into the world; but at least hope remained. But in the North Caucasus today, Moscow by allowing border changes has opened a box that has not only released a variety of evils but does not contain any hope for the future.   

            One might have expected Russian officials to learn from what happened in Ingushetia when Ramzan Kadyrov secured 26,000 hectares of Ingush land for Chechnya, but apparently it hasn’t, Aleksandr Cherkasov says; and these same officials are calling for more border changes ahead in the name of justice and stability (

            If officials proceed, the Radio Svoboda commentator suggests, they will see little of either. Instead, as talks about the Chechen-Daghestan border show, they will face more protests in more places. Such protests have already broken out ( and

            But still worse, the changes so far are leading to expectations that there will be more, something that is mobilizing people both to make additional demands and to defend against additional demands being made on them. (On that danger, emanating from Grozny, see “Chechnya without Borders” at

            These problems, Cherkasov argues, arise “above all from problems in the relationship between the powers that be and civil society” in these republics, between officials who look to Moscow rather than to their own people and consequently make deals that serve Moscow’s interests and thus their own but not the interests of their people.

            As a result, the border changes are having the additional and more serious consequence of undermining what authority officials in the North Caucasus have, making them an easier and more tempting target for radicals and likely requiring sooner rather than later the introduction of more repressive Russian forces.

            After reviewing the long history of the border dispute between Ingushetia and Chechnya, Cherkasov points to three main causes of the problem: the weakness of the authorities in Ingushetia and their inability to speak with society, the desire of the Chechen government to show itself to be strong, and Moscow’s obvious deference to Grozny.

            “No agreements on territorial transfers among Caucasian republics would be possible with Moscow’s sanction,” the commentator continues.  That means Moscow could and should have said “’stop.’” That it didn’t and hasn’t means that for the peoples of the North Caucasus, their problems come not just from the republic heads but from Moscow itself.

            And recognition of that is really dangerous, Cherkasov suggests, a situation in which there is no hope remaining. 

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