Thursday, 29 July 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russian Supreme Court Ruling Likely to Exacerbate Ethnic Tensions in Kabardino-Balkaria

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 28 – Tensions between the Kabardin majority and the Balkar minority in the bi-national North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria are likely to be exacerbated by the decision of the Russian Supreme Court to set aside the decision of KBR’s highest court to ban the activity of the Council of Elders of the Balkar People as “extremist.”

Leaders of the Council of Elders celebrated yesterday’s decision which set aside the May 31st ruling by the Kabardino-Balkaria republic supreme court. One of their number, Oyus Gurtuyev, said that the Moscow decision shows “that [the Balkars] have acted within the law and that the law defends us” (

Gurtuyev’s comments are more significant than a first glance might suggest. On the one hand, the leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria, where 55 percent of the population is Circassian Kabardins and 12 percent consists of the Turkic Balkars, have pursued the Balkars on charges of extremism for several years.

In 2007, republic prosecutors warned the organization against “extremist” activity and brought criminal charges against Gurtuyev, the head of the council, for disseminating “intentionally false reports which attacked the honor and director of the President of the KBR and stained his reputation.”

Moreover, earlier this year, KBR prosecutors charged that the Council of Elders of the Balkar People had engaged in extremist activity by disseminating a report entitled “The Status of the Balkar People in the KBR: Sources of Problems and Paths of Overcoming Them” which pointed to anti-Balkar actions by the Kabardin majority.

And on the other, the Kabardins and Balkars are currently locked in a struggle over the control of pastureland, a struggle in which the Kabardins are seeking to overturn a Russian law on territorial arrangements of municipal administrations and the Balkars are demanding that Moscow insist on its full enforcement.

That measure, Federal Law 131 “On the organization of local self-administration” specifies that there must not be any un-administered space between settlements in heavily populated areas, a requirement that would seem to be ethnically neutral but in the case of the KBR, it is anything but.

The Balkars, despite being minorities, dominate many of the villages in the mountains, and if the law is in fact imposed, it would give them control over pastures between them, pastures that in the past ethnic Kabardins have traditionally made use of. Not surprisingly, some Kabardins are seeking to have the law overturned or at least ignored.

The struggle has been heating up, with Balkars staging demonstrations and hunger strikes both in the KBR and in Moscow, but the outcome of a meeting in Nalchik over the weekend suggests that tensions are continuing to rise and that there may soon be a major confrontation between the two nations in that already troubled republic (

On Saturday, Balkar activists assembled in the republic capital to consider both how to continue the fight to ensure that the municipality land law will not be changed and what Balkars should do in the face of rising activism among the Kabardins, a subgroup of the Circassians who are seeking the formation of a single Circassian Republic in the North Caucasus.

One Balkar leader, Dalkhat Baydayev, told those in attendance that Balkars have been “the first who have raised [their] heads for the fulfillment of laws in order that Russia should be a legal state.” Consequently, it seems certain that those who share his perspective will be encouraged by the Russian Supreme Court decision this week.

But it is clear that they face an uphill battle. KBR President Arsen Kanokov, a Kabardin, supports changing the law or even eliminating it altogether, other speakers at the session said, and he has built alliances both with Aleksandr Khloponin, the Presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus, and Moscow officials to push that agenda.

The Balkars, however, think they have succeeded in “blocking” these efforts so far. They feel, Dzhambulat Etteyev, another of their leaders, said, that “this law has already been working for five years” and that there is “no basis” for changing it. Nonetheless, the Balkars continue to be worried.

Bakhautdin Etezov, a third Balkar speaker, said that something was not right in Moscow and in Nalchik, and he speculated that “all this means either a crisis among the powers that be or a conspiracy against the Balkar people or even that someone very much wants to divide up Russia into pieces.”

The Balkars say they are very much against all of that, and at Saturday’s session, several speakers called for the creating of a Coordinating Council of Balkar Social Organizations” so that there will be a single organization capable of speaking on behalf of the entire Balkar people, something they currently feel they lack.

. And at the conclusion of the session, Ruslan Babayev, another of their leaders, declared that the Balkars now have only “a single way out” of their problems – “self-determination,” even though he insisted that the Balkars remain “supporters of resolving all [their] problems on the basis of the Constitution and Federal Laws.”

