Thursday, May 26, 2016

Russian Pressure Leading More North Caucasians to Fear War and Think about Independence, Shmulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 26 – Moscow’s imperialist, centralist and assimilationist policies are leading ever more people in the North Caucasus to think about and even prepare for a new war there and to consider, many for the first time, that the only way they can secure their future is if they gain independence from Russia, according to Avraam Shmulyevich.

            The Israeli specialist on the region, after completing a recent visit to the Caucasus, told a Ukrainian news portal says that things are very much in flux in the North Caucasus because Moscow “has adopted the course to assimilation, russification, and the dissolution of the non-Russian peoples” (

            Moreover, he continues, Moscow is opposing “both the creation of elements of civil society and the development of modern national cultures,” it is overturning the federal principles of its constitution and transforming the country into “a unitary and Moscow-centric state” in which the non-Russians will truly be second-class citizens.

            But despite that, even in the North Caucasus, “so far no one except the Chechens supports independence,” the Israeli analyst says. But that is today. In the near future, “Moscow’s actions may lead all the peoples of the North Caucasus to the conclusion that their future also must be beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.”

            As of now, he says, “the national movements of the other peoples have more modest goals” of keeping their nations alive.  “The Circassians speak not about independence but about greater autonomy corresponding to the provisions of the Russian Constitution. [They] also seek their unification into a single [federal] subject,” rather than remaining in the four they are in n.

            According to Shmulyevich, “the elites in the Caucasus feel that Russia’s time is passing. Now, they are on the side of the Russian authorities, but they are in massive numbers buying property, in Moscow if they are wealthier and in Stavropol if they are poorer.” And the republic governments are preparing for war.

            “In Osetia,” he notes, “school children are being prepared in special military-sports camps. The Ingush are not lagging behind on this. In Chechnya, the republic has established its own army. [And] there is unconfirmed information that Kadyrov is preparing fortified regions” in the event that Russian forces move against him.

            The Circassians, he says, “are the only people which are not conducting military preparations,” although like the Crimean Tatars they are often not given any credit for their moderate position. Instead, they are denounced in the crudest terms by Russian propagandists and attacked by officials.

            There is a widespread sense across the region that there will be a war in the North Caucasus soon. “In Chechnya, they fear that this will be yet another Russian-Chechen war” given that “Putin is not able to do anything except fight. Thus, “it is completely possible that in the Caucasus will be created a front to distract attention from Ukraine and Syria.”

            At the same time, Shmulyevich continues, “there are many people in the Caucasus who know wht war is and want to avoid it, to solve all problems in a peaceful manner. There is a chance that good sense and the survival instinct of the Caucasians will triumph. They are ancient peoples who have lived together for a long time.”

            “But,” the Israeli analyst says, he very much “fears that Moscow in the case of its withdrawal will do everything to ignite the flames of inter-ethnic clashes,” including restarting those in Abkhazia, Osetia, and Karabakh.

            The Circassians find themselves in an especially difficult situation given that what they most want -- a single republic – clashes with Moscow’s desire to keep any large republic within Russia or within the former Soviet space from having access to the sea. The Kremlin knows that those with such access will drift away from  it; those without it will find that hard to do.

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