Friday, November 29, 2013

Tuva Pacified?

Tuva Pacified?

This week i am going to discuss further on Tuva Republic and it's post 1992 developments.This entry primarily focuses on the later years of Boris  Yeltsin  and the initial years of Vladimir Putin.Some of the major developments occurred in this phase.First of all it witnessed the consolidation of Russian Federation and the further integration of Tuva with Russia.This period also witnessed the major power change in both Moscow and Kyzyl (Tuva's Capital).In Moscow Vladimir Putin followed his patron Boris Yeltsin.In Kyzyl Tuvan veteran Sherigool Oorzhak replaced with Sholban Kara-ool. There were some important constitutional changes also took place in Tuva. This entry is going to discusses in detail about the incidents which led to these decisive changes.

Russian political scientist Alexei Salmin discusses in his work ; The Disintegration of Russia about the four geographical regions which are considered as potential "hotspots" in Russian Federation.These regions have significant number of Islamic or Buddhist or Animist population. Aleksander Dugin is also sharing the similar principle and he opines that the the political ambitions of the elites of these regions may led to the disintegration of Russian Federation.

Salmin's four regional hotspots are : North Caucasus "hotspot", Volga Area "hotspot", Siberian/Trans-Baikal "hotspot" and Northern Belt "hotspot". Among these Tuva and other Buddhist republics (Buryatia and Khakassia are the other two) come under Siberian/ Trans-Baikal hotspot. In opposite to Salmin's belief Vukovic doesn't see any political separation of Tuva from Russian Federation but he concerns about the population ratio of Tuvans and Russians in Tuva. Vukovic also reminds us that the number of Russian speakers are decreasing in Tuva and at the same time the number of Tuvan speakers are increasing.It is primarily due to the mass out migration of Russians from Tuva and the resurgence of Tuvan culture after the seventy year old Soviet rule.As discussed in the earlier entry, in 1990 the Tuvan leaders joined hands with Yeltsin who encouraged federal subjects to fight for political sovereignty.Due to this Tuva upgraded to a socialist republic and earlier it was an autonomous republic.In 1993 Tuva adopted new constitution and Sherig-ool Oorzhak became the first directly elected president of  Tuva. A radical Tuvan group which  known as Free Tuva advocated for an independent Tuva but it was not enough to provoke the support of majority.Vukovic says in the first chapter of the Tuva constitution, Tuva was stated to be a sovereign democratic country within the Russian Federation with the right to self-determination and the secession from the Russian Federation through a national referendum.Besides Tuvan constitution guaranteed the local parliament's authority over critical issues such as war and peace.

Tuva rejected the first federal constitution of the Russian Federation because it didn't recognize Tuva's sovereignty and self-determination. The population of Tuva preferred Tuva republic's constitution over Russian Federation's.So there was major disagreement between Tuva and federal agreement over the republic's constitution.According to Hsu the major disagreements were on the following points: Tuva's sovereign status under Russian Federation and it's right to separate from the federation through a plebiscite,2) Tuvan government's precedence over federal government if there is any political crisis in Moscow similar to 1990-91,3) Tuva's opposition against the sale of the republic's land, 4) Federal government's opposition against Tuvan leaders holding of public office at the federal government ,5) The republic's right over the appointment of judges and prosecutors and right of Tuvan bodies in the matter of important federal issues such as war and peace.

In opposition to the Tuva's radical stand the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin reminded it's leaders about the poor financial position of Tuva in comparison to other republics  and Moscow gave substantial financial support to Tuva for building a National Museum and a Leather Plant. Kremlin was aware of Tuva's desperate situation.Kyzyl didn't have much resources and it's remote location kept it away from all major rail networks of the Russian Federation.Local economy was still primitive and it couldn't challenge federal government for quite long time.At the end of the Yeltsin's period it almost reached in an agreement with Moscow for further amendment of it's constitution which should comply with  the rules of the federal one.Vladimir Putin was against the extra constitutional rights of ethnic republics.In March 2000 just after his ascension to the Russia's supreme post he stated that : we created small, isolated islands of political power, but we did not build bridges to connect these islands. Putin suggested Russia's reorganization into seven federal districts instead of the then 89 federal entities and Presidents for each of these.But in 2005 through an another constitutional amendment the federal government ensured that the future heads of the federal subjects should be nominated by the Russian President and it later approved by the regional parliaments. Putin also demanded federal subjects laws should be in harmony with the federal constitution. Tuva grudgingly accepted the new amendments and replaced it's old constitution with the new one in 2001.This new constitution changed the structure of the Tuvan parliament and it also abolished the office of Presidency in favour of Chairman.

