Friday, April 25, 2014

Sakha Republic : Final Analysis

            Sakha Republic plays an important role in the economic life of the Russian Federation.Sakha Republic was one of the ethnic republics which challenged the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation at the initial years of Soviet disintegration.I found that the leaders of the central government were able to overcome the threat raised by the ethnic republics.The case study of Sakha Republic will help us to understand about the development of center-periphery relations in the Russian Federation. Sakha Republic is the biggest sub national entity of the world.But Sakha Republic's population is very low in relation with its size.The harsh climate and relative negligence from the center make life in Sakha Republic difficult.Fragile ecology and lack of transportation facilities further exacerbates the problems of Sakha. But in any case Sakha Republic enjoys better economic freedom than under the Soviet Union.However, Sakha Republic is forced to compromise with its political aspirations.

            Ancestors of the Sakha people were supposed to arrive from the south.Those Turkic speakers led a pastoral life based on horse.Later this group predominantly settled in center and northern part of the present day Sakha Republic.The real inhabitants of the territory, 'the small people of north' ; Even,Evenki,Chukchi and Yukagir were reindeer herders.Russians and other Slavic speakers arrived only in the 17th century.But large scale Russian immigration happened only under the Soviets when southern part of the Sakha Republic went through a large scale industrialization. Soviet period also witnessed the urbanization and modernization of the Sakha people.But majority of the Sakha people remained in rural areas and depended on agriculture and animal husbandry.The newly arrived Slavs (most of them were workers) settled primarily in the industrial towns (ex.Mirni). However, Sakha people controlled the political life of the republic.We can see that it is as part of the Communist policy of korenizatsiia (nativization).Sakha people also had significant representation in the white collar jobs.But this peaceful co-existence started to decline under Mikhael Gorbachev. Gorbachev period witnessed the first major Sakha-Russian fight in Yakutsk in 1986.This inter-ethnic tension continued for a while and even challenged the territorial integrity of the new state, Russian Federation.

             What are the reasons behind these sudden eruption of ethnic conflicts in the comparatively peaceful Sakha Republic.Giuliano analyses this issue in a quite detailed manner.There is general perception that the political entities which are economically rich may challenge the central government. But Giuliano find that this theory is not fully right in the case of Russian Federation.According to him the disappearance of nomenklatura forced local politicians to become more responsible towards their republic and not towards Moscow.The same period also went through tough financial crisis all over the Russian Federation. Sakha's subsidy from the center cut down drastically and the prestigious white collar jobs became a venue for competition between Shaka and Slavs.Politicians played their ethnic card pretty well and through that they got legitimacy from the ordinary Sakha people.Sakha Republic adopted its own constitution in 1992 just one year before the federal government.Sakha Republic also accepted Boris Yeltsin as Russian President . But Yakutsk maintained its control over the major natural resource of the region . However Vladimir Putin's rise into the power witnessed the reversal of these policies.As an advocate of strong center, Putin pursued ethnic republics to follow federal constitution.So under Putin, Sakha parliament was forced to remove the term 'sovereignty' from its constitution.

                  Sakha Republic tries to play a major role in the politics of Arctic region. From economic point of view, Sakha's future lies with the East Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia than Russia proper or Europe.East Asian countries could have investment in Sakha Republic. From cultural point of view, Turkey was really interested in pushing its relationship with the Sakha Republic. For example Sakha delegates attended various Turkic Congresses which took place in Almaty, Baku and Kazan.The first President of the Sakha Republic, Mikhel Nikolayev was able to protect the economic interests of his republic and at the same time Nikolayev slowly and steadily destroyed the major nationalistic parties of the Sakha Republic.The republic also witnessed Slavic migration after the Soviet disintegration but not as big as in other republics.To an extent Nikolayev was able to gain the confidence of the Slavic population. Vyacheslav Styrov, the successor of Nikolayev further continued this legacy.Under Styrov Sakha Republic neglected the issue of political sovereignty in favor of economic sovereignty.

                   In conclude, Sakha Republic has the potential to play a major role in the various aspects of Russian Federation.It is extremely rich in the terms of natural resources.But lack of proper infrastructure and hostile climate makes the chances of Sakha in question.Russian government still consider it as a colony for the precious raw materials.I think the opening of the Northern Sea Route may change the destiny of the Sakha Republic.At the same time both federal and provincial governments also seriously concern about issues such as environmental pollution and the rights of the indigenous communities.I feel Sakha separation is a closed chapter but it may open again if some uncertainties similar to Soviet disintegration occur in the center.

