THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CHECHNYA'S SECESSION
By Lyoma Usmanov
The Russian-Chechen secession emerges in today's world as one of the most extreme cases of the complex and painful process of secession.
This is also a political history of the persistent, centuries-old Russian-Chechen confrontation, and this fact is recognized even at the highest official level in Russia. And historically in Georgia, for example, where attempts to view Abhazian territory as a primordial part of it still exist, the fact of the military annexation of Chechnya by Russia isn't even questioned. This follows from the Peace Treaty signed on May 12, 1997.
There is also the recently-ended destructive war, which many experts evaluate as unprecedented since World War II because of its catastrophic outcome. For example Medicins Sans Frontiers labeled it as "world's cruelest war."
This is also the most complicated process of negotiations, which conflicts with many, impossible to say, undefined obstacles on levels of politics and legitimacy. For example, Chechnya is included in the Russian Constitution, and that fact deprives Chechnya of the right of self-determination; at the same time the Chechen Constitution forbids any kind of foreign protectorate.
There is also achievement of concrete, not vague (as it might happen in such cases), results in the negotiation process, which includes the entire sequence of bilateral signed documents, of which the most significant, without a doubt, is the Peace Treaty. This is from one side. And simultaneously, from the other side, the fact exists, that one of the signers - Russia - doesn't honor its obligations to the other side and to international law. And this fact, by the way, is also recognized at official levels in Moscow.
There's also the cultural-civilization difference between Chechnya and Russia.
There is also the recent existence of a manifold system of production and social infrastructure, to which Chechnya was tied very closely. And which nowadays is completely destroyed.
While speaking about analytic material, it's possible to notice a large volume of publicity about Russian-Chechen relations.
In other words, all the above speaks to the fact, that the topic of Chechen secession is introduced very inclusively, that is there's much to discuss about both - at seminars and at conferences. And at the same time, political problems and, even more, the economic perspectives of the secession remain an open question.
Speaking about the abundance of different kinds of Chechen material, attention should be paid to another important remark. Inclusive representation of this subject isn't, unfortunately, the factual evidence, that this question attracted the close attention of experts. It only speaks about the fact that contradictions in the conflict were so intense, and the process developed so quickly, that all of it finally led to inevitable and durable military conflict. These contradictions were reflected in abundant materials. And bloody-armed conflict itself appeared to be the consequence of absolute ignorance about the subject. Even less could be said about some analytical materials and international recommendations to opposing parties. The same evaluation, I would repeat once more, unfortunately should be referred to the present situation of Russian-Chechen relations, which might have very uncertain outcome.
Focusing all attention one more time on this concrete topic it's necessary to state, that the future not only of Chechnya and of Caucasus, but also the future of Russia to a very significant extent depends on the outcome of Russian-Chechen secession.
ECONOMIC POTENCIAL AND PERSPECTIVES OF DEVELOPMENT IN CHECHNYA
First of all, I'd like to highlight a question, how political advisability of all Chechen goals since 1990's origins in socio-economic criteria of existence of nation at that period. During the last phase of the USSR's existence, there were 73 subjects of different ranks, which estimates were included in different types of statistical tables. Looking at the summary, which included all socio-economic factors, at that time Checheno-Ingushetya was in the last solid position, however burst in indexes of subject, which was in the second last position, was very important. And together with all that, the fact that the territory of Chechnya was tremendously rich with supplies,perhaps- the oil of the best quality in the world. In the Grozny area at that time about 350 millions tons of oil were derived!!! For the needs of local population from all these derived supplies, if converting into money, was left only about 0.2%. The other part, as it was explained, was devoted to build communism in the USSR. I could provide even more detailed statistical figures of intercounting between Moscow and Grozny at that time, because I was a chairman of one of the subcommittees of at Parliament of Checheno-Ingushetya, and operations of budget indexes was included in my job duties, as I was the national representative.
