Friday, November 1, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Gontmakher Calls for New Treaties between Moscow and Federal Subjects

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – Twenty-two years after Chechnya declared its independence from the USSR and despite Moscow’s massive use of force against that republic, ever more nations in the Russian Federation, many far beyond the borders of that region, now want to escape from Moscow’s control and establish their own independent nation states.

            That pattern, Yevgeny Gontmakher, deputy director of the Moscow Institute of World Economics and International Relations (MGIMO), told the Third Gaidar Forum in Moscow ten days ago, reflects the fact that the problems manifest in the North Caucasus are not unique to that region but rather the problems of Russia as a whole (

            The three most important of these country-wide problems, the Moscow analyst continued, according to the report of Anton Chablin in, are “a crisis of identity, the lack of federalism, and the weakness of the authorities,” a combination that he suggested the Russian government is not capable of responding to effectively.

            Instead, Gontmakher argued, in all too many cases, Moscow “either simply does not take note of local problems, leaving them for ‘later’ [and thereby allows them to fester or multiply] or it imposes on the regions [its own] one true idea about ‘how they must live’” regardless of local conditions or local aspirations.

            Not surprisingly, this unitary approach is alienating even those who are not ethnically distinct, including many predominantly Russian areas. But it is particularly infuriating to the nations of the North Caucasus who view Moscow’s approach to them as a form of oppressive and ignorant “colonial” rule.

            According to Gontmakher, those in Moscow making decisions about the Caucasus are people “who do not understand the problems” of that region and consequently often make the situation worse rather than better. The only way out for Moscow and the regions, he argues, is the conclusion of “new federal treaties between the regions and Moscow.”

            Given that two republics did not sign the current federation treaty – Chechnya and Tatarstan – and given that Gontmakher is calling not for one treaty but for a multiplicity of agreements, there is little likelihood that President Vladimir Putin would agree to a step that in the short term at least would beyond any question exacerbate center-periphery relations.

             But it is an indication of just how serious the problems in that area have become and of how little confidence many in the Russian Federation have in Moscow’s current approach that such a step is even being discussed. A year ago, that would have been unthinkably radical. Perhaps, a year from now, it will be viewed as insufficiently so.

(For more details on Gontmakher’s thinking concerning how Moscow must revise its approach to the North Caucaus, see

No comments:

Post a Comment