Cablegate: Civil Society On the North Caucasus: No News Is Not


DE RUEHMO #5345/01 3130826
R 090826Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: In a recent roundtable discussion, Russian civil
society leaders expressed uniform pessimism on prospects for
democratic development in the North Caucasus - despite relative calm
and improved infrastructure in Chechnya. Our interlocutors predict
continuing political violence and an increase in popular alienation
from the Russian mainstream. End Summary.

2. (U) In an October 6 lunch roundtable, political prospects for the
North Caucasus were debated by Deputy Chief of Mission from the
Danish Embassy Soren Liborius (in his role as liaison to a major
regional provider of humanitarian assistance, the Danish Refugee
Council), Demos Center Chair Tanya Lokshina, Russian Justice
Initiative Executive Director Ole Solvang, Human Rights Watch Moscow
Deputy Director Sasha Petrov, and Professor Sergey Arutyunov (Chief
of the Caucasus Section of the Institute of Ethnology of the Russian
Academy of Science).

Power Politics

3. (SBU) Lokshina, who last visited the region in October 2007,
acknowledged that Russia's policy of "Chechenization" of the
conflict in the North Caucasus has worked in so far as political
violence has decreased in the Chechen Republic. There were no
abductions in Chechnya in April 2007 and about 10 over the
succeeding summer, with "only" two abductees disappearing entirely.
Lokshina argued that the new relative security of Chechnya's
residents is thanks to an order conveyed by Chechen President Ramzan
Kadyrov. It is also possible, Lokshina stressed, that family
members are at present too frightened of retaliation to report their
relatives' abductions.

4. (SBU) Lokshina called Kadyrov's Chechnya a well-organized
totalitarian society. Kadyrov has stationed all media and NGOs in
one building in Grozny, the better to monitor them, she said.
Kadyrov's and his father Ahmad Kadyrov's portraits are everywhere in
Grozny - not just in public spaces where the government posts them
but in private homes and shops, seemingly as a talisman against
state-sponsored violence. Although Kadyrov has done a lot to
rebuild Chechnya, especially Grozny, Lokshina said it seemed to her
that reconstruction had actually stalled recently. Either money
from the federal budget has dried up, Lokshina concluded, or Kadyrov
is using a greater portion of it to enrich himself and his cronies.

5. (SBU) Arutyunov differed with Lokshina on this score, arguing
that Kadyrov (unlike more rapacious counterparts in neighboring
republics) continued to parcel out monies in a manner that ensured
continued economic growth and regeneration. Taking a longer view,
Arutyunov compared Chechnya under the Kadyrovs to Haiti under the
Duvalier regime. Kadyrov's short-term success, he argued, was due to
the relative homogeneity of Chechnya (compared to Dagestan), which
meant that Kadyrov had a ruling clan clique with its equivalent of a
Tonton Macoute-type army. However, Arutyunov said that no amount of
security can protect Kadyrov from his many enemies, and he predicted
he would be assassinated like his father.

6. (SBU) Solvang agreed with Lokshina that any reduction in
disappearances is thanks to a political order from above and not to
the development of indigenous legal institutions. He noted that
there has been only one conviction in a disappearance case in
Chechnya since 1999. No new prosecutions have been brought in recent
times, and those that have been reopened involve federal troops, not
the vigilante "Kadyrovtsy," as defendants. Liborius, who regularly
travels to the North Caucasus to monitor Danish-sponsored aid
projects there, remarked that attempts by international NGOs to
create relevant institutions in the Chechen government had been
unsuccessful so far and raised questions about the sustainability of
these international programs.

Cultural Divide

7. (U) Meanwhile, Lokshina added, due to ethnic Russians' flight
during the first and second Chechen wars and the deep alienation of
Chechen society from the center, rural Chechen children cannot read
or write Russian and are ill-prepared for the education on offer, as
textbooks are in Russian only. These circumstances bode ill for
their longer-term integration in Russian society, Lokshina stated.
(Comment: PRM has been funding Russian-language preschool programs
for Chechen refugee children in Ingushetia. Lokshina's observation
may argue for expansion of such programming to Chechnya in the
interest of peacebuilding. End Comment.)

8. (SBU) More worrying still, the lunch guests agreed, moderate
Chechen nationalism was being replaced among the economically and
politically disenfranchised by militant pan-Islamism that, thanks to
the Chechen diaspora, is spreading to other North Caucasus
republics. There, cumulative local grievances over lack of
employment, ethnic discrimination, and political repression

generated greater support for violence. The short-sighted GOR
response has been to follow its management model from the Chechen
conflict: prop up weak (with the possible exception of Kadyrov)
governors who are loyal to the center, and crack down on any
dissent, including by restricting reporting from the region.
Arutyunov noted that the growing alienation in the region existed
despite the fact that the current rulers (put in place under Dmitry
Kozak's watch as PolPred) were all arguably "better" than their
predecessors, with the notable exception of Ingushetia President

9. (SBU) Our interlocutors concluded that popular frustration,
particularly in neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan, may rise, with
a commensurate increase in terrorist bombings. Arutyunov spoke of a
"vicious circle" in which arbitrary and abusive police conduct
provokes popular protests exacerbated by ethnic divisions. The
resulting instability makes Sharia law attractive, and a widespread
turn to Islam makes Moscow nervous and inclined toward greater
repression. Police and judicial reform are the only solution, he
said, evoking laughter from a group of people convinced that these
are exactly what is required -- and difficult to achieve --


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