Nonsecular take on a rebellion

Regarding the Washington Post article by Jackson Diehl, which ran in The Japan Times on May 8 under the headline “Putin’s hand in radicalizing a secular rebellion“: The writer would appear to have little knowledge of Chechnya or Russia; nor does he seem to understand the meaning of the word “secularism.”

Chechens were never secular, and were never the native people of the area we know today as Chechnya. Historically they were a Turkic tribe that came to occupy areas of the Caucasus when, after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, all of Asia Minor, Armenia and Georgia were occupied by various tribes.

By force, they converted a lot of people as their cousins did in what is now Yugoslavia, Albania and Turkey. When Russia managed to free itself from the rule of Mongol and Turkic tribes — first during the reign of Ivan the Magnificent (Ivan Grozny) and later by Czarina Catherine — Chechens and other Turkic tribes fought savage wars against Russians, Georgians and Armenians. When, during World War II, Chechen and other Islamic tribes decorated a white horse as a gift to Adolf Hitler and were ready to join the Nazis, Josef Stalin deported them to Kazakhstan. In 1957 Nikita Khrushchev brought them back and, as compensation, gave them the best lands in the Crimea and north Georgia.

When the Soviet Union fell apart, the first attacks on non-Muslims was by Abkhazians, the Chechens’ cousins who had forcibly expelled Christians from north Georgia. Then came the Chechen attacks on Christians. At least 400,000 Christian Georgians fled Abkhazia and Chechnya; Russians left even earlier (before 1992). This was followed by Chechen attacks on hospitals inside south Russia and on schools, killing innocents.

The aim of the Western powers at the time was to inflame not only the Caucasus but all of south Russia, where about 40 percent of the population today is Muslim. The “terrorism” of the Chechens cannot be called an independence movement, as they themselves occupy the Caucasus.

Today, in the reconstructed Chechnya, Russia has spent billions to turn Grozny into another Dubai. Mosques are everywhere along with bearded Islamic people praying in the parks. There are hardly any Russians.

If Americans want to call Chechens secular, then we have to change the definition of the word secularism.

victoria miroshnik

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Jake Turk

    Apparently we should also redefine Turkic too. Chechen belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family which, true to its name, is confined to this region and has no verifiable relation to any other language family. Chechen is no more Turkic than it is Slavic, Bantu, or Australian Aboriginal. A cursory check of even the most basic linguistic resources — Wikipedia, Ethnologue, Omniglot, etc. — will unanimously verify this within the first few sentences.

    Such a basic error so early in this letter begins a chain of increasingly crass and bizarre rationalizations for Stalin’s mass-deportation in 1944. Stalin’s own NKVD (bureaucratic ancestor of the Cold War’s KGB) admitted that 20% of the Chechen nation died before they even reached their Central Asian destinations, while third parties put the tally closer to 40%, and some Chechens put the figure at half their total population. The Soviets themselves later admitted that Stalin’s charges of mass-collaboration with the Nazis were invented to justify ethnic cleansing for its own sake.

    Secular or not, the insurgency in the Caucasus is a problem of Moscow’s own creation.