Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Inevitable Crackdown

March 29th, 2010 · 4 Comments

Today’s bombing of the Moscow Metro has elicited a predictable reaction from Ivan (and Ivana) Sixpack, who suddenly yearns for the KGB’s iron fist:

“It’s the Chechens,” said Nina Ivanovna, a 57-year-old pensioner. “They will never let us live in peace. Solzhenitsyn correctly said that we should build a Great Wall of China to keep them away from us. They should be locked away. They hate us, and they will always hate us.”

Yet such repression will be impossible without inviting great international condemnation, given the Chechens’ integration into Russian life. As described in the excellent Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucusus, the Soviet Union’s long-term efforts to Russify the Chechens were quite successful—and obviously done without future security considerations in mind:

From the 1950s Soviet ways made big inroads in the traditional Chechen culture as village people moved into the big city, Grozny, or to Russia, where they assimilated the urban lifestyle of the Russians. The biggest Chechen city after Grozny is now Moscow, with some 50,000 Chechen residents there. Almost every Chechen under sixty is bilingual in Russian and Chechen and scatter his conversation liberally with Russian words. The women wear short-sleeved dresses and go to work. Chechen men, including most of the fighters in the recent war, served in the Soviet army…

Russification means that Chechens live parallel lives. The Chechen businessman who works in Moscow will have kept his house in a village in the hills. At home he may say his prayers more readily than when he is in Russia. He can both drive a car and ride a horse, use a computer and fire a hunting rifle. The Chechens can see both sides of the cultural divide and they understand the Russians much better than the Russians do them.

There is certainly some sort of crackdown coming, and the Russian security forces have time again shown themselves to be fans of great brutality. But how far are they willing to go this time, given that Chechens are so integral to Muscovite society? And how can they reasonably be expected to eliminate the threat given the deep networks that Chechens have established in the Russian capital?

And previously on Microkhan: the unique religious practices of Chechnya.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Given the level of police brutality and corruption in Russia, it’s almost surprising that they would actually want to hand the police more power.

    http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15731344

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: The classic rock-and-a-hard place for the Muscovite man on the street, I reckon.

    While I by no means intend to suggest that the FSB had any role in today’s terrible acts, I do think it’s worth looking back at the popular reaction to the ’99 bombings:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_apartment_bombings

    The panic those bombings inspired certainly increased the power of the Russian security apparatus.

  • jackal

    Given the current conflict in Dagestan and Ingushetia (and suicide bombings there) it seems possible that the bombers might be Ingush or one of the other ethnic groups. Do Russians tend to just group all the various Caucauses’ muslim-majority ethnic groups as ‘Chechen’?

    Wonder how this will play for Ramzan Kadyrov, Moscow’s pet dictator in Chechnya..

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @jackal: That’s def. a good point. I think the Chechens get the immediate blame because the M.O. fits previous attacks they’ve carried out. But it’s certainly plausible that other Caucasus separatist movements have decided to escalate their conflicts, by bringing the fight to Moscow.

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