Reform, Repression, or Both?

The Birdamlik homepage reports that human rights advocates and Birdamlik members have been arrested or targeted in some way by Uzbek Security Forces (SNB) since 2009.[1]  The Uzbek Birdamlik leader in Uzbekistan (as opposed to the official exiled leader Bakhodyr Choriev who resides in the USA) Malokhat Eshankulova suspects she was poisoned by security agents.  After drinking tea with her 20-year-old daughter in March 2014, she fell seriously ill.  Eshankulova suspects that this was a planned poisoning in attempt to silence her voice in political and social participation.  In February 2014, in what appears to be a similar case, activist Elena Urlayeva was reported to have been poisoned with a nerve agent and committed for psychiatric therapy.  In 2013, Inmojon Tursonov (a former Birdamlik party deputy) was found dead, allegedly poisoned.  In March 2014, Hasan Choriev (Bakhodyr Choriev’s father) died shortly after his release from prison.  Hasan Choriev was allegedly arrested in an effort to intimidate Bakhodyr Choriev from leading Birdamlik any further. 
                While the accusations of poisoning are difficult to verify, there is a palpable sense of mistrust among the Birdamlik movement toward the Uzbek government and security apparatus.  Is it mere coincidence that prominent or important opposition figures are intimidated or arrested, after having received numerous commands to stop engaging in collective or individual civil action?  In the same letter, Birdamlik appeals to the United States, Germany, and France to support Birdamlik’s calls for independent medical investigations of the suspected poisonings.
Border and other security officials of Uzbekistan have also placed travel restrictions on opposition leaders, often on what appears to be a selectively regional basis.[2]  That it is to say that leaders or organizers of Birdamlik throughout the oblasts of Uzbekistan are selectively denied exit.  For example, representatives are said to have been denied exit on alleged suspicion of fraudulent or incorrect visas or passports.  What is interesting is that these travel restrictions are being made a time when Uzbek opposition organizers are seeking to meet abroad.  On April 26, 2014, Uzbek Birdamlik and other Central Asian activists will meet in St. Louis, Missouri, with the reported intent of planning a “color revolution” in Uzbekistan to be carried out in the near future.  Considering the timing of these restrictions on travel, it is fair to conclude that the government is concerned by movement of known opposition figures and actively working to restrict their exit. 
Of additional concern to the Uzbek government is the vocal movement of separation within the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic.  For the past few years, the movement Alga Karakalpakstan (Forward Karakalpakstan!) has reportedly called for separation from the state of Uzbekistan.[3]  The movement asserts that the right of Karakalpakstan to self-determination, as outlined in the Constitution of Uzbekistan, has not been honored.  Uzbek security forces appear to be closely monitoring the travel of citizens from and to Karakalpakstan, including subjecting citizens seeking the new biometric passports to rigorous questioning.  These questions include: Have you ever visited a mosque?  Do you have family or acquaintances who do?  Do you have any information on the whereabouts of wanted Karakalpak opposition members?[4]  It appears that Uzbek security forces are engaging in an extensive dragnet by utilizing the enforcement of the new passport regime to monitor and apprehend any elements supportive of prohibited opposition or separation.
Since December 2013, President Karimov has spoken of the necessity for constitutional reform.  In March and April 2014, both houses ofparliament approved constitutional amendments which President Karimov later signed.[5]  The bills included the following provisions: requiring future candidates for prime minister to be approved unanimously by all parties in the lower house, submission of the prime minister to the authority of the cabinet of ministers, requiring the government report annually to the Parliament on social and economic developments, and other provisions.  The bill appears to strengthen the power and accountability to the legislature.  For example, the government will now have the authority to abolish specific departments and ministries.  The previous authority of the president to overrule deliberations of local legislators and authorities was removed in this bill, establishing that the president will now only be able to overrule local decisions if they appear to run contrary to existing legislation.  To what extent this provision will be honored, however, will yet be seen.
The legislation also grants parliament the responsibility of overseeing the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).  Prior to this new legislation, only parties legally recognized by the government have been allowed to participate in elections.  Theoretically, if parliament so desired, more parties could be allowed to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2014 and presidential elections of 2015.  However, this would require the currently illegal parties to be recognized by the parliament as having legal status to participate.

