Staunton, August 2 – From the nineteenth century to the present, Russian governments have sought to maintain control over the North Caucasus by playing the Cossacks and the indigenous non-Russians against one another, a strategy that Vladimir Putin has continued to this day with his pseudo-Cossack formations.
But in a development that may mean Moscow’s efforts in that regard are coming to an end, the All-Cossack Social Center and the Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus have concluded an alliance in which they stress their shared traditions and opposition to outside control (facebook.com/groups/former.russia/permalink/516314832482139/).
“Historically, the mountain peoples and the Cossacks have been set against once another by the powers that be of Russia which have acted according to the principle ‘divide and rule.’ However, in spire of the imperial policy of divisions, there have been cases of good neighborliness, fraternal friendship and even mixed marriages.”
According to the joint declaration which was signed in Pyatigorsk on June 22, “the Cossacks and Mountaineers have a common history and common interests as well as a similar approach to issues of morality and worldview which are based on feelings of justice and respect for the concept of honor and human dignity.”
“Today, we must put an end to the promotion of hostility and conflict between us. In order to achieve these goals, we commit ourselves to the fulfillment of this Declaration.” We are the All-Cossack Social Center which represents “the interests of all sub-ethnoses of the Cossack People” and the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus which reflects the interests of “the peoples of the North Caucasus and also those living outside of it but who consider the North Caucasus their historical motherland.”
The two sides commit themselves not to enter into any outside agreement without the approval of the other. Moreover, “in the event of establishing a Cossack national-state formation bordering with the territories of the people of the North Caucasus, all border disputes will be resolved exclusively by peaceful negotiations … and referenda.”
Further, “in the event of the creation of a Cossack national-state formation, the citizens of this formation” who live beyond its borders “will have all the rights and freedoms called for by the legislation of these national-state formations for their citizens,” just as the rights and freedoms of these people will be guaranteed in the Cossack entity.
“Historically, the Cossack People and the peoples of the North Caucasus were closely connected with each other by their common living space, economic activities … and even families ties. Therefore, if there is a mutual desire of the two to create a common confederal or federative state formation, this desire will be fulfilled.”
This is a landmark development not only by creating the basis for cooperation rather than conflict between the Cossacks and the mountaineers of the North Caucasus but also by making reference to a Cossack national-state formation, something Moscow has consistently opposed and used as a scarecrow to keep the North Caucasians at odds with the Cossacks.
By suggesting that the two groups can approach even this issue in a peaceful way is thus remarkable even though many problems will have to be resolved before the ideas in the declaration can be fully realized. It certainly means that Moscow and its agents in the region will now work overtime to divide those that this agreement joins together.
But perhaps equally important, the Declaration specifies that the peoples of the North Caucasus include not only those who live there now but those who view the region as their national homeland. This is a reference in the first instance to the more than five million Circassians who live in the Middle East, Europe and even farther afield.