Authors: Subhranil Ghosh & Sayantan Bandyopadhyay*
Chechnya is a minuscule North Caucasian landmass of around 17000 square kilometres which comprises a small fraction of Russia’s territory and, with about 850,000 people, about a quarter of Russia’s population. The land which was earlier known for its lush valleys and stony mountains has turned into a fore post of secessionist activities. With the Wahabi brand of radical Islam gaining a firm footing in the region, violent Islamic revolts are fairly commonplace. It must also be noted that this area is also marked by high unemployment, pervasive poverty, and rapid population growth as well as Moscow’s indifference to these issues, reflected in its low economic assistance. These factors have led to a high incidence of corruption, kidnappings and assassinations in the region, with crime as the only source of livelihood for countless people.
The local people were hostile towards the Russians much before the first Chechen war due to historical reasons along with the implementation of short-sighted policies over a period of time. Going back in history, North Caucasus was annexed by Peter the Great in 1722 in his campaign to incorporate all the Muslim territories into the Russian empire to create a huge territory for Russia. In 1908, there was an attempt made by the mountainous tribes of Dagestan and Chechnya for liberation and establish a theocratic Sovereign state, which was brutally suppressed by Tsarist forces. As a matter of fact, after the Bolshevik Revolution, Soviet authorities made little effort to integrate them into the allegedly communist mainstream society, and their sense of an ethno religious identity was kept intact. There were attempts in 1917, by North Caucasian mountainous leaders to proclaim Independence. Understandably, this was unacceptable to the new Communist regime and the region was swiftly incorporated into the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics. The people were promised a large amount in the newly formed Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic in 1934. During the Second World War, Chechen separatists allegedly collaborated with the German forces to defeat the Russians. After the battle of Stalingrad when the Wehrmacht was routed, Chechens were punished by deporting them to Kazakhstan in 1944. There were unconfirmed reports claiming that of the 618000 deportees, over 200,000 died as a result of this exercise. What needs to be understood is that Joseph Stalin forged a mini-empire out of the Soviet Union comprising of multi-ethnic nation-states with separatist tendencies. It was only in 1957 that the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev while de-Stalinizing Soviet polity and society, allowed the deportees to return to their homeland by restoring the status of the Chechno-Ingush Republic. However, the sense of historical injustice and alienation lingered on in the collective memory and consciousness of the Chechen people.
“Not in pouring more troops into the Jungle, but in winning the hearts and minds of the people.” This is cited as a solution to crises related to terrorism and Insurgency by scholars. The Russians have been fighting a protracted war in Chechnya with no end in sight. The causes of the conflict beg analysis as well as why Chechnya is deemed as so important by the Russians.
The crisis in Chechnya is one of the biggest challenges that Post-Communist Russia has had to face. The roots of the crisis can be identified in the expansionist designs of Imperial Russia under the Romanovs. Indeed the North Caucasus region represented the bloodiest venue of Tsarist Imperialist expansion. From 1818 to 1856, the most brutal policies were pursued in order to crush the stiff resistance. Thousands of non-combatants were killed; the stratagem of scorched earth was implemented to starve the guerrillas into submission and people were deported en masse to Siberia, with many dying on the way. More than a million people fled or were expelled from their homelands, settling in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Incidentally, the Communist Regime effectuated even harsher policies. The seeds of social animus vis-à-vis Moscow had been planted in the period of 1943-44, when entire nationalities were accused of collaborating with the Nazis, loaded on to trucks and were shipped off to labour camps in Central Asia. Some 206,000 deportees died on this journey; those not expelled died on the spot as a result of disease, starvation and exposure to the harsh Caucasian weather..
In so far as this bloody chapter in the history of Chechnya is concerned, the causes of the conflict are substantial. However, there are a number of other reasons which have aggravated the hostility in the post-cold war era. One of the fundamental catalysts is inherent in the very character of the Russian Federation. The geopolitical vision and national character of the Russian Federation possess distinctive continuities from those of Imperial Russia and that of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The most important continuity is the peculiar similarity between the time immediately preceding the 1917 revolution and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States. This is the cause of the erosion of the legitimacy of authority in the eyes of the governed.
