Posts are going to be light over the next two weeks as I concentrate on finishing my dissertation chapter on the legacy of the Russian Civil War in the Komsomol. Just thought I make an announcement in case anyone is wondering about the lack of posting.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
My apologies for belaboring the Basayev story. But I find the whole thing rather fascinating. And as expected more and more details of the incident and commentary surrounding it are coming out.
Kudos to Kommersant which has consitently attempted to peel the layers of the onion so we will know the true story behind his death. Today’s edition presents a new theory: Basyaev’s death was possibly carried out by the Dagestani terrorist group Shariat. The theory is based on the fact that forensics now believes that a bomb was indeed planted in the car Basayev was traveling in. His “alleged body” (I say “alleged” because some people in Russia, one of which includes Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Solzhenitsyn, doesn’t believe that it is Basayev’s body. When can we say enough already?) had wires and shrapnel that are the signature of Shariat chief Rappani Khalilov. The bomb was far too crude to be the work of the FSB. The FSB, with all its supposed high tech, wouldn’t use “a primitive hand-made bomb, since there is always risk that such bomb will explode at a wrong time or in a wrong place or will not explode at all.” According to experts this finding also dismisses the rumors that he was assassinated by a remote bomb, missile, or flame thrower. A James Bond operation this was not. The article, however, gives no reason as to why Shariat would want to kill Basayev.
In the same edition of Kommersant, Ekho Moskvy commentator, Yulia Latynina, muses about why Basayev’s death couldn’t be the work of Russian Special Forces. Her reasoning is simply that most of the time Russian Special Forces are too busy raping and pillaging Chechen and Dagestani civilians to carry out such a precise operation. She writes,
Do you know what it looks like – a special operation in Caucasian mountains? That’s how it looks: several hundreds people arrive on armored troop carriers to Chechen village of Nuradilovo in Dagestan. The result of it: they demolished the corner of a local school, lifted a shop, and shouted to children: “You, Chechens, should all be killed!”. The terrorist, whom they came to capture, escaped, leaving some people dead and some—injured. He was in the village because the talks on pardoning him were held. In Kabardino-Balkaria, police goes to capture terrorists. They do not find any. Coming back through the village of Kendelen (17,000 people), they arrest young men out of spite, then keep them in jail for a day, and then let them go.
Are these the special forces who finished Basaev?
Hardly, she answers. Because the real reason for war in her opinion has little to do with the Basayevs of the world. Instead it has to do with “Russian special forces who make robbery instead of a special operation, cops who demolish houses with tanks, and butchers who kill people and then offer their bodies to victims’ relatives for $10,000.”Post Views: 218
By Sean — 11 years ago
As of late, there has been a good deal of action on matter pertaining to post Communist bloc land disputes. Within the confines of the former Soviet Union, representatives of Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Trans-Dniester regularly meet, with some of their discussions occurring in Russia. On another front, former Yugoslavia is embroiled in an international dialogue on whether Kosovo should be allowed to separate from Serbia. This has no doubt encouraged Republika Srpska to consider breaking away from Bosnia.
Certain elements in the West accuse Moscow of showing a bias for pro-Russian independence movements and recalcitrance towards not so pro-Russian ones. The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers (“Sun and Surf, but Also Lines in the ‘Russian’ Sand,” Aug. 20) and Publius Pundit’s Robert Mayer (“Russia’s Kosovo Double Standard,” Nov. 14) are among those suggesting such. The title of Mayer’s article is enough of a hint to his view. Chivers cites Russia’s refusal to let Chechnya become formally independent, while sympathizing with some independence movements elsewhere. Chivers’ point is non-parallel, since most Chechens aren’t supportive of independence because of what “independence” had twice done to their republic over the last decade. On two different occasions during that period, Chechnya operated as an independent entity. In each instance, there was an enhanced chaos that made life more miserable for Chechnya’s population. Like it or not, a greater Russian control of Chechnya has led to an increased stability in that republic.
Those arguing in support of the Russian position (myself included) stress that each of the disputed former Soviet and former Yugoslav regions have different degrees of legitimacy for independence. Under this very same belief, there are those going against Russia. A critical review of these areas is therefore required.
