Sunday, November 13, 2022

West doesn’t View Non-Russians Now the Way It Did Chechens in 1990s, Kalmyk Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 10 – All non-Russian nations who want independence from the Russian empire are invariably reminded both by Moscow officials and Western analysts that no country in the world recognized Chechnya-Icheria when it declared its independence from Russia in 1991 and then fought two wars against Moscow.

            But Arslang Sandzhiyev, head of the Congress of the Oyrat-Kalmyk People which on Oct. 26 assembled and declared its intention to seek independence for the Buddhist republic (, the situation is very different both inside Russia and in the international community (

            Inside Russia, not only has Putin’s repression of the non-Russians increased, leaving them among the poorest in the region and with ever fewer cultural and linguistic rights; but his war in Ukraine, Sandzhiyev says, has shown them that Putin is prepared to use military force to get his way and that their only hope is to escape Moscow’s control.

            For them and for the West, he continues, “the collapse of the empire is obvious. This is a logical historical process which has been speeded up by the unwise and ineffective foreign and domestic policies of the Kremlin.” How long this process will take depends on the outcome of the war in Ukraine and on the actions of people inside Russian and beyond.

            In the international community, Sandzhiyev says, “the war in Chechnya was considered as a conflict inside the country,” and most accepted Moscow’s version of events that it was only trying to “restore the constitutional order. “Then Russia had just broken out of the communist clutches of totalitarianism and thus had a large credit of trust.”

            But not now. “The war in Ukraine has changed a great deal in the personal and collective consciousness” of the West. “I am certain,” the Kalmyk leader adds, “that today the political situation is very different and the independence of the peoples of Russia will be considered by Western politicians and the entire world community from a completely different position.”

            To achieve its goal of independence, Kalmyks are working with their own population and with national movements in other republics. And they believe that such cooperation not only will bring independence closer but become the basis for greater cooperation among the post-Russian countries that are going to emerge.

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