Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Pugachev Presages New Crackdown against North Caucasian Immigrants, Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – The clashes in Pugachev, along with the beating of a Makhachkala deputy, are going to serve as “a pretext” for a new and far broader “government campaign aimed at pacifying the unruly representatives of the North Caucasus republics” currently in the Russian Federation, according to a Moscow analyst.

            In an article on the Rossiyanavsegda.ru portal yesterday, Eduard Birov says that the Pugachev events may even have been “a provocation” designed to set the stage for exactly that, a conclusion he reaches on the basis of the comments of Mikhail Babich, the presidential plenipotentiary to the Volga Federal District (rossiyanavsegda.ru/read/1123/).

            Babich noted, Birov continues, that people in Pugachev “were used, led into confusion and driven out to mass demonstrations” because “the organizers” of these events “have their own political and extremist goals,” goals that Birov says “everyone who remembers” the end of the USSR “will perfectly well understand what the plenipotentiary is talking about.”

            Moreover, Babich continued, in Birov’s telling, by “acknowledging that ‘the anger of people had a basis’ and that ‘people even earlier had expressed their concerns about the existence of tensions between diasporas and the rest of the citizens” there and elsewhere. Consequently, something needs to be done.

            According to the Rossiyanavsegda.ru commentator, “a campaign has always been declared and begun without particular notice – in Moscow and the oblasts have begun cleansings of illegal gastarbeiters and in Petersburg there have been raids [against them] with the involvement of druzhinniki volunteers.”

            Most citizens of the Russian Federation support precisely such steps because they see that “youth from the Caucasus who feel themselves beyond the reach of punishment in Russia and seeing the lack of a single well-defined ideology beyond money and crude force” have conducted themselves accordingly.

            “Being weak and an absolute minority in such an enormous country,” Birov says, some but far from all migrants from the Caucasus seek “to dictate their conditions” to the local populations “and in each case to demonstrate their own power” in that way.

            The reason Moscow has allowed the Caucasian immigrants to feel this way is not far to seek, Birov Says. The authorities want to keep the North Caucasus within Russia and do not want to do anything to the young from there which might drive them “into the mountains as cannon fodder for the extremists.”

            Indeed, he suggests, the bad behavior of the Caucasus young in the Russian Federation represents “a forced decision on the part of the authorities in the course of the process of pacifying extremism in the North Caucasus.” But that is not something that many Russians understand or are willing to forgive.

            For longtime Russian residents, and their ethnicity is not what matters in this case, “the aggression of the Caucasians stands out even on the background” of aggressiveness in the society as a whole and crimes by outsiders are viewed as much worse than crimes committed by one of their own number.

            Moscow now recognizes this, Birov says, and the campaign to pacify the Caucasus is “entering a second phase,” one that will require both a crackdown on migrant groups from that region and a sweeping purge of officials in the region, including Chechnya, which so far has remained untouched.

            This “campaign” may acquire “a public character but most likely it will be conducted without being advertised,” Birov argues, because it is critically important that the campaign the authorities want to be conducted now get out of hand and become one that it is not in a position to control.

            “Those who wanted to make the Pugachev tragedy a new Pugachev uprising, cause a time of troubles to spread across the country, reach the capital and overthrow ‘the bloody regime’” are those going to get a “judo”-like response: “The energy of dissatisfaction will be redirected to a resolution of problems and the launch of a second stage in the pacification of the Caucasus.

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