Staunton, October 3 -- At the invitation of Roman Golovanov of Komsomolskaya pravda, two prominent Moscow journalists, Oleg Kashin and Maksim Shevchenko, square off on whether Moscow needs a Russian governor general to rule the Caucasus, a question that echoes Russia’s imperial past and one that even by being asked now will offend the North Caucasians.
Kashin thinks it is a good idea and even a necessary one to correct the consequences of Leninist arrangements within which the country still is living; Shevchenko in contrast says that the imposition of a Russian governor general on the North Caucasus would lead to an explosion worse than any in the past (kp.ru/daily/27037/4102074/).
Below is a translation of portions of the transcript of this debate:
Golovanov: Oleg, you call for separating the Caucasus, introducing internal visas and imposing a Russian governor general there. What is the basis for this proposal?
Kashin: This conversation has been going on already about 20 years. Already at the time of the Chechen war, one could hear people say: ‘let’s build a wall, let’s separate ourselves from Grozny.’ And then in Russia, they attempted to act as if these were ordinary regions like Kostroma Oblast or Moscow. [As a result,] conflicts have grown and built up … and each time they become sharper.
Shevchenko: And what regions of Russia where there is criminality would you be ready to separate with walls and visas? Suppose there was ‘a Tambov group’ in Petersburg. Now you would be ready to build a fence around Tambov or the northern capital?
Kashin: [But] Chechnya is a place where it is impossible for an ethnic Russian to live in peace.
Shevchenko: I understand that you hate Grozny and the Chechens …
Kashin: I deify the Chechens. I simply see the difference between Grozny and the average Russian city. It exists. For example, in Vologda, in which 95 percent of the population is ethnic Russian, representatives of any people can live comfortably. In Grozny that isn’t so.
Golovanov: Oleg, don’t you think that your proposal for the Caucasus will unleash a new war?
Kashin: If one has the choice between a continuing conflict which may lead to an atomic explosion and one of one’s own choosing that can be extinguished by a fire brigade, I of course choose [the latte]. I want that Grozny be equal to any other Russian city and not have such preferences as now.
Shevchenko: And do you want that Moscow be equal to any other Russian city, that it cease to pull out of the rest of Russia people and money while the rest is transformed into a space of infinite poverty?
Kashin: If Soviet power had kept in mind that it would have to live in a country cut apart, perhaps it would have invested less money in other republics. Now, go to Ukraine [where people in the villages live better now as in Soviet times than do Russians.]
Shevchenko: This is absolute demagogy. I remember the Russian village in the USSR. Those villages in which there were strong collective and soviet farms lived richly. But there where there were thieving presidents they lived badly.
Golovanov: Did Soviet power create nationality problems?
Kashin: Of course. Lenin’s ideas about a union of republics in general was insane; and although the Soviet Union has been gone for 30 years already, we continue to live in that way, in regions they drew. And therefore, many traditional Russian regions have fallen away or are already beyond Russia’s borders. And here are republics which Shevchenko celebrates how rich they are who tomorrow also will be beyond the borders.
Shevchenko: I have a different approach. I’m not a chauvinist like you.
Golovanov: Oleg, you have proposed imposing a Russian governor general on the Caucasus. Well, Vasiliyev has come to Daghestan. Is he coping?
Kashin: I don’t know. But in principle, if you imagine a single region where Chechens, Ingush, Circassians, Daghestani peoples and so on live, who should stand at the head? A Chechen? And Ingush must serve a Chechen? I doubt they will. Then it is better to have there an ethnic Russian governor general.
Shevchenko: You like a figure out of Gogol think that one must serve a governor general?
Kashin: In the Caucasus, honest elections are simply impossible.
Shevchenko: That is a brazen lie! In Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, everywhere direct elections are possible.
Kashin: You, certainly, spit on Russians. I myself am Russian. Therefore, I suffer for my people and want that it live normally in its own country. Is it normal when there are autonomies for other peoples living compactly [but not for Russians]? What is abnormal is the spread of the rules and habits of these peoples across all of Russia.