But, I think it's very advisable to continue the analysis of the economic potential of Chechnya. Very few, even those who are experts, know that Chechen territory, especially its mountainous part is extremely rich in pasture and forests and has the potential for development of agriculture. Let it be known to you, that as long ago as the 1800's and at the beginning of the19th century, when Chechnya was independent, it even exported agricultural products to countries like Iran, Turkey and even to southern Russia, not even taking into consideration, that all the Northern Caucasus was surviving soley because of Chechen grain. The reason why I used a term "even" while talking about relations with Russia is simply because of that fact that even at that time the Russian military was actively creating obstacles for Chechen imports. I'm sure, that this thesis about the "fantastic" potential of Chechnya for many will seem speculative. Also, most probably, as many future historians will wonder, how could it be, that Russia, which possesses such a huge territory, is not even capable of self-sufficiency in food production.
But let's look at the facts. Classic Russian Empire military official historian, Michail Pokrovskii, while describing the economic potential of the states of Chechnya and Dagestan (by the way, the only independent state in the Caucasus in the 1900's), summarized the economic resources of Chechens at that time, writes: "And this gives an answer to our question: who in reality maintained the state of Shamily and paid expenses of the complete war. It could not have been Dagestan, which was never able to sustain itself with its own bread. It could only have been the granary of Dagestan and all of the eastern, and partly western Caucasus: CHECHNYA."(p.42 collection "Russia and Caucasus," St. Petersburg, 1995). Even the Great Soviet Encyclopedia describes the unbelievable food supply potential of Chechnya in the era of its independence. (BS, 1934, p. 531).
Do you know, what surprises a traveler most of all, who finds himself in the mountains of Chechnya? It's the national Chechen architecture: despite the fact that it's only the pitiful remains after centuries of war, and especially after the military crimes of Communist Russia. After the deportation of Chechens in 1944, special divisions of NKVD in the mountains of Chechnya destroyed about 70% of Chechen architectural monuments. And is it familiar to you, that even in the period of the late Middle Ages, Chechen architects were building in the mountains, complex stone living houses of three, four and even five floors, and military quarters even of seven floors! Where in Europe at that time could you find similar monuments? Yes, you should keep in mind that I'm not speaking about royal, but about national, which means mass architecture. The style of Chechen architects today can be seen in the mountains of Georgia, Osetia and Dagestan. Why am I trying so much, and maybe even so lyrically to describe the potential of Chechen builders? Because it's precisely construction that's without doubt is profession number one to Chechens. You have only to ask any Russian specialist, how many different objects Chechens have built in the territory of Central Russia and especially in Siberia! And to the greatest happiness, God provided Chechen land with all the essential supplies of raw material, which are necessary for the development of a contemporary construction industry in unlimited quantities. Before the war, it is well known, Chechnya was the second-best center in production of cement in the Caucasus after Novorossyisk. For this reason, the Russians deliberately destroyed this capability during the war, even though it didn't have any military significance.
However, building is, for the most part a profession dominated by men. Women were engaged in the development of the textile industry. Without a doubt, when peace finally comes to Chechnya, this will be one of the "gold-mines" for foreign investors.
Next, my perspective on a significant direction in the development of the Chechen economy - it's balneological sector. A significant part, presumably to two-thirds of Chechnya's territory, overlays supplies of medicinal spring waters. Georgians, for example, are proud of their well-known "Borzhomi" brand of mineral water. In Chechnya there are many more of these similar springs. We have both - cold and hot springs (which were even used to heat greenhouses and a number of other different objects). They're also both alkali and acid sources, covering the spectrum of the table of chemical elements. You will ask, why was this industry very poorly developed during previous times? Only because of the fact, that until now in Chechnya, priority was given to oil supplies. And the experts know, that to cultivate both is unprofitable and untechnological. Until 1990, Chechya had limitations on admitting tourists, and without them, the development of mineral springs is pointless.
This was related to the fact, that during the Communist era, Grozny was one of the USSR oil-producing centers, which is now, after limited investments, is capable of providing up to 20 million tons of deep oil processing per year. Fortunately, this complex, in contrary to many other industrial targets, was secured by the Russian government during the war; by safeguarding it from bombing, obviously they planned to begin using it immediately after the war ended. Chechnya also has supplies of explored natural gas up to 67 billion. cubic meters.
Also, it's possible to discuss separately the development of tourism, especially, when at the present, a Transcaucasian highway is being constructed that will connect the two brother nations of Georgia and Chechnya.