This new upsurge of Balkar activism could presage a concerted drive to end the bi-national KBR, something that in turn could trigger not only an expanded effort to move toward a united Circassian Republic but spark greater activism among other Turkic groups across the North Caucasus, including the Karachays of Karachayevo-Cherkessia.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Concert to showcase Kingdom’s cultural diversity

By Hana Namrouqa - The Jordan Times

July 26, AMMAN -- Folkloric dances, music and poetry of different nations will be featured at the Roman Theatre downtown Amman on Friday night, in a concert showcasing the Kingdom’s cultural diversity.

Organised by UNESCO Amman and the Jordanian Caucasian Cultural Society, the event includes Jordanian folkloric dances, Circassian dances and music, Bukhari poetry from Uzbekistan, Kazakh music, Turkish music and dances, Chechen music, Armenian folkloric dances and music, and poetry recital from Daghestan.

"Jordan’s multicultural society will celebrate years of amiable coexistence among its diverse groups who have lived in Jordan for decades becoming part of the community yet still retaining important elements of their heritage," the UNESCO Amman office said in a statement on its website.

Jordanian Caucasian Cultural Society President Fakhruddin Daghestani said the night of cultural diversity, which starts at 7:00pm and ends at 9:00pm, marks the UN’s International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

"The event seeks to highlight the different cultures in Jordan and preserve minorities' cultures," he told The Jordan Times yesterday, noting that it is open to the public.

"The event will be held at the Roman Theatre because it has a capacity of around 3,000 spectators, and we are expecting a huge turnout," Daghestani noted.

He underscored the Kingdom's cultural diversity, noting that 11 groups live in harmony in Jordan: Bedouins, Circassians, Chechens, Armenians, Bukharans, Kazakhs, Turks, Dagestanis, Druze, Bosnians and Assyrians.

Established last year, the Jordanian Caucasian Cultural Society seeks to preserve Jordanian and Caucasian culture and folklore by holding festivals and lectures, among other activities.

Kosovo and the International Court, by Jack Matlock

If Kosovo independence is recognized, why not South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Why defend the right of self-determination in one instance and deny it in others?

Jack Matlock
American professor and former ambassador

The ruling by the International Court of Justice that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law (see Dan Bilefsky’s article in the New York Times today) will be used by the Kosovo government to argue that it entitles Kosovo to diplomatic recognition by other governments. Serbia will deny this and point out that the ruling was carefully limited, making clear that diplomatic recognition is a political, not a legal decision.

ICJ President Judge Hisashi Owada, centre, flanked by Judge Peter Tomka, left, and Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, right, at the court in The Hague on Thursday, July 22, 2010.
I have not read the court’s ruling, which was by a 10-4 majority and thus not unanimous, and do not know whether the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 were taken into account. Possibly not, because the Helsinki document was a political not legalcommitment. Signatories made a commitment to observe certain human rights, which we used with great effect to encourage correction of human rights abuses in the Soviet Union. It also contained a commitment not to change international borders without the consent of both parties involved.

For this reason, I would interpret the court’s ruling to be that the Kosovo authorities had a right to declare independence, but that that declaration was not legally binding on other countries. The court did not rule on the question of whether other countries are obligated to recognize Kosovo’s independence. If other countries adhere to the Helsinki Final Act, they would be violating one of its principles to do so without Serbia’s concurrence. Nevertheless, the United States and the majority (though far from all) European countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence. The court’s ruling will doubtless facilitate Kosovo’s campaign for further recognition, though it is already clear that neither Serbia nor Russia agree. China, given its problems in Xinjang and Tibet will most likely also not agree, providing two potential vetoes against UN membership.

I opposed the bombing of Serbia over Kosovo and was opposed to what I considered the premature U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s independence (which is hardly total since it requires UN assistance to keep order within the country). Nevertheless, what is done is done. At the present time, all parties would be served by putting this issue behind them and encouraging both Kosovo and Serbia to move into an association with the European Union, and eventual membership.

However, if this is to happen, the U.S. should adopt a more consistent policy in regard to other frozen conflicts. If Kosovo independence is recognized, why not South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Why defend the right of self-determination in one instance and deny it in others? This goes also for areas like Trans-Dniestr, Northern Cyprus, and (hold your breath) Kurdistan. No? Well, think about it. Are we to cherry pick the conflicting principles of international law and apply some when it suits us and others when it doesn’t?

But my bottom line is that the United States should ease itself out of these local and regional problems. They represent no-win situations for outsiders. So why don’t we just step aside, do all we can to avoid violence in the area, but leave the rest to the people directly involved?

Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has focused on understanding how the Cold War ended and how the lessons from that experience might be applied to public policy today.

For more biographical details, see the Wikipedia page: Jack F. Matlock, Jr.

Source: Here & Now: A Blog (July 24, 2010)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sochi: the capital of a lost people

by Stefan Candea, Around the Black Sea Project

The passage from the laid-back atmosphere in Abkhazia to the thriving and animate Russian district of Krasnodar is quite sudden. Even from the frontier point one can see the district is jam-packed: shops glued one to another, crammed cars in endless traffic jams and ongoing massive works on the infrastructure. As usual, the ubiquitous police forces keep a close watch over everything and anything. Hardly did we reach Adler when we saw on the left a huge billboard announcing extensive works to set up one of the many facilities where the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games (OG) will take place.

The narrow road winding up between the mountains and the sea cannot take in the army of tourists that keeps flooding in. Officially, in the Sochi region alone, about four and a half million tourists visit the Black Sea coast. The coast stretches along 300 kilometers north to Anapa and is strewn with tourist resorts which leads to traffic jams whatever the day, hour and weather may be. Vladimir Putin has promised the International Olympic Committee Russia would set aside 12 billion dollars for the infrastructure in order to ensure a proper development of the Olympic Games. However, Russian opposition politicians, among whom also a former prime-minister, claim the money is wasted on games which will turn out to be a disaster because of corruption, organized crime and lack of snow.

Nevertheless, the infrastructure is just one of the many problems the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games raise. The Russian authorities are facing a situation similar to that of China in 2008 when the state was accused of the brutal breach of the Tibetans’ rights. And yet, the Chinese didn’t dare organize the Olympics in Tibet. The year and place of the inauguration of the Olympic Games, Krasnaya Polyana, mark 150 years since the first genocide in modern European history and the expulsion from their own country of a people who have been living in exile for generations. The people: the Circassians who were pushed to the Black Sea by the armies of Tsarist Russia in 1864, at the end of over a 100-year war to conquer Caucasus. The row of Russian forts between Sukhum and Anapa, now turned into tourist resorts, prepared the defeat of the Circassian people: they cut off their connection to the sea and their trade and supply means.

Over one million Circassians were driven out by the Ottoman Empire in an operation strikingly similar to the massive Soviet deportations. Approximately 300.000 people drowned, died of hunger or illness on the beaches where they had taken refuge. Most of the survivors settled in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Israel. Circassian families went so far as Bulgaria, Romania and Kosovo. Around five million Circassian live in the world and over 500.00 live in Krasnodar, Stavropol, Northern Ossetia and in three artificially-created republics: Adygea, Kabardino-Balkar and Karachay-Cherkess. Although they belong to the same people, they were separated, mixed with other nations and given a different name depending on the territory they lived on: Circassians, Kabardins, Shapsugs and Adyghe.

When I left Romania I didn’t know the first thing about the Circassians. It was in Ankara that I read about their protests against the Sochi Olympic Games and I eventually discovered Oliver Bullough’s (British journalist) very recent book which I used as my main source of documentation. Among the sources the book recommended there was a site of the Circassian community to which I turned to for contacts in Sochi. In less than half a day my message reached Ankara, Nalchik and made it back to Sochi. In the evening I met with the representatives of a local organization of Circassians and the following day we were fixed up in a nearby village.

Murat and Salikh are two thirty-year-old young men who were born in the Circassian villages around Sochi. They are part of HASE, an association set up by the Shapsug tribe. Murat works in marketing and Salikh in energy export. Both of them learned a false history in school: the history that mentions Circassians only in passing as people who existed once, but ‘left the table’ at a certain point. Salikh showed me old maps of Circassia, symbols, flags and pictures from commemorations, all of them saved on his mobile phone. He said the power of his people resides in everybody knowing by heart the history of their own family up to the seventh generation. He was very interested in the book I bought in Ankara, a book whose author (a foreigner) recounts in great detail Salikh’s very own history. I offered him the book.

The Russian state’s reaction to this type of issues is much too fierce, especially in the area of the Caucasian republics. Therefore, the HASE organization doesn’t insist on the official recognition of the term ‘genocide’, but only that of the historical events that led to the deportation and death of the Circassian people. Moreover, they demand the symbols of the Circassian tribes that were exterminated in Sochi be included amongst the other Olympic Games emblems. Other groups from different regions have a much radical view on things, requesting the cancellation of the Olympic Games or the establishment of the Circassian Republic.

