Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Nationalists Planning to Declare Stavropol an Ethnic Russian Republic

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – Stavropol kray, which over the last month became less secure than Ingushetia, is set to become even more troubled in the coming weeks as nationalist activists push forward with their plans to declare the territory an ethnic Russian republic, a move that will not only destabilize the North Caucasus but other portions of the Russian Federation as well.

            In the troubled North Caucasus, some federal subjects are nonetheless at any one point less or more secure than others. In June, the Foundation for the Study of Electoral Processes said, Stavropol kray was the most secure, but now the situation in that predominantly ethnic Russian region has deteriorated (bigcaucasus.com/events/actual/19-08-2013/85546-reiting-0/).

            On Sunday, a meeting of 300 member and supporters of the “For Honor and Dignity  Against Ethnic Crime and Corruption” group took place in Rostov-na-Donu with the approval of local officials. (Rostov oblast is the immediate neighbor of Stavropol kray but is in the Southern Federal District rather than the North Caucasus FD.

            Among the speakers were Yevgeny Mikhailov, the head of that group, Sergey Popov, head of the Public River group, Sergey Klyata of the “We are Russians” group, Dmitry Davydov of Whirlpool, as well as representatives of the Resistance Movement from St. Petersburg and the Cossack community of Salsk (u-f.ru/News/u214/2013/08/18/659898, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/228756/ and rod-pravo.livejournal.com/398414.html).

            In addition to complaining about ethnic crime and problems with Russia’s immigration system, speaker called for giving Russians and Cossacks more rights.  Klyata said that “for several years we have been struggling for Russians and Cossacks to be recognized as indigenous residents of the oblast.”

            If inter-ethnic conflicts are to be resolved, he continued, these two groups must have “equal rights with other peoples of Russia. Our Constitution declares that we are a multi-national people … with equal rights. But somehow Russians do not have rights. And in this regard, we are not extremists; we are patriots of the Motherland.”

            He noted that the governor of Rostov oblast has a consultative council which consists of representatives of the national-cultural autonomies there, but among these, Klyata added, “there is no Russian autonomy.”

            “Who defines the internal policy of Rostov oblast?” he asked. “Why is it defined without the opinion of the indigenous population of the oblast being taken into account?  I propose to introduce into the resolution of the meeting a demand for including in the basic law of Rostov oblast a paragraph recognizing [ethnic] Russians as the indigenous population of the region.”

            Sergey Popov said that the Russians of Stavropol have the same views but intend to take a more radical step. “In our region, the time of meetings has ended,” he said. “We have held four sessions of the organizing committee for holding a congress of the Russian people of Stavropol at which we intend to declare a Stavropol Russian Republic.”

            He pointedly added that in the words of Kavkaz-Uzel that “this is a reaction to the formation in Russia of federal districts,” a reference to the longstanding demand of many in that predominantly ethnic kray to have their territory shifted out of what is otherwise a wholly North Caucasus federal district.

            A half century ago, émigré Russian scholar I.A. Kurganov wrote a book on The Nations of the USSR and the Russian Question (in Russian, Munich, 1961), in which he argued that the fate of the Soviet Union would depend less on what the non-Russians did but rather on how the Russians would react to non-Russian actions.
            That certainly appears to have been the case at the end of Soviet times; it now appears that it may be true as well in the Russian Federation at the present time.

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