INFLUENCE OF INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC FACTORS ON DEVELOPMENT OF CHECHEN ECONOMY
It is also impossible to name a single important sector of economy, which more or less until the 1990's hasn't been connected to the rest of the former USSR. And at the same time, now, after the war, it's hard to find any sector of the Chechen economy, which happened to be "seamlessly" linked with the rest of the world, and at the major junction with Russia. That's how much the war changed everything. It's not worth discussing the relationship of Russian and Chechen industry. I'm repeating once again, the war destroyed all Chechen industries with the exception of the oil processing complex.
We'll focus on the condition of the infrastructure. Until recently, Chechnya was included in a unified energy and transportation system with Russia and other parts of former USSR. Now, as it's known, Russia is intensively creating all possible bypasses to circumvent Chechnya, and some of those bypasses are already triumphantly being built, as for example, railroad and highway complexes. By the way, this construction was started in 1993, long before the war. You must agree, that these facts tell a lot. Now Russians are building an electrical power line, and also in parallel, the construction of a bypass oil line, not taking in consideration how illogical this decision could be. This desire of Russian powers is complete nonsense. They are always saying that they had to protect the oil line from "Chechen terrorists", even though until now there wasn't even a single(!!!) case of terrorism against Russian oil lines. Therefore, we are facing purely political interests, in order to ensure, despite the fact how strange this sounds, "independence" of Russia from Chechnya, or as stated by one of Russia's nationalists, B.Nemcov, in order to avoid dependence on Chechen "caprices". What if the wish to bomb Chechnya reappears one more time, then there would be no need to secure the rear.
For Chechnya, with its war-damaged economy, and without foreign credits, (which are so loved by Russia,) of course it's difficult to compete with Russia in strategic games. But, according to capabilities, without any help from the outside, the Chechen government is trying to plan for the future and to actively continue the construction of a Transcaucausian highway through the mountains to Georgia.
In other words, there are two international vectors to consider, which apparently ensure the future existence of the Chechen economy. Russia differs economically from Chechnya, but, of course, they want to maintain their political supremacy. Grozny, to the contrary, wants to limit Russian influence through its independence , but maintaining, equivalent economic relations which are agreeable to Moscow. Concurrently, Chechnya, without a doubt, seeks to join the economic market with the rest of the Caucasus, from which Chechnya doesn't feel any threats to its security. But it's necessary to acknowledge, that without serious financial aid from international financial funds, this objective is very difficult.
While continuing the thought about international factors, it's impossible to ignore such an aspect as intensive attempts to import to Chechnya other civilized values, other ideology, especially in the shape of religious military extremism, which is alien to Chechen and to all Caucasian culture. And if now, the dangers are difficult to notice, then in the future, if it becomes possible to let crucial cultural-civilization changes occur, this would become very serious political problems both - in Caucasus, as well as in southern Russia.
For example, today in Chechnya as a result of the war, practically the entire educational system has been destroyed. Specifically, the war destroyed absolutely all universities, more then half of primary and secondary schools, practically all libraries, all museums, archives and other cultural centers. And this is only the loss of facilities. Besides that, Chechnya lost up to 70-80% of its pedagogical personnel. It might be said with confidence, that now there's not even a single normally-functioning educational institution in the country!
But the sacred land, as it's said, is never empty. This vacuum is being intensively filled by well-financed supporters of the Near-East ideology of Islam fundamentalism, which in today's situation has already caused significant bloodshed in Chechnya. It's a fact, that, at the extreme, incomprehensible kidnappings are performed by those certain people who have such a world view, so-called "Vakhabbity". And there may be an even worse development. For example, at the present time, hundreds of Chechen youngsters were invited and went to study in different Arab countries. When they graduate, they'll bring an absolutely different ideology to Chechnya.
The Western world, which at the least should really be involved in the process itself, doesn't see farther than Moscow! For example, only in the last six to seven years, has the U.S.A. offered assistance to Russia in providing a different mode of education for up to 35,000 Russians. But among these people there was not a single Chechen! It's impossible to justify, even if West views Chechnya as a part of Russia. It's not only discrimination, it's a mistake, by the way, a political mistake, and afterwards, this short-sightedness will cost much more. It's good at least that the cry for help of Chechen intellectuals was heard in small European countries as Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, and Georgia. In these countries, tens of Chechen students are getting an education, though, of course this is only "a drop in the sea". This void in the development of Chechen culture, modeled on Western democracy, is covered very insignificantly.
