Thursday, July 11, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russians Mistakenly Believe in ‘Land for Peace’ Inside Russian Federation, Moscow Editor Says

Paul Goble

                Staunton, July 11 – Russians are far less afraid of giving up one or another part of their country in order to solve problems within it, but this faith in “land for peace” schemes is misplaced because allowing one or another part of the Russian Federation to depart will not by itself guarantee their security or solve their own problems, according to a Moscow editor.

            In an article in “Gazeta” on Tuesday, Gleb Cherkasov, the deputy chief editor of “Kommersant” notes that “every time a conflict situation arises, a significant number of the population proposes giving up territory” as in the North Caucasus now in order to gain peace at home (

            Judging from recent polls, Cherkasov continues, “the number of those who are ready to trade “’land for peace’ is quite high” and is increasing with “each new conflict” out of the belief that yielding territory will “become the decisive and final solution of the problems that have arisen.”

            Support for this idea represents “a transformation” of Russian national consciousness, the editor says.  “A resident of an empire will never be willing to sit still [for that]. And he won’t want this himself. But a citizen of a national state, on the contrary, will welcome, at least in his soul, the separation of an ‘alien’ part, even if this is accompanied by certain difficulties.”

            A measure of just how far this shift has gone, Cherkasov insists, is that “the slogan ‘it’s time to expel the Caucasus” now has replaced the earlier one, “’stop feeding the Caucasus.’”

            He notes that “the Olympiad is a matter of prestige, spending on state corporations is something normal, spending on rearming the military is a holy task. But spending money on that which not de jure but de facto is already alien” is something Russians no longer are willing to sit still for.

            Cherkasov suggests that Russians who are prepared to let the North Caucasus go and to erect “a great wall” between it and the Russian Federation are deceiving themselves in many ways. First of all, they are ignoring that the costs of such a step will exceed those of the Olympics, the Asian-Pacific Economic Summit and Moscow’s current spending taken together.

            Second, they are ignoring that many North Caucasians don’t want this, will fight and will create problems as Russia’s neighbors even if they are now declared to be “abroad.” And third, such Russians ignore that their country will still need gastarbeiters from the region just as it does from the independent countries of Central Asia.

            Anyone who faces up to these issues honestly, he implies, will see that for Russians pushing the North Caucasus out will not solve all the problems that the country currently faces with that region inside it but instead will exacerbate many existing problems and create perhaps more serious new ones as well.

            The failure of Russians to focus on these and other questions reflects their conviction regardless of the evidence that expelling the North Caucasus from the Russian Federation will be “simple” and “insanely effective” and that it will “immediately remove all the problems” that Russians now face.

            And it also reflects “a strong hope in the government” that it will build the wall and then Russians “will award it with stormy applause rising to the level of an ovation.”  Given such feelings, Cherkasov concludes, “the Great North Caucasus Wall has already been built” psychologically if not yet physically.

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