By German Sadulayev, special to Prague Watchdog
The space in my Russian passport marked "place of birth" says “Chechen Republic”. That is not true. I was born in 1973, and in those days there was no Chechen Republic. It was the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic – the ChI ASSR – and its capital was Grozny. Soviet power had united the Chechens and the Ingush in a single territory.
It is worth remembering that in March 1991 a referendum was held in which the vast majority of the population of the republics of the Soviet Union voted for the preservation of the USSR. In both Chechnya and Ingushetia the idea of separation from Russia was really popular – separation not into the void, however, but within a single unified state. This should have been a qualitative shift from national autonomy to proper nation-building. It was the RSFSR that the people wanted to leave, not the USSR. Nobody seriously wanted to abandon the ship of empire.
But what happened next was a total mess. In order to preserve their personal power, the presidents of three former Soviet republics abolished the Soviet Union. The concept and living reality of the “Soviet people” disintegrated and vanished. Chechnya and Ingushetia did not put their signatures to Yeltsin’s Federative Agreement, which formed a new state, the Russian Federation, and were left hanging in a legal vacuum.
The paths of the two republics diverged. In Chechnya, separatist tendencies prevailed, leading to the regime of Dzhokhar Dudayev. Under the presidency of Ruslan Aushev, Ingushetia returned to Russia and later signed the agreement it had earlier rejected.
On June 22, 2009 Ingushetia’s current president, Yunus-Bek Evkurov was wounded in a bomb attack as he drove in an armoured vehicle to the Ingush capital city of Magas.
It is possible that the Republic of Ingushetia has no future. After the assassination attempt on Yevkurov, a “counter-terrorist operation”, more akin to an external administration, was introduced in the region. Rashid Gaysanov was appointed acting president. But he had to share power with numerous representatives of law enforcement bodies. And, most interestingly of all, on June 24 the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, arrived in Magas, having been asked by President Medvedev to take personal charge of the fight against terrorism in Ingushetia.
It is being suggested that Chechnya and Ingushetia may now reunite under Ramzan Kadyrov’s wing. If that happens, it will only do so under direct pressure from Moscow. The Ingush do not want to go back to a shared republic. The Chechens do not care (just as long as they aren’t bombed again). They only have one focus for their political will: Ramzan Kadyrov. But a reunification of that kind is the last thing on his agenda. As for the Kremlin, it appears that all it wants is to get rid of its headache. But Kadyrov is aware of the adventure into which the Kremlin is trying to inveigle him. So when he came to Magas, he played his card: Vainakh brotherhood. We will help – as brothers. With uniforms and weapons. Kadyrov even said that we would hold a “Vainakh inquiry” into the assassination, and severely punish those responsible. What ia Vainakh inquiry may be, and by what rules of procedure it is conducted, the criminologists have not yet manage to ascertain. Soon, they will probably know. A special chapter will need to be added to the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Yes, the bombings and assassinations are being carried out by extremists. But no extremist underground will be able successfully to carry out large-scale operations if it does not enjoy at least the tacit support of a substantial part of the population. The people must have the right and the opportunity to take part in legitimate political activity. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, fair elections – those are the best way to prevent bloody revolutions and civil war. Otherwise, the people will have no option left but to join the partisans.
Now the opposition in Ingushetia is trying to organize an extraordinary congress of the Ingush people and wants to ask Ruslan Aushev, who is exceptionally popular among ordinary folk, to take the reins of the republic in his hands. But the official authorities are dead against it. The Ingush people is experiencing a resurgence of national consciousness. Full of energy, it seeks to rebuild its political life. If those aspirations are crushed, the latent force may become channelled into violence and terror. Denied legitimate political institutions, the impassioned youth will be welcomed into the ranks of the insurgents with open arms.
And now the Russians find themselves strangers in the North Caucasus. The Russian population is being flushed out of the ethnic republics. All partitions and separations of territory, where they are made not by the will of the people but by the momentary whims of the authorities, for their convenience, by administrative methods, without taking account of historical, cultural, economic and ethnic realities, are a delayed action bomb, an act of terrorism against the local population and a primary factor of destabilization that may last for decades. If the authorities continue their experiments, that will merely add to the monstrous chain of crimes and errors which are destroying our future.
(Translation by DM)