When this point is probed further it is revealed that centralized oppression meted out by Moscow from the days of Stalin has only increased. As a result, the separatists do not leave any stone unturned, when it comes to the negation of authority. To complicate this situation, Russia even now, is, in reality, a mini-empire, not a voluntary federation. The artificial multi-ethnic republics, which were fashioned through Soviet machinations, have experienced acute disenfranchisement and marginalization under centuries of corrupt and oppressive centralized rule. The Russian state has not been able to rectify its historical blunders and in fact, it goes on repeating them. While it has awarded some concessions to the restive minorities of Georgia, it displays little, if any, restraint in dealing with Chechen “terrorists.” The wave of bombings that took place in Russian cities in 1999 – a key casus belli for Russia – is attributed to Chechens, a debatable conclusion given the Chechen’s steadfast denials and more importantly, Moscow’s failure to produce a shred of evidence.
The grievances of the Chechens have found expression under the banner of Political Islam. Moscow has gauged, and quite rightly, that Political Islam will be the vocabulary of dissent and the Chechens will employ it to the fullest extent. The Islamic ideology is an important source of identity effectively mobilizing resistance against the non-Muslim rule in the Caucasus.
The Geo-economic and Geo-strategic significance of the North Caucasus region necessitates that Moscow holds on to this hornet’s nest. The Dagestan region commands 70% of Russia’s Caspian Sea coast and the region houses Russia’s only all-weather port on the Caspian. Thus the losses in fishing and commerce would be substantial. Even more critical is the oil pipeline carrying oil from Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital to global markets, which passes through Dagestan before crossing Chechnya into Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. The ensuing loss, in case this pipeline did not operate optimally, to Moscow would amount to millions of dollars. Chechen instability has threatened to completely cut off this oil supply. As the South Caucasus represents Russia’s near-abroad, the political brass in Kremlin worries that upheaval in the North would accelerate the shift in trade from the traditional north-south axis to a new east-west axis, resulting in even closer links between the South Caucasus and the West. The respect that Russia commands in the region would almost certainly erode in the event of a loss of control over the North Caucasus. Since optics play an extremely important role in modern-day statecraft, Russian Weakness could trigger a reorientation of the foreign policies of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Their equations with the west and Iran and Turkey could significantly jeopardize Russia’s strategic position in Eurasia.
However, the two biggest dangers to the Federation could be facilitated by the North Caucasus’ push for more leeway. This might lead to the loss of more non-Russian territories or to a debilitating reconfiguration for Moscow. Secondly, the proliferation of tensions from Chechnya to Dagestan could prompt roughly one million Russians to depart the region, putting massive economic pressures as Southern Russia would be overwhelmed by refugees. Finally, Moscow’s inability to protect ethnic Russians, even within their own country would further downgrade her legitimacy in the eyes of her citizens.
Now we come to the three explanations provided by Russia as to why it is militarily interfering in these regions. Firstly, Russia claims that this is a totally internal problem as Chechnya considered as an integral part of the Russian Federation. Hence, Russia has all the rights to control, suppress and determine the fate of any irredentist movement originating there. Secondly, the Russian constitution must be adhered to by the provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya too. Thirdly, Russian territory extends up to borders of the North Caucasus and therefore the Russian army is compelled to protect Chechnya’s borders.
Now the process of why “Chechens never forgive Blood” and how do these blood relations affect the relations between various people needs to be understood. This is evident in the persistence of three key phenomena, which are also interlocking, that of clan identity, honour and the custom of blood revenge. Chechnya is a clan society and there are roughly 150 teips or tribes. These Teips are subdivided into Gars (several branches) and patronymic families (Neykes). There is a particular issue associated with the concept of Blood Revenge, when someone from one’s Neykes (family) has been killed. These families are subdivided into related families spanning up to seven generations (Shchin-nakhs) which are subdivided into nuclear families (dozals). The gars and nekyes in which members still have personalized knowledge of one another have collective identities which play a huge role in preserving the harmony within these familial units which are linked patriarchically. Male honour is directly connected with three characteristics which are courage, honour and generosity. The male is supposed to safeguard the family’s women and provide for his close relatives and keeps them safe. Male honour is also linked to his ability to avenge any wrong committed to him, his clan or his clan’s women. The offences are in the nature of verbal humiliation, rape, physical injury or death. An offended male individual can avenge his blood feud by washing off the wrong done with the blood of the perpetrator or that of the perpetrator’s family. This blood feud is a strange vicious cycle as the offender transforms into offended after the first retaliation and the cycle of hostilities can last for decades if not centuries. If one cannot retaliate after the attack then the individual risks losing all honour, prestige of his and his tribe.
