Staunton, May 18 – Yesterday, a group of experts from the Kabardino-Balkaria section of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Circassian activists took part in a roundtable in Nalchik devoted to the problems of federalism in Russia. The participants boldly declared that the Circassians must make decisions about their situation rather than having them made by outsiders.
That may seem anodyne to many, but in the context of Russian rule over the North Caucasus in general and the Moscow-divided Circassian nation in particular it is almost a revolutionary act, an indication that the power vertical is beginning to collapse in the region and nations without hope are beginning to recover it.
The Circassian portal Habze.org promises to post a video of the session in the coming days, but it has already published the speeches of two men who took part, Martin Kochesoko, the president of the Habze organization, and Azamat Shorman, a Nalchik Circassian activist (habze.org/у-черкесов-должно-быть-свое-самоупра).
Kochesoko arguesthat “no one understands its problems better than the people, and in this sense federalism is the essence of self-government. But if one speaks in simple terms: when the power is cut off from the people, lives its own life and by its own group interests, it is impossible to struggle effectively with corruption or organize medical care or education for people.”
“The problem of poverty is one that affects us but does not threaten the majority of bureaucrats. Their children study in Moscow and their relatives don’t receive medical treatment in Nalchik. It is n secret that those who divide up subsidies in agriculture and those who work the land, in the case in agriculture, are different people.”
“For decades,” he continues, “we have been trying to raise and resolve the problems of our people, the development of the villages, the development of culture, the preservation of language, and the problem of repatriation of compatriots from abroad.” These have been private initiatives while the government has been “deaf and dumb” to them
As a result, Kochsoko says, “we have come to the conclusion that we Circassian national activists can do nothing without a self-administration that works, without a return to our political life of the principles of federalism which are mandated by the Constitution. “
“We see as the main problem that the bureaucracy lives its own life, swallows up the budget, rights laws for itself, and takes decisions for itself. Why do 90 percent of budgetary funds not reach the people?” Why are eight or nine out of ten doctors working only for officials who can may them. Are they the only ones who get sick? The same thing is true in all aspects of life.
The only way to change this, he argues, is “to put under the control of the people all budgetary expenditures, use of land, and other natural resources.” And we cannot count on officials to make these changes: “we must construct our own self-administration. We have a traditional form, the council (khasa),” and we can build self-administration around that.
He adds that “people, society, the council must decide all main local issues.” They can do so in a transparent and effective way because experience shows that when they do so, things work; when officials say they will, the only thing that happens is the production of more claims that remain only on paper.
In the coming weeks, Kochesoko says, his organization will offer a detailed program for the rebirth of self-administration, for land reform and also out ideas on issues of education, health care and repatriation.”
Shorman applies these ideas to the situation in education in Nalchik. As a parent, he says, he can testify that the schools are in terrible shape and getting worse. They aren’t being repaired, teachers aren’t being paid adequately, and the children and their future are suffering. He says that parents like him want to take the situation under control.
They are certain that they know the problems better that officials who send their children to Moscow to study, and they are confident that they can do better because they know and care, something that can’t be said of officialdom.