Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Window on Eurasia: After Moscow’s Recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Chechens and Others in Russia Ask ‘Why Not Us Too?’

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 26 – Outraged by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s outspoken support of Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, many Chechens feel that however dependent he may be on the Kremlin, he should not be saying this now given his role in blocking their own drive for independence.
Indeed, their statements, summarized in a report today by Kavkaz-uzel.ru, suggest that many of them believe that they are “no worse” than the Abkhazians or the Ossetians and thus should be accorded independence as well, a view held by at least some members of other nations in the Russian Federation as well (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1227839.html).
Yesterday, Kadyrov declared that “if the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia want to live independently, then the leadership of the Russian Federation ought to respond and support their independence because a people has the right to define how and where [its members] want to live.”
Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Moscow was doing just that, a step that clearly is going to have consequences not only for the international community but also for the many of the nations, including regional groupings of ethnic Russians, who live within the borders of the Russian Federation.
One Chechen political scientist told Kavkaz-uzel.ru that when Russian politicians, siloviki, and journalists speak about “the need to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, one can understand that.”
But he continued, “it is not clear why the president of Chechnya, a republic “that was literally turned into ashes by Russian forces for trying to achieve independence at one point.” “In his place,” the Chechen said, “I would openly say: ‘Stop [and think], gentlemen, why did you bomb, shoot and kill us” for pursuing the same dream?
“Are we worse than the Ossetians or the Abkhazians?” he asked.
A 59-year-olf woman in Grozny who lost two sons and several relatives in those wars echoed this view. She told Kavkaz-uzel.ru that she was “certain that neither the Ossetians nor the Abkhazians had suffered one hundredth as much as we suffered during the course of two wars and that they have not lost 10 percent as many victims as we did.”
“Why can’t we be independent if others can be?” she queried, thus raising a question that others with whom the news portal spoke – including a former member of the Chechen parliament are asking and thus showing that within 24 hours of Moscow’s actions, Chechens are again posing a question and a challenge that the Russian government had hoped was behind it.
But the Chechens are not the only ones who are now thinking about what Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should mean for them. In a commentary posted yesterday on the Ingria.ru which seeks independence for northwest Russia, Vladimir Kuznetsov, one of its supporters, suggested that Moscow’s action could have far broader consequences.
Kuznetsov said that it was entirely possible that NATO countries could respond to Moscow’s recognition of the two breakaway regions in Georgia but recognizing Ingria (northwestern Russia), Siberia, the Far Eastern Republic, and “other countries [now] occupied by the Muscovites” (www.ingria.info/?biblio&news_action=show_news&news_id=4149).
Indeed, he continued, “Putin’s attempts to restore ‘the great’ imperial past of Muscovy should become the beginning of the end for this deformed pseudo-state formation,” which exists only because its military forces were able to occupy so many places from Konigsberg in the West to Novgorod and Ingria in the North to the Caucasus in the South and the Far East as well.
The destruction of the Muscovite empire, Kuznetsov continued, will be good “for all except the Chekist clans” and their hirelings, good for the indigenous peoples and good for the world. “If the West does not miss the chance to end once and for all the Muscovite threat, then the development of free Russian lands, blocked in the 14th century, will be begin again.”
Obviously, such views are held by a relatively few people, but their number has certainly increased since Moscow’s decision to go ahead with the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And unless the Kremlin credibly can explain why some deserve independence but others don’t, it will face more challenges and be compelled to rule with more force than ever before.

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