In this war of hatred, Russia has unleashed ruthless terror in which thousands of Chechens have died so the concept of Blood Revenge is now a national objective and in almost every family someone has died whose death needs to be avenged. Chechens fear death through humiliation they can’t avenge indicated by the responses even of more than 60% of the respondents in mid-1991 wanting to remain within USSR. But the Russian offensive operations carried out through so much brutality have removed any scope for the Chechens to be apolitical. Moreover, the inability of the avengers to locate the exact perpetrator of the crime and punish them as per customs of Blood Revenge has created a bigger problem as they have categorised the entire Russian army and the Russian state as their enemy. So anonymity has widened the spectrum of Revenge.
This blood Revenge has played a huge role in ensuring Insurgency has a steady supply of recruits. The more people are killed by indiscriminate violence by Russian troops, the more people get committed to eradicating the Russians in general. Most of the recruits were also from the mountains where this custom was widely prevalent. The Russian military has been compelled to send Russian paramilitary forces for counter-insurgency operations in Chechnya since the second Chechen war. The forces are mostly composed of Chechens leading to a process of Chechenization. This counterinsurgency force Kadyrovtsy was also driven by the same logic of Blood Revenge leading to a classic civil war-like situation in Chechnya. This helped Russia in two ways, as they don’t have to deploy ethnic Russians to fight wars and hence no protest by Russian mothers for killing their sons through conscription and secondly Chechens will be fighting a classic civil war with no end in sight. The intra Chechen hostilities tore through the social fabric of Chechnya, leading to a close in hostilities. This shows how the concept of Blood feud can be utilized for strategic expediency.
One thing is certain, Russian persistence with a military solution to a political problem has destabilized the situation to such extent, that there is no cause for cheer in the foreseeable future. Russian economic recovery, which was absolutely crucial to the health of the Federation, has been stalled by this most expensive conflict, both in terms of human and material costs. Even more importantly, the Russian apathy towards accommodation of different ethnic identities is breathing new life into the conflict. At this rate, the old lessons of History have not been internalized by the Russian administration. Russian withdrawals of troops and the peace agreement are viewed as tantamount to recognition of Chechnya’s independence and internal sovereignty, de facto if not de jure, and there is a clear expectation that the postponement of the final decision on status will allow the Russian side to gradually accommodate itself to the reality of the situation. The political brass of the republic has completely refused to participate in the political institutions of the Russian Federation. The republic has also sought to expand its regional and international linkages in order to garner recognition from the International community at large. Genuine independence, and the hope for membership in international organizations, is, however, dependent on formal recognition by the international community, and are unlikely to be forthcoming absent Russian acquiescence. This is, of course, is in the context of the Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Mutual Relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, signed in May 1997, acknowledged the “centuries-long antagonism” between the two sides, and committed both to the renunciation of force “forever” in resolving disputed issues and to building relations in accordance with “generally recognized principles and norms of international law,” a formula that each party could interpret in its own way.” The document was intended to serve as the basis for additional treaties and agreements on the whole complex of mutual relations. Two intergovernmental agreements signed at the same time sought to lay the foundation for future economic cooperation and, as the Chechen side hoped, for addressing the economic reconstruction of Chechnya. As of the completion of this manuscript, however, no significant progress has been made on resolving the underlying conflict and continuing intra-elite struggles in both capitals make the prospects for reconciliation dim. While the Russian State has emerged victorious out of the second Chechen war, there are no efforts at mitigating hostilities and the region has been effectively turned into a fourth world colony. Such an approach is imprudent as the region is still volatile and conflagrations may snowball into another crisis. Moscow has to adopt a more lenient stance if the peace is to be sustained, otherwise this problem can have larger geopolitical ramifications for the region at large.