July 19, 2010

Friday, 23 July 2010

Window on Eurasia: Dam Bombing Could Be ‘Dress Rehearsal’ for Sochi Olympics, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 22 – Most Russian commentators have suggested that the bombing this week of a hydroelectric dam in the North Caucasus was either simply a continuation of the activities of anti-government groups in that region or was specifically directed against the leadership of Kabardino-Balkaria or Presidential Plenipotentiary Aleksandr Khloponin.

All those factors could be at work, Aleksandr Krylov, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of International Economics and International Relations, acknowledges, but he argues that the bombing may in fact be part of a broader effort by Circassian groups and others to derail plans for the Sochi Olympics in 2014 (

Krylov specifically notes that “there is an intensification now in the North Caucasus of the Circassian problem, which is directly connected with the upcoming Olympiad, and certain forces are actively attempting to play the Circassian card for their own purposes,” an effort that has found “mass support in local society” there.

In support of his argument, Krylov points to what happened in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics. It was no accident, he suggests, that “on the eve of the Chinese Olympics the theme of Tibet and the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous district sounded to strongly. This was not a simple coincidence; there are influential forces in the world who strive to use ethnic games.”

Krylov’s suggestion is important for at least three reasons. First, it reflects a continuing lack of consensus in the Russian capital not only over the source of violence in the North Caucasus but also on how best to counter it, with officials divided between those who favor force and those who believe only economic change will lead to an improvement, albeit over time.

Second, it is yet another indication that those Circassians who seek the formation of a single republic for their nationality in the North Caucasus and demand official recognition of the genocide carried out against them nearly 150 years ago by tsarist authorities have gotten the attention of Moscow, albeit perhaps not the kind of attention they seek.

And third, and perhaps most important, Krylov’s argument highlights the growing tendency of officials in the Russian capital to view all issues in the North Caucasus through the prism of preparations for the Sochi Olympics, the 2014 games that Vladimir Putin has indicated he views as a major part of his legacy.

On the one hand, such a perspective suggests that Moscow may be prepared to use even more force against those like the Circassians it suspects of trying to undermine Russia’s ability to prepare for and stage the games and that the center will adopt an even harder line against the Circassians now than it has in the past.

And on the other, Krylov’s linkage of the Circassians and the question of the Sochi Games could simultaneously lead Moscow to devote more attention to the ethnic dimension of conflicts in the region, aspects of the conflict there which many in Moscow and elsewhere have discounted because of the rise of Islamist politics.

In response to questions put by, Krylov made a number of additional points about Russian policy in the North Caucasus in the wake of the latest attack. He said that the decision of anti-Russian forces to attack something as major as a dam shows that “the local underground has become more active” and that “the situation will continue to get worse.”

Indeed, he says, “it is completely possible that those forces which are striving toward the destabilization [of the region] want to push the situation there to the level of Chechnya a decade ago.” Given the likelihood of such plans, Krylov continues, “that is the chief cause” behind the dam explosion, and not “some kind of contradictions in the local elite.”

Asked directly what forces might be interested in such an outcome, Krylov responds that “there are many such forces both locally and abroad,” including Al Qaeda, “criminal groups, various foreign states who in some fashion want to put pressure on Russia in their interests and are using for this the Circassian factor and the unstable situation.”

Local elites, Krylov says, are exploiting all this, seeking to “shift responsibility” for everything onto Moscow and “receive from the federal center concessions and what is most important financial means.” And consequently in the years leading up to the Sochi Games, “we will have an extremely complex situation in this [Circassian] part of the Caucasus.”

According to Krylov, the most important thing Moscow can do is to define the problem correctly and “foresee threats.” Up to now, he says, “our powers that be have been reacting to what happens.” As a result, the initiative belongs not to the powers that be but rather to those who oppose them.

Fighting terrorism is hard for everyone, Krylov concedes, but it seems harder for Russia than for others. “Our western ‘allies’ learn from their mistakes and do not have repeats of the explosions which have occurred. With us, on the other hand, is observed a certain psychological freeze: terrorist acts take place with regularity and quite frequently. This is very disturbing.”

Asked whether the new law on the FSB will change the situation, Krylov says that only the future will tell. But he notes that “we have a large number of ideas and various documents, but then somehow this all is very poorly followed in the real work of the organs,” institutions that for all their shortcomings are nonetheless doing a great deal.

