Home > Caucasus, RUS > Caucasian Geopolitical Region: the Past, the Present, and the Future (II)

Caucasian Geopolitical Region: the Past, the Present, and the Future (II)

February 27, 2010

[Blogmaster note:  This is an excellent 2-part assessment of the Caucasus. I have been unsuccessful in contacting the author (or anyone affiliated with the host website) so this material is being made available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Author attribution, copyright info and a link to the host website is intact.]

The following analysis is from Russia’s Strategic Culture Foundation.

Caucasian Geopolitical Region:  the Past, the Present, and the Future (II)
©  Nikolai Dimlevich
Source:  Strategic Culture Foundation
February 27, 2010

Click for Part I

International organizations working in Chechnya (the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Dutch Refugee Council) and the Russian NGOs (Memorial, Council of NGOs, etc.) are collecting biased information about “kidnappings and executions without trials” allegedly perpetrated by the federal forces in the process of the past armed conflict in the republic. The plan behind the activities is to prepare the grounds for establishing “an international tribunal for Chechnya” akin to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The above groups focus on the disappearance of some 5,000 Chechens since 1994 but ignore entirely the fact that large numbers of Russians perished in Chechnya in 1991-1994 when the republic was run by Dzh. Dudaev and A. Maskhadov. They also disregard the problem of searching for the hostages still held in Chechnya.

In a disguised form, the populations of North Caucasian republics are taught to believe that Russia committed “genocide” against the peoples of the Caucasus and incorporated the territories of its present-day republics by force. Accordingly, the message being sent to the international community is that the peoples of the Caucasus should be protected from Russia.

Recently there has been a surge of activity of various Adyg organizations (Adyge-Khasa, the Circassian Congress, the International Circassian Association‏) in the North Caucasus and worldwide. The radical wings of these groups – in many cases based outside of Russia – promote a distorted historical vision and biased assessments of historical developments, and generally advocate an ideology of “restoring the historical justice” for the Adygs. From their perspective, the unification of Russian and foreign-based Adyg groups should pursue the following objectives:

– Russia is to be forced to recognize “the genocide of the Circassian (Adyg) people” which allegedly took place during the XIX century Caucasian War;

– Ethnic Adygs who are descendants of emigrants and reside abroad are to be granted Russian citizenship via a simplified procedure;

– A new subject of the Russian Federation is to be established that would unite the territories historically inhabited by the Adygs (Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia). In the long run the new entirety is supposed to evolve into an independent country.

Likewise projects are devised and implanted among the Adygs by Adyg nationalist groups. In April, 2009, the slogan of an independent Adyg country was endorsed by a conference which convened at the University of Columbia (US). A number of leaders of the Adyg emigre community suggest forming an Adyg government in exile that would delegate envoys to the EU headquarters, Turkey, and the US. US thinktanks such as Rand Corp. and the Jamestown Foundation are floating on the international level pseudo-academic studies supporting the genocide concept. “Academic” conferences attended by US, Turkish, and European scholars are organized in the countries where Adyg communities reside to demand that Russia recognize “the genocide” and restore “the historical justice” by returning territories to the Circassian people and by allowing an independent Circassian country. The Adyg nationalist ideology is disseminated among the population of the North Caucasus, particularly among the young people, via Adyg ethnic organizations (the Circassian Congress in Adygea and Karachay-Cherkessia; the Kabardin Congress, The Independent Public Research Center, and the Public Human Rights Center in Kabardino-Balkaria).

Myths about the history of their peoples are floated by Karachay and Balkar activists, including those from the academic circles. The masses are being convinced that the Karachay and Balkar peoples who are actually of the Turkic origin are Alans and thus are somehow entitled to the territories formerly owned by the latter, including the Novo-Arkhyz preserve with its early-Christendom shrines. The activity strongly contributes to inter-ethnic tensions in Karachay-Cherkessia.

The teaching of history in educational institutions deserves special attention in the context. Conditions for the spread of nationalism among the younger generation were artificially created in the early 1990s which saw the proliferation across the Caucasus of history textbooks presenting the past from narrow ethnic perspectives. The teaching of such “national histories” predictably bred staunch nationalism and hostilities between various ethnic groups.

The abundance in mass media of materials espousing religious extremism and intolerance leads to similar results. Radical Muslim sites in the Caucasus are growing increasingly assertive, the odious site of the “united vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay” being a vivid example of the trend. They feature deliberately inaccurate interpretations of recent developments such as the trial of the terrorists who attacked the police and security stations in Nalchik in October, 2005.