While taking into consideration that we have already shifted the focus to domestic factors, we'll mention, first of all, that at the present moment Chechnya - is doubtlessly very weak state.
And the main obstacle for progress - is the solution of its main political problems, and in the first place, the solution of the independence question. But even without an immediate solution to this question, it is possible to consider the possibilities of progress, if Russia, at least respects its own signature at the highest level and considers accepting its international responsibilities in its relationship with Chechnya.
The peace agreement and other signed Russian-Chechen documents open broad possibilities for Chechen development. If trying to give very brief philosophy behind all of those documents, so everything ends by strengthening all Chechen economic rights, including the guaranty of border-customs regime as that of an independent state. All these documents are considered authentic material. In discussing the position and motivation of Russian nationalists, it is very easy to explain, and it's possible to understand the Russians as well. They don't uphold their responsibilities because that would be the same as de facto recognition of the independence of the Chechen Republic, and it seems the Russians aren't mentally ready for this step yet.
But however, it's worthwhile to emphasize, that the other alternative for development, except as in condition of an independent state, the nation of Chechen Republic doesn't have and will never agree on anything else. And even if step by step, but country still develops basis of new institutes of independent state. For example, Chechens have already printed their national currency. The interesting fact is that Chechen money was printed in Great Britain in 1995, during the most difficult period of the war. That is an indication of Chechnya's great trust in its ultimate victory. No less significant is another fact. During those three years, Chechens didn't put their national currency into use because the it couldn't be maintained without a national economy. Instead of that, today there are three foreign currencies in use: U.S. dollars, German marks and Russian rubles.
Besides having a national currency, the Chechen Republic also already issues it's own passport for its citizens.
While summarizing the economic parameters of a continuation of the Chechen secession, it should be said, that at the present moment the Chechen Republic is consumed in a situation of deep humanitarian and economic catastrophe. And together with that, without a doubt, the potential for economic development and formation of a state has more than the required resiliency.
In the opinion of this author, the Chechen economy possesses two essential ways to accomplish structural development. First, it is taking into consideration the further development and modernization of already-existing petrochemical and oil processing complexes of the country. Whether Chechnya goes this way will depend purely on domestic factors. This, at first, depends on the following - if Chechnya continues economic cooperation with Russia. And, secondly, whether a large volume of Caspian oil will turn to the north, that is through Chechnya to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorosyisk. If none of the above-mentioned happens, then the author is sure, that targeting petrochemical development is without prospects.
The second way to achieve Chechen economic development is its thorough restructurization and re-directing Chechnya from an oil orientation to other fields, where there will not be any centrally-dominated direction. This includes the construction industry, balneological direction, tourism, textile industry, electronics, (which was quite developed during the pre-war period), machinery, agriculture and many other areas. The author is an ardent supporter of this second way of Chechen development, which, at first guarantees tremendous economic independence of the country, and, secondly, has unquestioned ecological superiority compared to the existing one. The second way has an excellent outlook also because of the fact, that it will more effectively discover the high Chechen potential of business undertakings, the phenomena of which is recognized even among Moscow's scientists, for example, in the Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology of Russian Academy of Science.
Chechens, most probably, won't need any kind of special "Marshall Plan" of international economic aid. The main point which is necessary for the nation of the Chechen Republic is the following - PEACE, GUARANTEE OF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, FREEDOM AND ASSISTANCE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATION. Education is, undoubtedly, the main problem of Chechen development and this, most probably, is the area where Western help for Chechens is inevitable. If all of the above mentioned conditions are fulfilled, then Chechnya would recover very quickly on its own. Immediately, all signs of political extremism will disappear; also the high crime rate and all other negative factors, which today are present in Chechnya.
Chechens, as other Caucasian nations will never be "a banana republic", eternally asking the world for charity and eternally depending on sources for raw materials.