Lost North Caucasus?

Today I came across an interesting article by Amy Knight on Russia and North Caucasus. And since I have been working with refugees from that part of the world I resolved to write a short comment on this topic:

I have been working with refugees from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia since July 2006 and met among them many people, who have never supported terrorist attacks. They just look for peace and possibility of normal life.

The problem of North Caucasus poses not only high rate of unemployment, so called “zachistki”(sweep operations), murders, but also illegal apprehensions, rapes, tortures, extremely interrogations. This is everydal life in North Caucasus. Ramzan Kadyrov obtained from Vladimir Putin cart balnche and can do all what he wishes. If he or his people will like a girl, the just take her, if they want to shoot to women who do not wear headscarves, they just do it.

Pushing Chechens, Dagestani or Ingush people towards terrorism – in my opinion – has two reasons: strategic interests of Russian government in North Caucasus and lack of interest of the Western World in this part of the world.

Let’s recall the first and the beginning of the second of the so called Chechen – Russian wars. Chechens fought for independent country, they even had a democratic, secular constitution. In the second war Aslan Maschadov was a moderate, relatively liberal president, who also fought for independence, not for muslim state. But the second world is much more pereceived as a war for Emirate of North Caucasus. Fundamentalist muslims started appearing in Chechnya, common people got to radicalize. It is no wonder. Each long, cruel war must demoralize and change people to the worse. Chechens got disappointed with Western World, they counted that this mytical Western World would support them, not in military way (even though some might have thought that even in a military way), but mainly with political measures. But id did not happen so. They felt abandoned by democratic world, international community and turned to the muslim fundamentalists. And fundamentalists understood that situation very well, they just waited for such course of the events.

I have no idea what may be the way to untie that real Gordian Knot. Addressing of unemployment, poverty may be not enough. As long as there are fighters in mountains and woods, “zachistki”, murders, tortures, illegal apprehensions will continue. It is not enough to give these people employment and money, there are young men who support muslim fighrers because of religious reasons and , whom you just cannot buy. And we should remember thar so many evil happned in North Caucasus and continues to happen that “blood revenge” so strongly rooted in Chechen society may never have an end. I hope I am mistaken.


My ideas about Russian literature

Today I came across an interesting article – “Why western authors are in love with Mother Russia” by Andrew Miller, and resolved to write a comment below it, including my private and modest ideas concerning Russian literature:

A few years ago I read about one of my favourite Russian writers, that “he was closest to the truth about human being”. This sentence concerned Fiodor Dostoyevsky. And it is impossible to disagree with this statement, when one reads “Idiot” or “Crime and punishment”. In every of these books one is able to find himself/herself, to identify with some characteres. When I read Dostoyevsky or Turgeneiv I read it with all my nerves, it is not just work of the mind, but work of my whole being (my soul, my mind and body).

That is why I agree with following Author’s statement:

“Writers born elsewhere tend to be captivated first by the grandeur and reckless honesty of the great Russian authors (…)”

Russian writers do possess not only “reckless honesty”, but also – sometimes even heroic – courage to tell truth about human being’s nature. It is a kind of civil courage, which so often Western writers lack, with exception of Joseph Conrad, C.S. Lewis, or Jack London. They do not hide truth behind the curtian of courtesy, social conventions or political corectness. They show it with all its pain, suffering, ugliness, so that we get fed up with our reality, and do not see another possibility, apart from changing our inner, spiritual world.

With regard to another Author’s statement:

“Nick, my narrator, is sucked into Moscow during its greedy, oil-fuelled boom. He only finds out what sort of man he can be, perhaps has always been, when he lives in Russia.”

I think that in Russia we may feel in some sense “naked”, it is still a state, where one can feel as “pure”, “naked”, “raw”, “defenseless”, as it is only possible, where state, law, authority, social conventions do not prevent him/her from all evil human instincts existing in all human beings. In Russia there is a bare human being standing opposite omnipotent authority, simple people opposite corrupt officials or oligarchs. In such milieu all human stances, all human behaviours are sharper, more visible, distinguishable. If you are courageous, you are much more courageous than in Western countries. What is the price of courage in Great Britian, or Germany and what is the price of courage in Russia? You can answer this question, when you take into consideration, fate of such persons as Anna Politkovskaya, Natasha Estemirova, Nastia Baburova, Litvinenko, Chodorkovsky.

