The deepening crisis in the North Caucasus relates directly to a theme that Putin did not mention at all in Grozny; December 12 also marked the 12th anniversary of the approval of the Russian Constitution. It was the first time that this day was not celebrated as an official holiday, which reflects the widespread indifference to the basic law in Russia (Ezhednevny zhurnal, December 12). Within this law it was possible to start one war against rebellious Chechnya, then make peace with it, and then start another one. This law also did not prevent the cancellation of regional elections and concentration of all authority by the executive power that has so efficiently subdued the parliament and the courts. Only 19% of Russians are aware that the people of Russia are the only source of power and sovereignty in their state according to the Constitution, while 55% are certain that it is the president (Gazeta.ru, December 12). That probably suits Putin just fine, but he should know better. He was in Dresden in 1989 when crowds filled the streets and asserted their right to be called "the people," throwing away the East German police state that was far more organized and efficient than his.
Putin may think that the only issue with the Constitution is the unfortunate need to step down at the end of his second presidential term. In fact, it is his escape clause to retire before the storm that started over Chechnya and is now gathering force across the North Caucasus arrives in Moscow.
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