You are here:   Dispatches > Moscow: Putin's Empire Strikes Out

Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan have been slowly converted by Putin's policies into exactly what Boris Yeltsin went to war to prevent. The area is lawless, violent and dominated by men disloyal to the Federation. The military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer predicted the 2008 Georgian war. His explanation of events is blunt: "In Ingushetia, they practise informal Sharia law. You cannot buy a beer in Nazran. Islamic rebels are attempting to restart the conflict by attacking policemen and terrorising civilians. Music and beer sellers are targets." But there are more sinister rumours about this war. 

Anton Surikov knows a lot about the North Caucasus. He is widely believed to have been a GRU (military intelligence) agent and knew the assassinated Chechen leader Shamil Basayev. Some say he was his handler. Experts believe it was his actions in convincing the Chechen leader to attack Dagestan that provided the pretext for Putin's campaign of reconquest in Chechnya. When I inquire about his connections he explains cryptically, "When asked, I deny them. If not asked, I don't mention it." He has the build of a soldier and the stare of a man who knows something about violence. 

He speaks assuredly. "Putin's connection with Kadyrov is purely personal — the connection of a Tsar to his vassal. Stability relies upon this alone in the North Caucasus. If it were broken, mass violence would begin again. The Kremlin is not in complete control of the security forces in the area. Some of the murders are done by rogue elements that seek to undermine Kadyrov. They hate him because he has gained something close to independence by stealth. You must not think of the security forces as uniform. There are clans, agendas and bandits among them. The FSB clans are faking some attacks for divide and rule policies."  

At the cemetery of Beslan in North Ossetia, all this becomes painfully clear. More than 330 graves are spread out, almost 200 of them for the children murdered in the terrorist attack of 2005. There are teddy bears or dolls on the tombs. Bottles of water are left on some of the graves, because the terrorists gave the children nothing to drink. The Ossetian taxi-driver stares at the sight. His eyes are a mix of anger and resignation. But he speaks of another side to the Kremlin's policies in the region: "Without Russian intervention here, these lands would be on fire. Moscow keeps the peace — and the Chechens away from us." As imperialists always are, Russia is both prison warden and pacifier in the North Caucasus. 

But at what cost? Keeping Chechen and Ingush terrorists out with a secure border would obviously be easier than enforced incorporation. Billions have been spent and thousands of Russian lives lost. Ordinary people of the heartland draw the same benefits from this zone as Anatolian Turks once drew from the Ottoman Empire — the right simply to be conscripted and have your taxes wasted. 

View Full Article
Bill Corr
October 6th, 2009
10:10 AM
The dismemberment of the Soviet Empire caused tragic suffering ... even the remaining Pontic Greeks were involved as victimes

September 29th, 2009
3:09 PM
The "harsh consonant" "D"? Idiotic.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Related content
More Dispatches
Popular Standpoint topics