Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev’s Failure to Counter Talk of Letting North Caucasus Go Recalls Gorbachev at His Worst, Kholmogorov Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 29 –Dmitry Medvedev’s willingness to be drawn into discussions about letting the North Caucasus go and the president’s failure to take action to address the reasons some are pushing for a step that would be “suicide” for Russia recall the worst aspects of Mikhail Gorbachev’s days at the end of the USSR, according to a leading Moscow commentator.
In a comment on “Russkaya narodnaya liniya,” Yegor Kholmogorov, editor of the online journal “Russky obozrevatel’,,” argues that proposals to let the North Caucasus go its own way is “bad” in the way “all abstract utopian ideas” that seek to cut through “’a Gordian knot’” are (
That is, the outspoken Russian nationalist continues, such ideas are “very beautiful when described but their realization in fact practically always involves great losses and uncompensated harm.” And consequently, those who oppose such proposals must respond to them with specific facts rather than generalized denunciations.
“Objectively,” there is the problem of the lack of correspondence “between those cultural standards and standards of social relations which exist among the mountain peoples of the North Caucaus and those which exist in Russia in general,” Kholmogorov says. And because of ethnic Russian flight, “many regions of the North Caucasus have been de-russified.”
These trends, “together with the demographic and criminal expansion” of people “from these territories” lie behind the idea of “separating” the North Caucasus out from Russia. Indeed, Kholmogorov acknowledges, “the roots of the psychological attitude of those who want to separate all this from themselves are understandable.”
But that is where “the problem begins,” he adds.
“Russia does not exist in a vacuum at the level of international relations. Today [Russians] live not in Assyria or in Babylon and even not under Comrade Stalin.” Instead, they live in the world of the 21st century, and in that world, the Russian Federation would, if it “separated out” the North Caucasus, find itself in terrible difficulties.
“It would be isolated and under the most severe international sanctions, including accusations of genocide. That is, in fact, [Russians] would repeat the fate of Serbia under Milosevic.” And according to Kholmogorov, “present day Russia is not ready” to find itself in that position.
Moreover, he says, “separating out” the North Caucasus “would require a colossal amount of military, political and organizational measures for securing the borders,” all the more so because Russia would in effect be handing “this region over to international terrorism” and thus still threatened by people from that region.
“If Israel having built a wall around the Palestinian territories has not been able to guarantee its own security, then precisely the same way, Russia would not be able to guarantee its security.” And still worse, Russia would have to have a much tougher border regime not only with the now independent North Caucasus but everywhere else as well.
And “finally,” Kholmogorov says, there is “the most important aspect: If we retreat from the principle of the unity and integrity of Russia in one place, then ‘the domino principle’ will begin to work elsewhere,” leading to “the separating out of Tatarstan and Yakutia and the formation of a new Kazan and Astrakhan khanate and so on and so forth.”
“Having begun to cut apart the country,” Kholmogorov argues, “we already will not be in a position to stop the coming apart of the federation.” In short, those who are attracted by the idea of separating out the North Caucasus are playing with a notion that, if adopted, would mean “suicide” for Russia.
The National Democrats who have made this idea a plank in their program are not very numerous, and “the majority of Russian nationalists,” Kholmogorov who numbers himself among them, is “categorically” against this idea “precisely because they understand perfectly well what would follow from it.”
More disturbing than the proposal of a clutch of would be politicians, he continues, is the spread of this notion as a kind of “mass prejudice,” in which large numbers of Russians accept this “simple but mistaken political idea.” And if this notion does capture the masses, then “no rational arguments” will be able to stop it.
In this regard, Kholmogorov says, the role that Medvedev and others among the powers that be is “quite doubtful” given that they have allowed themselves to be “drawn into discussion of this problem” without “presenting to society serious arguments” as to why this approach would be “categorically unacceptable.”
Making general declarations such as “we must not allow the collapse of the federation” and the like without such arguments “recalls the behavior of Gorbachev who also at a certain point began very actively to discuss the theme of ‘the disintegration of the country,’” discussions that had the effect of accelerating that process.
What the powers that be should be doing is providing “concrete facts” or “best of all keeping quiet on this theme but taking measures which will free society from the need of discussing” such a dangerous step for their country and themselves as “the separation out of the North Caucasus.”
Among those steps, he suggests, are “the establishment of the equality of all peoples o fhte country before the law, the categorical prohibition of any extraterritoriality for representatives of North Caucasian peoples on the territory of Russia, [and] the tightening of the immigration regime, about which so much is said today.”
In addition, Kholmogorov continues, there needs to be “a serious review of relations inside the federation,” which at present means that “regions which are the most alienated from the Russian language, culture and population” nonetheless “receive the maximum contributions [from the rest of the country] and enjoy the maximum freedom within the country.”
If Moscow took those steps, no one would be talking about “separating out” the North Caucasus. Indeed, such proposals are “simply a mark of despair” over current conditions because, Kholmogorov says, “no one wants” to give up territories over which Russians have shed so much blood for so long.

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