154-December 21, 1999
1. Russia: DOES RUSSIA NEED CAUCASUS?
By Valekh Rzayev
2. Special addition : WEST MUST PUT PRESSURE ON BOTH RUSSIA, CHECHNYA
3. Azerbaijan: MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS WERE RIGGED
By Mustafa Hajibeyli
Russia/Caucasus : DOES RUSSIA NEED CAUCASUS ?
By Valekh Rzayev
The ninth of December. The first day of the holy month or Ramadan - the time when Muslims all over the world are obliged to refrain from conflicts and other improper activities. According to information provided by Nezavisamaya Gazeta (The Independent Newspaper), the Moscow FSB (State Security Forces) adopted an unprecedented action in the Russian capitol resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of a number of well known Islamic activists in Russia.
They were placed in solitary confinement at the Lefortovo prison. Among the arrested was the vice chairman of the committee of Russian Muftis, the chairman of the Spiritual Committee of Muslims of Siberia and the Far East, and Sheik Nafigulla Ashirov, who had entered the leadership of the Refakh party and was taking part in the current parliamentary election in Russia as part of the pro-government Yedinstvo (Unity) block. The Chairman of the Refakh party, Abdul-Vahked Niyazov, also leads the party list of the Unity block in voting districts located in the Urals regions. He is accumulating more than 20 million Muslim votes in Russia to support the former colonel of the State Security Forces (the previous KGB) and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Moreover, it should not be disregarded that the arrests took place just a few days prior to the planned meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and a group of Russian Muftis to discuss the situation in the Northern Caucasus. At eleven o'clock in the evening, after their interrogation, Ashirov and other Muslims, among which was former Mufti of Karachai (a republic in the Northern Caucasus) Mohamed Bidzhiulla, who was in Moscow for treatment following a serious car accident, were released to their homes. Given the rather ambiguous attitude that Muslims of the world have towards events in the northern Caucasus, the detainment of well-known Islamic figures in the Russian Federation, set in context of the war in Chechnya, was hardly cause for celebration, particularly when it took place ten days before the elections.
However, in Moscow, similar reactions Muslims and to refugees from the Caucasus became an ordinary phenomenon. Beginning in August, the capitol of Russia became particularly dangerous for "brunettes," and the press, similar to human rights organizations, were flooded by letters from people pleading to be protected from the police. The majority of people are afraid to lodge complaints believing that this will only worsen their situation. This psychological state is explained very well by those cases when normal citizens are unwittingly planted with narcotics and arms. The police did not allow themselves to do such things even during communist times. It is basically impossible to prove one's innocense in these cases - the courts in Russia are already prejudiced against Caucasians and investigators use refined techniques in the application of torture. The worst thing, however, is that a majority of militia's victims are in fact natives of the Russian Federation, and at every moment they are reminded that their presence in Moscow and other Russian oblasts is not wanted, and even dangerous for selves and their family. However, the paradox of the Moscow-Caucasus relationship can be seen in the in the military operations against the Chechens separatists, who are seeking to secede from Moscow. On one hand it is as if Moscow is expelling the Caucasus from Russia, and on the other hand it is sending an army of thousands of soldier to defend the territorial integrity of the state. It is difficult to understand the logic of the politicians when in the search for Chechen terrorists, the militia gathers Azeri traders in Russianbazaars, and at the same time demands good relations with Baku and Tbilisi. Apparently, the Russian strategy does not understand that waving a club above the head of 2 million Azerbaijani residents every day in Moscow is hardly an effective way to guarantee friendly relations and allies (within the framework of the CIS) with Azerbaijan.
The Russian press is filled with chauvinistic and racist attacks against the Muslims and Caucasians. With rare exceptions, the liberal press is ng nothing to contradict the publication of this nationalist diatribe. Television is happy to inflame the anti-Caucasian mood, not even caring about the evidence behind the accusations against the Caucasians. According to Ravilya Gainutdina - the chairman of the Spiritual Council of Muslims in European Russia, there are 912 thousand permanent registered Muslims in Moscow and around one million who are not registered. This creates the impression that there is some sort of powerful force attempting to pit Russian against Muslims, both inside and outside of the Russian Federation. These forces are the theme for a complicated and extended discussion. However, it is unlikely that the Kremlin itself will be able to prevent the chaos presiding over its Caucasian and Muslim politics - a problem capable of dividing Russians and ruining relations with the CIS. The former deputy director of the of Russia's Committee for State Security, Andrei Kokoshin says that, "The crisis in the CIS is foremost a result of the collapse of earlier political relations that we conducted with states, which from the very start played a key role in the collapse of the USSR. There was a conviction that if got rid of other republic in the USSR, then the Russian Federation would be liberated from its burden and would develop in great steps" He concluded that, "These were primitive forces playing a ruinous role in the fate of government, which even now influences relations with former Soviet republics." And the same primitive arguments were used that "they will never leave us," confirms professor Kokoshin. Of course, this logic became a moving force distancing the Caucasian republics from Moscow, when, according to professor Alla Yazykova, "at the beginning of the 1990s some Russian politicians and military leaders enabled conflict to break out on the territory of Georgia and Azerbaijan, and Russia in turn got the Chechen conflict together with Basayev, who in 1993 fought on the side of separatists in Abkhazia. And if Moscow will be forced out from the trans-Caucasus by the Americans then, "to a large degree it will be because its own inertia, and focus on internal problem and contradictions, unable or unwilling to take into consideration not only the interests of its own partners, but also of its own people" concluded Alla Yazykova, gently alluding that active support Russia gave to the Armenians against Azerbaijan. and Abkhazia against Georgia can stimulate a painful and unrequited love of these two key states of the Caucasus regions for Russia.
