[Marxism] Details on the Tsarnaev brothers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 21 17:39:34 MDT 2013

On 4/21/13 7:14 PM, michael perelman wrote:
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> Was there much unrest in the caucuses with the USSR?

NY Times April 16, 1989
THE WORLD; The Soviets and the Enmities Within

THE unrest that killed at least 19 people in the Soviet republic of 
Georgia last week is the latest crisis in what is usually called 
Moscow's ''nationalities problem.'' But as events there showed, the 
problem is not so much nationalities - a term that suggests loose ethnic 
groupings -as old and rooted nations, with identities that predate both 
Russian and Soviet power. The issue that initially brought thousands of 
Georgians out onto the streets of Tbilisi, their capital, was a dispute 
over land, not economic or political rights, Communist control or even 
Russification. Those larger issues soon overtook the original protest, 
culminating in a brutal overreaction by Soviet troops, but it is telling 
that the first spark was territorial.

Despite decades of Soviet rule and, for parts of the country, another 
century under the czars, most non-Russians in the Soviet empire still 
maintain a powerful sense of nationhood, complete with theories on where 
their borders should lie. With 104 separate nationalities - 22 with more 
than one million population - in 15 union republics, 20 autonomous 
republics and 18 national districts, the possibilities for conflict are 
almost exponential.

Ancient Divisions

History has set these nations apart, not only from Russia but from one 
other. The warring khanates of Central Asia, for instance, were forced 
into submission by an eastward marching imperial army in the second half 
of the 19th century, while the Christian nations of the Caucasus - 
Georgia and Armenia -voluntarily drew themselves close to the Russian 
empire, seeking protection against neighboring Muslims. Armenians see 
the Turkish massacre of 1915 as the pivotal moment in their national 
experience, whereas for the Baltic states, the starting point in today's 
political debates is their forced annexation into the Soviet Union by 
Stalin in 1940.

The surprise for Moscow, as perhaps for resident nationalist dissidents, 
is that the impulse for current nationalist revivals is coming not from 
distant villages where dreams of past glory are kept alive by old men, 
but from the heart of modern Soviet society: the educated, secular urban 
elite. The young men and women who stayed the night in Tbilisi's main 
square until troops moved to clear them away last Sunday morning are 
from a generation that should be thoroughly Sovietized, blended into a 
larger international, socialist brotherhood. Instead, they demonstrated 
that above all else, they are thoroughly Georgian.

Competing With Perestroika

In a number of areas, the nationalist movements compete with Mikhail S. 
Gorbachev's program of restructuring, or perestroika, for the affection 
and commitment of young professionals in the republics.

The two often start off side by side, and nationalist protesters have 
invoked the slogans of perestroika and glasnost, the policy of open 
discussion. But for Mr. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, the danger lies in 
the moment -reached in Armenia - when in denying nationalist 
aspirations, he creates widespread dissafection among the young people 
whose support he needs for his economic programs.

A rising national consciousness also raises a perplexing question, still 

What will it mean to be Soviet - as opposed to Russian, Georgian or 
Estonian - once restructuring is done? Will Mr. Gorbachev be able to 
offer a new set of beliefs that can unify an increasingly fragmented 

According to a State Department analyst, about 35 borders are now 
disputed between different national groups in the Soviet Union.

Given the vast differences in their demands and the Soviet leadership's 
ability to isolate them - Armenia and Azerbaijan, for instance, are 
still under martial law - these hot spots seem unlikely to produce any 
general conflagration. Instead, the nationalities crisis is beginning to 
look like a series of continual low-grade emergencies, each requiring 
attention, money and an ad-hoc solution. Some are more nightmarish than 
others; a major nationalist upheaval in the Ukraine, with 16 percent of 
the Soviet population, or rumblings among Moslems along sensitive border 
areas in Central Asia would have greater consequences for Soviet 
security than protests in the small Baltic states.

