Sunday, June 19, 2016

Kadyrov Bridge Protests Suggest Russians Starting to Recognize Putin Lost the Second Chechen War, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – “The restoration of Russia’s territorial integrity in the early years of this century has been viewed as one of Vladimir Putin’s main achievements,” Pavel Kazarin says. Indeed, “in large measure, his presidency became possible thanks to the second Chechnya campaign.”

            But protests against renaming a bridge in St. Petersburg for Akhmat Kadyrov, the father of the current Chechen president and one of those who helped Putin in the war, suggest that many Russians now have doubts about who won that war and thus doubts about who in fact was the victor in that conflict (

            If Putin’s version of the war is correct, then there is no reason why there should not be a monument to Kadyrov senior in St. Petersburg, which is after all an open air museum of Russia’s imperial achievements, given his role in helping the Kremlin leader pacify Chechnya, the Russian commentator says

            And consequently, if there are protests, even though they have been and will be ignored by the current powers that be, Kazarin continues, that in itself is a strong indication that many Russians now have doubts about the official version of the war and are beginning to ask themselves whether Putin “won” as he insists he did.

            The question really is whether Chechnya is part of Russia at all, he argues. Only in a very “conditional” sense can one really call Moscow the victor in that war given that by many measures, “Grozny defeated Russia and not the other way around” as Putin and his regime constantly insist.

            Chechnya functions outside of the legal field of the Russian Federation. Even the special services which are “all-powerful” elsewhere can only act in that North Caucasus republic with the agreement of Ramzan Kadyrov. And the military units there in fact are subordinate to him as well, whatever Moscow claims.

            Moreover, the special status of Chechnya can be felt “far beyond its borders.”  Chechen diasporas in any place in Russia can and do ignore the law enforcement bodies given that they are “absolutely confident” that the authorities will defer to them rather than enforce Russian laws and the Russian constitution.

            “In essence,” Kazarin says, “present-day Chechnya is a state within a state, a separate legal enclave on the territory of Russia which maintains the appearance of loyalty.” But that loyalty is personal between Kadyrov and Putin and will cease to exist when Putin ceases to be Russian president. No one knows what will happen then.

            Obviously, in Russia today, few can talk about this openly and so the St. Petersburg intelligentsia has chosen to protest the renaming of a bridge in honor of Ramzan’s father who fought against Russia until quite late in his career. 
            Present-day Russians can’t talk about the real problems, Kazarin says. They can’t raise the issue about who defeated whom in the second Chechen war. They can’t discuss the way in which Moscow pays for and defers to Grozny. And they can’t ask what basis there is for Chechnya to be part of Russia given its two-centuries of “permanent war” against the empire.

            So, they protest the renaming of a bridge. But this is only a symptom of a much larger problem: “The reality is,” he writes, “that present-day Russia is a country which has not agreed on even its own recent past and more than that on its own present.”  And the divides are opening even though many things cannot yet be discussed openly.

            “Judging by everything,” the commentator says, “a decade and a half after its end, the powers that be and ordinary citizens look at its results in different ways. And the irony is that Russia sooner or later will be doomed to review the results of all the remaining decisions of Vladimir Putin.

            The Kremlin-controlled media now like to discuss ad nauseum where Ukraine “ends.” But Kazarin points out, “sooner or later, we will become witnesses of another discussion,” one that will focus on “where Russia ends – and what Russia in general is.”

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