“If they were not effective,” the IMEMO analyst suggests, “the situation would be much worse, but up to now they have functioned insufficiently effectively in order to block the majority of threats which are arising for the security of the state.”


Rights Activists In North Caucasus Appeal To Medvedev For Protection

July 23, RFE/RL -- MOSCOW -- Human rights activists in the North Caucasus are appealing to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to take action to protect them from attacks and allow them to work safely, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The written appeal to Medvedev comes after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov remarked during a television interview that workers at the human rights organization Memorial are "enemies of the people, enemies of the law, and enemies of the state."

Valentin Gefter, the director of Russia's Human Rights Institute, said the problem is not just with Kadyrov, but with the governments and officials throughout the North Caucasus.

"Unfortunately, the problem isn't corrupt soldiers or some sort of underground, but crimes committed by police officers and members of the local government," Gefter said. "While it's a local problem, it seems that the federal government isn't doing anything about it."

In May, Medvedev met with activists working in the North Caucasus and assured them that he fully supported their work.

Kheda Saratova, a human rights activist in the region, said that after she heard Kadyrov's statement she called his office and spoke to his press secretary.

"I asked him what the president's words meant and if, as a human rights activist in Chechnya, I was now considered a criminal by the government," she said. "And he answered me, 'You should cut down your activity.'"

Source: RFE/RL

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Kosovo's independence is legal, UN court rules

Decision in favour of Kosovo's independence could have far-reaching implications for other separatist movements

Peter Beaumont, Guardian -- Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008 did not violate international law, the international court of justice (ICJ) said today in a groundbreaking ruling that could have far-reaching implications for separatist movements around the world, as well as for Belgrade's stalled EU membership talks.

The long-awaited ruling - which the court took up after a complaint to the UN from Serbia - is now likely to lead to more countries recognising Kosovo's independence and move Pristina closer to entry into the UN. At present, Kosovo's statehood is backed by 69 countries but it requires over 100 before it can join the UN.

Announcing the decision, the court of justice president, Hisashi Owada, said international law contains no "prohibition on declarations of independence".

Although both Belgrade and Pristina had said they were confident of a ruling in their favour, speculation began to emerge a few hours before today's announcement in the Hague that the decision - which is not legally binding - had gone Kosovo's way.

Prior to the judgement, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, had made it clear that the US would not contemplate a retreat from Kosovo's newly independent status.

Key considerations that the UN's top court examined - arising out of dozens of submissions by UN member states as well as by Kosovo's own leadership - have focused on issues of sovereignty, the slim volume of precedent in international law, and how formerly large states such as the USSR broke up along administrative borders.

Serbia has continued to demand Kosovo be returned, arguing it has been the cradle of their civilisation and national identity since 1389, when a Christian army led by Serbian Prince Lazar lost an epic battle to invading Ottoman forces.

The ruling is expected to have profound ramifications on the wider international stage, bolstering demands for recognition by territories as diverse as Northern Cyprus, Somaliland, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria.

The ICJ's ruling is not, however, expected to have an immediate impact on the situation on the ground in Kosovo, where a small area with a Serb majority has itself split away around the north of the town of Mitrovica, which has about 100,000 residents. That deadlock has sometimes erupted into violence, despite intense international efforts, with Serbs and Kosovans running their own areas.

Kosovo sparked sharp debate worldwide when it seceded from Serbia in 2008, following the bloody 1998-99 war and almost a decade of international administration. The 1998-99 war, triggered by a brutal crackdown by Serb forces against Kosovo's separatist ethnic Albanians, left about 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead before ending after a 78-day Nato bombing campaign. Hundreds of Serbs were also killed in retaliatory attacks.

Today's ruling will reinforce Kosovo's resistance to any kind of renegotiation - particularly over the status of the Serb majority areas in the north.

Kosovo's foreign minister, Skender Hyseni, said before the ruling that reopening negotiations was "inconceivable".

Speaking yesterday, the Serbian foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, had warned that even in the event of a ruling against it, Belgrade would not be ready to give up its claim on Kosovo.

"Serbia will not change its position regarding Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and necessity of a compromise," he said. "Our fight for such a solution will probably be long and difficult, but we will not give up."

Jeremic, who was in The Hague for the ruling, had said earlier that he expected the decision to vindicate Serbia, which would lead to new negotiations on both sides.

