Monday, January 10, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Sudanese Referendum Echoes in Russia

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 11 – The referendum on independence for Southern Sudan has prompted some Russians to complain that Moscow is more interested in the self-determination of people there than of Russians in the former Soviet republics, just one of the ways in which such issues anywhere in the world quickly acquire a Eurasian dimension. .
In a comment today, Modest Kolerov, the chief editor of the news agency, complains that “the right of one of the peoples of Sudan for self-determination turns out to be more important for Russia than the right of the entire people of Transdniestria for independence” (
“Ever more often,” the nationalist editor continues, Russian diplomacy follows the West – in this case to the point of raising the level of “the representative of the mythical interests of Russia in Sudan to the level of a special representative of the president,” while Moscow continues to use ordinary diplomats for its contacts with Transdniestria.
“But the chief thing,” Kolerov continues, “is not in the external side of things but in the essence of the events that are taking place. Transdniestria has already conducted a referendum … and in Transdniestria already for 20 years there has been real statehood.” Russian is the state language, a third of its people are ethnic Russians, and 150,000 are Russian citizens.”
Despite that, the editor says, Moscow does not appear to consider this “a sufficient basis for its recognition, for the recognition of the right of its multi-national people to define its own fate. Why? Because Russia does not have a common border with Transdniestria,, as it does with Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Then Sudan for Russia almost is on the Moon.”
Or is the reason that “in the course of Romanian aggression in Transdniestria died ‘only’ a thousand people and not two million as in Sudan? [Or] because Sudan was not a unified state?” But if the latter, Kolerov continues, then it is worth talking about the lack of “a legitimate centralized power” in Moldova.
Or finally is it because “the West wants the dismemberment of Sudan” – even though it has refused to recognize the right of Transdniestria to establish its own national life?” But whatever the reason, “every falsehood must have a limit: to dismember Sudan and recognize its fragments … unites the West which dismembered Yugoslavia and Serbia and recognized Kosovo and Russia which recognized Abkhazia and South Osetia.”
“If after this does not follow the recognition by Russia of Transdniestria and if before this does not follow the recognition by Armenia of Nagorno Karabakh, then that will mean that for them only three factors have importance for the recognition of the inalienable rights of man: the sanction of the West, a location in Africa, and the murder at a minimum of two million people.”
A second Russian commentator, Sergey Minasyan, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of the Caucasus, focuses on the consequences of the Southern Sudan referendum for the future status of Karabakh, insisting that international recognition of the right of self-determination in this case will affect the South Caucasus (
And a third Russian commentator, Aleksey Martynov, the director of the International Institute of New States, not only argues that “the referendum about the division of Sudan into north and south was something long ago decided” but that Sudan was blocked by Moscow from recognizing Abkhazia and South Osetia (
According to Martynov, whose organization promotes the development of ties with newly emerged states, contacts between Sudan and the two breakaway republics in 2008 and 2009 “were crudely broken off by the Russian foreign ministry,” an action that he says “remains a mystery.”
These comments show the way in which people in one part of the world will seek to extrapolate from what is happening anywhere else and thus provide a cautionary note to those who invoke principles in one place when they do not want to have them invoked against themselves.
But having said that, it is important to recall that Kolerov and his news agency have been sharply criticized by Russian officials for overstepping what the officials see as legitimate journalistic boundaries, criticism that has attracted more attention to the editor and his site but that means these latest remarks may draw fire as well.

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