Staunton, June 16 – One of the most widespread assumptions among those who think about the future is that if the Russian Federation disintegrates, it will all apart along existing nationality lines, with the non-Russian republics each going its own way and the ethnic Russians staying together in a single rump state.
Both those views are almost certainly wrong. On the one hand, regions and regional identities among those Moscow classifies as members of a single Russian nation are far stronger and less interested in a common Russian future than the Kremlin insists or than many observers inside Russia and abroad feel.
And on the other, the divisions among non-Russians that Moscow has worked so long to deepen, by splitting up nations such as the Circassians or by drawing borders in ways that promote tensions, as part of its “divide and rule” strategy are not nearly as permanent as Moscow hopes and many expect.
Even more, there is virtually no acknowledgement of the possibility that some Russian regionalist and nationalist groups will find a common language and understanding with non-Russian groups and that in certain mega-regions, they may even decide to form new states combining both of them.
That makes an interview, Ruslan Kutayev, the head of the Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus, to Vyacheslav Puzeyev of the After Empire portal especially important because he discusses the reasons why Moscow’s approach is failing and why Russians and non-Russians in the North Caucasus may work together (afterempire.info/2018/06/15/kutayev/).
The activist, who only recently was released from a nearly four-year jail term and who is restricted in his activities as a condition of his parole, says that the Assembly of the Peoples of the Caucasus is directed in the first instance at promoting a rapprochement among the peoples of the Caucasus.
“Russia, tsarist, Soviet and Putinist have constantly sought to divide them,” not just by artificial borders such as exist across the region but also by playing one against the other in some cases and suppressing whole groups in others, the regional activist says. That must and, what is more, can be overcome.
The Assembly includes representatives not only of the North Caucasus nations but also Russians and Cossacks and representatives of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Its members include scholars who work on past problems and future possibilities, possibilities Kutayev suggests Putin by his policies is making ever more immediate.
“I have no doubt,” the regional activist says, “that Putin himself is leading Russia to collapse. He perhaps doesn’t want this but that is the logical outcome of his policies. He and his team are concerned only with stealing as much as possible, and therefore they are undermining ties both with the peoples of Russia and with the entire surrounding world.”
At some point, that world will take steps to remove him in order to prevent him from unleashing a global war; and when that happens, “our task will be the establishment of a new Caucasus Republic” which will include “not only the currently existing republics of the North Caucasus but Rostov Oblast, Krasnodar and Stavropol Krays, Kalmykia and so on.”
“This is a large and interconnected region with a population of about 15 million people,” Kutayev points out, far larger than any of its parts who many assume cannot possibly survive independently because of their small size.
According to the regionalist, “our Assembly has extremely close ties both with local Russian nationalists and with the Cossacks. We all understand that in the case of the disintegration of the empire, all of us will have to organize cooperative and good-neighborly relations.”
“And I do not think,” Kutayev says, “that any particular problems will arise between a future Caucasus Republic and the civilized world.” Moscow is trying to undercut that possibility by suggesting that only it can fight Islamist forces in the region; but in fact, those forces have been introduced there from the outside and not least by Moscow itself.
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