Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Russia's 'Open Season' Of Murder Continues

By Zoya Svetova

A well-known lawyer is shot down in the center of Moscow. A journalist who was interviewing him just moments before is also fatally wounded. Is it the plot of some action film? Is it a summary of a detective novel?

No. Lawyer Stas Markelov has been murdered. Young, intelligent, an outstanding personality who took up the defense of everyone who appealed to him. If you look at his work, you can see his preference for the so-called human rights cases. Stas often called me and suggested I write something about one or another of his clients. As a rule, I was given the stories that, for one reason or another, "Novaya gazeta" had rejected. "You know, they don't have space to write about all my cases," he'd complain. I understood. And I wrote.

I spoke with Stas last on January 15. Usually when he picked up the phone, Stas sounded boisterous and welcoming. "Hello!" he'd say and willingly answer any questions. But that day he seemed somehow nervous. His phone had been ringing nonstop since earlier in the day when Yury Budanov -- the Russian colonel who was convicted of the 2000 killing of 18-year-old Chechen woman Elza Kungayeva and sentenced to 10 years in prison -- had been released unexpectedly on parole.

"Call back in 20 minutes," he said. "I'm standing in front of a REN-TV camera doing a commentary right now."

I called him back and started asking: "What is this all about? Why did they release Budanov? After all, you -- representing the victim's family -- appealed the parole decision and already submitted a preliminary complaint." Stas was at a loss. He said the court was awaiting his full complaint and that he did not understand what had happened. "They are wiping their feet on the court," he said. "But I have already sent a request to the Federal Corrections Service asking that they punish those who illegally released Budanov. I will appeal to [Investigatve Committee Chairman Aleksandr] Bastrykhin. I am waiting for a response from the court."

Shortly after I spoke with him, the news agencies reported that the court had returned Markelov's complaint, saying he had no right to appeal a parole decision. I asked other lawyers whether that was true, and none of them could answer me. It turns out that such a basic practice simply does not exist in Russia. As a rule, victims do not appeal parole decisions concerning those who harmed them.

Principled Stand

But Stas Markelov was not like other lawyers. He was not afraid of unusual measures. He was bold, decisive, and had no problem rowing against the current. His only goal was to expose lies and injustice. He did not compromise with prosecutors or judges. He laughed at lawyers who brought bribes to judges like storks bringing newborn babies.

It is symbolic that Stas was murdered just as the trial into the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya is winding down. The murderers and organizers of that crime are walking free, taking advantage of Russia's lawlessness. And, of course, because of this, there will be more murders.

Stas was Anna's lawyer. He defended her when Major Sergei Lapin of a special police detachment from Khanty-Mansiisk threatened to kill her. This was the same Lapshin who, together with some comrades, tortured Zelimkhan Murdalov to death. Stas traveled to Chechnya and represented the interests of Murdalov's family, managing to get Lapshin convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

One of Markelov's last cases was defending Mikhail Beketov, the editor in chief of the newspaper "Khimkinskaya pravda," from defamation charges filed by the mayor of Khimki. In November Beketov was savagely beaten, and he remains in a coma to this day. Stas Markelov managed to have the investigation into that incident reclassified from a charge of "serious assault" to "attempted murder."

It is possible that Markelov got too close to figuring out who assaulted Beketov and was near to guessing who ordered the attack. And that would have been unforgivable. There is a mayoral election coming up in Khimki, and there is a referendum planned on the proposed construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg superhighway through the territory of the Khimki protected forest. We are talking about serious money.

Obviously, this was a contract killing, one that was planned in advance. Can it really be that a lawyer is an important enough person in Russia that someone would want to kill him? Yes, as it turns out.

The first reaction from many commentators -- especially in Chechnya -- was that Markelov was murdered by "supporters and defenders of Yury Budanov." It seems to me that this explanation is the most facile, superficial, and ultimately improbable one. It would be convenient for everyone for whom Markelov was an obstacle to present the murder as "the revenge of the Budanovists." And most commentators have done just that.

'Open Season'?

Now we'll have to watch who the investigators come up with and who gets assigned the role of Markelov's murderer. They say that he defended anti-fascists and so maybe the murder was the revenge of fascists. Revenge for what? Because he got them jailed? But can a lawyer in our country really do that? Can a lawyer make the law enforcement agencies enforce the law? Hardly.