1. Choriyev, Bakhodyr.  March 28, 2014. 
2.  Birdamlik homepage.  April 15, 2014. 
3.  Uznews.  April 11, 2014. 
4.  People's Movement of Uzbekistan website.  April 20, 2014.
5.  People's Movement of Uzbekistan website.  April 24, 2014. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Has the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Returned?

            The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) appears to have returned to the scope of Uzbekistan’s articulated national security concerns.  Between 2003 and 2013, the group did not appear to be capable executing violent operations against the Uzbek state or people in Central Asia.  In the wake of the 2001 U.S.-led coalition assault into Afghanistan, the IMU was reported to have been scattered, lacking any commanding leadership, and isolated in Pakistan.  Since 2013, however, the group appears to have resumed violent activity in Central Asia.
            In May 2013, a spokesman for the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on a police facility in Balochistan, as well as another attack in Quetta.[1]  The language of the statement appears to suggest that the IMU feels these were tit-for-tat attacks, responses to an alleged helicopter attack coordinated by Pakistan that killed several children.  Later in June 2013, the IMU claimed responsibility for an attack on government buildings in Panjshir, Afghanistan, in which they were able to infiltrate wearing police uniforms and attack with firearms and grenades.[2] 
            While attacks have increased in frequency, they are not being done solely by the IMU.  The Turkestan Islamic Movement has a history of collaborating with IMU fighters.  Three Russian nationals (members of Turkestan Islamic Movement) attempted a bombing on 9 May 2013 in Moscow after allegedly receiving training from the group in Afghanistan[3].  In June 2013, both the Turkestan Islamic Movement and IMU published videos, showing their members armed with weapons and explosives and calling for total jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
In August 2013, IMU numbers in Waziristan, Pakistan were reported to have numbered in the thousands[4].  From Waziristan, the IMU can organize attacks, harbor suspected criminals, and recruit alienated or frustrated Central Asians.  In March 2014, thousands of IMU fighters were reported to have gathered and settled in Badakhshan province, north-eastern Afghanistan. 
            Statements made by Uzbek security officials appear to confirm these suspicions, though they appear confident in their ability to neutralize and prevent the spread of the violent organization.  Security officials from the National Security Service of Uzbekistan indicate that they are monitoring the movements of the group, and that any movement towards Afghanistan’s northern border with Uzbekistan will be addressed[5].  The IMU is reportedly continuing to engage in drug trafficking in Badakhshan, facilitating the purchase of weapons, transportation, and recruitment of future militants[6].  Uzbek security officials are monitoring travel and transit of Uzbeks leaving and entering the country, and it is quite likely that the newly-implemented biometric visa regime will contribute to this process. 
A Tashkent imam calls the IMU militants ignorant and misguided, and lacking in a real connection of identity with their homeland[7].  The association of identity likely has more to do with the fact that the membership of the IMU has become less Uzbek in composition, incorporating Tajik, Afghan, Pakistani, and other nationalities.  While the IMU appears to lack popular support among Uzbekistan’s citizenry, the government remains vigilant and prepared to defend against the movement.  This indicates that the government of Uzbekistan is a defensive foreign security policy, rather than an aggressive one that would call for pre-emptive strikes against the massing militants.

1.      1. Umma News.  PAKISTAN. Zayavleniye komandovaniya Islamskogo dvizheniya Uzbekistana o Shakhidskoy operatsii v gorode Kvetta”.  May 14, 2013.
2.      2. Umma News.  IEA. Modzhakhedy IDU poobeshchali, chto, posle osvobozhdeniya Afganistana, oni dvinutsya v Tadzhikistan i Uzbekistan”.  June 04, 2013.
3.       3. Fergana News.  Rossiya: V Podmoskov'ye zakhvachen organizator podgotovki teraktov, svyazannyy s Islamskoy partiyey Turkestana”  June 06, 2013.
5.      5. Han, Hasan.  Central Asia Online.  Boyeviki IDU sobirayutsya v pakistano-afganskom regione”  August 28, 2013.
7.      7. Central Asia Online. Uzbekistan prinimayet mery v svyazi s aktivizatsiyey IDU na granites”  March 31, 2014.

