Staunton, December 16 – In the course of a wide-ranging interview published today about the modernization of Russia, Vladislav Surkov says that “we will not hand over our city to various newly declared ‘Uncle Hasans’ and their followers,” Russian slang for Muslim criminals and words that are likely to further divide Russian society.
On the one hand, many ethnic Russian nationalists are likely to conclude that the powers that be are now on their side and will back popular moves against North Caucasians. And on the other, many North Caucasians are likely to reach the same conclusion and decide either to resist or to strike first.
And consequently, the words of the influential first deputy head of the Presidential Administration, may spark even more violent clashes like those which have taken place in Moscow and other Russian cities in recent days, even though Surkov and other officials are calling for calm and law and order.
“Izvestiya” journalists Sergey Leskov and Aleksandr Sadchikov conducted what turned out to be a more than 5,000-word interview with Surkov, focusing above all on the presidential aide’s ideas on modernization, the use of foreign specialists, and the impact of the Internet on Russian society (www.izvestia.ru/politic/article3149592/).
But perhaps Surkov’s comments on the events in Manezh Square last weekend when the current round of conflicts between ethnic Russian nationalists and North Caucasian diasporas in the Russian capital began to escalate will prove the most important part of this interview, at least in the short term.
Asked for his reaction to the Manezh events, Surkov said that “disorders which threaten the lives of Muscovites and attacks on the militia cannot be justified. At all. In exactly the same way one cannot justify the murder of Yegor. Those who killed him ought to be sitting in jail. And for long enough so that we will never see them again.”
Surkov then noted that “this fall [he] had met with representatives of Caucasian youth. We spoke openly about the fact that in many regions of Russia it isn’t simple for them to live and also about the reality that Russians cannot always and everywhere live peacefully in the Caucasus.”
“Those who come here from the south must understand,” Surkov continued, “that attitudes toward them are formed including by their own actions. Those who come here to work and to study must be defended, and the state bears in this regard full responsibility.”
“But those who fill the ranks of ethnic criminal groups and shoot at our boys will be rooted out. We will not hand over our city to various newly declared ‘Uncle Hasans’ and their followers,” Moscow slang for people from the Caucasus with suspected or real criminal ties. “Moscow and Russia needs civic peace. Out country is the common home for all our peoples.”
But despite that last qualification, most of Surkov’s language is likely to be seen by ethnic Russians and by North Caucasians alike as an indication of official support not for a policy of balance and toleration but rather for one that gives the Russians pride of place and expects the non-Russians to adapt.
What makes this so “curious,” as the analysts at Babr.ru have pointed out, is that “Surkov himself is half Chechen. His father Andarbek Dudayev is from that North Caucasian republic’s Duba-Yurt. Consequently, it is quite likely that Surkov himself, despite this nationalistic line, has his own “uncles” from that region (http://news.babr.ru/?IDE=90434).