Thursday, February 14, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Elites Now Lack the Will to Integrate or Even Hold North Caucasus, Lezgin Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 14 – Russian have lost the will to integrate the North Caucasus into a common Russian social and political space, according to a Lezgin analyst, and some officials in the Russian force structures, she says, are even now seeking to demonize the North Caucasians and drive them into the status of impoverished “satellites” of Moscow much like South Osetia.

            In a 1500-word article on the website of the Federation of the Lezgin National Cultural Autonomies of the Russian Federation, Alina Manafova makes these and other claims and offers what she suggests is evidence for them ( as well as on more general Caucasian sites such as   

            The Lezgin journalist begins her article by noting that high profile dismissals and even arrests of North Caucasians from senior posts has led “a number of Caucasus experts” to suggest that “a broad campaign has begun in Russia to drive out Caucasians from all spheres of public life, from business, from science and from government service.”

            These firings and arrests, Manafova continues, suggest further that “the process of tearing away the Caucasus by definite forces has begun in Russia.” And she suggests that various observers believe that these processes began when Vladiimir Kolokoltsev became Russian interior minister and established a program to fight “’ethnic crime.’”

            Arrests for such crimes and the dismissals of senior people from the Caucasus are only the tip of the iceberg of this program, she argues, and she reports that many more junior officials in Moscow who are from the Caucasus have lost their jobs and that young people have been unable to join those institutions or even serve in the military.

            “Our sources assert,” Manafova says, “that there exist in the [Russian] force structures lists of influential people from the Caucasus whom the siloviki are ‘following’ and ready to detain” with as much media attention as possible.

            Moreover, “noisy campaigns” like those saying it is time to stop “feeding” the Caucasus or that “Stavropol is Not the Caucasus” which were “launched by marginal figures” not only are spreading to the general population but also being fanned by articles and programs in the Moscow media.

            She continues that “forces antagonistic to Russia” -- whom she implies imply include some Russian officials as well as foreign groups -- want to leave in the North Caucasus Federal District only the Caucasus republics and by so doing cut them off from the rest of the country.” And these unnamed “forces” want to arrange things so that as Taymuraz Mamsurov, the head of North Osetia, put it last week, “when the Caucasus falls away, no one scream that the process of the disintegration of Russia has begun” ( and


            Moreover, Ruslan Kurbanov, a Lezgin commentator who speaks and writes frequently for the Moscow media, has, as Manafova points out, “often written that the will to the deeper integration of the North Caucasus in the all-Russian cultural and civic field is dying among the Russian political elite.”

            That death, she suggests, is the result among other things of “the powerful process of the nationalization of Russian consciousness.”  According to a Russian intellectual who prefers to remain anonymous, she says, this development is “ever more clearly manifested” in declines in the willingness of Russian elites to “integrate” the Caucasus.

            With Russian nationalism effectively killing any desire for “a super-national ideology or super-national projects” after the cataclysms of the 20th century, this Russian commentator says, Russians for the first time “feel themselves simply as a people rather than tied to such super-state tasks.”

Today, he says, “Russians feel a centuries-old tiredness to carry out a great mission” or spending additional efforts to deal with “the nationality borderlands.” And Manafova adds that Aleksandr Prokhanov, the chief editor of “Zavtra,” agrees. He says that “the will to life has disappeared among the Russians” since they had “the great state which they had built over a millennium taken away from them after 1991.”

Prokhanov adds, Manafova continues, that Russians are “divided,” that they have taken “a defensive” position and that their “nationalist consciousness is the result of a deep depression.”

In addition, the Lezgin analyst says, Russians have been encouraged to think that they are weak by both forces within the country and by foreigners, including the Americans.  The latter, she suggests, call the North Caucasus “Russia’s abroad and Stavropol a Russian Kosovo,” implying that it might be taken away from Moscow in a similar way

That suggestion, which she does not note originated in a Russian commentary, is “a provocation,” Manafova’s Russian interlocutor says, one intended as part of “a program being carried out by Western countries for delinking the peoples of the North Caucasus” with the rest of Russia.

            Some Russians are involved as well, the Lezgin analyst says, and often in ridiculous but dangerous ways.  Thus, she continues, some Russian media outlets have suggested that the Lezginka, “the national dance of the Caucasus peoles,’ is “a threat to the Russian people” and must be suppressed.

            Such attitudes and actions, including recently those of Cossack groups in Stavropol kray, “have [only] one goal, and that goal is the ever greater separation of the Caucasus and the Caucasian peoples from the Russian people and from Russia.”

            What will that mean for the Caucasians should this happen? According to her Russian source, Manafova says, these forces “are preparing for the Caucasian republics the fate of South Osetia and Abkhazia … that is, these forces are preparing to transfer the republics of the North Caucasus to the status of semi-satellites of Russia,” to cut them off from all modernization, and to throw them back “to the level of the developing world.”

            Thus, this ongoing campaign to split the North Caucasus off from Russia has as its purpose the additional goal of “blocking the access of the Caucasians to education, to the achievement of the heights in science, business and state service” and thus degrading them from their current status as one of the most educated and ambitious communities of our country” into a collection of “uneducated wild tribes.”

            Manafova’s article itself, of course, may be a kind of provocation by some in Moscow or elsewhere who want to help form opinion in the North Caucasus or elsewhere, but whether it is that or not, her words do reflect the perceptions of at least some in both the Russian center and in that region.  And those perceptions are likely to color ever more deeply how each sees the other.

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