Sorting out these conflicting interests requires a tolerance for 
national diversity that still seems difficult for the Soviet leadership. 
Mr. Gorbachev has named only one non-Slav - Foreign Minister Eduard A. 
Shevardnadze of Georgia -to the ruling Politburo, and has shown little 
patience for nationalist yearnings. He seems to link them with the kind 
of sentimental arguments used in the past as blackmail against Moscow to 
cloak corruption and nepotism, particularly in Central Asia.

A strong sense of national identity is not necessarily at odds with 
Moscow's plans. Decentralization, after all, is one of Mr. Gorbachev's 
goals, too. Nor does nationalism always have to conflict with Soviet 
sovereignty. While some nations, particularly the Baltic states, are 
beginning to agitate for independence, others including Armenia and, 
many argue, Georgia, are looking for more latitude inside the empire, 
rather than for ways to get out of it.

One argument, often heard in the West and among Soviet intellectuals, is 
that the rise of nationalism poses a danger to Mr. Gorbachev's reforms 
by taunting the very liberalization that allowed it to express itself. 
Yet so far, in spite of the tough response in the Caucasus, glasnost is 
still flourishing as the Kremlin's official policy.

Some experts argue that past Soviet policies actually helped keep alive 
the climate for the nationalism that has now come simmering to the 
surface. While keeping a tight hold on all levers of political and 
economic power and reserving the best jobs at the center for Russians, 
Moscow typically let national cultures flourish, albeit within 
ideological confines. These ''folkloric'' rights, as some intellectuals 
contemptuously call them, kept up the illusion of autonomy, which only 
intensified the feeling of subjugation to the center.

These frustrations express themselves in different ways. In the Ukraine 
and Byelorussia, where the influx of Russians has been greatest, 
nationalism has focused on cultural issues like survival of the native 
language. Given the size of those two republics, the question has 
assumed major political importance. But in the smaller republics of 
Georgia and Armenia, where native languages have always been recognized 
as the official languages, nationalism has been ignited by other sparks.

Matters of Control

The issue that touched off the troubles in Tbilisi was whether 
Abkhazians, who live with Georgians on the shores of the Black Sea, 
should be allowed to put their autonomous republic under Moscow's 
control, rather than Tbilisi's. The dispute over Abkhazia is as ancient 
as the claims over the mountainous territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which 
last year pitted Armenians against Azerbaijanis - the other two major 
nations of the Caucasus region, along with Georgians. As Mr. Gorbachev 
found out, sorting out the rights and wrongs of grievances now twisted 
by centuries-old rivalries is a merciless task.

The Soviet Union's national kaleidoscope has always been bewildering. 
With the new freedom to express political yearnings, the picture is 
becoming more blurred. Every day, another group asks for greater 
recognition, either by the granting of additional political and economic 
rights or territory or both. At a conference in Moscow on March 30, for 
example, speakers called for the revival of a German Autonomous Republic 
for the 2.2 million Soviet Germans still in the Soviet Union. Such a 
republic existed in the Volga region before World War II but was 
disbanded by Stalin.

Regional Rivalries

Russians are not the only nation accused of cultural domination in the 
Soviet Union. In several republics, minority groups are fighting to 
protect what they see as their right not to learn Estonian, Lithuanian 
or Moldavian. And Russian nationalists, hard to measure with the 
spotlight focused on the extremist, anti-Semitic Pamyat movement, also 
claim grievances. They argue, with some justification, that the Russian 
heartland often has to pay for Moscow's generous subsidies to the 
non-Russian national republics.

The puzzle is what role nationalism will be allowed and what kind of 
nationalist voices will emerge under the widening electoral system 
envisaged under perestroika. In the Baltic states, some Western experts 
are predicting that nationalist popular front movements, by choosing to 
become engaged in the recent rounds of national elections, will find 
themselves self-policing their more radical elements. ''The elections 
have had the effect of bringing more people into the system,'' one 
Soviet expert at the State Department said.