In Russia you have much better and more occasions to be decent or wicked, and when you decide to be decent you have much more to lose, than when you decide to be decent in France.

In other words, I think that in Russia, a person have much more possibilities to be more human, to be more real and true, than in other parts of Europe. And no wonder, that in such reality, great literature appears…

Excessive caution, fear or art of diplomacy?

Lithuania appears to be one of the most successful countries among new member states of the European Union. Regardless of present difficulties connected with global crisis its economy manages to do realtively well. Its capital city – Vilnius – flourishes and continuously evolves into one of the most beuatiful cities in whole Europe. Of course as in case of majority of new European Union member states the contrasts and gaps between poor province and rapidly modernizing cities are easily noticeable.

My recent trip to Lithuania I resolved to devote to places related with Lithaunian statehood and its newest history. It is worth reminding that Lithuania regained its indepndence on 11 March 1990. On that day Lithuanian Parliament issued Declaration of Independence from Soviet Union. That act of courage cost lives of 14 civil people who were shot and run over by Soviet tanks near TV Tower in Vilnius in January 1991 (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2060552/posts) and 7 customs and police officers shot in July 1991 on the checkpoint in Medininkai on the Belarussian – Lithuanian border (http://adamkus.president.lt/en/one.phtml?id=2268, http://www.prokuraturos.lt/News/Medininkai/tabid/249/Default.aspx)

At present Medininkai is a picturesque village on the eastern border of European Union. About three hundred metres from the border post a grey small wagon surrounded with glass walls is visible, close to it seven white stone crosses and monument depicting the Ten Comandments with bullet holes, and all of these in the scenery of beautiful lush green forest. The wagaon in 1991 was used as a kind of office and checkpoint, later on it was turned into a monument protected with glass walls and covered with roof. Memorial plaque hanging on it reads that 7 customs and police officers were killed by the enemies of Lithuania’s independence. And there is no smallest mention who those mysterious enemies were, no information that perpetrators of the crime were OMON officers (OMON – Russian abbreviation meaning – Department of Police for Special Assignment). Reflections which started coming to my mind after reading the inscription focused on the reason why it did not openly name those hostile forces. One of the thoughts told me that that vague inscription on the plaque may be just the result of political realtions between Eoropean Union countries and present Russia, a kind of political corectness. Although contemporary Russia cannot be directly connected with Soviet Union, it appears that the Russian Federation under rules previously Vladimir Putin and presently Dmitriy Medvedev has not evidently distanced itself from totalitarian past. Paradox of the attitude relies on the fact that first and most severely experienced victims of the Soviet regime were just Russians.

It seems that possible inscription engraved on the memory plaque in Medininkai containing the information about 7 officials killed by Soviet forces, by OMON officers could trigger Kremlin’s anger. Present Russian government’s flirtation with totalitarian Soviet past may cause this sort of caution or even fear on the European Union states’ side which are not interested in spoiling relations with the Russian Federation.

Of course it is not the point to irritate Kremlin. One may say – what is the problem if the plaque includes information about enemies of Lithuania’s independence? But in fact what present inscription may say to people hardly knowing history? Who were those enemies? Other Lithuanianas, Russians, Belarussians? What can they get to know from that plaque?

In fact it is not a question of nationality of those „enemies of Lithuania’s independence”, but it is a question of the Soviet Union’s nature. The problem is the essence of totalitarian regimes at all. There are no doubts that Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, which did not respect liberty and dignity of individuals as well as whole groups – be these national, ethnic or social ones. OMON – Department of Police for Special Assignment was one of the armed forces which communist regime

based its power on. It was an instrument of terror, tool of repression and terrible compulsion, everyday violation of human and civil rights

So is this inspcription on the memorial plaque in Medininkai result of excessive caution or willingness to keep friendly realtions with contemporary Russia which does not want to openly condemn its totalitarian past? May it be an art of diplomacy if independent and sovereign countries become a censors for themselves and do not dare to commemorate opelny places important to their history, fight for freedom and democratic order? May there be other reasons explaining that reserve in naming crime the crime?