Vienna, February 2 – .Russia’s senior academic specialist on the North Caucasus says that the interests of “the pseudo-Islamic separatists” and of “the Russian fascists” intersect: “If one of them did not exist,” Sergey Arutyunov argues, “the other would lose the ground under its feet.”
Among other things, the corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences who heads the Caucasus department of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Antrhopology, says, that means that each has a tendency to exaggerate about the other, a tendency that should induce skepticism all around (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/180465/).
Arutyunov’s comment was one of a series of expert reactions surveyed by Kavkaz-Uzel concerning claims by some Russian officials and Moscow media outlets that a shadowy but supposedly militant and powerful separatist “Nogay battalion” had played a role in the Domodedovo airport attack.
Arutyunov said that in his view, “the Nogays have the fewest of all possibilities for a separatist movement and a partisan struggle” because for that a people needs “numbers, territory, and a compact and uniform ethnic composition,” something that the Nogays don’t have. And “even if some kind of battalion does exist, there would hardly be more than 20 people in it.”
The academician added that any organization which might be called a Nogay battalion in any6 case would be “part of a network established in the North Caucasus” and would “not be pursuing ethnic goals or self-determination.” Instead, it would be “purely fanatically religious,” and like other such groups would call itself by an ethnic name only to identify its location.
According to Arutyunov, the siloviki do not have any “concrete” information about such a battalion, despite the willingness of some of them to talk about it. In his view, the problem is that “there is Russian fascism and they are playing with [that movement].” Thus the siloviki are prepared to play up something the fascists care about.
Indeed, Arutyunov continues, “the interests of the pseudo-separatists and the Russian fascists intersect,” with each side interested in presenting its opponent as larger than it is. “In the interests of the pseudo-Islamic separatists, in order that there be more Russian fascism and in the interests of the Russian fascists that there be more separatism.”
Other experts with whom Kavkaz-Uzel spoke were equally skeptical about reports on a role for “the Nogay battalion.” Orkhan Dzhemal, a political scientist who specializes on the Caucasus, said that such a group “ceased its activities already in 2002.” Since that time, he said, he and others who track such groups had simply “forgotten about it.”
This reflects a more general trend among the militants, Dzhemal said. “During the first Chechen war, it was important [to make such ethnic declarations but] now it is considered to be bad tone: In these circles, it is not considered polite to ask about nationality. They [insist that they] are internationalists.”
Konstantin Kazenin, the chief editor of the Regnum news agency, agreed, telling Kavkaz-Uzel that the Nogay battalion is a question for historians rather than for security officials. But he suggested that the use of this term now reflected less an evil intent than simple “ignorance” of the multi-national nature of the militants in the North Caucasus now.
Akhmed Yarlykanov, a senior specialist at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, provided another perspective. He suggested that the term “Nogay battalion” was “for external use.” Inside the organization, “there is a complete international, albeit a green one. They consider that all of them are [first and foremost] Muslims.”
The reason some of these groups give themselves an ethnic name, he continued, is that they are interested in underscoring their presence in various parts of the North Caucasus and in showing that the Islamist cause is attracting support from the various ethnic groups of that region.
Consequently, Yarlykanov said, talk by others about these groups does not necessarily reflect reality but rather “creates tension and plays into the hands of the separatists,” something that clearly appears to be the case in recent discussions of the Nogay battalion and the Domodedovo action.