Monthly Archives: August 2010

Window on Eurasia: How Many Nationalities are There in Daghestan

Paul Goble
Saturday, August 21, 2010


Staunton, August 21 – There are 14 titular nationalities in the North Caucasus republic of Daghestan, but most people refer to the existence of 30 different ethnic groups there –while some say there is no reason not to report a far larger number, differences that have serious political consequences that are attracting attention as the 2010 Russian census approaches.

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Window on Eurasia: Moscow Nervous about Circassians Identifying Themselves as Circassians in Upcoming Census

Monday, August 23, 2010
Paul Goble

Staunton, August 23 – If Circassians identify themselves as such, as many activists are urging, and not as the separate nationalities the Soviets divided them into, according to Russian experts cited in an article in today’s “Rossiiskaya gazeta,” that action alone could undermine the delicate ethnic balance in many republics and even spark new conflicts in the North Caucasus.

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Window on Eurasia: North Caucasus Will Be Independent within a Generation, Solovey Says

Sunday, August 22, 2010
Paul Goble

Staunton, August 22 – Within his lifetime, a leading Moscow specialist on Russian nationalism says, Moscow will let the North Caucasus go its own way and be independent, the result of the coming to power in Russia of a democratic nationalism that will transform the Russian Federation in a variety of other ways as well.

In an interview on the National Democratic Alliance portal, Valery Solovey, a professor at MGIMO, a former expert at the Gorbachev Foundation and the author, with his sister Tatyana Solovey of ‘The Revolution that Did Not Take Place” (in Russian, 2009), argued that Russian “nationalism will triumph only together with the ideas of democracy” (

This is not immediately obvious, he suggests, because at present, Russian nationalism “has recognized the need for radical changes” but has not yet “transformed itself” as is required. The “democratic and human rights” trends within it are becoming more important, and Russian nationalism is “objectively” part of civil society, independent of the state and even opposed to it.

The old themes of Russian nationalism no longer can win general support, Solovey says, and as a result, he argues, the idea that will make it attractive to the population at large will be “a synthesis of Russian nationalism and the principles of democracy and a social state.” Indeed, “historically, nationalism and democracy if not twins are in any case quite similar.”

Like many analysts, Solovey says that Russian democratic nationalism must be oriented “above all to the middle class.” As for himself, he has “no doubts that the Russian middle class would begin to invest in nationalism, if the political prohibition on such investment were lifted and if the present ban on any political and social activity were removed.”

According to Solovey, Russia will “willy nilly have to repeat the experience of Eastern and Central European countries where democratic changes took place in nationalist forms and where the national-liberation revolution developed as a democratic one.” And that is true despite Russia’s differences.

The core element of Russian history, the MGIMO scholar continues, “consists of the conflict between the Russian people and the empire,” relations between the two being “dialectical: Russians not without basis considered the empire their child. They created it and put into it their resources and their lives. But in return, the empire exhausted” them.

Russian nationalism, Solovey says, “attempted to make sense of this contradiction, not wanting to separate itself from the empire. But while [they] were seeking a way out of this dead-end, history resolved everything for them. Russia no longer is an empire. And the task of nationalists consists in building in Russia an effective and full-bodied national state.”

Of course, there are still some “imperial” elements, first and foremost the North Caucasus. But Solovey says that that region “hardly in historical time will remain within Russia. Sooner or later, the question about its separation or falling away will become a practical issue. And [Solovey says that he] is certain that this will take place during our lifetime.”

Many Russians even “now think so, but still have not decided to say so aloud. It is perfectly obvious,” Solovey continues, “that we are losing colossal resources on these territories without receiving anything in return.” In fact, “we are taking away resources from Russians and Russia.”

“In the Caucasus nothing is being produced besides hatred and conflicts which are then being exported into Russia proper,” he says. “For a long time, the Caucasus has not been viewed as an inalienable part of Russia.” Ethnic Russians began leaving there in the 1970s, and “Russians no longer consider these places their own.”

The current powers that be in Moscow are not capable of drawing the necessary conclusions and taking the necessary actions. That is because, Solovey says, its leaders are interested not only in the defense of empire but see the North Caucasus as “a remarkable pretext for theft of particularly enormous size,” as the spending on the Sochi Olympics shows.

Solovey says that he “knows people who have fought in the Caucasus in the name of the unity and integrity of Russia and who fought heroically and have numerous medals but who now say: we fought for nothing; it isn’t worth fighting for these territories.” It would be better to let them go and invest the money and effort elsewhere.”

President Dmitry Medvedev’s constant suggestions that a supra-national Russian identity must be developed, Solovey remarks, remind him that “just as someone who is ill talks all the time about health and an alcoholic about vodka, so too those who talk about the need to form an identity are those who have serious problems with exactly that.”

“There is no all-Russian identity,” Solovey says. “The level of civic self-consciousness is extremely low.” Moreover, “society is atomized,” and the powers that be are doing everything they can to ensure that there will not appear even the smallest amount of “civic activity.” Indeed, “people do not feel themselves citizens of a single space.”

Russians “have nothing which unifies [them] except May 9th. [They] have no capable military, no effective economy and no effective social system. All conversations about a non-ethnic Russian identity are empty verbiage.” Ethnicity, however, can provide the basis of identity – and not just for non-Russians.

Solovey says that the Russian Federation must become a federal state, one in which “Russian oblasts and krays must have no fewer rights than the national republics.” Indeed, he suggests, “real federalism will only strengthen Russia” because “people will know that they can really participate in the life of their own region. This will stimulate them.”

