Staunton, July 10 – Circassians continue to celebrate the removal of a monument in Sochi honoring tsarist forces who attacked their ancestors nearly 200 years ago. The city took it down after Circassians protested, acknowledging officials did not follow proper procedures (jamestown.org/program/sochi-once-again-epicenter-of-russian-circassian-conflict-but-circassians-register-a-win/ and nazaccent.ru/content/33586-pamyatnik-geroyam-kavkazskoj-vojny-v-sochi.html).
But if the Circassians are savoring a victory, Russian nationalists are outraged at what they see as a defeat that the powers that be and the Russian people as a whole should not tolerate but immediately seek to reverse (newizv.ru/news/society/11-07-2020/v-sochi-snesli-pamyatnik-geroyam-kavkazskoy-voyny-natsionalisty-nedovolny and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/351750/).
The monument’s sculptor said that his creation was not in any way intended to inflame relations between Russians and Circassians. But other Russians have taken a far harder line, condemning the Circassians for what they have achieved, and threatening that nation with repression if they don’t adapt to Russian realities after the constitution was changed.
The toughest so far was adopted by Mikhail Leontiyev, a Russian television commentator who is also a vice president of Rosneft. In a diatribe on state television that many will see as reflecting what the Kremlin wants Russians to believe, the commentator lashed out at the decision and threatened the Circassian nation (justicefornorthcaucasus.info/?p=1251682340).
“We believe we are protected from all that black-white cretinism, these American monuments,” Leontyev said. “But here in our home in the North Caucasus, in Sochi district, the monument, a new monument, which was erected recently to the heroes -- soldiers of the Caucasus war.
“I don’t know if that idea was wise to begin with, because the Caucasus war was after all a domestic war, it was our own civil war, so to say, because there were people who fought against us, there were no Martians, no English, no German Nazi occupants, well, some foreign comrades tried to stretch their paws in there but via proxies.
“Now are already taking it down! Do you understand that there cannot be such a precedent! No one can touch our monuments! What are the constitutional amendments about? Do not touch the monuments! Do not touch anything -- period. Because we have our own history and we refuse to be the judges of our own history.
“We are not doing that anymore. Actually, the entire Putin ideology, its colossal value and achievement is in that we do not throw apart the pieces of Russian history – it is whole, it’s great, it’s horrible, it is what it is – we love it and we are proud of it – period!
“We know that the Circassians have struggled a lot, but who asked you to fight against an empire, under the British lead, who asked you?! Nobody! Nobody asked you! Yes, you fell under the wheels of history. Condolences and RIP.
“But that is not a reason to push down the monuments of the Russian soldiers! This must be addressed. There must be a reaction. Conclusions have not been made from the vote [to change the constitution]; they have not been made. And we have to put our brains together and say we have said “A” now we say “B” – period! That’s it, tie it together, enough! Enough!
“We understand that an alternative position exists. Alternative to those who voted for the amendments. That alternative position is of our enemies. It is an enemy. It is an alternative to Russia. So, guys you have two options. One: we tolerate you, and we localize you. Or -- we annihilate you. Two options.
“I’d prefer the first one. It’s more humane. And hands wouldn’t have to get dirty. But – we will not be giving you any concessions! No! No concessions! No! There is no basis for concessions. Not due to the results of the vote, or of common sense, or responsibility for our country – nobody ever will be giving concessions to anybody anymore.
“You were told not to cross this line, the line that’s been drawn for you and you were told to stay there, and you will stay there. You cross it – you get battered, in full, period. We have warned you. The rules of the game have been set. You have been tolerated here! Be happy that you have been tolerated and that you exist! Don’t wake up the monster.
“That is what the talk is about,” Leontyev concluded.
Such language will do nothing to calm the situation. Instead, it is likely to be viewed by Russian nationalists as a signal that Vladimir Putin, the wake of the July 1 vote, will support them if they go after not only the Circassians but other non-Russians within the current borders of the Russian Federation.
And that threat will likely not intimidate the Circassians or other non-Russians but radicalize them, setting the stage for conflicts that could become explosive. But in the short term, Leontyev’s outburst is likely to give the Kremlin another reason for transforming Sochi into a “federal territory” directly ruled from Moscow.
That would allow for the dismissal of the Sochi officials behind this sequence of events in a classically “hybrid” form Putin prefers. Some analysts are already coming out in favor of that idea (club-rf.ru/23/opinions/2270). That might solve one Kremlin problem but only at the cost of sparking others elsewhere (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/creation-of-even-small-federal.html).