But the Sherigool-Oorzhak -  Kaadyr-ool  Bicheldei competition in 1990s and  United Russia Party - The Russian Party of Life competition in early 21st century made Tuva's political scene quite unstable.It also led to a political stalemate in 2007 for almost six months.This crisis ended only after the removal of Oorzhak with the former wrestler Sholban Kara-ool. Kara-ool was after all belonged to United Russia camp which supported Kremlin and he also considered as close to Sergei Shoigu the second in Russian power hierarchy just after Putin himself. Still young Kaadyr-ool was a political lightweight in comparison with his well experienced predecessor.It made Kyzyl more subservient to Moscow. Practically it was the end of Tuva's stand for the political independence from Russian Federation.But i feel that Tuva is pacified for a while and it's further stability depends on the strength of Moscow and it's ability to provide financial support to Kyzyl. But any political turmoil in Moscow will again revive Tuva's desire for independence.


1) Galeotti, Mark (1995), " From Tuva To Tyva," IBRU Boundary and Security Bulletin, pp: 78-80

2) Hsu, Kuei- hsiang (2007), " The Relationship between the Republic of Tuva and the Russian Federal Government since the 1990s," Bimonthly Journal on Mongolian and Tibetan Current Situation , Vol.17, No.1 : 1-22.

3) Vukovic, Nebojsa (2011), " Comparative Geopolitical Analysis of "Hotspots" in The Russian Federation and in The Republic of Serbia," Journal of the Geographical Institute " Jovan Cvijic", 61 (1) : 61 - 83.

A Year in Review

Last week marked the one year anniversary of the adoption of Russia’s foreign agent law, and Amnesty International, released a statement detailing its observations of the past year.  According to Amnesty International, the “foreign agent” law is “choking independent non-governmental organizations.”  The organization used data on enforcement to support its observations, citing NGOs that were taken to court for failure to register, NGOs taken to court for possible administration violations, and countless other organizations that were warned that their activities make them foreign agents.   Many of these organizations are still in the midst of appealing charges in Russian courts. 

The Civic Solidarity Platform provides an excellent English language listing for those wishing to learn more about targeted NGOs.  Organizations facing penalties for administrative violations were located in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Perm; organizations facing penalties for not registering as “foreign agents” were located throughout the country ranging from Moscow to Irkutsk; and groups warned that they needed to register as “foreign agents” before conducting additional work were also located throughout the country.  Simply perusing the list reveals that the enforcement of the foreign agent law has been wide-reaching and has affected a range of NGOs working in a variety of fields. 

Much of the law’s enforcement depends on regional leaders and their willingness to seek out and prosecute local and regional NGOs who may be in violation of the law.   Regional governors were reminded of their responsibilities in mid-November when Sergei Ivanov, head of the Presidential Administration of Russia, met with them to discuss domestic policies.  He instructed them to ensure that “the forces that, under the cover of NGOs, receive funding from abroad would either register as foreign agents or cease their work.”  Furthermore, he instructed regional governors “ attentively follow these processes, including at the local level, because many non-governmental organizations work actively mainly or primarily at the local level.” (Interfax, reproduced in Johnson’s Russian List No. 205)  Whether or not regional governors will adhere to Ivanov’s suggestions remains to be seen, but NGO leaders have already responded. They have consistently refused to register as foreign agents, and Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of Moscow Hesinki Group, stated that, “We will not halt our work, we will work as volunteers,” further adding that “…we will work anyway.  Without money, registration or office –as in Iran or Syria.” (Interfax, reproduced in Johnson’s Russian List No. 205) 

