Staunton, March 11 – For more than 25 years, the author of these lines has been both amused and appalled by Moscow’s creation and then denunciation of what it views is a “Goble Plan” for the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan (reliefweb.int/report/armenia/how-goble-plan-was-born-and-how-it-remains-political-factor).
Now Moscow analyst Aleksey Pakholin has taken up the cudgels of what he sees as a second “Goble Plan” that a Moscow paper attacked five years ago (segodnia.ru/content/131788) but that supposedly has been resuscitated by Kazakh nationalists who have reprinted this 2013 attack (altyn-orda.kz/o-kovarnyh-zamyslah-kazahov-v-otnoshenii-tatar-i-bashkir/).
In his article (fondsk.ru/news/2018/03/10/kazahskie-nacionalisty-vspomnili-ob-orenburgskom-koridore-45740.html), Pakholin says that “the plan” was outlined by “CIA veteran Paul Goble” in an article on the website of Washington’s Jamestown Foundation (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/).
Goble’s ideas that have now been picked up by the Kazakh nationalists, the Moscow commentator says, are based on the notion that Stalin’s formation of the Orenburg corridor to divide Kazakhstan from the Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples of the Middle Volga kept them from achieving independence in 1991 because they did not have an external border.
But this situation isn’t forever, Goble and the Kazakhs argue, in Pakholin’s telling. The Orenburg corridor could “cease to exist” because the number of Turkic Muslims there is growing, because territorial propinquity isn’t as important as it once was, and because people may recall that a century ago no such Russian “’corridor’” existed.
Today, Pakholin quotes my 2013 article, “this corridoc could finally be transformed from a wall which keeps the republics of the Middle Volga within the Russian Federation into a bridge which would allow them to achieve their goals and separate Moscow from Siberia” and allow that region to go its own way as well.
But then the Moscow analyst offers his own version of history. The West, he says, has long wanted to separate Siberia from the rest of Russia and was interested in the Turkic peoples of the Middle Volga only to the extent that they could block Moscow’s ability to project power beyond the Urals.
“Only now,” Pakholin continues, “in plans for liquidating ‘the Orenburg corridor,’ the main role is being given not to the North Caucasus but to Kazakhstan;” and the Kazakh nationalists are responding. Altyn Ordy’s editor say that “in the not distant future,” Kazakhstan could become “the guarantor of the independence of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.”
“Kazakhstan,” he argues, “is considered by Kazakh national patriots as the heir of the Golden Horde, in which sometimes were included not only the tribes of the Kazakhs who were earlier called Kyrgyz Kaysaks but also Tatars, Bashkirs and other peoples of the Volga and Urals regions.”
Consequently, the collapse of the Golden Horde, the rise of Muscovite Rus, and the formation of the Russian Empire” are viewed by such people as “a relatively short-lived episode” and things that can be done away with in the future, Pakholin says.
Moreover, “they make territorial claims not only on Orenburg which between 1920 and 1925 was the capital of the Kyrgyz (Kazakh) ASSR within the RSFSR but also other cities around which at one time Turkic khanates arose – Omsk, Tyumen, Astrakhan, Samara, Saratov and others.”
To give an idea of what such Kazakhs are thinking, he offers quotations from three commentaries to the reprint of the 2013 article last week:
One wrote that Orenburg, once the capital of Kazakhstan, was joined to Russsia “so that Tatarstan and Bashkortostan wouldn’t have a way out.” A second noted that Moscow had done the same thing to Ukraine, taking away the Kuban so that Kazakhstan and Ukraine wouldn’t have a common border.
And a third declared: “Tatarstan and Bashkortostan must receive independence … I fear that Russia will lose much more than the notorious Cossack Orenburg region.” Pakholin then concludes that the fact that Kazakh nationalists are now picking up on “plans developed in the bowels of the CIA is a worrisome symptom.”