Day: July 7, 2007

Escaping from Moscow

Estonian statesman and historian Mart Laar has an interesting blog post about the lessons that Georgia and Moldova – two nations recently freed from misrule by Russia – can learn from Estonia. Laar, who is also an economic adviser to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, has his own personal – and civic – experience of the freeing process:

Communism’s fall gave the nations of the former Soviet bloc a chance to turn towards democracy, a market economy, and the rule of law. Some countries cut ties decisively with the communist past; others were less successful; a few failed catastrophically.

Moldova and Georgia were in the last category until recently. Their economic and political failures were in large part due to secessionist movements — actively supported by Russia — that aimed at keeping both countries in the Kremlin’s “sphere of influence.” When bloody conflicts erupted in Transdnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, Russia turned its military presence into “peacekeeping” forces as a means of maintaining control.

It has long been feared that these so-called “frozen conflicts” could suddenly turn hot. Not only has this not happened, but we can now talk of solutions, as both Georgia and Moldova have begun to achieve breakthroughs to a market economy and democracy. The European Union’s “neighborhood policy” has also helped.

The starting point for these developments was Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” three years ago. From coming perilously close to being a failed state, Georgia has turned towards the West. The success of the various “color revolutions” in former Soviet-bloc countries also ignited change in Moldova, where President Vladimir Voronin launched reforms aimed at moving closer to the EU. These changes sparked new initiatives in Georgia and in Moldova to restore, peacefully, their territorial integrity.

Estonia’s experience suggests how Georgia and Moldova should shape their policies vis-a-vis Russia.

Read the whole thing.

(via Leopoldo)

Murdering the moderates

Via Andrew Blomfield in the Telegraph:

Allegations that the Kremlin deliberately killed moderate rebels in order to prolong the war in Chechnya gained fresh impetus yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights blamed Russia for the disappearance of the republic’s former parliamentary speaker.

Ruslan Alikhadzhyev was seized from his home in the Chechen town of Shali in May 2000. He was never seen again.

A critic of the extreme Islamists within the Chechen rebel movement, Mr Alikhadzhyev was widely seen as a moderate and had called for a negotiated settlement to end the brutal war in the separatist republic.

Critics of the Kremlin have long argued that Russia’s armed forces deliberately targeted moderate rebels who wanted to sue for peace, while allowing extremists to escape.

They claim that President Vladimir Putin benefited politically from a popular war, while many Russian commanders profited from it – in part by selling weapons to the rebels.

“We think that one of the motives [for Alikhadzhyev’s disappearance] was the elimination of a political leader who could have achieved a breakthrough in peace talks,” said Oleg Orlov of the Human Rights Group Memorial which investigates abuses in Chechnya.

Read it all. (via chechnya-sl)

Rewriting history

In one of her latest newsletters, Estonian politician Mari-Ann Kelam comments on the West’s failure to understand the processes that are currently taking place in Russia, and observes:

By coincidence, I have been reading another book about how Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. The way the West is going now, we seem to be helping Putin to rebuild it! Actually Putin is building something worse this time, thanks to the clever use of modern media technology playing on nationalism and xenophobia combined with strong central control, the subjugated are supporting what he is doing. The West has been and continues to do almost all the wrong things.

One of the texts referred to by MAK in her letter is a new manual for Russia’s history teachers, discussed by Andrew Osborn in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Among other things, Osborn writes:

Backed by support from the president himself, the book, which rails against U.S. hegemony, is raising fears among some historians that the Kremlin is — quite literally — trying to rewrite history in a way that risks breeding ultranationalism and whitewashing the darkest chapters of Russia’s past.

Mr. Putin gave the manual a presidential boost last month, inviting its author along with a number of historians and teachers to his residence totalk history. Though he said students should be allowed to draw their ownconclusions, he made clear that events should be portrayed in a way that fuels national pride.

The manual’s publication comes as the Kremlin is trying to restore Russians’ sense of pride after the anarchic 1990s. In recent years, celebrations marking the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany have been cranked up, the authority of the Czarist-era Orthodox Church has been boosted and patriotic youth groups have become increasingly vocal about Russia’s resurgence.

The moves have complemented an increasingly assertive Kremlin foreign policyand a flat rejection of Western criticism that Moscow is moving to undermine democratic institutions. The new teachers’ manual is the clearest sign yet that the drive to inculcate the Kremlin’s view of the world is reaching Russia’s millions of schoolchildren.”We are forming…the worldview of a nation, of how Russians see themselves and the outside world,” Leonid Polyakov, editor of the new manual, told Mr.Putin at last month’s meeting, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.