The Kremlin hasn’t formally recognized the four disputed former Soviet territories as independent states. With the exception of Nagorno Karabakh, the other three have shown an interest in reunifying with Russia. Nagorno Karabakh is interested in unifying with Armenia. In this sense, these regions aren’t necessarily seeking to become independent.
Nagorno Karabakh’s separatist drive has the least enthusiasm among Russian political elites. It’s a landlocked area within Azerbaijan’s Communist drawn boundaries, thereby making its separation from Azerbaijan all the more difficult. The Russian city/region of Kaliningrad is an example of how a territory can exist outside of its affiliated country. However, unlike Nagorno Karabakh – Kaliningrad hasn’t been involved in a violent dispute for decades (towards the end of World War II, under its former name Konigsberg and as a part of Germany, it was the scene of a violent ethnic cleansing campaign against the ethnic German population).
As the Soviet Union broke up, old hatreds between Orthodox Christian Armenians and Turkic Muslim Azeris re-ignited. Up to 30,000 were killed over who would govern Nagorno Karabakh. In the end, the Armenian government supported Nagorno Karabakh Armenians defeated the Azeri government forces. For well over a decade, there has been a cold peace between Yerevan and Baku.
Russia’s position on that dispute is tempered by conflicting realities. Armenia has historically been more pro-Russian than Azerbaijan. Materialistically, fossil fuel rich Azerbaijan is of greater value. Current Azeri foreign policy appears motivated to play the West and Russia off with each other. It’s not out of the realm to hypothesize that a “deal” (official or otherwise) could be made where Russia could tacitly support an Azeri takeover of Nagorno Karabakh in exchange for Azerbaijan becoming geo-politically closer to Russia. Azerbaijan is using its energy revenue to enhance its military.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia share a border with Russia. These two regions were part of a pre-19th century independent Georgia. Between 1801 and the Soviet breakup, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia proper were affiliated with Russia as parts of the Russian Empire and the USSR. South Ossetia’s majority ethnic Ossetian population is related to the majority Ossetian population in the neighboring Russian republic of North Ossetia. The two Ossetias share the same flag and coat of arms.
When in office, the three post-Soviet Georgian presidents have advocated closer ties to the West and a lessened dependency on Russia. South Ossetia and Abkhazia prefer the opposite. As is true with the Armenians and Azeris, there’s animosity between Georgians and the Abkhaz and South Ossetian communities. These differences could be attenuated with an improvement of Russo-Georgian relations. This isn’t impossible because many Georgians welcome close ties with Russia.
As part of a March 1, 2006 Russia Blog feature on Moldova, my article “Moldova: The Most Overlooked of the European Former Soviet Republics” detailed Trans-Dniester’s excellent case for independence. This region was never part of an independent Moldova. Trans-Dniester’s captial Tiraspol, was founded in 1792 by Russian Field Marshall Alexander Suvorov. (arguably
‘s greatest military commander) At the time, Tiraspol served as a fortress marking the border on the Dniester River between Imperial Russia and Ottoman Empire ruled Moldova. In a recent referendum, Trans-Dniester’s peaceful, multi-ethnic and democratic society expressed the desire to reunify with Russia. Russia
For a variety of reasons, Kosovo doesn’t have a great case for independence. It has been a continuous part of Serbia since 1912. Prior to that, it had been under Ottoman occupation for a lengthy period. Centuries earlier, Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia. It was never an independent entity unto itself or a part of an independent Albania. For decades, Kosovo’s non-Albanian population has lived under constant threat from extreme Albanian nationalists
Since the end of the Bosnian Civil War, Republika Srpska has been at peace as a good number of Muslims and Croats have resettled in that republic. The 1995 Dayton Peace Accord governing Bosnia gave Republika Srpska the right to establish its own relations with other states.
In comparison, UN Resolution 1244 governing Kosovo states that the province is a continued part of Serbia. This resolution also calls for a return of Serb military and civilian administration to that province. Serbia is internationally recognized as the de facto successor state of the now defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which had signed UN Resolution 1244. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro. At the time and to the present, Kosovo is recognized as a part of Serbia.
