Staunton, August 25 – Circassians in the North Caucasus homeland and the diaspora have appealed to Kazbek Kokov, head of Kabardino-Balkaria, to intervene to block charges brought by federal authorities against Martin Kochesokov and Ramazan Molov, arguing that he has “sufficient authority” to interpose against “illegal actions” by federal structures.
This is a breakthrough development. In the past, national groups have urged that charges they view as fabricated be dropped or that those indicted be found innocent. But in this case, Circassians are making a much more serious argument by suggesting that heads of republics have the right and power to interpose against federal actions.
The open letter to Kokov is available online at zapravakbr.com/index.php/30-uncategorised/1528-predstaviteli-cherkesskogo-soobshchestva-prosyat-kazbeka-kokova-vzyat-pod-lichnyj-kontrol-khod-sudebnogo-razbiratel-stva-po-delu-martina-kochesokova-i-ramazana-molova.
As students of federalism elsewhere know, calls for such action are typically labelled “interposition,” an assertion of the right of the components of a federation to defend themselves against actions by the federal authorities they consider to be a threat to their interests or otherwise unconstitutional.
In many cases, as in the United States before the Civil War, that doctrine led to claims, which Washington rejected, of the right of states to nullify any federal law or action the states considered unconstitutional. Belief in both was a major legal justification for the secession of the Confederacy. Rejection of them guided the Union government.
For Circassians or indeed for anyone else in the Russian Federation to assert such a right is a dramatic step, one certain to provoke a sharp reaction by the Kremlin. But even if Moscow succeeds in squelching this demand in this case, that it is being made at all speaks to the growing anger and unity against Moscow of the Circassian national movement.