Many politicians and leaders have s n about the Kremlin's "political incorrectness" in the Caucasus, including Mufti Ravil Gaiyuntidin, Ramazan Abdulatimovm, a minister of the Russian Federation and president of the Norther Ossetia, A. Dzasokhov, president of Northern Ossetia, and R. Aushev, president of Ingushetia Similar imbalances effect relations with those republics of the northern Caucasus that still remain within the Russian Federation. The contradictions, which often lead to tragic consequents, are unfortunately typical phenomena of Caucasian politics in Moscow. The persecution of Caucasians or other ethnic groups on the streets in Moscow makes it impossible to gain the loyalty and consequently strengthen the Russian government. This is obvious. Every time the militia unlawfully detains a Caucasian or Muslim, the effect is multiplied by the number of families and close friends. This collective resentment will reach a critical mass and become a source of animosity.
In Chechnya we see the catastrophic consequences of this entire cycle of mistakes and the seemingly purposeful destruction of Caucasian relations with Moscow. Was a military operation in Chechnya Necessary when terrorist clans in Grozny could have been beaten with an economic blockade as was suggested by experts? Among those who suggested this option was Russian Special Services. These were real experts, as opposed to those such as Konstantin Zatulin from the Institute of CIS State Problems, who prevailed over another approach. A military victory at the end of the twentieth century can not serve as a guarantee of a final and irreversible solution to "Chechnya" together with the "Caucasian" question. Missiles and airplanes are not cable of beating a boy who has lost his family during bombardments. Chasing Azeris from Moscow will not change the desired direction of gas pipes because human nature and emotion prevails over economic calculations.
Russia can not avoid the insurmountab nd permanent crisis of political power in the state, an irreconcilable division in political and economic clans and realization that government service - from the rank and file militia to the mayor, governor and mister - is important for the fate of the country, and not just for their own purses. The fate of the Russian government is in the hands of the Russian themselves: Slavs and Turks, Christians and Muslims, Buddhists and Jews, all of whom desire the simple joys of life. These people have but one life, regardless of the color of their hair and eyes.
Special addition : War and Human Rights
Well-known human rights activist and State Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalyov on Tuesday said that the West must put pressure on both Russia and the Chechens in order to get the conflict settled. He described the current Western position on Chechnya as hypocritical. "The West must build up pressure on the federal government and demand that it terminate the military operation in Chechnya," he said at a meeting commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of Academician Andrei Sakharov. At the same time, the West must also put growing pressure on the Chechen side and demand that it terminate the bloody kidnapping business and that those involved in it be punished, he said. Moreover, guarantees must be provided that "civilized laws will be used in Chechnya," he said, adding that talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov should be held in order to settle the conflict. He admitted that "the position of many members of the Right-Wing Forces' Union," with which he is affiliated, "is far from perfect" since "the war in Chechnya is supported by a large segment of the population." "It is not that the Russian public does not know that human rights are being violated in Chechnya. The trouble is that it accepts this," he said. "Democracy in Russia is in a state of acute crisis," said Kovalyov. Duma Deputy Valery Borshchev, the chairman of the Human Rights Chamber of the presidential political consultative center, said that the state "is ruining the human-rights movement in Russia.""We are going through a critical period during which the human rights movement will survive or will be forced to go underground once again," he said at a roundtable conference on human rights in Russia and on the tenth anniversary of Sakharov's death. ----------------------------------------------------------------
On December 12, there was held municipal elections first time in Azerbaijan. Nearly 40 thousand nominees were competing for 21 thousand municipal mandates in these elections in the republic. The results of the municipal elections have already been solved at a favor of the government just at the stage of registering the nominees. Though almost all the candidates nominated by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party [YAP] have been registered in that stage, most of the nominees from the opposition were not registered. The electoral process was observed with total falsifications, as well. If the results of the last presidential elections were falsified at a level of the Central and Territorial Electoral Commissions, this time the falsifications were made directly at the electoral districts, in the presence of the observers.
Undoubtedly, the municipal elections have taken place in Azerbaijan. Though the Central Election Commission [CEC] has stated that 52 percent of electorate has participated in the elections, it is not so in the reports of the observers. It has been observed that 10-12 percent of electors participated in the elections in the majority of election districts in Baku City. The election departments of the Popular Front and Musavat parties informed it.
The international observers observed the lack of quorum at the elections, as well. Petrushka Shustrova, a journalist from Czech, coming to Baku to observe the elections, stated that 10 percent of electors participated in the elections, where she observed the elections. Mrs. Shustrova conducted a press conference after the elections, and stated her doubt to the statement of the CEC that 'the elections have taken place'. A special observer's mission of the European Council has also observed the municipal elections in Azerbaijan. The representatives of the European Council have observed the elections over 60 regions of the republic. They stated in the meeting with the representatives of the political parties that the people were passive in the elections. The process of falsifying the elections happened mainly under the name of "to complete the quorum".
After 8PM on the Election Day, the observers from the opposition were held away from the electoral districts. In some cases police also interfered to this. There are also cases that police violated the oppositional observers, even some of them were injured. In some districts a lot of election bulletins were dropped to the box in the oppositional observers` presence. The process of falsifications of the elections had been carried out by the help of the executive powers. The electoral commissions being under the control of the government have provided "electing" the members of the YAP and impartial persons needed to the government. In some observers opinion, in some of the outlying districts the elections were held a little normal. The oppositional parties could gain some success in these regions. The statistics of the final results of elections is not ready, yet. But according to initial calculations, the opposition could gain only 8-9 percent of mandates in the municipal elections. Generally, the will of the people has been expressed very weak in these elections. But even this will has not influenced on the final indications of the election. The results of the elections have been defined not by the people, but by the authorities.