* Sayantan Bandyopadhyay, is a 2nd year post-graduate student pursuing Political Science with specialization in International Relations at the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University. His areas of interest are primarily India’s foreign policy, India’s defense Policy, Public Administration, International Organizations and the nuances of India’s domestic political and societal discourse with special emphasis on Castes and Reservations. He was a member of the Youth Parliament delegation from Jadavpur University which became the national champions in 12th National Youth Parliament competition organized by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, GOI. He has also been a delegate to the prestigious Policy Bootcamp 2019 by Vision India Foundation. Twitter Id-Sayantanb21
How Putin’s Coup-Proofing Measures Have Undermined Russia’s War Effort in Ukraine
Authoritarian leaders like President Vladimir Putin are faced with a dilemma: they require their military forces to competently conduct campaigns against external enemies, but these same capabilities make them more capable of successfully initiating coups to remove the incumbent leader. Putin, like other leaders of his ilk, is forced to balance policies which promote competence in the armed forces with measures that ensure regime survival. The latter are referred to as ‘coup-proofing’ measures, the implementation of which, to some extent explain the underperformance of the Russian war effort in Ukraine.
Counterbalancing and Parallel Forces
The coup-proofing measure of most consequence to Russia’s military performance in Ukraine is ‘counterbalancing’. This involves the introduction of new security forces to counterbalance the military and each other. A splintered security sector filled with various armed groups are in competition with each other for funding, recruits, and supplies, as well as the ruling autocrat’s attention, which is ultimately vital for attaining the aforementioned resources.
Counterbalancing confers three advantages. Firstly, it promotes loyalty by encouraging competition and distrust between militarized factions who must demonstrate allegiance to the leader to secure resources. Secondly, it deters coups because the officers and senior figures distrust their counterparts in other organizations; and thirdly, it prevents the likelihood of a coup succeeding as it is more difficult for military and security forces operating under disparate chains of command to coordinate and cooperate effectively.
To quote, a 2017 paper appearing in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, ‘If coups are akin to coordination games, counterbalancing can be understood as an effort to add additional players to the game – actors who lack the incentive to move in concert with the others.’
Counterbalancing is rarely used in isolation and may be combined with other coup-proofing measures. For example, authoritarian leaders frequently favour loyalty over meritocracy when selecting staff for senior military and security positions.
Mercenaries as Parallel Forces
Several parallel armed groups exist outside of the Russian military’s chain of command. The most high-profile example is the use of mercenaries from Wagner Group, formerly led by Yevgeny Prigozhin until his demise in August 2023. Wagner Group employs an estimated 50,000 soldiers, 40,000 of which are believed to be released prison convicts. For Putin, the introduction of mercenaries to the war in Ukraine conferred several benefits including a degree of plausible deniability, less domestic blowback from casualties, and an alternative source of manpower which was especially valuable prior to the partial mobilization in September 2022.
From a coup-proofing perspective, the introduction of a private military company (PMC) with overlapping responsibilities to the regular military promoted greater competition between senior leaders. This rivalry was exacerbated by the contest for vital resources like ammunition, supplies and personnel.
The feud between Wagner’s late leader with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was especially bitter. Prigozhin frequently levelled scathing criticism at the two men, and other senior military officers for their handling of the war, accusing them of stealing the credit for Wagner’s battlefield successes in Ukraine, and even attempting to sabotage the PMC’s efforts by withholding vital ammunition.
For a time, this suited Putin. Prigozhin was careful to avoid directly criticizing the Russian president himself which helped to deflect any blame Putin might receive from the public onto his generals. Moreover, Prigozhin’s actions appeared to fit a preestablished pattern in Russian politics whereby senior figures jostle against each other to secure the president’s favour.
There are several Russian PMCs in addition to Wagner Group. Konstantin Pikalov, once thought to be Prigozhin’s right hand man and the head of Wagner operations in Africa, heads his own mercenary group called ‘Convoy’, which were founded in occupied Crimea in Autumn 2022. Another group is ‘Redut’, which was likely formed to provide security for Russian-owned facilities in Syria, but it believed to have been one of the first PMCs to provide personnel during the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
The Russian energy giant Gazprom also has mercenaries in the guise of ‘private security organizations’, which energy companies were permitted to create after a new law was passed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in February 2023. It is unclear whether the various groups associated with Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft will exclusively guard the company’s energy facilities or whether they will take on active combat roles in Ukraine.
