Thursday, June 5, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Chechens Optimistic about Chechnya but Pessimistic about Russia – and They Have Their Reasons

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 5 – Only 21 percent of Chechens say they expect the security situation in their own republic to deteriorate in the coming months, but 57 percent of them say that they believe it will continue to decline in the Russian Federation as a whole over the same period, according to a poll taken by the Caucasus Times in Grozny last month.
As it has done in the past, the Prague-based “Caucasus Times” conducted an informal poll of 200 residents of the Chechen capital May 10-15. Most of the sample consisted of ethnic Chechens, and, the news portal reports, it included representatives of various professions and age groups (
Asked about the security situation in Chechnya, 45 percent of the Chechens said that the situation has not changed in recent times, 32 percent said it had or soon would improve, and 21 percent said that it was tending to get worse. “None of those responding believes that the situation in the security area is getting worse.
But with regard to the security situation in the Russian Federation as a whole, 13 percent of the Grozny residents said it is improving and 20 percent said it had not changed in recent times,. But almost half -- 47 percent -- said it was tending to get worse, and ten percent said it was getting worse, a far more pessimistic assessment than they gave about their own homeland.
This pessimism about the security situation in Russia, the “Caucasus Times” portal suggested, is connected “to a large extent” in the minds of many Chechens “with the growing number of cases of discrimination against ‘persons of Caucasus nationality’” in Moscow and other Russian cities.
Such attitudes both help explain and are likely to be reinforced by the announcement of Maj. Gen. Said-Selim Tsuyev, the military commissar for Chechnya, yesterday that draftees from Chechnya will serve only in Chechnya and that eventually Chechens from other parts of Russia will serve there as well (
He told Nezavisimaya gazeta that there were good reasons for this approach: “Today’s 18-year-old Chechens from the age of three have seen only war. And if they are sent to serve beyond the borders of the republic where they will be in units which passed through Chechnya, they will encounter officers and sergeants who lost a friend or a brother” there.
Should that happen, the Chechen general said, there would be “too great a probability of the appearance of involuntary anger and also of conflicts on the basis of the military past.” If the Chechen draftees are retained in Chechnya, however, that will make it more difficult for the military to meet its overall quotas, the Moscow paper observed.
Another and far more serious consequence has been pointed out by Sobkorr correspondent Sergei Petrunin in an article posted online today entitled “Dudayev could never have dreamed of this!” (
Commenting on Tsuyev’s remarks and noting that there will be 50,000 Chechens of draft age – one sixth of the 300,000 that the Russian Federation plans to draft this year – Petrunin said these will now be “concentrated in Chechnya” and thus constitute “an entire Savage Division,” a reference to the much-feared Caucasus unit in the Russian Imperial and White Armies.
“Poor Dudayev could never have dreamed of this,” the Sobkorr commentator says. The first president of Chechnya-Ichkeria could only imagine a status for his republic within the CIS, something like that of Belarus. But his successor Ramzan Kadyrov has gone beyond that. And what will happen now is, Petrunin says, something it is perhaps best not to think too much about.

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