Thursday, October 16, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Control of North Caucasus Regimes Increasing but Their Control of the Population is Declining, Expert Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 16 – By its actions in Georgia, the Russian government has increased its control over the governments of the republics in the North Caucasus but has created a situation in which, as a result, those regimes and as a result Moscow too are losing control over the people there, according to a leading specialist at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
And the reason for this, Enver Kisriyev, the head of the Caucasus Section of the Academy’s Center for Civilization and Regional Research, told, is that Moscow has ignored the egalitarian and pluralist nature of the societies there and instead sought to create a narrow pyramid of power with a single head (
Crudely speaking, he said, the Kremlin’s policy has been “to appoint a leader of a republic, to hand over to him the fullness of power and to operate exclusively on the basis of relations with him. Perhaps such a means of administration is suitable for regions of Russia with an ethnic Russian population, but in the Caucasus it is completely incorrect.”
That is because, he says, “the social character and structure of the mountaineer societies of the Caucasus is such that [this arrangement] leads to a situation in which all those who exist outside of this arrangement, not to speak of those who consider themselves who feel intentionally excluded will sooner or later, actively or passively organize in opposition to it.”
And consequently, such a Moscow-imposed government “by the nature of its organization” develops “around itself in the societies of Caucasus a harsh opposition to itself,” an opposition that “at present” exists “in all republics of the Caucasus” and “in some of them,” Kisriyev says, the situation has gone “too far” for optimism.
Across the region, he said, “the social fabric is fraying, and civilizational characteristics incompatible with the character of the all-Russian social system are emerging.” The most serious case of this now is in Ingushetia, “but the characteristics about which [he] is speaking have common origins and are developing in all republics of the Russian Caucasus.”
This is not the result of the qualities or skills of the leaders Moscow has appointed, Kisriyev insisted, but of the unfortunate system of political power that Moscow has created, a system that fails to take into consideration the special qualities of the societies found across the region.
In order to correct the situation, the Academy of Sciences expert argued, Moscow must promote “the decentralization of power within each republic and the formation in each of them of a structure of power where legal opposition to the activities of various institutions of the powers that be are tolerated and supported.”
Not only must the regimes in the region be pluralistic and have checks and balances, he argued, but “the power participation of Russia in the Caucasus in this case must resemble a court of the last instance rather than the activities of an all-powerful” institution which controls everything and on whose decisions everything depends.
Kisriyev based his comments on his special expertise on Daghestan, the largest, most multi-national and most geopolitically significant republic in the region. By allocating seats in the republic parliament along ethnic lines, Makhachkala did not create a democratic system but it did establish a representative, stable and loyal one. Unfortunately, Moscow has violated that.
Daghestan, the Academy of Sciences expert pointed out, “was the only republic in the Caucasus which refused to adopt a ‘Declaration on State Sovereignty,’” because people there “well understood that such a document would undermine the existing system of checks and balances.” But now, like other republics there, it has a single “vertical column.”
And anyone who is not “in it is against it,” something that threatens both the republic government and Moscow even if the central Russian government believes with some justification that it has established greater control over the governments of the republics of the North Caucasus.
Understanding this reality, Kisriyev said, is especially important now given Moscow’ recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “It would be a serious error if the policy of Russia toward these new states will be extended by analogy to that which has become customary in the North Caucasus.”
If Moscow insists on imposing the kind of “harsh pyramid construction” it has already done in the Russian North Caucasus, “the political consequences of this will be very negative and irreversible.” Such a Moscow policy, clearly designed to establish “complete order” will quickly produce just the reverse.
“In the Caucasus,” Kisriyev said, “every Caucasian is in a certain way a state onto himself.” Ignoring that and attempting to impose a “unipolar” arrangement there just as in the broader international community will lead to a Hobbesian “war of all against all” rather that peace and stability.
It is frequently said, the Moscow analyst said, that “Russia always played a peacekeeping role in the Caucasus. That is true! But only when Russia has preserved and supported in the societies of the Caucasus the pluralist construction of the distribution of power, retaining for itself a role above the fray as the highest place of appeal.”

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