Other Parallel Forces
Mercenaries are not the only parallel forces at play. In 2016, Putin formed the Rosgvardiya (National Guard) under the leadership of Viktor Zolotov, the president’s former bodyguard. The formation of the Rosgvariya entailed the reorganization of preexisting internal security forces into a new agency which directly reports to Putin. Ostensibly, the Rosgvardiya’s responsibilities largely concern public order, policing, and counterterrorism, but the 300,000 to 400,000 strong force certainly acts as a deterrent to would-be coup-plotters. The Rosgvardiya has also reportedly seen action in Ukraine.
Similar examples of counterbalancing can be seen in the intelligence sphere. Three of the country’s most important intelligence services, the GRU, the SVR, and the FSB, each have their own elite special forces contingents. Competition and mutual distrust between the three is rife due to a high degree of overlapping tasks and low degree of cooperation. The FSB have attracted a particularly high degree of rancour from the GRU and SVR because of its increasingly proactive role conducting operations beyond its domestic remit. Additionally, counterintelligence officers from the FSB are embedded directly within the armed forces to monitor signs of dissent.
Finally, there are parallel forces provided by the Russian republics. Just two days after the invasion of Ukraine, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-appointed leader of Chechnya, confirmed that the 141st Special Motorized Regiment – better known as the Kadyrovites – were operating in the country. The Kadyrovites are essentially a paramilitary organization loyal to Kadyrov, functioning as his private army.
Like Prigozhin, Kadyrov has been highly critical of the Russian military leadership but avoided levelling such critiques at Putin. By emphasizing the effectiveness of Chechen fighters over regular Russian forces, Kadyrov may have been hoping to make himself appear more indispensable to Putin.
How Coup-Proofing Degrades Military Effectiveness
The introduction of several players incentivized to hold each other in mutual suspicion is not conducive to an effective and unified war effort, as events in Ukraine have demonstrated. As explained by James M. Powell, coup-proofing ‘undermines the fighting capacity of a military by creating coordination challenges in the field.’ Unity of command is necessary for a coup to be effective, but it is just as necessary for conducting a war. The absence of unified command has thus jeopardized the entire Russian war effort.
The lack of a unified command structure was evident in the early stages of the war. In the first months following the invasion, Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies and analysts were unable to identify a single overall commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine. Instead, it was believed that separate formations were drawn from each of Russia’s four military districts and placed under the command of senior officers from each district, with Putin taking on an oversized role, sometimes reportedly giving orders to field formations. Last April, Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov was finally named as overall commander but there have been at least three reshuffles at the top since then.
Wagner’s increasing share of frontline duties further undermined unity of command, with Prigozhin and his mercenaries not subject to the authority of the regular armed forces. Tensions between Prigozhin and the miliary leadership culminated in Wager Group’s mutiny in June. A civil war or coup seemed momentarily possible in Russia until a deal was brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Prigozhin was later killed in a plane crash in August removing him from the chessboard altogether, but his insubordination was a clear sign that Putin had miscalculated and allowed the rivalries simmering between the members of his inner circle to burn too hot.
Beyond Prigozhin’s dramatic rebellion, Coup-proofing has created other unintended consequences which have hindered Russia’s military efforts. An overemphasis on loyalty at the expense of competence coupled with fierce competition between the security and defence services have created incentive structures that have undermined honesty and integrity, inter-service cooperation, and professionalism.
These trends were identified by analysts as being particularly pervasive in the Russian intelligence community even before the invasion of Ukraine. For example, a 2021 Congressional Research Service report noted that ‘Agencies compete with each other for greater responsibilities, budgets, and political influence, often at the expense of other agencies.’ As Mark Galeotti puts it, ‘The competition for presidential approval is especially strong and has led to a perverse competition to tell the boss what they think he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear.’ This culture likely incentivised the Russian intelligence community to provide briefings to Putin prior to the invasion that confirmed his preconceptions that Ukraine would offer little resistance.
