Staunton, December 11 – Moscow media encourage Russians to think that “the situation in the North Caucasus has become stable and the problem of extremism there been overcome,” Artur Melkonyan says. “But this sense is only an illusion” because in fact “in the southern regions, tension is growing.”
One reason that some in the Russian capital believe that things are getting better in the North Caucasus is that the radical opposition is becoming more sophisticated. The Russian authorities have blocked the most radical sites, but those who operated them have opened new and ostensibly more moderate ones.
The Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist gives Ingushetia as a clear example of the illusory quality of stability in the region and the site bakdar.org which has been put up by the same people and includes many of the same messages as the banned galgayche.org one (ng.ru/regions/2020-12-11/100_181011122020.html).
He bases his article on an investigation carried out by the Mosmonitor portal (mosmonitor.ru/news/radikalyi_vnov_obreli_bakdar_rechi) which argues that the ostensibly balanced news site bakdar.org is delivering exactly the same radical messages as the banned galgayche.org one but hiding their messages among what appear to be entirely ordinary news.
A casual visitor to the site might not notice this but those who seek radical messages attacking Russia and its supposedly Islamophobic policies are able to get exactly the same directions and encouragement that the banned site delivered, a pattern that points to growing tensions rather than declining ones.
According to Mosmonitor and Melkonyan, what this is about is a continuing, even expanding effort to “sow discord between Muslims and Christians, harm relations between eh Russian Federation and Islamic countries, not to allow Russian forces to operate in Syria, to generate conflicts with Turkey and to split up former Soviet republics.”
According to the Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist, “the main task in the publication of such materials is the destabilization of the already complicated situation in the North Caucasus, a region where any spark of inter-ethnic, inter-religious and inter-class tensions can lead to catastrophe and extremely dangerous games with information fires.”
He says that such ostensibly balanced sites with their covert messaging against Russia are only destabilizing the situation further and that Ingushetia with all of its problems is now the place where such tactics are being tested and applied. And that if they are not stopped there, they will inevitably be spread across the region.
In addition to the fact that this article appeared in Nezavisimaya gazeta and not in some anti-Muslim Russian nationalist portal, it is disturbing for at least three reasons. First, it suggests that some in Moscow want to go after not just openly radical sites but others that may on some occasions carry articles the regime doesn’t like.
Second, it implies that such sites and even the shift from openly radical sites Moscow has largely closed to such hybrid portals are part of a campaign by the West against Russia and its control of the region. And third, it is directed at Ingushetia where tensions are already growing because of the show trial now being conducted against Ingush opposition leaders.
Taken together, the conclusions Melkonyan’s article suggest that at least some in the Russian capital want to block far more websites directed at the North Caucasus than they have so far – and that this will lead to another round in which opponents of the regime will put up new sites to deal with that new reality.