The flight of the Russian population from the republics of the North Caucasus is among the key reasons behind the surge of separatism in the regions. It should be realized that by now Chechnya and Ingushetia have grown practically mono-ethnic. The exodus of the Russian population is taking place in all of the regions of the North Caucasus which used to be homes to considerable Russian communities such as the Kizlyar and Tarum districts in Dagestan, the Mozdok district in North Ossetia, the Prokhldnensky and Maysky districts in Kabardino-Balkaria, the Giaga and Maykop districts in Adygea, and the Zelenchuk and Urup districts in Karachay-Cherkessia. Similar trends are witnessed in the Kursk, Neftekumsk, and Levokumsk districts of the Stavropol region.

The truth is that several republics of the North Caucasus are already governed by ethnocratic regimes deliberately assisting the expulsion of the Russian population. Russians face discrimination in administrative bodies and when they seek executive positions, while a system of economic and legal privileges for the “title” nations is being openly maintained.

On the whole, the threats to Russia’s security in the sphere of inter-ethnic relations in the North Caucasus are:

– The persistent inter-ethnic tensions in a number of regions coupled to widespread national and religious extremism;

– The politization of the ethnicity theme by various international organizations and the channeling of subversive efforts via NGOs;

– Clan social structures and corruption, which are the problems interwoven with local inter-ethnic conflicts and territorial disputes;

– The opposition to the common Russian identity mounted by various ethnic and regional elites;

– The continuing flight of the Russian population from the North Caucasus.

A diverging ensemble of demographic processes is at full swing in South Russia. On the one hand, the de-Russification of the eastern part of the North Caucasus which began with the post-Soviet epoch is entering the terminal phase. On the other hand, the population on the planes of the Fore-Caucasus is growing ever more ethnically diverse as the Russian population is being replaced with that arriving from the mountainous areas of the Caucasus.

Up to 70-90% of the budgets of the republics of the North Caucasus come from the federal budget. The corruption and the marked lack of professionalism among the ethnic clans ruling the republics keep the populations generally discontent with the functioning of state institutions, and the phenomenon in many cases acquires ethnic dimensions.
The key permanent threat across the North Caucasus at the moment is posed by terrorism. The objective of the terrorist groups in the North Caucasus is to establish an Islamic state in the region.

It is necessary to create in the framework of the North Caucasus federal district truly advanced systems of monitoring and suppression of terrorism, separatism, and xenophobia. The information fed to the system should not be limited to statistical data but should additionally integrate public opinion polls and expert estimates. At present the decision-making in the sphere of struggle against terrorism – on both national and international levels – mainly relies on the analysis of particular facts, macroeconomic indicators, and criminal statistics. The circumstance typically ignored in the process is that terrorism, separatism, and xenophobia should be viewed not only from the legal but also from the social and psychological standpoints, and the corresponding phenomena have to be assessed on the basis of broader behavioral statistics. The monitoring of mass consciousness and the absorption of expert estimates must be part of the state’s responsibility, and the results should factor into the political and legal decision-making aimed at combating terrorism, separatism, and xenophobia.

It is among the Muslim populations that the activity of the ideologists of terrorism meets with the most favorable response. The ideologists cunningly exploit the complexities arising in the course of the revival of Islam in Russia and other post-Soviet countries and the shortcomings of the regulation of the activity of religious bodies. The factors making it easier for the ideologists of terrorism to attain their goals are:

– The rapid growth of the Muslim populations and the intensification of migration from the predominantly Muslim post-Soviet republics;

– The increasing popularity of fundamentalist ideas in the North Caucasus propped up by socioeconomic depression and political instabilities;

– The deficiency of Russia’s own system of training Muslim clergy and the lack of Muslim theologians prepared to address populations with the message of the moderate brands of Islam traditional for the regions the populations inhabit.

It should also be taken into account that currently up to 95% of Russia’s Muslim communities are receiving no aid from the centralized Muslim authorities or the country’s secular institutions and thus have to seek out funding sources literally wherever they can. Under the circumstances, even minor infusions from indiscriminately chosen sponsors can seriously affect the state of people’s minds.

At present a typical priority of extremist religious groups is to maximize their access to media outlets and to the spheres of public education and charity. Interestingly, in public opinion polls some 60% of Orthodox Christian believers and Muslims and up to 30% of Roman Catholics and protestants expressed opposition to the idea of giving untraditional religious groups the freedom to preach.

It would make sense to establish a specialized research institution in 2010 and to charge it with the mission of conducting applied studies of the history and cultures of the peoples of the North Caucasus. The results of the research could serve the cause of systemic neutralization of the threats of nationalism, ethnic separatism, and religious extremism, especially among the younger generation.


Categories: Caucasus, RUS