It is equally questionable if the most competent officers have been granted the responsibility to lead Russia’s war on Ukraine. Sergei Surovikin, a veteran of several conflicts and broadly considered to be capable officer by most military analysts, was made the overall commander of Russian forces in Ukraine in October 2022. However, Surovikin was replaced in January the following year by Valery Gerasimov, despite the latter having already attracted much of the blame for implementing a faulty strategy in his role as the Chief of the General Staff. In August, Surovikin was then stripped of his role as the commander of the Russian aerospace forces due to suspicions that he was linked to the Wagner rebellion.
Other officers have met similar fates. On July 12, Major General Ivan Popov, who led the 58th Combined Arms Army stationed in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhya region, disclosed that he had been relieved of his command after he made complaints to Gerasimov regarding the lack of troop rotations. He also highlighted issues his soldiers were having with counterbattery radar and artillery reconnaissance. Popov’s dismissal indicates that senior military personnel are seemingly unable to report the facts on the ground to their superiors without facing charges of disloyalty or disciplinary action. Such a culture, especially within the Russian military’s highly hierarchal command structure will make it increasingly difficult for commanders to make informed decisions based on accurate information.
Thus far, Putin’s coup-proofing strategy has succeeded in fragmenting the Russian security elite sufficiently to secure his hold on power, despite Prigozhin’s short-lived insubordination. However, these same measures which have enabled Putin to safeguard his rule have seriously undermined Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. The constituent parts of Russia’s defence and security apparatuses fail to act as a whole and there is ample evidence that senior leaders have been promoted on the basis of perceived loyalty over competence. A culture of competition and distrust has hindered cooperation, coordination, and honesty, which has led to poor decision-making, the results of which have played out on the battlefields of Ukraine since February last year.
XV Congress of the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language
The XV Congress of the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature “Russian Language and Literature in a Changing World” began on September 13 in St. Petersburg. Outstanding Russian philologists from all over the world took part in the world congress. The objectives of the event and its significance for promoting the Russian language abroad were discussed at a press conference in TASS by the chairman of the congress program committee, adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, president of MAPRYAL and ROPRYAL, chairman of the supervisory board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vladimir Tolstoy, co-chairman of the congress program committee, rector St. Petersburg State University, member of the presidium of the Russian Language Council under the President of the Russian Federation, co-chairman of the Russian Language Council under the Government of the Russian Federation, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Kropachev and president of the Leo Tolstoy Institute in Colombia Ruben Dario Flores Arcila.
The XV Congress of MAPRYAL is the largest event in the life of world Russian studies, in which about 600 delegates from 63 countries of the world take part: specialists in the field of scientific description and teaching of the Russian language, literature, theory and practice of translation, lexicography and other aspects. During the congress, 418 reports will be presented, which will present a whole range of international studies of Russian studies – from teaching methods to translations of literary texts and analysis of phraseological units.
As the President of MAPRYAL and the Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vladimir Tolstoy noted, today MAPRYAL has 130 collective and 65 individual participants, and interest in the study of the Russian language and Russian literature is only growing around the world.
“This year, new colleagues from Argentina, Venezuela, Qatar, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, Ecuador, as well as our old friends from the CIS countries, Asia, the Balkan region, countries of Eastern and Western Europe joined the work of the congress . We are grateful to St. Petersburg State University for its active participation in organizing the congress,” said Vladimir Tolstoy during a press conference.
The XV Congress is being held in Russia for the first time in 20 years, and St. Petersburg is becoming its capital for the second time in the history of the event. In 2003, it was held in St. Petersburg on the initiative of the outstanding Russian scholar, rector and president of St. Petersburg State University Lyudmila Alekseevna Verbitskaya, who is the author of more than 300 scientific and educational works in the field of Russian and general linguistics, phonetics, phonology and methods of teaching the Russian language , as well as the significant project “Let’s speak correctly!” As part of the “zero” day of the congress, a sculptural portrait of Lyudmila Alekseevna Verbitskaya was unveiled at St. Petersburg State University, which will greet philologists and linguists every day.
Today, St. Petersburg University pays great attention to the study of the Russian language and its promotion abroad. The University has 112 Russian language centers, represented in 50 countries. In 2023, St Petersburg University opened Russian language centers in Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya, Algeria and Paraguay.
