Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Xenophobic Nationalists Threaten to Make Russia into a Post-1918 Austria, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 19 – Russian imperial and xenophobic nationalists, a leading Moscow human rights analysts, are conducting the kind of “political experiments” that threaten their country with “yet another ‘greatest catastrophe,’” albeit one “not of the 20th century but of the 21st,” one that would leave it in a position much like Austria found itself after 1918
In an article on Grani.ru portal today, Yevgeny Ikhlov, the head of the analytic center of the For Human Rights Movement, draws that conclusion on the basis of his reading of the meaning of the efforts by Stavropol residents to leave the North Caucasus Federal District and of Muscovites to block the construction of new mosques (grani.ru/blogs/free/entries/182759.html).
Ikhlov says that from his point of view, “the Stavropol residents are profoundly right” in what they are trying to do. While the southern part of their kray is “geo-economically” part of the North Caucasus, “’everyone understands’ that the North Caucasus Federal District is a governorship general for the control as people said the century before last of unruly natives.”
“The Slavs of Stavropol do not want to be included among the natives,” he continues, because it is obvious that in that case, Stavropol kray “will always be forgotten” compared to hotspots like Daghestan. If they can secure a place in the Southern Federal District, the residents of the kray have good reason to think they can get “more proportionate” attention.”
The people of Stavropol thus find themselves in an awkward position now that “the former larger Southern FD is historically and civilizationally split into two absolutely different segments – a citadel of the south Russian sub-ethnos and the lands of the Caucasian peoples, annexed by the tsarist empire in its centuries-long drive toward the Middle East.”
But if the Stavropol residents succeed in being shifted from the North Caucasus to the Southern FD, then, this “will make the border [one] between the imperial metropolis and imperial acquisitions, between what everyone understands as Russia and that which should be called ‘the Federation’” on the basis with the analogous division in the Roman empire of antiquity.
“The price of preserving the official illusion that the Russian Federation is not an empire but a cleverly devised in 1993 ‘United States of Northern Eurasia’ became the unification of the Stavropol residents to the North Caucasus Federal District which was set up for the struggle with the already 11-year-old North Caucasus guerilla war.”
Ikhlov suggests that “this bureaucratic solution is only a small part of the bill for the ambitions of the Russian tsars” and Soviet leaders, a bill that many Russians complain about when despite everything their ancestors did, they are forced to “pay” for it by getting visas in order to travel to Kaliningrad, the former German land.
“For the conquest and annexation of the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia and for the Westernization of these territories with fire and sword by the communists, it is also necessary to pay,” he argues, just as France, Britain and Germany have had to pay for their past imperial ambitions by being forced to deal with “millions” of culturally distinct immigrants.”
“For its Eurasian empire, Moscow must cope with millions of Muslims in the capital and surrounding territories,” Ikhlov says. “the capital of a universal empire – and the Third Rome by definition is a universal empire – is always a cosmopolitan megalopolis, i.e., a Babylon.” Thus, “Moscow never will be ‘a Russian Orthodox’ metropolis,” whatever the nationalists think.
The huge Muslim community of Moscow “must have a sufficient number of mosques,” he argues, saying that “it is time to get rid of the illusion that if Muslims are left without a mosque, they will first become ethnically and religiously colorless [non-ethnic] Russians and then eventually become [ethnic] Russians and even Orthodox Christians.”
If the communists couldn’t achieve that goal with “two million Soviet Jews,” then the current Russian powers that be won’t be able to achieve such a transformation among “the 20 million people whose ancestors professed Islam.”
Of course, “in principle,” Ikhlov says, “it would be possible to free Moscow and all of central Russia from Muslims by setting up an Orthodox-fascist Muscovite Rus, the territory of which would be somewhat smaller than the current Russian Federation.” But those who think that would be a good idea should remember what happened to Austria after the empire.
Such a prospect for Russia, the human rights analyst argues, “ought to convince angriest Moscow chauvinists and Islamophobes that the flourishing of the capital [of their country] is worth 20 mosques.” But unfortunately, as recent developments in France and Germany with regard to the Roma suggest, they may not recognize that danger.
According to Ikhlov, “the problem is that neither the Russian nor the West European elites have been able to create a universal super-ethnic model which has been so notably established in North America.” And consequently, “our proud imperialists of the Kipplingesque type will continue their political experiments.”
That is until, the For Human Rights expert concludes, they succeed in bringing about “yet another ‘greatest catastrophe,’” a reference to Vladimir Putin’s description of the disintegration of the USSR. “Only this will not be in the 20th century” as that event was but rather sometime “in the 21st.”

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