Friday, October 21, 2005

Felgenhauer on the Caucasus

More from Pavel Felgenhauer (Radio Netherlands audio link) about the events in Nalchik, and their wider significance:
"What many foreigners do not understand is that this is also an ethnic conflict between the Kabardins and the Balkars. These are the two main ethnic groups of the republic of two nations created by Joseph Stalin. The bigger part is the Kabardins, who are actually Cherkesy, and the smaller is the Balkars, who are more or less the same nation as the Karachayats from the neighbouring republic of Karachay-Cherkessia. So,the Karachayats, who are being suppressed ethnically and religiously,[…] were mostly supportive of this rebel movement, so this was more or less an uprising by the Balkars."

"It also had a religious element to it, but mostly it was an uprising in response to brutal repression by the ruling Karachayat ethnic group. In some respects it resembles what happened in Rwanda with the Hutus and the Tutsis. That's why they deliberately attacked the local police and security forces. The local residents said that a lot more of the security forces were killed than has been officially announced."


When asked why Moscow would want to present such a simplified and, perhaps, untruthful view of why violence broke out in Nalchik, Mr Felgenhauer has the following to say:

"Right now in the Caucasus, the Russian authorities are using in the classic imperial tactic of divide and rule. They have - from Moscow - picked some kinds of groupings, or tribes, that they are going to support, and these will put down the others. Right now, we have a newly appointed [by Moscow] president of this republic, Kabardino Balkaria."

"But, from the very beginning, when this new policy was formulated by Putin after the Beslan school siege, specialists have said that this is going to be a total disaster in the Caucasus, because tribal communities will not accept those people who are imposed on them from Moscow."

"At the same time, these people - though not having much authority within their own population - have a lot of corrupt capabilities to lobby inside Moscow. And they are preventing the very energetic Kremlin viceroy - Dimitri Kozak - from doing anything positive. Some of his activities are rather positive, but these are being torpedoed by these Kremlin-appointed people, who have their own very powerful lobbies in Moscow - corrupt connections."

"So, Russian policy is totally misguided in the Caucasus. It's obviously leading to what they call in Moscow an 'all-Caucasian fire', because the conflict that began in Chechnya in the beginning of the 1990s has now spread to Dagestan, Ingushetia […] to Kabardino-Balkaria, to Ossetia. It has spread out, and Moscow policies were actually so effective that now we have everyone as our enemy - even the Ossetians and the Georgians, who are Christian tribes of the Caucasus, who are traditional supporters of the Russians against the Muslims, are also our enemies."

"Moscow is isolated, its policy is misguided. Putin, after the events in Nalchik, said that this was a ruthless operation, it's wonderful and we're going to do other ruthless operations in the future. This ruthlessness, this heavy-handedness, is actually just fanning the flames in the Caucasus."
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