Saturday, March 21, 2020

Boycott Calls by Four Ingush Teips Less about Constitution than about Preserving Their Own Dignity, Sokolov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 16 – Four Ingush teips, whose membership numbers more than 20 percent of the republic’s population, have called for a boycott of the April 22 vote on amendments to the Russian Constitution less because they object to the specific provisions than because they see this declaration as a means of preserving their own dignity, Denis Sokolov says.

            The Russian specialist on the North Caucasus who is currently at CSIS in Washington says that the boycott calls are a way of declaring that Ingush have had to bow to superior force but that they will not cooperate with it, a reflection of both “anti-colonial and civil society” concerns (старейшины-ингушетии-поддержали-ум/).

            He and other experts with whom Anton Chablin spoke suggested that the latest Ingush call will have an impact on the other republics in the North Caucasus just as did its urging those taking part in earlier votes to use “smart voting.” But they all say that Moscow will ignore this and that everyone involved knows the results of the referendum are pre-ordained.

            Experts on voting like the Golos organization say that there are serious problems with the referendum given that it has been organized in a hurried way and without clear specifications about many issues including the possibility of monitoring the voting to guard against irregularities, making the latter more likely.

            “The majority of federal politicians have remained silent,” Chablin notes; but “the regions have not and again the most passionate region has been Ingushetia” where the teips have taken the lead in registering their objections to the referendum as such as part of their anger about the land deal of September 2018.

            According to the regional specialist, “what kind of dialogue between society and the authorities can one speak of when there are more than 30 political prisoners in Ingushetia,” when the powers have “liquidated the Spiritual Administration of Muslims and tried to liquidate the Council of Teips and when several rights NGOs have been labelled foreign agents?”

            Ilya Grashchenkov, head of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy, argues that “for Ingushetia, such protest is normal,” a continuation of the major protests at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.  That conflict continues to split the republic, the Moscow expert says.

            And Irina Starodubrovskaya, an economist and activist in the region, says that those protests were “put down hard” but that the fears and anger behind them have not disappeared. “Moreover, the harsh measures toward participants in the protest … have only poured oil on the fire.” And Magas has simply proved unwilling to talk.

            The reasons the teips are taking the lead, she continues, is that Ingushetia “remains the most traditional” of the North Caucasus republics in its public sector. People look to them, and their “call to boycott the voting is more a symbolic gesture showing the level of alienation from the all-Russian agenda.”

            But unfortunately, neither Moscow nor Magas seem prepared to recognize that anger or enter into talks about the situation.

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