Unfortunately, the current powers that be in Moscow “are totally opposed to everything Russian, to everything national. Their main opponent is the Russian people which “needs freedom and democracy,” while the powers need something else. Consequently, as long as they are in office, they intend “to hold on to their positions in Russia to the last – to the last Russian.”

And if that requires them to use force against the Russian people, Solovey concludes, the current rulers will “use it unsparingly … without any limitations,” sowing chaos in what is now the Russian Federation but saving neither their positions nor the system they have set up, at least not for very long.

The Kremlinologist Catechism

By Anatoly– August 26, 2010
Posted in: democracy, russia, soviet

There is a Catechism that dominates American discourse on Russia today. Just flip through The Washington Post’s editorials, peruse American political science journals or listen (cringe) to a Joe Biden interview. It goes something like this: Read More at Russian Life . . . .

Window on Eurasia: Constant Invocations of Cultural Determinism Threatens Russia, Scholar Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 25 – Both supporters and opponents of the current Russian regime routinely argue that Russian cultural traditions explain why the country has not become a democracy with the rule of law, “an ‘iron’ argument” that is not nearly as compelling as those on either side of the political divide who invoke it believe.
In a posting on the portal, Vladimir Gelman, a Russian professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that many of those who rely on cultural determinism to explain why in Russia political and legal institutions are so ineffective and weak are not only failing to consider other factors but justifying their own passivity ( Read More , , ,

Window on Eurasia: Angry at Yevkurov’s Regime, Ingush Clans Re-activate ‘Alternative Parliament’

aul Goble

Staunton, August 27 – Encouraged by Moscow’s call to involve councils of elders in pacifying the North Caucasus and angry at Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov for failing to improve conditions, the taips, the traditional clans of Ingush society, are re-activating the alternative parliament they had set up under Yevkurov’s despised predecessor, Murat Zyazikov. Read More. . .

Window on Eurasia: Kadyrov’s Initiative Represents a Challenge to Russia’s Existing Federal System, Experts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 20 –Ramzan Kadyrov’s suggestion that the leaders of Russia’s non-Russian republics should no longer be called presidents and that he would not be averse to being called an imam has sparked debate, with most but far from all republic heads supporting the former on the assumption that that is what the Kremlin wants and opposing the latter.

But Vyacheslav Danilov of the “Svobodny mir” portal suggest that a focus on either aspect of the Chechen leader’s proposal misses the point, and they argue that Kadyrov has lodged a far greater challenge to Moscow, the current territorial division of the country, and the relations between the center and the periphery (

Indeed, he suggests, Kadyrov is presenting himself as an extremely radical critic of the existing system of administrative-territorial administration in Russia,” someone who is prepared to cast doubt on the administrative-territorial system” and the way in which Moscow cooperates with the regions and the rsegions cooperate with each other.

What he is calling for, the “Svobodny mir” commentator says, is “the rationalization of the regional policy of Russia” in order to ensure “the equality of the regions” and the development of “precise and clear criteria of the inter-relationships of the regions and the Center,” qualities that the current Russian Federation clearly lacks.

“Try to justify rationally the system of the administrative-territorial divisions of Russia and to explain why some subjects of the federation are republics and others are oblasts? Why such improbable subjects of the federation as Moscow and Petersburg exist? Why the city called Petersburg is situated in Leningrad oblast? And where is Leningrad?”

But it is obvious that “the problem here is not in place names.” And consequently, Kadyrov’s “gesture” is “a symptom of a [dawning] re-division of the country,” one that would redefine both borders and the power relations of those at the center and in the regions and thereby leave Russia a very different country than it is today.

At present, Danilov continues, Russia’s federal divisions are “a reflection of the system of the statuses of local vassals, not only regional but also branch” and combined to “form a federation of completely different states. Some vassals are subordinate to one duke, others to a second, a third group to a third, and perhaps at the same time also to the first.”

As a result, there exist within Russian, several dozen “intersecting or not intersecting one with another ‘Russias,’” which have a variety of “verticals and all kinds of diagonals of power.” And that in turn, Danilov argues, has “created a nightmare situation” where “at one and the same time” there is “too much power” and “too little.”

Kadyrov’s proposal in fact raises all these issues and thus, again according to this portal, “is undoubtedly the strongest” initiative he has made up to now and the one that represents the greatest challenge not only to Moscow but to the way things are done elsewhere in the Russian Federation.

Danilov does not mention it, but there is another consequence of the very challenges it refers to. Over time, both Moscow and many in Russia’s non-Russian republics are going to recognize what is going on and find more reasons to delay or block what appears to be Kadyrov’s intention.

That may not be obvious to those who are tracking only expressions of support or opposition to the re-titling of republic leaders, but ever more commentators especially outside of Moscow are focusing on precisely the possibility that the acceptance of Kadyrov’s proposal will ultimately entail a great deal more change.

In today’s “Nastoyashcheye vremya,” a Daghestani weekly, Mair Pashayev says he supports the idea of calling the head of the republic something other than president, but he suspects that Kadyrov’s proposals will have more far-reaching effects both within his republic and more generally (

This “re-branding,” he suggests, could lead “the first person of the republic to swallow up the position of the head of government,” something that would lead to the rule of a single individual there. And a decision to change the title of the chief executive could have other consequences as well.

According to Pashayev, if Moscow is going to rename the office of the republic head, then “why not use the occasion and rename the republic as well?” In Daghestan, there are so many “concrete” figures, he notes, that perhaps it is now time to call that North Caucasian are “the Concrete Republic” and its head, “the servant of the people of the Concrete Republic.”

Friday, August 20, 2010