Sunday, May 21, 2017

'Chechnya is to Russia What Puerto Rico is to the US,’ Arutyunov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Last week, a conference was organized in Brussels by Chechen activists in the diaspora to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the accord between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Chechnya, an agreement that if the Russian side had lived up to it would have opened the way for the independence of that North Caucasus land.

            But as the 90 participants of the conference and commentators about it pointed out, Moscow didn’t do that, preferring instead to relaunch the war against Chechnya and installing the vicious regime of Ramzan Kadyrov who rules Chechnya by a combination of Islamism and violence, thus delaying if not killing the dream of Dzhokhar Dudayev for a free secular stat

            One hopes that the full transcript of the meeting will eventually be published and thus form part of the historical record indicting both Moscow and especially Vladimir Putin who relaunched the second post-Soviet war and his agent in place, Kadyrov, who had wreaked havoc not only on Chechnya itself but increasingly beyond that republic’s borders.

            Nonetheless, the reports posted online about the statements of some who took part in the meeting and the reactions of others commenting on it contain the words of some of the participants deserve attention.  Among the most important of these two kinds of observations are the following:

·         Former Lithuanian President Vitautas Landsbergis, who was at the Brussels meeting, said that Chechnya “even under Kadyrov” is already not really part of Russia, adding that “Putin’s greatest achievement is the independence of Chechnya from Russian laws” (

·         Russian economist Andrey Illarionov, who also was at the meeting, said that Chechnya was the place where for the first time after 1991, the Kremlin “made use of the technology of terror for ruling people, whole communities and states, and then used that experience many times in Ukraine, Syria and Georgia.”  He added that polls show that a majority of Russians are already prepared to tolerate Chechnya’s independence either because they believe it is just or because they aren’t willing to fight to prevent it (

·         Russian ethnologist Sergey Arutyunov, who wasn’t present, said that the agreement, the 20th anniversary of which the Brussels meeting marked, was “an important historical milepost, but after this, events have occurred which … make means that it has no practical importance. The situation has changed many times, both overt and covert decisions have been taken which define the new situation. Now, in reality, Chechnya and Russia related to one another the way the US and Puerto Rico do.  Chechnya de jure is one of the subjects of the federation, but de facto it is a subject of the federation with a special status. What will happen in the future is difficult to say but for the time being this is the case. Puerto Rico is not a part of the US, but at the same time it is a definite part of the US” (

·         And Russian political scientist and specialist on Islam Aleksey Malashenko, who also was not at the meeting, said that “the idea of [Chechen] independence within Russia exists and it is even to a certain degree is being realized.” But complete independence is unlikely not only because “no one in Chechnya today needs it with the exception of certain romantics and adventurists” but also because “the Kadyrov regime is stable and part of the Russian establishment.”  Indeed, the interdependence of Kadyrov and Putin is so great that changes in Chechnya will be possible only after change in Moscow (

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