Friday, April 11, 2014

'Animal Symbolism' and 'Sakha Sovereignty'

This week, i discuss on an unique development, the role of animals in the sovereignty and identity of the Sakha Republic.In the case of Sakha Republic, animals act as cultural symbols which denote the separate identity of Sakha Republic in the Russian Federation.This 'animal symbolism' varied from time to time in accordance with the relationship between Moscow and Yakutsk.Three important domestic animals and an extinct animal species are the part of this process : reindeer, horse, cow and mammoth.The first three animals represent three major communities of the Sakha Republic : Indigenous people (Even, Evenk, Yukagir, Dolgan and Chukchi), Sakha people and Slavic settlers. During the Soviet era reindeer was the major symbol of the Sakha Republic. But after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and at the beginning of the sovereignty movement, horse replaced the reindeer. At last after the weakening of the 'sovereignty movement,' cow got into the central stage.These developments may look insignificant, but it  all  related to the socio - economic  and political developments in the Sakha Republic.

Sakha people or Yakuts (Russians used this name for calling Sakha people) migrated to the present day Sakha Republic only in the 15th century.It is generally regarded as this migration happened just after the decline of the Mongol Empire. Before that there were small indigenous groups (Even, Evenki,Yukagir, Chugchi and Dolgan) who were reindeer herders. Another major ethnic group of the Sakha Republic, Russians appeared only in the 17th century. But large scale Russian migration took place only under the Soviets. During the Soviet period, the economy of Sakha Republic was divided on ethnic lines : Sakha and indigenous people were more active in agriculture and animal husbandry and Russians were active in industrial sector. Sakha people were also more active in the politics of the republic but Russians were active in the economic and commerce sector. Again Sakha and indigenous people were more rural in comparison to the Russians. This work equilibrium collapsed after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Sakha Republic declared its 'sovereignty' in 1992 before the establishment of the federal constitution (1993).The resource rich Sakha Republic also took full control over its revenues.This situation changed after Vladimir Putin's ascension to power in 1999. Putin's era witnessed the re-centralization of power and its effect influenced all republics including Sakha. In 2009, Sakha Republic was forced to remove the term 'sovereign' from its constitution and at the same time it was also forced to accept the voluntary nature of its entry into the Tsarist Empire.These political developments reflected on the 'animal symbolism' of the Sakha Republic.

Under the Soviets, reindeer was the major symbol of the Sakha Republic. How ever, reindeer was only associated with the indigenous population of the Sakha Republic.Soviets considered neither Sakha nor earlier Russian settlers as indigenous to the region. Sakha people had an ambiguous attitude towards the reindeer.Sakha people accepted the symbolic value of the reindeer but looked down the profession of the herding of reindeer. Sakha people's attitude clearly reflected after the disintegration of the Soviet Empire in 1989. Then onward, horse became the major cultural symbol of the Sakha Republic.The government under Mikhail Nikolaev started to celebrate southern, nomadic origin  of the Sakha people. Some of these actions of the Sakha Republic were projected in Russian media as the symbols of the nationalism and separatism.But Putin period witnessed the further shifting in the animal symbolism and then cow started to play a major role.Cow is not only important to the Sakha people but also to other ethnic groups of the republic such as rural Russians and indigenous people of North. At the same time Sakha leaders were promoting archaic nature of their republic with the promotion of a new identity, the extinct mammoth.In 2005, President of the Sakha Republic, Styrov adopted the decree ' on the special status of natural resources -ancient remains of mammoth fauna and regulations of their turn over on the territory of Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)'.

What are the meaning of these various animal symbols? There is no doubt that, reindeer was the first domesticated animal of the region. But reindeer associated mostly with the small indigenous groups of the northern part of the republic. For Soviets, indigenous people were the real owners and earliest settlers of the territory.So Soviets promoted reindeer. Sakha people also claimed reindeer due to their 'northerner 'character which they share with the indigenous people of the North. But during the Sakha sovereignty movement , the animal which represented the  Sakha nomadic culture, horse came into the forefront.Government even started to promoted the breeding of the horses. These new developments naturally invited the attention of federal government into the republic. So under Putin, Sakha government had to take a balancing act. Hence, government started to promote cow instead of horse. It shows that Sakha government consider not only Sakha people but also other ethnicities too.It also denotes the Sakha government's compromise with the Russian government.Meanwhile Sakha government tried to promote its republic's unique identity through the promotion of natives species such as Sakha cow, Sakha horse and extinct species of mammoth.


1) Gossmann, Anna Stammler, 'Political Animals' of Sakha Yakutia, pp : 153-175.

2) Sharlet, Robert , "Resisting Putin's Federal Reforms on the Legal Front", Demockratizatsiya, pp : 335-342.

3) Yakovlev, Evgeny and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (2006) "State Capture : From Yeltsin to Putin", CEFIR/NES Working Paper Series, pp : 1 - 21.