On the matter of hypocrisy, there’s a recent New York Times editorial (“No More Delays for Kosovo,” Nov. 17) which nonchalantly supports Kosovo independence. “The paper of record” has yet to endorse Trans-Dniester’s independence even though it has a much better case than Kosovo.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. His commentary has appeared in the Action Ukraine Report, Eurasian Home, Intelligent.ru, Johnson’s Russia List, Russia Blog, The New York Times and The Tiraspol Times.Post Views: 168
By Sean — 11 years ago
The “March of Dissent” has certainly come and gone. The demonstration was modest and certainly ineffective on a political level. And while I don’t think the event should be overblown, I do think the March does raise some interesting questions about the Russian state, how it deals with opposition, and perhaps how it understands its power. In this sense, the “March of Dissent” continues to haunt.
From news reports, it appears that a smorgasbord of Russian security forces were on display for the “March of Dissent”—OMON, MVD, militsia, plain clothes police. Estimates put the citywide deployment at 8500, with 1000 of them at the march. The march itself was with little disturbance. Leaders from the Other Russia coalition simply made speeches denouncing Putin. Few demanded or attempted to break the ban on marching. “We decided to spare your heads,” Eduard Limonov explained the lack of challenging the ban to the crowd. This, however, didn’t satisfy the rank and file Natsbol minions. 200 of them followed by Red Youth Vanguard activists broke the police line and began marching up Brestskaya Ulitsa. Few at the rally followed, symbolizing how unwilling supporters of Other Russia were willing to risk their bodies. OMON officers quickly swarmed the marchers and arrested 40.
Why were so many police deployed for such a small demonstration? And what does it say about the Kremlin?
In an opinion in today’s Moscow Times, Lynn Berry addresses the same question: Why such a display of force?
The OMON officers, wearing camouflage fatigues and black helmets with clear face masks, were joined by units of younger Interior Ministry troops, police and their colleagues in plain clothes, including, apparently, the men sitting next to us. A total of 8,500 troops were deployed for a rally that drew 2,500 people at most, their numbers inflated by journalists, although hundreds more activists might have come if they had not been stopped along their way.
The show of force was impressive. Trucks with water cannon sat on Tverskaya, and a police helicopter thundered over the square, which was encircled by metal barriers and concentric rings of troops.
The question is why.
Perhaps the authorities feared a clash between the demonstrators — led by opposition heavyweights Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Irina Khakamada, Eduard Limonov and Vladimir Ryzhkov — and activists loyal to the Kremlin. Although such a clash was not inconceivable, it could have been prevented with a far more subtle deployment of police. And on Saturday the only “activists” interested in provoking a clash appeared to be working for the police anyway.
An act of intimidation seems more likely. Many more ordinary people might have come to the rally if they had not had to walk through police lines and metal detectors, or if they had not feared getting caught between metal barriers and surging lines of police if a clash had broken out.
But the main intention appeared to be to create a sense of danger and to suggest the demonstrators were a threat to Russia by casting them as extremists and in the pay of Russia’s enemies in the West.
But in the end, Berry concludes, “this overt demonstration of strength comes off as a projection of weakness.”
One may suggest, as Berry does, that intimidation explains it all. Painting Other Russia as “fascists” and lapdogs fed with Western money is an effective way to discredit their cause, whatever their cause may actually be. The explanation then is easy. The Kremlin is simply authoritarian and the show of force was merely to scare the opposition or others who might join it. Perhaps. This view explains what we already imagine about Putin and his rule.
I think this explanation is too simple. The divide between force and consent is a slippery slope. Effective states seek to build their hegemony on a balance of force and consent. Force maintains the parameters of what is acceptable and unacceptable politics, while consent justifies and reproduces those parameters. A show of too much force, however, can undermine the stability of a state’s hegemony to the point where force can actually be a sign of weakness rather than strength. Moreover, too much force can give legitimacy to a movement that appears fringe and ineffective. It also produces an air of crisis, which the Kremlin certainly wants to exploit, but in the end might not be able to effectively manage. In the end, one must wonder: If the Kremlin was so sure of its power, that is its hegemony, why didn’t it deploy a much more modest force or simply ignored the rally altogether? If anything, this is one big question that results from a rather minor event.
Tags: Putin|Russia|Other Russia|March of Dissent|National Bolsheviks|youth|Russian politics|protest|democracy|hegemonyPost Views: 141