Recently, Stas often said, "If prosecutors are not going to act and to defend the law, then I will force them to do so." Is this a reason to kill him?

Stas was a victim of a frightening hunt, an open season that was declared several years ago. So the main question that needs to be answered now is: "Who declared this open season?"

Who is inscribing the names on this unending list? Paul Klebnikov. Anna Politkovskaya. Movladi Baisarov. Ruslan Yamadayev -- all different people, but all brutally murdered in the center of Moscow. Umar Izrailov -- a Chechen who filed a torture complaint at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that named Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov personally -- was murdered in Vienna.

Stanislav Markelov -- who, among other things, was involved in the case of Magomedsalikh Masayev, who disappeared last summer after accusing the Chechen authorities of running secret prisons -- shot down in the center of Moscow.

Alongside him, journalist Anastasia Baburova was killed. They say she tried to protect Markelov from his killer.

Forgive us, Stas. You defended others, but turned out to be defenseless against the madman who dared to shoot you down.

Zoya Svetova is a columnist for "Novyye izvestia." This piece originally appeared on the website "Yezhednevny zhurnal." The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Grigory Pasko: R.I.P., Stanislav Markelov (1974-2009)

Yet another human rights advocate killed in the capital of Russia. Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot on Prechistenka street in the center of Moscow. Stanislav was only 34 years old, but he was well known not only in the milieu of human rights advocates, but in wider circles as well. First and foremost, he was known as the Moscow lawyer who was not afraid to conduct cases in Chechnya, defending Chechen citizens. In recent days, his name was never off the pages of the mass information media, because he was striving to get the conditional early release of Yuri Budanov, a former colonel who killed the young Chechen woman Elza Kungayeva, declared unlawful.

And it was right after a press conference dedicated to this unlawful release that Stanislav was killed.

The head of the investigative administration for Moscow, Anatoly Bagmet, has already declared that the murder of the lawyer may be "associated with his professional activity."

This phrase in Russia has already become so typical that personally, it irritates me with its stupidness and routineness. If they kill a journalist or a lawyer, then what other reason can there possibly be in Putin's Russia besides the profession of these people!

It was not by chance that I have recalled the profession of journalist: many consider that the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Stanislav Markelov are very similar. First of all, because they were killed for the honest fulfillment of their professional duty and because the state organs did nothing for the protection of such professionals.

Furthermore, the state had knowledge of facts of threats both to the address of Politkovskaya, and to the address of Markelov. Why did the law-enforcement organs not do a single damn thing to protect the journalist and the lawyer? Could it be because the state organs themselves weren't very interested in preserving the lives of these people?

Markelov is also known for the fact that he worked on cases against Russian Nazis. With Markelov was «Novaya gazeta» journalist Anastasia Baburova, who happened to be writing specifically about cases connected with the activity of Russian nazis. The killers gravely wounded her in the head.

Stanislav Markelov likewise represented the interests of the journalist Mikhail Beketov, savagely beaten in November of the year 2008. Beketov is known as the opposition journalist who had published unmasking articles about the officials of the administration of [Moscow suburb] Khimki in the newspaper "Khimkinskaya pravda" and was actively fighting to save the Khimki forest, which until recent times had been threatened with clearance in connection with the construction of the Moscow-Petersburg expressway.

Here is the opinion of human rights leader Lev Ponomarev, whom I telephoned immediately after the murder of Stanislav Markelov:

"This was a person close to me. What is especially tragic is that this was a young person. Tomorrow we in conjunction with «Memorial» are conducting an action of memory for the slain lawyer. Stanislav literally dodged bullets in our country: he led cases in Chechnya, cases against nazis, was the lawyer for the family of the young Chechen woman killed by Budanov... The nazis threatened him openly, on their websites were hanging threats to his address. I reminded him about precautionary measures, but what could he do?.. They killed the person, as is said, at the battle station."

And here is the opinion of Stanislav's colleague, the lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin:

"This murder proves yet again that in our country it is dangerous to be a defender of the rights of people, if the opposite side is - the state or people near to it. The state clearly sympathized with both the Nazis and Budanov. And against lawyers who defend the rights of people, especially if these rights are violated by state organs or law-enforcement organs, at times are applied even such measures as arrest, the initiation of fabricated cases. For a long time already, there is talk about the creation in Russia of a special structure for the protection of lawyers. We see that certain lawyers are already afraid to take part in the defense of politically motivated criminal cases."

To this I add that Trepashkin himself conducts such cases as the persecution of the organization «Portos»; defends the rights of the journalist Boris Stomakhin who is sitting in a colony.

And so, yet another high-profile and audacious murder has been committed in the Russia of the times of Putin. I doubt that it will ever be fully solved. At best, as with the case of Anna Politkovskaya, they'll take the triggerman into custody.

Anna Politkovskaya's lawyer Stanislav Markelov shot dead in Moscow

by Philippe Naughton, Times Online

A campaigning Russian lawyer was shot dead in central Moscow today after giving a press conference to draw attention to the early release of an army colonel convicted of the murder of a young woman during the war in Chechnya.

Officials said that Stanislav Markelov, who also represented the slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead in the street by an unknown gunman moments after speaking out about the case of Yuri Budanov.

A young female journalist accompanying Mr Markelov later died in hospital after being seriously injured when she tried to intervene.

Anastasia Barburova was reported to be working freelance for Novaya Gazeta, the opposition newspaper which also employed Politkovskaya.

Budadov was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2003 for the murder of 18-year-old Kheda Kungayeva, a Chechen woman snatched from her home in March 2000 and taken to the colonel's office. There she was allegedly raped before Budanov, who accused her of being a rebel sniper, strangled her.

The case caused widespread revulsion and Budanov became the first senior Russian officer convicted of human rights abuses during the Chechen campaign. He was released from jail four days ago.

Before his death today, Mr Markelov, who represented Kungayeva's family, told reporters that he planned to challenge the release, which has prompted street protests in Chechnya attended by both human rights activists and representatives of the region's pro-Moscow authorities.

Anatoly Bagmet, chief investigator at the Moscow prosecutor's office, said that the motive for today's shooting had not yet been established. “The investigation is studying various theories on the killing of Stanislav Markelov, including a link to his professional activities as a lawyer,” he said.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Chechnya: A long Struggle for re-Independence - Part 1 of 4

Ramzan Kadyrov, center, is the president of Chechnya. (Reuters)

Part 1 of 4

Kashmir Watch, Jan 12, By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

Even as the Chechen freedom strugglers continue their fight for independence form Russian control, recently, a central avenue in Grozny the capital of Russia’s Chechnya region, seeking sovereignty back from Moscow, was named after Russian premier and former president Vladimir Putin, honouring the man who sent in troops to crush a freedom rebellion there. Currently a pro-Russia regime is ruling Chechnya Republic with instructions from the Kremlin. Previously called Victory Avenue, a common Soviet-era name, it is now called 'Prospekt Putina', or Putin Avenue. Footage broadcast on Russian television showed bands of teenagers carrying the Chechen green, white and red flag along the avenue, which was lined with large portraits of Putin. Grozny mayor Khuchiyev was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency: "This act is in recognition of Putin's outstanding contribution to the fight against terrorism, and to the economic and social restoration in the Chechen republic". Like USA & many other powers so in the world, Russia has indeed has made a lot pro-Moscow agents among the Chechens. Like the US-led west, Russia has used terrorism plank to silence majority of Chechens.

Belongling to SE European Russia in the N Caucasus, Chechnya declared independence from Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 1994 Boris Yeltsin dispatched Russian troops to the republic in the north Caucasus to restore Moscow's control, but after two years of fighting predominantly Islamist rebels defeated them, establishing a de facto independent state. In 1999, however, the “enrgetic” prime minister, Vladimir Putin, sent troops in again to recapture the separatist region, laying siege to the capital Grozny. The offensive succeeded, with the Kremlin installing a former rebel leader, but who agreed to be pro-Russia, Akhmed Kadyrov, to head a pro-Moscow administration. His son, Ramzan, took over after Kadyrov was assassinated in May 2004, with Putin making him Chechnya's president in February 2007. Estimates of the number of civilians killed or missing in both Chechen wars range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

The mountainous region has important oil deposits, as well as natural gas, limestone, gypsum, sulfur, and other minerals. Its mineral waters have made it a spa center. Agriculture is concentrated in the Terek and Sunzha river valleys. Oil, petrochemicals, oil-field equipment, foods, wines, and fruit are produced. The population, which is concentrated in the foothills, is predominantly Chechen, or Nokhchi. The Chechen, like the neighboring Ingush, are Sunni Muslim, and speak a Caucasian language.

According to the 2004 estimates, the population of Chechnya is approximately 1.1 million. Most Chechens are Sunni Muslim, the country having converted to that religion between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Most of the population follows either the Shafi'i, Hanafi, or Maliki schools of jurisprudence.The Chechen attempts to achieve independence is never ending and are pretty hopeful of their exit from the Kremlin fold with or without support from the so-called democratic world led by USA. Their independence struggle led Russia to invade Chechnya and defeat the breakaway republic, while imposing a government favored by Russia, but unwanted by the Chechen people. Indeed, it was partly the Islamic upsurge of Chechen society that was considered by Moscow as a threat and led to the Second Chechen War. Patriotic Nationalists are still convinced about the righteousness of their cause and are unwilling to submit to Moscow. Their strongholds in the mountainous areas of Chechnya have not been defeated. As expected by the Kremlin, the so-called patriotic nationalists may be down, but are only waiting for their chance to come back and may become more radical as their isolation worsens.

Brief History of Chechnya

Chechnya has been a thorn in Russia's mountainous southern border for nearly two centuries. The Russians finally overcame the resistance of Imam Shamil in 1859, claiming the Caucasus region for the empire after a long and bloody campaign that caught the imagination of many 19th Century Russian writers from Lermontov to Tolstoy.

Chechnya has a long history of struggle for independence and violence against Russia. Rich in oil, its economy and infrastructure were reduced to ruins by years of war between local freedom activists and Russian forces. Chechnya has been under virtual siege for all practical purposes from Moscow for decades now. The southern Russian republic of Chechnya is surrounded on nearly all sides by Russian territory but also shares with neighboring Georgia a remote border high in the Caucasus Mountains.

Recognized as a distinct people since the 17th cent., the Chechens were the most active opponents of Russia's conquest (1818-1917) of the Caucasus. From 1824 to 1859, Russian Czar Nicholas I and Caucasian leader Imam Shamil fought a bloody war, with Russians finally occupying and annexing Caucasus only due to their greater numbers. They fought bitterly during an unsuccessful 1850s rebellion led by Imam Shamyl. The Chechens had to wait for more than 60 years before they briefly escaped Russian dominion again in the chaos following the October revolution. However, that period of independence was short-lived and by 1922 the republic had been forced back into the Russian fold. World War II and the Nazi invasion presented another glimpse of freedom from Moscow's rule. When the war ended, Stalin sought vengeance. He accused the Chechens of collaborating. Their punishment was mass deportation to Siberia and Central Asia. They were allowed to return only in 1957 when Khrushchev was in power in the Kremlin.

During the Communist Revolution of 1917, Dagestan - which included Chechnya at the time - declared its independence as a North Caucasian Republic. After Soviet rule was reestablished, the area was included in 1921 in the Mountain People's Republic. The Chechen Autonomous Region was created in 1922, and when de facto independence ended in 1923, the republic was again split in three parts within the Russian Federation - Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. In 1934 it became part of the Chechen-Ingush Region, made a republic in 1936. After Chechen and Ingush units collaborated with the invading Germans during World War II, many residents were deported (1944) to Central Asia. Deportees were repatriated in 1956, and the republic was reestablished in 1957. In 1991, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, the Chechen-dominated parliament of the republic declared independence as the Republic of Ichkeria, soon better known as Chechnya. In June, 1992, Russia granted Ingush inhabitants their own republic (Ingushetia) in the western fifth of the territory.

Soviet Russia tried all tricks to keep Chechnya under its control and thus Chechnya always presented a problem for Russia. "The Chechens and Ingush presented a special problem.. Inhabiting the nearly inaccessible mountain ranges bordering on Dagestan, they were always, from the Russian point of view, a troublesome element. Inassimilable and warlike, they created so much difficulty for the Russian forces trying to subdue the North Caucasus that, after conquering the area, the government felt compelled to employ Cossack forces to expel them from the valleys and lowlands into the bare mountain regions. Less than a generation later in 1944, practically all Chechen nation was exiled to Kazakhstan on vague suspicion of support for the invading German army, resulting in mass deaths on the way to Kazakhstan and in the exile itself. At least 30% of Chechens died as a result.

The Soviet policy at the time also eliminated the Chechen-Ingush Republic. Yet, the Chechens did not submit to oppression and stood proud, unrelenting in their desire for self-determination. Upon returning to Chechnya in 1957, when the Chechen-Ingush Republic was reconstituted, they found that their homes had been given to Russian settlers, and part of their land has been taken away and given by the Soviet authorities to a Dagestani nation. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in "The Gulag Archipelago": "there was one nation that would not give in, would not acquire the mental habits of submission -- and not just individual rebels among them, but the whole nation to a man. These were the Chechens. “The regime which had ruled the land for thirty years could not force them to respect it and its laws."

Tensions between the Russian government and that of Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev escalated into warfare in late 1994, as Russian troops arrived to crush the separatist movement. Grozny was devastated in the fighting, and tens of thousands died. Russian forces regained control of many areas in 1995, but separatist guerrillas controlled much of the mountainous south and committed spectacular terrorist actions in other parts of Russia. Fighting continued through 1996, when Dudayev was killed and succeeded by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The Russians withdrew, essentially admitting defeat, following a cease-fire that left Chechnya with de facto autonomy. Aslan Maskhadov, chief of staff of the Chechen forces, was elected president early in 1997 but appeared to have little control over the republic.. In 1999, Islamic law was established. A series of bombings in Moscow, erupted again, and after Islamic militants invaded neighboring Dagestan from Chechnya, Russian forces bombed and invaded Chechnya, capturing Grozny and forcing the rebels into mountain strongholds. The rebels have continued to mount guerrilla attacks on Russian forces, as well as terror attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities outside Chechnya. Both sides have been accused of brutality and terrorizing noncombatants.

In 2003 voters approved a new constitution for Chechnya, and Akhmad Kadyrov was subsequently elected president, but the election was generally regarded as neither free nor fair. Both the constitution and the president were backed by Russian government. Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004; Alu Alkhanov was elected to succeed him. Russian forces killed Maskhadov, who was considered a moderate Chechen rebel leader, in 2005 and Shamil Baseyev, a notorious and significant rebel commander, in 2006. Alkhanov resigned as president in 2007 after a power struggle with Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the former president. Ramzan Kadyrov was then appointed president by Russian president Putin.

When then president Putin made a historic visit to the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia in 2007 his as agenda included to gain their support for silencing the freedom seeking Chechens. Putin sent Russian soldiers into Chechnya in 1999 to seize control from separatists who had forced out Russia forces in an earlier war. The second Chechen war killed thousands, destroyed swathes of Grozny and created a new wave of refugees. Rights groups accused Russian troops of using indiscriminate force in Chechnya but the second campaign was popular with voters angered by a series of attacks on civilians that were blamed on Chechen rebels.

The author is Delhi based Research Scholar in International Studies and can be reached at

Thursday, 8 January 2009

We Condemn Israel’s State Terror, Greet Palestine Resistance!

''Cruelty that we have to endure is not unknown for us. We remember and know Stalin’s salt mineral, camps surrounded wire fences with guardian towers, untitled tombs. We experienced the sufferings resulted from the genocide and exile from our motherland. We have many common features with the people who have been suffering because of all these terrors. We can know them wherever they are. We also know Jewish’s and Romans who were put in oven and were as thin as a skeleton in Dachau and Auschwitz;, people who were bayoneted in Nanjing; children were terrified in Biafra; the mother with her baby begging while she was at barrel nose in My-Lai; Iraqi Arabians who were stifled by mustard gas; Rwandan Tutsis who were carved by Interhamwe’s knives at the Kigali road. They are our marytr brothers and sisters within the history of meaningless murders!''
Aslan Mashadov.

We Condemn Israel’s State Terror, Greet Palestine Resistance!

Israel is still committing an illegal act against humanity for the entire world to see. Deficient reactions coming from International society and organizations do not obtund; contrarily they create an increasing fury.

People who are being killed and whose regions mainly Caucasus, Iraq, Darfur and Palestine, become a battle field for self-interests of global actors; are helpless and angry against the muteness within the world.

While the aircrafts of Zionist regime act superior on Palestine lands that are under occupancy, Israel grudges Gaza people who live under military blockade of her, basic humanitarian aid; and insists on carrying the operation, namely the state terror.

The things that were seen in Sochi, Auschwitz, Drau, Sarajevo, Sukhum and Coharkale (Groznyy) previously, have been experienced in Gaza.

The point which is still being ignored by the Cartel Media trying to charge all the responsibility of current situation to Hamas, is the fact that Palestine lands has been occupied by Israel ignoring by UN decisions since 1967.

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was hosted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Ankara in order to talk about ‘Peace’; and immediately after this, the minister carried an operation against Palestine civil population. This attack has become one of the disgraces within the history of humanity.

We declare our condemnation against Israel’s state terror and greetings to honorable resistance of Palestine people!

SONG FOR GAZA "We will not go down" By Michael Heart

UK Jewish MP: Israel acting like Nazis in Gaza

Remarks on the Georgian – Russian conflict of August 2008 and on Abkhazia (1995)

John Colarusso

It is an honor to have my old paper, “Abkhazia,” (from Central Asian Survey (1995) vol. 14, pp. 75 – 96), posted on Abkhaz World (and Circassian World) by Metin Sönmez. I extend my gratitude to him for his efforts in this. He has suggested that I offer a few remarks regarding the Russo-Georgian Conflict of last August, an opportunity for which I am also grateful.

The fighting between Russian and Georgian troops in August of the past year was almost universally seen by the West as an alarming resurgence of Russian ambition and might. Whether this interpretation deserves credence or not is a matter that only future events will determine, though the elites in the West should take care not to wallow in self-fulfilling fears. Ostensibly the Russian diplomatic and military actions were seen as appropriate by the Kremlin. The former was a reciprocal reaction to the recognition of Kosovo by the West. The latter was a response to Georgian actions in South Ossetia. President Mikheil Saakashvili clearly misinterpreted the gestures of support that had been extended to him by the United States and the European Union.

While Russian willingness to assert her interests in her near abroad are clearly resurgent, it is still plausible to view the Georgian conflict as a unique local event. It is even possible that by the de facto redrawing of Georgia’s borders Russia has brought some degree of stability to the Caucasus, much as the West’s recognition of Kosovo may have brought stability to the Balkans.

Russia’s agenda of reasserting her national interests and image may have been inevitable, but the conflict over South Ossetia and Abkhazia this past August was not. From the time of my involvement with Washington in January 1993 I argued that the United States specifically and the West generally should support the sovereignty of Georgia, but that to support Stalin’s borders, that is, to support Georgia’s territorial integrity was to leave Georgia chronically vulnerable both to Russia and to her own worst nationalist proclivities. Seventeen years later the diplomatic establishment that was willing to recognize Kosovo and thereby to ignore the territorial integrity of Serbia still insists on the territorial integrity of Georgia. It is not hard to understand how the Kremlin would see this as hypocritical. Even in the Postscript of the original article, dated to November 1994 I took note of Georgia’s insistence on its territorial integrity (second paragraph under Problems), which then, as now, was merely a reflection of the West’s support for Georgia. This insistence on abstract principles which I termed in the same Postscript “the present principled character” of international diplomacy led ineluctably to this second round of bloodshed. If a more functional approach had been adopted toward Georgia and the Caucasus, if an approach had been adopted that was based on the particulars of the problems of Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, this round of fighting and bloodshed could have been avoided and the shock of Russian resurgence would have lain still in the future.

Clearly breaking up a country that is torn with internal strife is not inherently an easy or bloodless task. This is of course the reason given by adherents to principled diplomacy. Yet, adhering to territorial configurations that often are arbitrary or even designed to foment strife, as is the case for many of the regions of the post-Soviet realm, merely for the sake of principle is dysfunctional to put it politely. Part of the problem of a diplomacy that is based on abstract principles, such as territorial integrity, is that what is done in one region should be done elsewhere as well – as a matter of “principle.” The fact that the diplomatic community has waived a principle in the Balkans, but not in the Caucasus, implies a weakening of that principle, a retreat from its universal application. This is a good sign. Perhaps peace will come to the Caucasus yet, as it may have come already to the Balkans.

The best course now for the West is to support vigorously Georgian sovereignty in all its dimensions, except the more bellicose and ambitious aspects. Concurrently the West must engage Russia in matters of mutual concern, such as the spread of WMDs, narcotics, and terrorism. One of these matters will be Russia’s nationalistic domestic policies and her renewed image as a regional, if not a world, power. Russia will see these as her business, but the fighting in August proved that Russian identity is evolving in a way that can manifest her domestic self-conception as tangible actions beyond her borders. Whatever the full implications of Russia’s August actions may prove to be, the South Ossetian and Abkhazian problems are de facto over. It is time for all concerned to move on.


Professor in the Anthropology Department of McMaster University, Ontario

Paper prepared for the conference. ‘The contemporary North Caucasus’ held at SOAS on 22-23 April 1993. 0263-4937/95/010075-22 © Society for Central Asian Studies Ltd.

Central Asian Survey (1995), 14(1), 75-96

The full article in PDF can be downloaded by clicking here (314 Kb)

Turkey's Circassians Press Ankara to Reopen Sea Route to Abkhazia

by Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia

Vienna, January 8 – Leaders of the six-million-strong Circassian community of Turkey met with that country's President Abdulla Gul this week to press for the reopening of ferry service from Trabzon to the Abkhaz port of Sukhum(i), a link that was suspended in 2006 when the CIS imposed an embargo on that breakaway republic.

On Monday, Gul received the leaders of the Caucasus Federation Khase, which unites 56 Circassian groups in Turkey, for 45 minutes to discuss this and Circassian demands for more broadcasting in their by Turkish channels and more Circassian language classes in Turkish universities ( and

After the meeting, Khase general coordinator Dzhumkhur Bal told the media that the reopening of sea communications with Abkhazia was not only possible but vital for his community because now after the August 2008 war, "there is no need for compatriots of Abkhazia [such as the Circassians living in Turkey] to obtain a Russian visa."

And he added that expanding Circassian broadcasting in Turkey, where TRT-3 now broadcasts seven hours a day in that language was especially important given the increasing attention of his community to what is taking place in Abkhazia and other historically Circassian areas in the northern Caucasus.

Only a day before the Circassians of Turkey met with Gul, more than 150 young Circassians in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya assembled in Cherkessk to reiterate their call for working toward the creation of a single Circassian Republic in the North Caucasus (

As they have repeatedly in recent months, the young people asserted that "Kabardinians, Cherkesses, Abazas and Adygeys are "one people and must live in a single republic in the framework of the Russian Federation," a demand that they said "corresponds to the right of nations to self-determination and [Vladimir Putin's] policy of amalgamating regions."

The session, which was organized with the support of Nart-TV, a station in Jordan where there is also a large Circassian diaspora, included speakers who insisted that the restoration of such a republic would "to a large extent stabilize the situation in the region and strengthen the geopolitical position of Russia."

Most Russian officials, however, and some Circassian leaders inside the Russian Federation oppose that idea in the first case, because they view it as a threat to Moscow's control in the awake of Abkhazia's moves toward independence and in the second, because they fear it might undercut their own positions or harm Circassian interests.

But the Circassian diaspora is completely behind the idea, as the actions of the Caucasus Federation in Turkey and Nart TV in Jordan show. And those communities are now playing an ever greater role not only in the countries where they are now living but in the region from which their ancestors were expelled almost 150 years ago.

As the Russian government works over the next several years to prepare for an Olympics in Sochi, the activities of these communities and their influence on their co-ethnics inside the Russian Federation are certain to grow, creating new challenges for all the countries involved and perhaps new opportunities for this much oppressed nation.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Turkish President Abdullah Gül meets with KAFFED to discuss Circassian issues.

On January 5, the Turkish President Abdullah Gül, met with the Caucasian Associations Federation of Turkey (KAFFED).

Items discussed between the President and KAFFED included the society and current Circassian demands. KAFFED was represented by the President Cihan Özdemir, Vice president Prof. Dr. Erol Taymaz, General Secretary Rahmi Aksu and General Coordinator Cumhur Bal.

In a pleasant atmosphere, KAFFED discussed concerns of the Circassian Diaspora. Some of the more poignant points included, direct travel to Abkhazia, prime time broadcasting in the Circassian language on Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and including Circassian and Abkhazian language and literature in the University curriculum.

Turkish media, including leading newspapers and news networks covered the meeting.

To read the file that was presented to President Abdullah Gül and additional articles, please click on the links below.

- Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı Makamına Talep Dilekçesi
- Abhazya ve Güney Osetya Hakkında Bilgilendirme yazısı

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Friday, 2 January 2009

A New Web Site:

Dear Readers,

I am happy to announce you a new website:

The website project, on which working was initiated in July, is finally ready to be aired and is opened at January 1st of 2009.

Along with the actual news about Abkhazia, (AW) also includes published articles, reports and documents about Abkhazia. With the launch of the studies on Abkhazia of will continue over AW. You can read the goals and the reason why the website was built on the "About site" page.

Also with this occasion i wish all readers a healthy, happy and successful new year.