US State Department legal adviser Harold Koh said: "Serbia seeks an opinion by this court that would turn back time ... [and] undermine the progress and stability that Kosovo's declaration has brought to the region."Leading the other side of the argument is Serbia's traditional ally Russia, which has fought against its own separatist movement in Chechnya. Moscow has demanded Kosovo's independence be annulled, and last year was joined in its opposition by Spain and China, each also facing major secessionist movements.

Source: Guardian

Related issues

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Georgia’s new “strategy”: What’s behind it?, by Liana Kvarchelia

It looks like the Georgian so called “Strategy on occupied territories”, that claims the de-isolation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as it’s main purpose, was in fact designed for exactly the opposite purposes. The political frames of the Strategy suggest that Georgia’s idea of de-isolation in reality means “de-occupation” of Abkhazia. Needless to say, that this approach is totally unacceptable for Abkhazia, since those who live in Abkhazia do not consider themselves “occupied”, but rather feel protected against another possible Georgia’s reckless military adventure.

It is very likely that the Strategy was invented to intercept EU initiatives (European “engagement without recognition” approach). The aim is either to try to channel them through Georgia, or at least to discredit them by linking international engagement to the idea of “de-occupation” and Georgia’s “territorial integrity”. Knowing that the international community is not prepared to do anything in Abkhazia without Georgia’s consent, and realizing that Abkhazia will be very unlikely to accept international aid channeled through Georgia, the Georgian Government is in fact trying to block any direct international engagement in Abkhazia.

The Georgian approach reflects certain illusions that exist in the Georgian society. One of such illusions is the hope that if Abkhazia is left alone to deal with Russia, Abkhazians would eventually realize the risks of their asymmetric relations with Moscow and turn back to Georgia. On the other hand, if Georgia really counts on Abkhazia’s acceptance of the “Strategy”, then Georgia’s interests are ensured in the document, that pre-conditions any aid to Abkhazia by providing strong Georgian control. So the whole business is about either blocking Abkhazia’s external contacts, or controlling them.

It is highly unlikely that Abkhazia will respond positively to Georgia’s Strategy and the subsequent Action Plan. It is also unlikely, that Abkhazia will turn to Georgia in the face of growing Russia’s presence. Within Abkhazia unification with Georgia is not regarded as an alternative at all. The question is, whether the EU will be able to put substance in their own strategy, and make it absolutely clear (to Georgia in the first place), that EU’s engagement is not designed to help the Georgians to get back what they have lost through the war.

Liana Kvarchelia
Deputy director, Centre for Humanitarian Programmes, Sukhum, Abkhazia

Militants hit Russia power plant, killing two guards

BBC, July 21 -- Armed militants have stormed a hydroelectric power station in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, killing two guards and detonating four bombs.

TV footage showed fires raging at the plant, in the mainly Muslim republic of Kabardino-Balkaria republic.

Officials said the fires were now under control, and that electricity supplies had not been affected.

Analysts say it appears to be an escalation of Islamist insurgent attacks on Russian economic targets.

"This shows the scourge of terrorism is not only not subsiding, but expanding geographically," said Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the security committee of Russia's parliament, according to the Reuters news agency.

President Dmitry Medvedev said that security had been stepped up.

"Spoke to head of FSB [security service] and president of Kabardino-Balkaria. Security at strategic sites tightened after today's explosions," he said in a message on the social-networking website Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters.

Kabardino-Balkaria has seen less militant violence than the other semi-autonomous republics in the region: Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

The most serious attack in Kabardino-Balkaria came in October 2005 when dozens of men stormed the regional capital Nalchik. The Russian government said 136 people were killed, including 91 militants.

'No disaster threat'
State-owned firm RusHydro, which runs the power station, said in a statement on its website that explosions had hit the plant at 0525 local time (0125 GMT) on Wednesday.

The attackers detonated four explosive devices in the 25-megawatt plant on the Baksan river, but a fifth failed to go off.

Investigators said two explosions shook the plant's turbine room and another two hit the transformer vault.

According to police spokesman Adlan Kakakuyev, two cars carrying half a dozen assailants had attacked the plant, shooting two guards and wounding three other people.

The attackers reportedly seized two Kalashnikov assault rifles from the dead guards.

The same group are believed to have earlier opened fire on a police station in the town of Baksan.

Officials said the flow of water from the dam, on the Baksan river, had been stopped to prevent any flooding downriver.

