Staunton, November 17 – Most nationalism in the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation now is reactive, that is, it arises spontaneously in response to particular challenges such as changes in the status of language or shifts in borders, Vadim Sidorov says. But that limits its chances to succeed because Moscow can play that against them.
But what has been taking place in Ingushetia over the last year and especially in the Council of Teips of Ingushetia in the past several months shows a way forward, a shift from focusing on particular issues to the systemic problems that lie behind them, the federalist commentator says (region.expert/ingush-protest/).
The Ingush protests began in response to a deal between former republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov in September 2018 that handed over 26,000 hectares of the smallest republic in Russia to the latter. But those protests have evolved into something more, and the clearest indication of this is the changing role of the Council of Teips.
“The Ingush ethnos consists of teips just as the Scots people is made up of clans or the Bashkir people of extended families,” Sidorov says, noting that the Chechen ethnos also consists of teips, many of which overlapped with Ingush ones until the two peoples and two republics broke apart.
Until very recently, he continues, “the functions of the Council of Teips of Ingushetia were essential arbitrage in nature, consisting primarily in calming disputes between representatives of various teips.” But that changed after the official Popular Assembly of Ingushetia “finally ceased to correspond to its name.”
Into this void, the Council of Teips entered as “an alternative representative organ of the Ingush people,” one whose traditional authority within Ingush society helps to explain why some members of the local police refused to use force against the demonstrators, something they might have done had the teips not been involved.
But that is not most striking or significant development in this republic, Sidorov says. Rather, there has been a radicalization of opinion among the teips which has led them to shift from focusing exclusively on ethno-territorial problems to giving attention to broader political arrangements.
Thus, the Council of Teips joined in a boycott of the September 8 municipal elections, a step far more radical than what most Russian opposition groups were willing to make. By so doing, Sidorov says, the Council of Teips became a truly political organ, a status it added to on November 9 by demanding the return of direct elections to the heads of federal subjects.
At the present time, the commentator continues, many in Ingushetia are experiencing nostalgia for the reign of General Ruslan Aushev who served as republic president between 1993 and 2001, a man who represented the republic to Moscow rather than Moscow’s representative in the republic.
He was “a really popular leader elected by the Ingush themselves who in relations with the Kremlin advanced their interests and not to the contrary the interests of the Kremlin in Ingushetia as have all succeeding appointed ‘heads’ of the republic.” But the attitude in the Council of Teips shows that it understands the only way such a return is possible.
“’A new Aushev’ in Ingushetia will appear not as the result of changes in the attitudes of the Kremlin to it, something many hope for but for which there is no basis, but only as a result of the transformation of the very character of the system itself, as a result of which ‘the region’s will begin themselves to choose their own authorities and establish the coordinates of their relations with the federation, already without quotation marks.”
The 2024 succession question provides the occasion for the regions and republics to come together and follow Ingushetia in creating or transformation hitherto non-governmental agencies like the Council of Teips into the basis of government in them and uniting to impose their vision of federalism on Moscow.
Such a move would show that “regionalism and republicanism are not tools for extracting more aid from the Kremlin but rather a fundamental platform on which they seek to build a new political system,” Sidorov argues. And that coming together has been echoed in growing cooperation in Ingushetia among various trends of Islam.
In Ingushetia today, “we see how a civil and really republic movement is transforming more limited clan or sectarian thinking into political thinking, now, all-national but in prospect federalist” and how “forces [like the Council of Teips] which at first glance look ‘archaic’ can turn out to be the means for ushering in advanced historical trends.”