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Saturday, September 09, 2006

On the Disintegration of Russia

A Step at a Time blog points out an argument by Russian analyst Aleksei Pantykin, who "says the Kondopoga events highlight the danger that 'the Russian Federation may collapse in the same way the USSR did.'" ASAAT's David McDuff continues:

He bases his argument on the fact that the reaction of Russian officialdom and even many Russians resembles all too closely the disastrous misreading of the start of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a conflict that ultimately contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union. At that time, he recalls, one Politburo member (V.I. Dolgikh) travelled to the region and bemoaned the fact that tehre was a dispute between "two Muslim peoples," a statement that not only distorted the facts - Armenia is historically Christian - but highlighted the extent to which the Soviet leadership was out of touch with reality. Citing the observation of Ortega y Gasset that elites must restrain their peoples, Pantykin suggests that at present many elites in Russia are doing just the reverse, pushing both sides in the conflict in Kondopoga toward more and broader conflicts rather than calming the situation.

Others agree: Pavel Svyatenkov noted that Russia was rapidly becoming a place in which one section of the country might decide to fight another, a situation unthinkable elsewhere: "even in a nightmare," he said, "it is impossible to imagine Texas forces advancing on California". And Oleg Kashin argued that Russian elites bear much of the responsibility for this deterioration, not only by failing to discuss what is going on but by offering television time to extremist Russian nationalists like Yegor Khomogorov to advance their agendas.

But however valid or invalid these generalizations may be, the Kondopoga events are already having three major consequences. First, officials in both Karelia and Moscow have rushed to blame the non-Russian immigrants for what happened rather than exploring the complex of causes behind this explosion. Second, non-Russians in major Russian cities are rushing to say that their communities will never destabilize the situation there, however bad things may get. Indeed, the head of the Uzbek community in St. Petersburg said his people would remain calm despite recent knifings of its members. And third, in some Russian cities, officials now feel themselves empowered to repress non-Russians and especially people from the Caucasus even more harshly. In Kaliningrad, ANN reported on Tuesday militia have been going house to house and asking: "Are there any suspicious people there? Any persons of Caucasus nationality?"

Officials there say they are doing this to enhance security in advance of what they hope will be a visit to that non-contiguous portion of the Russian Federation later this month. But few people be they Russian or non-Russian will fail to conclude that what is going on is something bigger than that. And to the extent they are correct, one of the two more apocalyptic conclusions offered above - either a repressive Russian nationalist state or the disintegration of the Russian Federation - could prove true, despite the expectations or hopes of many in virtually all camps
One thing above all can't be questioned: If Russia really is doing well economically, then these acts are truly barbaric indications of latent and fundmental racism permeating Russian society that need not rely on economic motivations. If the acts are driven by poverty, then all the claims about Russia's oil revenues are proven nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

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