Monday, July 1, 2013

Window on Eurasia: One Russian in Eight No Longer Views Chechnya as Part of Russia, Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 1 – Twelve percent of Russians say Chechnya is already independent, 24 percent say they would welcome that outcome, and 27 percent more suggest they’d be indifferent to that development, while only 10 percent say they would back the use of force to prevent that step, according to the results of a Levada Poll released today.

            That pattern, Aleksey Grazhdankin, Levada’s deputy director, says, indicates that many Russians now do not view Chechnya as part of their country because they see it as “ a territory with a special type of administration … one the federal structures do not administer” (, and

            The sociologist suggests that this reflects a sense that Moscow is sending too much money to the region without being able to ensure that it is spent correctly, a view that Chechnya and the North Caucasus more generally is unstable and a source of terrorism, and increasing xenophobic attitudes in Russian society.

             Valery Solovey, a professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Law, agrees. He told “Kommersant” that “the norms of Russian law do not operate in Chechnya; there Raman is the tsar and god.” Hence it is not surprising that Russians view it today as “non-Russian territory.”

            But Valery Rashkin, the first deputy chairman of the Duma’s nationalities committee, disagrees.  He says that those who support Chechen independent are wrong, but at the same time, he suggested that Moscow’s current nationality policy is pushing the country toward collapse and needs to be changed.

            Not all the findings of the Levada Center poll will be as offensive to the Kremlin as those just cited.  The recent sampling, which involved 1601 Russian citizens in 45 regions of the country, found that the share of those who believe that Chechnya is independent or say they would support that outcome has fallen since the late 1990s.

            But perhaps more worrisome for the Kremlin are the poll’s findings that the share of Russians prepared to use force to prevent Chechnya from becoming independent has declined as well, from 27 percent in 2000 to only ten percent now and that the share of Russians who view the North Caucasus as unstable and a source of terrorism for the rest of the country remains high.

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