Questions of the law’s enforcement also took center stage last weekend when over 1,000 individuals traveled to Moscow to take part in the All-Russian Civic Forum during which leaders discussed NGOs’ involvement in government, economy, daily life, and society.  The event was covered by most of Moscow’s major newspapers, and all of Russia’s major districts were represented, including strong representation from the Volga region, Siberian, and Central districts.  Aleksei Kudrin, the forum’s organizer, stated that the goal of the meeting was “the development of suggestions for the participation [of NGOs] in civil society and in the country’s development.”  This included discussions detailing how to cooperate with authorities.  At the meeting, NGOs discussed their proposed changes to the “foreign agent law,” and planned to submit their recommendations to Mikhail Fedotov, president of the Presidential Human Rights Council.  Fedotov is expected to submit these recommendation to President Putin.

                Any attempts to change to foreign agent law will most likely need Putin’s support.  I have discussed in previous blog posts that President Putin has shown some support for changing the wording of the law; however, other observers have questioned his motives. During the past two weeks, a short article, appeared in Russian Analytical Digest that sheds light on President Putin’s potential stance on the law.  In the article, entitled, “Kremlin Nationalism and Russia’s NGOs,” Robert Orttung identifies the origins of Putin’s interests in Russian NGOs.  Orttung traces Putin’s concerns with NGO activities to Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution since many in the Kremlin believed that Ukraine’s Revolution occurred because of Western financing of oppositional organizations in Ukraine. This belief, coupled with Putin’s notion that NGOs should only work in areas where “ ‘the state should not or is unable to perform effectively” reveal that Putin has a very limited view of the influence NGOs should have on Russian society.  Over the past few months, it has become very clear that the government is trying to reduce this sphere by expanding their own influence into civil society through presidential grants, or through the expansion of the term “socially oriented NGO,” which would place more NGOs under Kremlin’s financial control. (My previous blog posts detail these activities).  Although Putin has stated that the wording of the NGO law might need to be changed to ensure clear and accurate implementation, Orttung’s article reveals that the vagueness surrounding the term, “political activities,” is intentional and is a tactic used by authoritarian regimes.  He notes that Putin’s government has used the term to target NGOs working in a variety of fields that the government seeks to eliminate them from working in.  Orttung’s article is a useful introduction to the historical motivations of the foreign agent law, and helps to better contextualize the enforcement of the foreign agent law.  His article is very timely since it speaks to the issues many of the NGO leaders discussed at the Civic Forum.

Bekbulatova, Taisiia, Maksim Ivanov, and Natalia Korchenkova. “Nekommercheskie organizatsii pouchat sobirat’ dengi” Kommersant. November 19, 2013.

Johnson’s Russia List. November 14, 2013.  No. 205. Head of Russian Presidential Administration Outlines Demands on Domestic Policy.

Johnson’s Russia List. November 14, 2013. No. 205 Leading Russian NGOs May Switch to Voluntary Cases – Veteran Human Rights Activist.

Orttung, Robert. “Kremlin Nationalism versus Russia’s NGOs.” Russian Analytical Digest. No. 138. 8 Nov. 2013.

“Russia: A year on, Putin’s ‘Foreign Agents law’ Choking Freedom.” Amnesty International. November 20, 2013.”

Sergeev, Mikhail. “Kudrin napishet ‘Povestku dllia Rossii” bez nyneshnei vlasti. Nezavisimaya gazeta.  November 11, 2013. 

Zheleznova, Maria. “Obshcherossiiskii grazhdanskii forum obsudil novuiu povestku dlia Rossii.” Vedomosti. November 23, 2013.

