By Paul Goble
Russian nationalists are angry that Moscow is subsidizing the Muslim North Caucasus, but a North Caucasus analyst has reminded them and everyone else that Moscow is also subsidizing other and predominantly Russian regions as well, something he suggests the nationalists should be thinking about as well.
On Saturday, the Russian Civic Union and the Front of National Salvation organized a demonstration in Moscow to call for an end to Russian government subsidies to the North Caucasus. About 400 people listened to speakers denounce Russian spending in that restive region (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/184396/).
One of the participants in that demonstration, Viktor Sobolyev of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said that his party was the only one in the Duma which has constantly raised the issue of Russian money flowing into non-Russian portions of the country and wants to see it go to Russian regions instead.
But the meeting was about more than just Russian money supposedly going to waste in the North Caucasus. It also was about corruption, and one participant told Kavkaz-uzel.ru that he fully agreed with speakers there that “’a fish rots from the head’ and that corruption begins here [in Moscow] in the highest echelons of power.?
One North Caucasian commentator, political scientist Ruslan Martagov said it was completely understandable that Russians were concerned about the flow of money to the North Caucasus and to corruption there. “How can one explain such large transfers … to simple people” when there are many worthy projects elsewhere in Russia that remain without funding?
And such ordinary Russians, he continued, are outraged by the corruption in the North Caucasus, although most of them recognize that “the corrupted Kremlin has given birth to a corrupted elite in the North Caucasus It has given it birth and it is feeding it as well.” Over time, this will lead to more inter-ethnic tensions.
That is because Moscow has the opportunity to start up a new conflict in the North Caucasus if its own position becomes shaky, and when it does so, the political scientist suggested, “in the eyes of society, this will be completely justified,” an attitude that makes questions about funding the North Caucasus potentially serious.
But another North Caucasian expert, Aslambek Paskachev, an academic who heads the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus, said Russian nationalists “should turn their attention to the Far East and the Volga region which are getting more subsidies than the republics of the Caucasus” because of the way in which the Russian system is now arranged.
And as far as corruption is concerned, “then in the North Caucasus, it is just the same as it is everywhere else.” Because that is the case, the holding of the Saturday’s meeting, he suggested, prompts the question as to who may be trying to play “the Caucasus card for their own political purposes.”
On the other hand, Paskachev continued, “let’s consider who is feeding whom and who has fed whom at various periods of modern history.” He noted that he had worked in the Chechen-Ingush Gosplan in Soviet times and that at that time, the republic had sent 21 million tons of oil to the rest of Russia every year” – including rocket fuel for Yuri Gagarin’s flight!
That alone shows how wrong speakers at Saturday’s meeting where when they asserted that “the North Caucasus has never given the country a single scholar, artist or writer … All the income from oil went in those years into a common union pot. And our republic, using the meeting’s language, during the so-called stagnation ‘fed’ more than one region of Russia.”
“Why then is it necessary to hate all those who live in the South of Russia,” Paskachev asked. Advancing “Slogans like ‘the Caucasus for the Caucasians’ and ‘Russia for the Russians,’ the North Caucasian specialist said, “will only lead to the collapse” of the Russian Federation as a whole.