Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New Monuments to Tsarist Generals Show Putin Wants to Divide Russia’s Peoples and Restore the Empire, Khakuasheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – The erection in Sochi of a memorial to tsarist forces who conquered the Circassians is part of a much larger trend, one that has been going largely in one direction despite the victory that Circassians had there in getting the latest memorial taken down, Madina Khakuasheva says.

            That victory is welcome, the senior researcher at the Kabardino-Balkar Institute for Research on the Humanities suggests, but it should be seen for what it is: a skirmish in a larger war by Vladimir Putin to set Russians peoples against one another so that Moscow can restore the empire (zapravakbr.com/index.php/analitik/1498-madina-khakuasheva-chto-skryvayut-geroicheskie-pamyatniki).

            In an essay she says she wrote six months ago but is publishing only now, Khakuasheva, one of the most thoughtful commentators on developments in the western portion of the North Caucasus says that Moscow has followed exactly the same pattern again and again, one that is infuriating Circassians and alienating them from the central government.

            Not only have the Russian groups behind the erection of statues to tsarist generals not consulted with local people – if they had, they would have known how angry such monuments would make all but the most imperialist of Russians – but they have also overlooked the possibility of putting up memorials to other Russians who would unite rather than divide.

            Thus, Khakuasheva says, the Russians could have chosen to erect monuments to Aleksandr Griboyedov, Leo Tolstoy or Mikhail Lermontov, all of whom are the pride of Russia but who were sensitive to the other peoples of tsarist Russia. Choosing them could have brought people together. But that isn’t what the Putin regime has done.

            Instead, the Kremlin has chosen t o put up monuments to “military criminals of one of the cruelest and bloodiest wars in the history of the fatherland and the world.” Those who were conquered are encouraged to remember that they were beaten, and those who are the descendants of the conquerors are encouraged to think they can repeat that horror.

            That is hardly a recipe for reconciliation and peace. As one activist, Ibragim Yaganov, has put it, one can hardly avoid concluding that “someone is devoting all his efforts so that the Circassian people will not forget the tragedy of the past centuries,” exactly what Moscow complaints about when they do.
            Moreover, another commentator, Alilk Shashev observers, what is happening now is likely to continue because “in times of empire,” that is what conquerors do. They change the names of the places they seize and they put up statues to those who murdered the peoples there. Just such a process of restoring the empire is taking place now.

            Adam Bogus of Adygeya says that these statues have the effect of restoring the same kind of relations which existed between the conqueror and the conquered 150 years ago, driving “a wedge” between them and ensuring that the Circassians and other peoples will only think more often about what they suffered in the past, not how they might cooperate now.

            This is putting a mine and not a delayed-action one under the entire region, Bogus says.

            What the Russian authorities are doing is equivalent to “erecting memorials to generals of the Third Reich in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” an action that is possible only because the Russian government has kept its own population in ignorance about what the tsarist conquerors actually did in the Caucasus. “But ignorance doesn’t free one from responsibility.”

            But what is even worse, Khakuasheva says, is that this campaign of erecting statues to the conquerors on the lands of the conquered testified to “the existence of a neo-colonial agenda now. As is well known, ‘lessons not learned in the past’ lay the basis for similar crimes in the future.”

            All the peoples of the North Caucasus oppose this “present-day barbarism which openly and without punishment is flourishing on the territories of Stavropol and Krasnodar krays” and all too often moving beyond their borders into the republics of the North Caucasus.  The statues they have put up must come down, and those who put them up must be punished.

            That is because “we consider the opening of memorials devoted to generals who killed the peoples of the North Caucasus an open provocation which is destabilizing the situation of society, violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, and putting in on course to its destruction.”

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