Staunton, April 4 – Many non-Russians in the Middle Volga and the North Caucasus have been infuriated by the efforts of Russian nationalists to erect statues on their territory to Russian imperialists who conquered their lands and brutalized their peoples with most viewing it as the latest manifestation of the recrudescence of Russian imperialism.
But until now, few had suggested that it was anything more than self-affirmation by ethnic Russians rather than something more ominous – a plan to provoke non-Russians into the kind of violent reaction that would allow or force Moscow to intervene and suppress the non-Russians as some Russians would like.
Now a group of Chuvash activists has done just that, circulating a petition declaring the erection of statues to Russian rulers is intended to provoke such an outcome, demanding the statues be removed, and warning non-Russians not to be drawn (ru.chuvash.org/news/5006.html and change.org/p/инициаторы-установки-памтника-ивана-грозному-требование-чувашской-национально-интеллигенции-о-сносе-провакационных-символов).
The authors from the Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga make this argument in advance of the planned commemoration of the centenary of the creation of modern Chuvash statehood on June 24, 2020. They say that Chuvash would like to mark that event in a worthy way but two Russian actions are making that far more difficult.
On the one hand, the proposed constitutional amendments are intended to undermine the federative foundations of the state and reduce the rights of its subjects. And on the other, there has been a movement to erect in Cheboksary statues of Russian imperial leaders that is infuriating the Chuvash.
Figures like Ivan the Terrible, Orthodox “saints” Petr and Fevroniya, and Elizabeth II don’t have “any relationship to the Chuvash people or the Chuvash Republic and are “an open form” of “everything anti-Chuvash, anti-state and anti-civilizational” attitudes and actions in the Russian Federation today.
Putting up such statues is an obvious “provocation,” because it cannot fail to anger the Chuvash people, the petition says. And those who are behind such monuments must have known that these statues would have that effect and thus are intentionally or not “setting various forces of society against one another by generating inter-ethnic and inter-religious discord.”
“We consider,” the petition continues, “that these destructive forces have miscalculated, and that the people of Chuvashia will not allow in the republic [such] conflicts.” But because there is a risk, the authors say, they want the statues taken down and those behind them to end their dangerous games.
The petition ends with an appeal to “the Chuvash nation and all the people of the Chuvash Republic” to avoid “unthought out and illegal steps” against these destructive actions lest such moves come back to haunt them.
Not only does this petition make it clear that Chuvash concerned about stability see the statues to Russian conquerors as something more than just monuments, but it shows that ethnic and religious relations in what has usually been viewed as a peaceful are anything but just below the surface and could explode if the authorities continue to pursue this dangerous policy.