Zubov, Danil. “Diaolog v chetyre k chetyre kruga: V Moskve proidet grazhdanskii forum” Rossisskaya gazeta. November 19, 2003.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Attempted Enforcement Under NYC Convention

Investors seeking the enforcement of arbitral awards against Russia or its citizens can seek recourse in the domestic courts of their own or third party states under the NY Convention. As clearly expressed in Article II(1) each Contracting State shall recognize a arbitral award if there is an agreement in writing to submit the dispute to an arbitral panel.[1] Furthermore, under Article III Contracting Stats shall enforce such awards.[2] The qualification to this is that there must be some seizable asset within the jurisdiction of the court being asked to enforce the award. Furthermore, in the United States a court must be able to establish jurisdiction over those assets. It is unlikely that a Russia would be subject to general jurisdiction within the United States because their contracts do not seem systemic and continuous. Furthermore, unless the subject of the dispute arises out of contacts that Russia purposefully directed to the United States asserting specific jurisdiction is not proper. However, if Russia or a Russian citizen who is a party to the dispute has some property in the US it is possible to establish quasi in rem jurisdiction. However, principle of sovereign immunity may still protect some of Russia’s assets.[3]
            Clearly, the laws and policy of the country in which enforcement of the award is being sought will govern. While attempting to enforce a arbitral award through to seizure of Russian assets in a different country can be a tricky and tenuous ordeal, the courts of some nations have expressed a willingness to allow such actions. Sedelmayer v. Russian Federation illustrates this point. The arbitration arose out of an alleged expropriation due to a Russian presidential decree in 1994. In 1998, the Arbitration Institute of the SCC awarded Franz Sedelmayer $2,350,000. Russia refused to abide by the award and litigation in Germany and Sweden ensued. Over 30 different executions against the Russian Federation were filed and consequently only two of those actions were successful. The German court explained that the only Russian assets not protected by principles of sovereign immunity were those used for commercial purposes. In the end, Mr. Sedelmayer was able to prevail in an execution proceeding against a former KGB compound in Cologne that Russia has been renting out for commercial purposes.[4] This case shows that it is possible to attain enforcement of arbitral awards through the seizure of assets but such instances are rare. So rare that Mr. Sedelmayer is the only individual to obtain such an award against Russia. However, this method of enforcement is likely to be a successful method of receive compensation from a private party.[5]    
            The success of Russia’s current business ventures with China has the potential to do much more than simply establish partnerships between the two nations. It is a key for Russia to reopen the door to investment and trading partnerships between itself and the rest of the world. It is clear the Russia is in need of FDI to allow its energy sector to maintain its current level of outputs, exploit new sources of oil and natural gas and to remain competitive. Yet the greater point to take away from this development is that if through the partnership Russia can show the world that it is willing to respect the rights of investors and adhere to international norms then its growth potential will be much greater than simply through energy exports. Increased international investor confidence will result in greater FDI into sectors of Russia’s economy that are uncompetitive in relation to the international market. FDI will inject new technologies, new ideas and new standards into the Russian marketplace. In turn, this would revitalize the nation’s economy and allow Russia to become a diverse and more stable economic power. The Kremlin presently has an excellent opportunity to reverse the image of its investment climate. Perception is often reality and if Russian leadership can capitalize on this opportunity, it will not only provide the nation with economic stability but will improve the lives of its people.   

1. Russia China in Energy Deal, Wall Street Journal, available at

2. Статья Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова «К миру, стабильности и устойчивому экономическому развитию в Азиатско-Тихоокеанском регионе, available at

3. New York Convention on the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, Article III available at

4. Cody Olson, Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards Against the Russian Federation, 22 Am. Rev. Int’l Arb. 711, 735. 

5. John W. Head, Global Business Law, 574 (North Carolina Academic Press, 3rd ed. 2012).

6. William R. Spiegelberg, 16 Am. Rev. Int’l Arb. 261, 261 (2005).

[1] Ny Convention New York Convention on the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, Article III available at
[2] Id.
[3] Restatement of the Arbitration Law 
[4] Cody Olson, Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards Against the Russian Federation, 22 Am. Rev. Int’l Arb. 711, 735. 
[5] Id.