Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia's puppet states

"Moscow may well hope to manage it as a puppet state, but any puppet state tends to go loose as time goes," Russian Jotman reader Sanjuro writes of South Ossetia, nexus of the military confrontation between Russia and Georgia. Sanjuro notes the tenuousness of Russia's hold over various republics in the region:
Meanwhile, although North Ossetia is currently "loyal" to Moscow, other North Caucasian republics display loyalty in words only. Dagestan is somewhat integrated into the Federation, Chechnya is ruled by a warlord, Ingushetia has been on the brink of a civil war for the last two years, Karachaevo-Cherkessia (KCR) is also mess... All these regions claimed "personal loyalty" to Putin and Co., but having an independent nation state in whatever form that has recently fought for and gained independence may be a tempting pretext for the local strongmen. And the pipeline again . . .

One of the symptoms and reasons of the breeding separatism in these regions (incl. North Ossetia) is their apparent non-integration in the Russian economy as such. These regions receive federal transferts (Chechnya is a notorious "black hole" for aid money), supply a great deal of domestic migrant workers (typically hated by ethnic Russians), and that is it. There's no inclusion, no sense of a larger community.
What happens when Russia can no longer afford to transfer funds to peripheral regions of the empire? The potential for piplines and resource development will always hold out the promise of alternative funds. Moreover, as Sanjuro points out, if on account of racism, the inhabitants of these lands feel unwelcome in Moscow, in what real sense can anyone speak of today's Russian Federation as a community?

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