Staunton, April 18 – At the end of Soviet times, many in the binational republics that Moscow had created to play one ethnic group off against another felt that the time had come to divide them up. Chechnya and Ingushetia managed to split into two republics, but neither Karachay-Cherkessia nor Kabardino-Balkaria did.
The reasons that they failed to do so not only explains a great deal about the behind-the-scenes politics in Moscow and the North Caucasus but also sheds light on current political struggles in that region to form new more mono-ethnic republics, something that both the center and the rulers the Kremlin has imposed are very much against.
A new book by KBR scholars provides the fullest account of what happened in the early 1990s and since in Kabardino-Balkaria. Entitled Main Problems of the Development of the Socio-Political Situation in KBR in the Late XX and Early XXI Centuries (in Russian; Nalchik, 2021, 346 pp., 500 copies), it is now available online at zapravakbr.ru/images/monografya.pdf.
According to this study, “the chief factors which led to the failure of the projects of the Kabardin and Balkar national movements for creating separate republics were the opposition of the power structures, the unresolved issue about the definition of borders of the two republics, and also” another factor that seldom gets much attention.
That factor, the book argues, was “the devotion of the Kabardin national movement of a significant portion of its resources in support of the Abkhaz people in the struggle with aggression in 1992-1993.” Had the Kabardins focused on their own goals instead, they might very well have achieved a separate republic, the book says.
The book also traces the way in which the Kabardin movement shifted from focusing its concern on the Circassian movement generally in the 1990s to attention to the division of scarce lands after 2000, a move that was simultaneously a response to the actions of the Balkar minority and to the increasingly short supply of arable land given growing population density.
Further, the new book stresses that in contrast to national movements elsewhere, “the Kabardin and Balkar national movements used only peaceful methods,” but despite that, the powers that be in the republic, backed by Moscow, were able to geld both of them by the end of the 1990s, playing off one against the other and then weakening the victor as well.