With large parts of the Communist Party actively supporting these 
movements, however, some experts put the question the other way around, 
wondering whether it is the Communists, and not the nationalists, who 
are being thrown off course. The answer will probably come when 
perestroika gets its first big democratic test: when representatives of 
a national movement, duly elected to legislative bodies under Moscow's 
new rules, choose to challenge Moscow's authority.


Two territorial disputes have recently flared in the Caucasus, a region 
of enormous ethnic diversity. Georgia: Abkhazia

Last week, Soviet troops clashed with Georgians who were demanding more 
autonomy and protesting the efforts to end Georgian control over 
Abhkazia Armenia/Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenians and Azerbaijanis are battling over Nagorno-Karabakh, an 
enclave governed by Muslim Azerbaijan and populated by an Armenian 
Christian minority.


At least some members of virtually all ethnic groups in the Soviet Union 
have aspirations for change. The goals are often territorial; others 
involve unhappiness with current religious, political or economic 
policies. Unlike the campaigns in the three Baltic republics, most of 
these movements do not aim for autonomy from the central state. Some 
have broad support; others are the obsessions of small coteries of 
intellectuals. Some involve challenges to Moscow, but many others 
reflect the intense ethnic competition, sometimes centuries old. So far, 
the ethnic groups most actively involved make up only a small percentage 
of the population. Several of the ethnic trouble spots are noted here.

* The Karelians want to annex all or part of the Kola Peninsula.

* Popular fronts were formed last year in the Baltic republics Estonia, 
Lithuania and Latvia, where demands for greater autonomy are strong.

* The Baltic port of Kaliningrad want to be designated a separate ethnic 
group, to be called ''the people of Konigsberg,'' the German name for 
the city.

* Ethnic Poles in southern Lithuania and northwestern Byelorussia want 
their own autonomous republic.

* In the Ukraine, with about 16 percent of the Soviet population (second 
only to Russians, who account for about 52 percent) the nationalist 
urges are tightly constricted and so far have been concentrated in the 
far western areas.

* 2,000 Gagauz, a Turkic people, want their own autonomous republic in 
Moldavia, which has its own nationalist urges.

* Crimean Tatars, who were displaced from their homeland by Stalin in 
1945 and today live mainly in Uzbekistan, want the Crimean Peninsula back.

* Besides the Armenian-Azerbaijani battle over the Nagorno-Karabakh 
region and the Abkhazian attempts to secede from Georgia, there are many 
other ethnic disputes, including:

The southern Ossets of Georgia want to be part of the North Ossetian 
autonomous republic, which is in the Russian republic.

The Adzhars, who are not recognized as an ethnic group, would like to 
withdraw from Georgia.

The Meskheti Turks, a Turkic group deported by Stalin to Central Asia in 
1945, have been allowed to return to Georgia and want an autonomous unit.

* The Volga Tatars want full republic status, and to absorb their fellow 
Muslims, the Bashkirs, in the process.

* Ethnic Germans want an autonomous area on the Kazakh-Russian border 
and are expected to receive it.

* Kazakhstan wants to reclaim the deparately poor Kara-Kalpak area, 
south of the Aral Sea that is now part of two other Central Asian 
republics, Uzbekistan and Turkmenia

* The Tadzhiks, Persian speakers, and the Uzbeks, a Turkic people, both 
have claims on each others' land.

* Uzbek Muslims demonstrated in Tashkent last month, complaining that 
not enough Muslims were on the election ballot.

* In Kazakhstan, with more than 100 ethnic groups, nationalist rioted in 
Alma-Ata in December 1986.

* The Mongol Buryats want to annex two small Buryat national districts 
outside their autonomous republic.

* Some members of the Ukrainian Writers Union want to set up an 
autonomous Ukrainian Republic in the Far East in the so-called Green 
Triangle, where Ukrainian migrants settled at the turn of the century.

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