Thursday, July 11, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Most Ingushes Think North Caucasus Will Gain Independence, Ingush Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 11 – Although fewer than one percent of Ingushes are now involved with the underground militants, approximately half of all Ingushes are certain that their republic and others in the North Caucasus will eventually be independent but at the same time fear that the process will be long and bloody, according to an Ingush historian now living in Western Europe.

            In an interview with Israeli analyst Avraam Shmulyevich, one of the closest and most thoughtful observers of events in the North Caucasus, the unnamed historian, who received his education in the Russian Federation but now lives abroad, described the hopes and fears of his nation regarding the immediate future (

            “Everyone knows that Russia will go, all have heard the stories of elders about prophecies [in that regard]. Now these prophesies are being realized. Those who think that way only guess what and how quickly.” Of course, “there are many who don’t believe that; they didn’t believe in the disintegration of the USSR either and they were mistaken. It will be the same this time around.

            According to the Ingush historian, approximately 40 to 50 percent of  his co-ethnics are certain” that their republic will gain independence; another 30 percent think that Russia will leave but they do not think this will be soon, and ten percent more generally don’t think about this at all.”

            ”No more than ten percent think that Russia will be in the Caucasus forever. This I say with certainty!” the historian notes.

            Russian policy in the North Caucasus is at a complete dead end, the historian says. “The ethnic republics are falling away, and what is most important, the population is beginning quietly to recognize this and morally prepare for it,” including those who work for the republic governments.
            Moscow “is incapable of establishing order” in the region, and therefore between the regions and the center a lack of understanding is growing. This must stop,” the historian says. And that is why people in the region are now thinking about independence even though they know that there won’t be order immediately after that is achieved.

            According to the Ingush historian, there will not be a united Caucasus in a single state, the Imamate won’t happen, but there will be a good basis for unity.” The biggest challenge will be subordinating the various armed groups to “a single command and to convince them not to oppose the establishment of NATO bases” in the region to oppose Russia.

            At present, the historian continues, “the underground in Ingushetia is strong,” but “not more than one percent of the entire population is part of it, although four to five percent more help it one way or another and many simply sympathize with it.” But the underground too is divided over what should be done, and conflicts among nationalities will intensify that.

            No force in the North Caucasus is now capable of driving out the Russian army, but Moscow appears likely to decide to leave on its own, the historian says. “Almost all colonial empires fall apart as a result of an internal crisis.” If Moscow aces a number of challenges all at once, like the Pugachev one now, it may order a withdrawal.

            When Moscow departs, it would almost certainly leave many of its weapons systems there to Chechnya’s Kadyrov, but that may not matter as much as the Russian government thinks, the historian suggests.  The underground is stronger there, and Kadyrov may not be able to cope with it, even with Russian arms. At present, “the majority of militants in the Caucasus are Chechens,” but Moscow’s control of the media means few know that.

            Ethnic nationalism will divide the region ever more deeply, he says. As for a unifying ideology, “there is no alternative to Islam.” But that doesn’t mean support for a jihad or khalifate. Few in the region support that, although the majority understands that Islam must be used to strengthen local identities.

            As far as Abkhazia and South Osetia are concerned, the Ingush historian says that he believes the first will survive as an independent state but that all of Osetia, north and south “will be divided between the Ingush and the Georgians, with the latter reabsorbing South Osetia.

            Asked if there will be border changes beyond the North Caucasus Federal District, the Ingush historian says that it is “difficult” to predict that exactly but that he expects some to occur, not because of the Cossacks who he says are “a fake” movement or because of the Russians almost all of whom are leaving the adjoining areas as well.


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