Staunton, July 20 – Non-Russians in the North Caucasus and especially in its eastern half have shifted their positions since the start of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, Izabella Yevloyeva says. Before February 2022, most were interested in greater autonomy and federalism; now, ever more of them believe that independence is the only way forward and that it is possible.
Yevloyeva, the founding editor of the independent Ingushetia portal Fortanga, reaches that conclusion after surveying the opinions of experts about attitudes across the North Caucasus (kavkazr.com/a/hotyat-li-kavkaztsy-nezavisimosti-voyna-v-ukraine-i-dekolonizatsiya-v-rossii/32501825.html).
Saykhan Muzayev of the émigré Chechen movement United Force, says that Chechens and others now understand that Moscow is weakening because of the war in Ukraine and that they have a far better chance to pursue independence than they did as recently as only two years ago.
Those Chechens committed to independence now want “almost the same thing” that the Icherkia movement in the 1990s wanted, namely an independent state that would be “part of the global community.” And people like him are convinced, Musayev adds, that this goal is achievable if the right tactics are adopted.
Ruslan Iouloy of the Committee of Ingush Independence says that no nation wants to live in subordination to another, particularly in one where the dominant nationality treats the others as second-class citizens or worse. The Ingush today see that they are an occupied people and they want out.
Davur Dordzhiyev of the Congress of the Oyrat-Kalmyk People and the League of Free Nations, says that in the past those who wanted independence were very much marginal figures but since the war in Ukraine began, they now find themselves “in the mainstream” of public opinion. That is what the war in Ukraine has achieved.
Prague-based commentator Vadim Sidorov says that it is difficult to know exactly how widespread such views are because of Moscow’s repression and the absence of public opinion polling. “On the territory of Russia,” he points out, “it is impossible even now to openly speak about de-colonization.
But increasing numbers of people in many non-Russian nations are increasingly interested in defending their languages and cultures and this is becoming “’a breeding ground’ for the development’” of attitudes which support independence. This is most true in the eastern portion of the North Caucasus but less in the west where the situation is more complicated.
Non-Russians have long recognized that Moscow’s policy is a colonial one, but the war in Ukraine has changed one important dimension with regard to that. Russian behavior in Ukraine has shown the world that Russia is an imperial state and so non-Russians now feel they have allies and support in the West, Yevloyeva concludes.