Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Plan to Send North Caucasians to Work in Ethnic Russian Areas Recalls Stalin-Era Deportations, Balkar Elders Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 9 – A new Moscow plan to send unemployed North Caucasians to work in ethnic Russian regions, a measure that was intended to calm that troubled region, appears to be having the opposite effect with some non-Russians saying they don’t want to be gastarbeiters and others comparing this plan to the Stalin-era deportations of their peoples.
And what must have been most galling to the plan’s promoter, Aleksandr Khloponin, the presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus Federal District, is that the complaint and comparison came not from marginal groups but from a council of elders leader, people that he has promoted as another means to improve the situation in the region.
Dmitry Treshchanin of “Svobodnaya pressa” reported yesterday that the Council of Elders of the Balkar People has spoken out against Khloponin’s plan to send unemployed North Caucasians to other parts of the Russian Federation, arguing that “it is completely possible” to find jobs for all within the republics involved (
The Balkars have been angry with Moscow for a long time, and that nationality’s elders council staged sit down demonstration in Moscow from the middle of July to the end of November 2010, demanding that land in their republic be restored to them and that senior officials meet with them. They have not achieved either of their goals.
As the Balkars point out, “the districts of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic populated by Balkars are rich” in vegetation, energy resources, minerals, and other facilities, “but up to now, Balkaria has been deprived of any industry and its agricultural basis and infrastructure have been intentionally destroyed.”
According to Balkar organizations, Treshchanin says, “the policy of the powers that be” is to force the Balkars into the role of gastarbeiters where they will be in competition with people from “the near abroad” or to work as “service personnel” in recreation centers in the area around Mount Elbrus.
Oyus Gurtuyev, the head of the executive committee of the Council of Elders of the Balkar People, was blunt. He told Treshchanin that Balkars view the plan to force them to leave their republic for jobs elsewhere in Russia as a contemporary equivalent of the deportation of their nation in March 1944, a deportation that lasted 13 years.
“This is a stupid program, especially in today’s conditions,” he said. “Balkaria is a lifestock raising area.” That industry was nearly destroyed when the Balkars were deported, but today “we have all the conditions for [its restoration and the production of] ecologically pure meat, milk products, cheeses, yoghurt” and the like.
Indeed, Gurtuyev said, “all this can be produced much more cheaply and in higher quality than imports from Argentina and New Zealand.” Moreover, the Balkars “love to work,” and all they ask is that the lands that were taken from them in violation of the Constitution and the law on local self-administration.
Yet another reason Balkars don’t want to move to other parts of Russia for work is that they know that “even [ethnic] Russians who have fled from the republics of Central Asia and returned to Russia are not very well received,” the Balkar elder said. And people from the North Caucasus face even more problems.
In another comment, Gurtuyev said that Khloponin had not invited his Council of Elders but instead had chosen an official he apparently felt he could control. “We are not against the powers, as they think,” he continued, “we only want that in Kabardino-Balkaria Russian laws will function and that the Constitution of Russia be extended to our republic too.”
A major reason that the Balkars are looking to Moscow is that they do not trust the local Kabardin leadership of their republic, a leadership that Gurtuyev said has transformed Kabardino-Balkaria from a peaceful place to one of the most unstable portions of the North Caucasus.

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