Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Failures Forcing Minorities to Revive Pre-Modern Traditions

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 5 – The Russian government’s failure to enforce its own laws and to provide basic community services in the modernized sector is to blame for efforts by non-Russian groups there to revive pre-modern traditions like shariat, according to a leading Moscow commentator.
Such groups in the current political environment have few chances of influencing the behavior of the Russian government, Sobkorr.ru observer Yuri Gladysh says, and consequently, they are taking the only steps available to them to protect themselves and their families from increasing official arbitrariness (www.sobkorr.ru/news/4896BB4867023.html).
And the Russian authorities will have only themselves to blame if they do not change course and then must confront communities far less adaptable to Russian-style modernization than they were only a few years ago and far more ready to listen to those, often radical in their politics, who speak within that alternative, pre-modern tradition.
The occasion for Gladysh’s observations was an interview in which former Ingush president Ruslan Aushev suggested that young people in his republic no longer trusted officials secular or religious and consequently were turning to pre-modern forms like the shariat as their last means of defense.
Secular Russian laws, Gladysh continues, “today are powerless not only against corruption but also against rise of unbridled illegally as a whole” which is “taking over the country.” Citizens, he writes, “are defenseless both before the criminal world and also before greedy bureaucrats and inactive ‘law enforcement officers.’”
“It is thus no surprise that many Russian citizens, having lost confidence in and thus turned aside from formal laws, are paying attention to their experience of their ancestors. This concerns, by the way, not only Muslims,” although their shift to the shariat has attracted the most and the most negative commentaries in the Russian media.
Residents of traditionally Cossack regions are also making use of traditional rule-making arrangements, the Sobkorr.ru commentator suggests, particularly with regard to maintaining public order and providing moral instruction for the young, areas where many Cossacks believe the contemporary Russian state has failed to live up to its responsibilities.
And even in the country’s central and predominantly ethnic Russian regions, Gladysh points out, there are regular conventions of meetings to apply the judicial decisions of Yaroslav the Wise “and even the norms of behavior of the times of pagan Rus’,” an archaic revival that is something more than an ethnographic curiosity.
Consequently, he writes, “there is nothing surprising at all in the turning of residents of Muslim regions the shariat,” but there are some very serious consequences of such actions: They divide the citizens of the Russian Federation far more deeply than do ethnic differences, and they make movements from one part of the country to another far more problematic.
But there is another and more immediate consequence that all Russians must face up to: many of their fellow citizens are turning to alternative systems of social organization not because they find the latter so inherently attractive but because they have concluded that the Russian government as currently constituted is inherently and irretrievably worse.

No comments: