Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Circassians who saved Jewish children: what are we slandered in mass-media for?

NatPress - November 10, 2009

On Wednesday, November, 4th in aul Beslenei of Khabezsky area, Karachaevo-Circassia, a gathering of inhabitants in which over 500 person participated, took place. As IА REGNUM News correspondent reported, the orators of the gathering expressed their protest in occasion of some publications in mass-media, devoted to the feat of inhabitants of that village during the Great Patriotic war. At the gathering there was the chairman of National assembly of Karachaevo-Circassia Zurab Dokshokov, the deputy of National assembly Vyacheslav Derev, representatives of the Karachaevo-Circassia president administration.

As IА REGNUM News had earlier informed, in August, 1942 inhabitants of Circassian aul Beslenei had sheltered at themselves a group of Jewish children of one of children's homes of the blocked Leningrad. That group of 32 children were taken out from the blockade ring on ice of Ladoga lake in April of 1942, then they, accompanied, reached by railways to Armavir (Krasnodar region), but could not stay there because of fascist aggressors’ coming there. Local authorities supplied them with a dray and a stock of meal for one day having recommended going to Caucasian mountains, to get to Georgia whenever possible. At the height of approach of Germans to Northern Caucasus, inhabitants of Beslenei, having seen on a road near their village a group of extremely exhausted children, sheltered them at their homes. As the fascists shot people for Jews’ concealment, all the children were brought in the registration book of the village under Circassian surnames: they introduced as sons and daughters of those who sheltered them. For conspiracy the Leningrad children were forbidden to play and communicate with each other. The fascist occupation proceeded for five months. Germans appeared to discover that Beslenei inhabitants had covered Jewish children, but they managed to find out only one of them who was immediately shot. After the war many children were found by their natives and left Beslenei; four of them lived in the village till their old age. Now, on available data, two are alive from among them.

Negative reaction of the village’s inhabitants was caused with an article published on September, 23rd, 2009 in the newspaper "Express mail" (Cherkessk). In that article there is a negative characteristic of the elder of the Murzabek Ohtov, who provided in many respects the children’s rescue during the occupation, in particular: "That Ohtov appears in the article as an elder, and actually was the head of the aul appointed by Germans. Germans, as it is known, appointed heads from among traitors or enemies of the Soviet authority. However today his fellow tribesmen try to present this fascist servant as a hero”. Simultaneously the author of "Express mail" expressed his extremely negative estimation to the article about the events in Beslenei, published in December, 2008 in the newspaper "Moscow Komsomolets". In particular, his disagreement was caused with the fragment of the article where according to the memoirs of Beslenei inhabitants the words of the worker of the Leningrad boarding school who accompanied the children when they had appeared near the village: "How long is left for us? A day, a week? Shall we die of famine or shall we be shot, like those, others, the kids from blockaded Leningrad being betraid by the enemies, - when Karachai chastisers dumped them from an abrupt rock. And tens corpses were floating down the mountain river of Teberda..." (We shall remind that Karachai, lived to the south from Beslenei, in the mountain part of present Karachaevo-Circassia, in November, 1943 were declared Hitler's helpers and were deported, but in 1957 they were rehabilitated.) The author of the article considers as unreasonable the offers about immortalization of Beslenei inhabitants’ feat, referring that Jewish children were hidden in that part of Caucasus by not only them. He reminded about the feat of Karachai Husey Laipanov who led 60 Leningrad children being then in Teberda, by Klukhorsky pass to Georgia, and after his returning was shot by Germans. "For us, even his relatives are not occurred with an idea to ask to award the lost posthumously. As any of us should do that. For some reason there were forgotten Abazinian women (Abazinians are one of the people occupying Karachaevo-Circassia) who also participated in the children’s adoption," - the author wrote.

As the head of Khabezsky area of Karachaevo-Circassia Rauf Arashuhov told IА REGNUM News, "a monument devoted to the feat of Beslenei inhabitants will be constructed irrespective of who and what says and writes about it". "I wished to finance its construction from my own means, but the president of our republic told me that it should be the common, international issue. Now a bank account for donations for the monument’s construction is open," - the head of the area explained.

In the press-service of Karachaevo-Circassia president Boris Ebzeev IА REGNUM News correspondent was informed that the head of the republic pays a great attention to immortalization of the feat of Beslenei inhabitants. In the press-service they reminded that according to a decree of B. Ebzeev the director of the documentary film "Beslenei. Right to Life" Vyacheslav Davidov was awarded with the honorary title "National actor of Karachaevo-Circassian Republic" (the film was created by the film studio ТОНАП in 2008, and narrates about the events in Beslenei). In the press-service they also told that Ebzeev granted his monthly wage to the fund of the monument construction in Beslenei, and emphasized that the president considers necessary to demonstrate the international character of the feat of the inhabitants of the republic during the war. In particular, in his address to the author of the film about Beslenei B, Ebzeev reminded about the Karachai family of Kholamlievs to which for rescue of the Jewish children the Israeli ambassador in Russia handed over 15 years ago the medal and the diploma "Certificate on nobleness" with inscription "Who saved one life - has saved the whole world".

Let's note, the inter-regional public organization "Holocaust" in 2008 had addressed to the management on archive affairs of Krasnodar region with a request to give data about children-Jews evacuated to the region from the blockaded Leningrad. As the authors of the addressed explained, documentary confirmations of the nationality are necessary for the organizations paying indemnification to the victims of the Holocaust. However any documentary confirmations of the evacuation from Leningrad of "Beslenei" children, and accordingly, data on their nationality, were not found in the archives.

Murzabekov Okhtov (center) with family

Katya Ivanova (Fatima Okhtova) in the family

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Vol. 3 (4) -Autumn 2009 issue of CRIA published‏

Vol. 3 (4) -Autumn 2009 issue of the Caucasian Review of International Affairs (CRIA) is now available on-line at

VOL. 3 (4) - AUTUMN 2009


-Note from the Editor-in-Chief (331-332)
Nasimi Aghayev (


-Alternative Dispute Resolution in the North Caucasus (pp. 333-341)
by Renée Gendron (

-The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action for the Settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict (pp. 342-370)
by Rovshan Sadigbayli (

-Political Economy of Old-Age Pension Reforms in Georgia (pp. 371-386)
by Alexi Gugushvili (

-Corruption in Russia: A Model Exploring its Economic Costs (pp. 387-403)
by Michael P. Barry (

-Experiments in Soft Balancing: China- led Multilateralism in Africa
and the Arab World (pp. 404-434)
by Nicola P. Contessi (


-Between NATO & Russia: Ukraine's Foreign Policy Crossroads Revisited (pp. 435-444)
by Mykola Kapitonenko (


-"An Endless War: The Russian-Chechen Conflict in Perspective"
by Emil Souleimanov (pp. 445-446)
Review by Martin Malek (


-"Armenia & Georgia:
Corruption, the State, and Change" (pp. 447-451)
Interview with Dr. Christoph H. Stefes, University of Colorado Denver, US (

-"If Turkish-Armenian Border Reopens,
Georgia Will Become Less Important" (pp. 452-455)
Interview with Dr. Hans Gutbrod and Koba Turmanidze,
Caucasus Research Resource Centers, Tbilisi, Georgia (

CRIA is a Germany-based quarterly peer-reviewed online academic journal. The Review is committed to promote a better understanding of the regional affairs by providing relevant background information and analysis, as far as the Caucasus in general, and the South Caucasus in particular are concerned. CRIA also welcomes lucid, well-documented papers on other countries and regions including especially Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, as well as on all aspects of international affairs, from all political viewpoints. CRIA is indexed/abstracted in Columbia International Affairs Online, Directory of Open Access Journals, ProQuest Research Library, EBSCOhost Research Database, Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, etc.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dialogue With Georgia Seen as Needed, 'Agree To Disagree'

November 2, 2009

Article by Sergey Markedonov, head of the Department of Problems of International Relations of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, under the rubric "Analysis": "In Search of a Dialogue"

After breaking off diplomatic relations with Russia in August of last year, Georgian politicians have not flattered our country with their visits. So the recent official visit to Moscow by Zurab Nogaideli, the ex-chairman of the Georgian government (he held this post from February 2005 to November 2007) and now an oppositionist and leader of the Movement for a Just Georgia, was perceived both in Moscow and in Tbilisi as all but a political sensation. The situation was made even more striking by the fact that on 27 October Grigoriy Karasin, the deputy head of the Russian Federation MID (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), met with the former head of the Georgian government.

Allow me to mention also that the high-ranking Russian diplomat is not an ordinary official of the foreign policy department; he heads the Russian Federation delegation at th econsultations in Geneva (this negotiation format encompasses problems of security and humanitarian development of Abkhazia and in South Ossetia in the context of forming a new status quo in the South Caucasus). So for official Tbilisi, Karasin is in many respects the embodiment of Russian policy in the Caucasus arena. In the meantime, the former Georgian premier did not simply hold a productive meeting. He announced that Georgia needs a dialogue with Russia with no preliminary conditions. If the Kremlin's constant declarations on the need to resume relations with Tbilisi only after Saakashvili's departure are added to that, Nogaideli's visit indeed acquires special significance. Some politicians and experts in Georgia have started talking about almost the "casting" that Moscow is doing, trying to figure out who would best correspond to its interests in this republic of the South Caucasus.

Today the topic of organizing relations with the northern neighbor is very popular in the ranks of the Georgian opposition. Of course, everybody has his own interpretation of what normalization means, bearing in mind the positive resolution (for Georgia, naturally) of the problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But be that as it may, not one of the key figures of the Georgian opposition had been in Moscow and met with the deputy minister of foreign affairs. Or sounded the ideas of starting a dialogue with Moscow in Moscow itself. The one that did this was Zurab Nogaideli, a politician who does not have as much charisma as other oppositionists but then has quite good financial potential to carry out political activities. His team includes quite experienced people such as Petre Mamradze, the parliamentary deputy and former chief of the state chancellery (similar to the president's staff) of Georgia. Nogaideli himself held the post of minister of finance back before the "revolution of the roses" in 2000-2001. From that moment he was considered a very close associate of Zurab Zhvania, one of the key players in Georgia after Eduard Shevardnadze's departure and before his tragic death in February 2005. According to the "white fox" himself, Nogaideli is a "level-headed and hardworking man." At least up to this point, he has not made any zig-zag political moves in the style of Nino Burjanadze or Irakli Okruashvili; in other words, he has not been drifting into radicalism after being on the political Olympus.

At the same time, let us not forget that today Nogaideli is not an official figure. And he cannot even be called the spokesman of the opposition's interests. The opposition in Georgia is a conglomerate of politicians dissatisfied with Mikheil Saakashvili's regime. At the same time, the dissatisfaction with the Georgian president of all oppositionists varies (in both form and substance). So the ex-premier in Moscow was representing himself as well as his movement, which, allow me to repeat, has quite good resource potential but should hardly be considered a potential favorite of Georgian politics. Most likely it is for that reason that within Georgia itself Nogaideli's trip to Moscow was perceived coolly. There was no praise nor was there any excess verbal abuse with the typical labels of treachery and cooperation with Gazprom or the special services. In the opinion of Levan Vepkhvadze, the deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament, all the talks with the Russian Federation can be conducted only around a discussion of the "de-occupation" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (in other words, within the framework of advancing preliminary conditions). In this connection a natural question arises -- "Should th evisit to Moscow by a Georgian politician who has a rich political biography but does not have real levers of power be overrated?"

I think that the visit of a prominent opponent of the Georgian president and former high-ranking statesman is extremely important even with all the nuances mentioned above. And the point here is not only that this is the first visit to Moscow by a prominent oppositionist since the "five-day war." Actually for the first time, Russia's official representatives are trying not to devise an opposition insidet he country (as was the case with Igor Giogadze or Aleksandr Yebralidze (as transliterated)), but to set up a dialogue with representatives of the "inconvenient country." It is clear that today Nogaideli's ratings in Georgia are not off the scale. But he personally and the members of his team represent at least a small part (but who knows what will happen tomorrow) of Georgia, but it is not Georgian politicians and not representatives of the diaspora or "emigration." The very fact of Nogaideli's visit (as well as its public consequences) showed that a dialogue with Georgia is necessary no matter what disagreements the Russian Federation has with this country (and not only on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but on NATO, interrelations with the United States and the European Union, and other foreign policy questions). It has long been time to acknowledge that the incessant statements by official figures that "we are not speaking with the Georgians until Saakashvili leaves" are no more than a propaganda formula.

Just whom are our diplomat stalking with in Geneva is no idle question. Or does Giga (Giorgi) Bokeria now represent himself rather than his president? And with whom did the representatives of Inter RAO YeES (Russian Joint-Stock Company Unified Energy System) hold talks and sign papers in December of last year? Let me remind you that at that time the Memorandum on Joint Management for 10 Years of the Inguri GES (hydroelectric power plant), the largest hydroelectric power plant in the South Caucasus, was formalized between the Russian energy company and the Georgian energy ministry (which caused displeasure in Abkhazia). One wonders, since when has this Georgian ministry not been subordinate to Mikheil Saakashvili? The economic presence of Russian business in Georgia since August 2008 has not become any smaller. The absence of diplomatic relations is not preventing well-known Russian companies such as Lukoil, Vympelkom, VTB (Foreign Trade Bank), the already-mentioned Inter RAO YeES, and the OAO (open-type joint-stock company) RZhD (Russian Railways) from working in Georgia (the latter is making a "stop-off" through Armenia). In February of this year (2009), even the expressive President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili said: "Our policy was always that we welcome Russian economic and business interests in Georgia." Nor will we ignore the interaction along the lines of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches (in November Patriarch Kirill plans to meet in Baku with the Catholicos- Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia the Second). All this creates the prerequisites to allow bilateral relations to be set up on a pragmatic (rather than a propaganda) basis. If after the universally known events, a certain (although minimal) level of contacts even with Saakashvili's team is maintained!

Here let me add the fact that with the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, the importance of Georgia as a unique transit country will markedly decline. In this connection, out of purely objective considerations of an economic and geographic character, the interest in the Russian direction of transit will rise. And that will be a pragmatic basis for revising relations with the Russian Federation. The second consideration deals with an altogether different subject, security. The drastic step-up in terrorist and sabotage activity in the Russian North Caucasus today is not occurring under the slogans of ethnic separatism, but under the green banner of radical Islamism. But the Islamists' final goal is not Chechnya or even the North Caucasus. They are thinking in categories of a global jihad. Here is what Doku Umarov, the leader of the best-known terrorist group today, the Caucasus Emirate, has to say on that topic: "I do not think that there is a need to draw the borders of the Caucasus Emirate. In the first place, because the Caucasus is occupied by infidels and apostates and is Dar al-Kharb (as transliterated), a territory of war, and our immediate task is to make the Caucasus Dar Es-Salam (as transliterated -- haven of peace) by affirming the shariat on its land and driving out the infidels. Secondly, after the infidels are driven out, we must get back all the historical lands of the Muslims, and these borders are outside the limits of the borders of the Caucasus." All this allows us to assume that the fighters' activism will move to the other side of the Caucasus range any day now, and consequently, Georgia and Russia will be forced by life itself to revise their relationship and establish acceptable formats for cooperation in the security sphere. And although there are emotional supporters of the struggle of the "North Caucasian brothers" against Russia in Georgia today (for example, Zaal Kasrelishvili, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus), there is also a strong realization that the North Caucasus outside the Russian Federation and without the Russian Federation would be a greater danger for Tbilisi than an "occupier" country.

Consequently, ways and methods to interact with Georgia are necessary. Without deviating from the obligations to Abkhazia and South Ossetia that we have taken on and placing the accent on Russian national interests. But in spite of all that, the Georgian direction must not be abandoned. Above all out of pragmatic considerations. And so we must not be afraid of visits by people like Nogaideli, but also ourselves try to actively propose a new agenda for the Georgian political class and the expert community. As if there were no Saakashvili. Only such a proposal should actually be made to the Georgians rather than the Moscow Georgians. At the same time, we should understand one more important truth. The statements of any oppositionist are not the same as conducting real domestic and foreign policy. The examples of Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Voronin should be analyzed well. And so we should have no illusions about the idea that a new president of Georgia (Nogaideli, Alasania, or another as yet unknown so-and-so) will turn around policies toward the Russian Federation, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia 180 degrees. But even so, holding a dialogue based on the principle of "agree to mutually disagree" (when your partner acts within a certain framework and is controlled in that way) is better and more advantageous than going on the all-out defensive. However, more fine tuning is required to realize that. Intellectual and diplomatic tuning.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Window on Eurasia: Nationalism, Not Radical Islam Now Main Threat in North Caucasus, Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, November 3 – In the 1990s, most specialists on the North Caucasus argued that ethno-nationalism was the greatest challenge to public order and Moscow’s control in that region, but more recently and reflecting both foreign and domestic policy priorities, Russian analysts and officials have suggested that radical Islam has displaced ethnicity.

But this week, Anton Korablyov, a Moscow commentator, argues that “the greatest threat may come not from ‘Wahhabism’ but from nationalistic ideologies,” a shift in perception that regardless of its adequacy – clearly both nationalism and Islam play a role in the region – could prompt a change in Russian policy there (

Indeed, he argues, it is time to speak about “a renaissance of national social movements there, which are working in the political sphere” and using the ideas of pan-Turkism rather than Islam to form the kind of alliances among the smaller nationalities of the region that all analysts have suggested the peoples there must build if they are to have success.

And while Korablyov does not focus on this aspect of the rise of pan-Turkist ideas in parts of the North Caucasus, it is clear from what he does say that one of the reasons this ideology is so powerfully attractive to some groups is that it plays the same kind of bridging role that Islam often does elsewhere in the region.

Korablyov points out that “not one of the serious investigators of the religious situation in the North Caucasus speaks about popular support of the ideas of radical Islam being higher than two to three percent of the population.” But that means, of course, that “Wahhabism as such … is insufficient for the massive destabilization of the situation” now on view.

In a few republics – Daghestan and Ingushetia are the clearest cases – it has been possible to fill the gap between small number of supporters of Islamist ideologies and the total number of people needed for effective opposition by pointing to the illegal actions of the local interior ministries especially where those bodies work as “a state within a state.”

But in the western regions of the North Caucasus, Korablyov says, “the ‘militia’ problem’” is either smaller or “hardly sufficient so sow” serious discord in society. “On the other hand,” he continues, “another factor useful for anti-Russian forces has shown itself again – and that is the nationality one.”

There are three regions of the North Caucasus where pan-Turkic ideas are already playing a role in this regard and can be expected to play a larger one both absolutely and relative to Islamism and “militia” nationalism. These are Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Daghestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

In Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Daghestan, the role of pan-Turkism has been limited to local conflicts, but in Kabardino-Balkaria, Korablyov says, the situation is far more serious because in that republic “there have been attempts to construct national organizations which would be in a position to put constant pressure on everything taking place” there.

After a presidential vote in 1999 which almost led to a civil war, Karachayevo-Cherkessia was relatively quiet for most of the last decade, at least in terms of inter-ethnic conflicts. But now the selection of a new representative to the Federation Council threatens to trigger a 1999-style fight.

Five times, the local parliament has failed to confirm the man nominated to be the republic’s senator, in each case largely because representatives of the Karachays, a Turkic group, refused to vote for him and thus denied the parliament a quorum, even though, Korablyov says, there is little difference in the conditions and treatment of the two titular nationalities.

Meanwhile, in the Khasavyurt district of Daghestan, members of the Turkic Kumyk nationality have been engaged in a power struggle between the district head who is a Kumyk and the mayor of the major city who is an Avar. In the course of this fight, there have been two murders in the last year alone.

But in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, the Turkic issue is at least potentially far more serious. The Balkars of Kabardino-Balkaria (11.6 percent of that republic’s population) and the Karachays of Karachayevo-Cherkessia are “in fact one people.” In the 1990s, these two peoples, both deported by Stalin, sought separate autonomy but didn’t obtain it.

The Balkars continued to press their case, but they became significantly more active over the last two years in response to Cherkess moves to deprive them of land they considered their own through the redrawing of municipal boundaries. Some on both sides are seeking a compromise, but the role of the irreconcilables appears to be growing.

The interest of Turkish and Azerbaijani media in these developments has encouraged the Turkic groups, and that encouragement means, Korablyov insists, that “despite the widespread option, the greatest threat [to the North Caucasus] may arise not from the widely-advertised ‘Wahhabism’ but from nationalistic ideologies” like Turkishness.