Monday, December 27, 2021

For Moscow, Chechens are Russians when Center is Pleased but ‘Persons of Caucasian Nationality’ When It’s Not, Kadyrov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 6 – An angry exchange of words between Margarita Simonyan of RT and Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya calls attention to a problem widespread around the world but one that is becoming particularly acute in Russia today – the tendency to focus on one identity when people have positive feelings about others and another identity when they don’t.

            After a street fight in Moscow between ethnic Russians and Chechens, Simonyan lashed out at “persons of Caucasian nationality,” a term Russians who view non-Russians from the north Caucasus as somehow innately opposed to the Russian system for more than a generation (

            Her words attracted widespread attention because of the current discussion in the Duma of whether or not to make illegal the identification of criminals by their nationality. Among those most angry was Kadyrov who pointedly complained about the way in which Simonyan had spoken, something especially bad because the RT head is herself from the Caucasus.

            “When Caucasians win on the mat or in the boxing ring, they are identified as ‘Rossiyane’ [that is, non-ethnic Russians], and the entire Internet is proud of the successes of the Russian sportsmen [But] when a fight breaks out and a Russian is hurt, they are people who have somehow come to Russia and whose registration needs to be checked” (

            Such shifts have always been true in Russia. In Soviet times, the regime referred to all who made the country proud as Soviet citizens while making reference to non-Russian nationalities generally only when one of their members did something wrong. The current push to use Rossiyane for all Russian citizens only intensifies this proclivity.

            Many Russians and especially many who rank high in the Moscow pyramid of power may see this as entirely natural and appropriate, but Kadyrov’s words are a reminder that such thoughtlessness and the double standards which it reflects make many non-Russians angry even to the point of alienation.


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