Electricity supplies had not been disrupted because power had been rerouted from elsewhere, the authorities said.

Regional officials said there was no further danger of a "technical accident or disaster" at the plant, which was built in the 1930s.

According to Russia's Ria-Novosti news agency, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has put Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin in charge of repairing the damaged power station.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953, by Stephen D. Shenfield

June 2010 - Special to Abkhaz World


In the period 1922—1930 Abkhazia enjoyed the status of a union republic associated with but not subordinate to Georgia. On February 19, 1931 the Sixth All-Georgian Congress of Soviets decided, presumably with Stalin’s consent, to deprive Abkhazia of this status and incorporate it into Georgia as an autonomous republic. In several Abkhaz villages there were mass protests against this change as well as against forced collectivization, then underway across the Soviet Union. Georgian leader Lavrenti Beria mobilized a security police detachment to suppress the protests, but Nestor Lakoba, the first leader of Soviet Abkhazia, managed to defuse the confrontation and avert bloodshed.

The result was that Abkhazia retained substantial de facto autonomy for another five or six years, although Lakoba now needed to make frequent visits to Tbilisi to consult with the Georgian leadership. By referring to the special conditions prevailing in Abkhazia, he was able to halt collectivization, avoid carrying out purges, and even distribute financial allowances to Abkhaz princes and nobles. In these respects, Abkhazia found itself in a uniquely protected position at a time of general upheaval.

Murder of Nestor Lakoba and subsequent purges

This idyll came to a sudden end with the death of Nestor Lakoba in December 1936, ushering in the period of repression that I refer to as the Stalin—Beria terror. The cause of Lakoba’s death has never been formally established, although historians acknowledge that he died under suspicious circumstances. However, various oral versions have survived. In an interview given by the famous Abkhaz writer Fazil Iskander, the interviewer suggests that Beria summoned Lakoba to his office and shot him right there, but Iskander rejects this version:

No, no, he was poisoned by Beria! What do I know? An order came from Beria that Lakoba should report to him in Tbilisi.. Nestor Apollonovich usually went to Tbilisi with his wife, but on this occasion he refused to take her with him—apparently he understood that things were difficult there. He arrived in Tbilisi, and on the very first day he and Beria had a vicious row at the offices of the Georgian Central Committee. [According to historian Stanislav Lakoba, Beria presented Lakoba with a plan to resettle peasants from Western Georgia in Abkhazia, which Lakoba refused to implement—SDS] Lakoba returned to his hotel room. After a while the telephone rang. It was Beria’s wife Nina, or perhaps Beria’s mother. “Why are you and Lavrenti quarreling, Nestor? You are friends, after all. Come to our place, we’ll dine together.” So she persuaded Lakoba to come. I’m sure she knew nothing of Beria’s intention. When they met, Beria handed his “friend” a glass of poisoned wine. After the meal Beria and Lakoba went to the theater, where Lakoba felt unwell, stood up, and headed for the exit. On the street he told his chauffeur in Abkhaz: “They’ve killed me!” He repeated these words a number of times, evidently already feeling the effect of the poison. Hardly had he reached his hotel room when he lay down and died. Some time—half an hour or an hour—later Beria turned up at the hotel...

I was a little boy at the time and vaguely remember how it was declared that Lakoba had died of a heart attack or something of the sort. His body was brought to Abkhazia, but Lakoba’s wife was a very courageous woman: knowing of the difficult relations between her husband and Beria, she called in her physician, who determined that Lakoba had been poisoned. Then she asked the physician to go to Moscow and inform [the Kremlin] of the cause of Lakoba’s death. The physician set off, but on the way he was intercepted and taken to Sochi. After that all trace of him is lost. Evidently he was either shot right away or jailed.

After that there began in Abkhazia [show] trials like those taking place in Moscow. It was Beria’s intention that Lakoba’s chief accusor should be his own wife. The chief accusation against him was that he had been a Turkish spy. [Lakoba’s wife was of Turkish origin—SDS] But Lakoba’s wife, despite every kind of torture, would not betray her husband, so she never appeared in court. She went insane from the tortures and died in jail.

They had a son. He was immediately arrested. When the war began, he wrote Beria a letter: “Uncle Lavrenti, let me out of jail and I’ll go to the front.” Beria is said to have responded: “What? Is he still alive?”—and gave the order for him to be shot.1 Read all article... (AW)