“SPbU has traditionally become the most popular university in Russia among foreign applicants. Citizens from 105 countries come to study at the University; the competition among foreign students is 21 people per place. Young people come to St. Petersburg University to learn Russian and study in Russian. St Petersburg University also teaches more than 100 world languages, including rare ones spoken in two or three countries. We teach our students not just foreign languages, but culture, history, economics, and law in these languages, because language does not exist separately from other areas of human life. I believe that today the Russian language is so popular and strong, partly because our country is open to all languages of the world. And it will always be like this,” said Nikolai Kropachev.
As the participants of the press conference noted, the rules for using the Russian language as the state language of the Russian Federation require special attention today. Rector of St. Petersburg State University, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Kropachev noted that the changes made on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Law on the State Language established new requirements for consolidating the norms of the Russian language, which must be observed in areas of compulsory use of the state language. Such norms must now be enshrined in normative dictionaries, reference books and grammars, the list of which will be approved by the Government. The normative dictionary must also define those foreign words that have no analogues in the Russian language and therefore can be used in the areas of use of the state language.
Associate Professor at the National University of Bogota, President of the Leo Tolstoy Institute Ruben Dario Flores Arcila spoke about the motivation for foreign students to learn Russian. In Colombia, Russian has been taught since 1944, when the Institute of Friendship with the USSR was founded. According to him, the first foreign articles devoted to the study of the work of the Russian writer Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy were written in Colombia, Cuba.
“I am confident that Russian literature and the Russian language are special cultural codes that help foreigners understand the identity of Russia and better recognize the culture of this unique country,” said Ruben Dario Flores Arcila.
As part of the events of the XV MAPRYAL Congress, experts will pay attention to the methods of teaching Russian as a foreign language, various aspects of translating the works of Russian writers and poets into different languages of the world, discuss issues of reflecting cultural changes in language, and much more.
According to the director of the MAPRYAL secretariat, Alexander Korotyshev, the list of participants and topics of reports indicate that in order to competently teach and study the Russian language, you need to know a lot about both the culture and history of the country. “Modern methods of teaching the Russian language strive for accuracy in conveying linguistic facts and are literally “tuned” to the cultural and linguistic characteristics of different national audiences. The number of congress delegates suggests that interest in the Russian language in almost all parts of the world continues to grow,” added Alexander Korotyshev.
It should be noted that from September 1, 2023, on the basis of St. Petersburg University, with the support of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, the online school of St. Petersburg State University began its work. A unique educational project allows schoolchildren from different countries to undergo training in Russian according to an approved educational program for grades 5–11 and receive a standard certificate. As the rector of St. Petersburg State University Nikolay Kropachev noted, the project already in the first year of its existence showed that studying in Russian is important in different parts of the world: the University received applications from schoolchildren from 44 countries.
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The XV Congress of MAPRYAL was organized by the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature together with St. Petersburg State University with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation and the Russkiy Mir Foundation.
The first MAPRYAL congress was held in 1969 in the USSR, and since then it has traditionally been held once every five years in different cities around the world. Since 1969, MAPRYAL congresses have been hosted by Moscow, Varna, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Regensburg, Bratislava, St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Granada, Astana.
Common wealth of independent states
The geopolitical environment of Eurasia underwent a profound change with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. A new regional structure known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) arose to deal with the difficulties and uncertainties that came along with this momentous event as the largest communist state in the world began to fall apart. The former Soviet governments that make up the CIS sought to maintain regional stability in the post-Soviet era while fostering political, economic, and cultural cooperation among its member states.
This research explores the intricate topography of the Commonwealth of Independent States and offers a thorough examination of its establishment, structure, and governance. We can understand the motivations behind the formation of this regional organization better by looking at the historical context of the demise of the Soviet Union and the CIS’s ensuing establishment.
This research’s main goal is to explain the political and economic aspects of cooperation within the CIS. We focus on the decision-making processes that have an impact on how the CIS functions as we examine the organizational structure of the CIS as well as the obligations of its member nations. We can gain a better understanding of the role the CIS plays in promoting regional stability by looking at political cooperation initiatives including those that address shared security concerns and participate in political and legal coordination.
The economic cooperation of the CIS nations is also examined, with an emphasis on attempts for trade and economic union. We evaluate the same economic issues these countries confront and look into the coordinated actions done to address them. We intend to determine how well the CIS is fostering stability and economic progress in the region by studying its economic component.
We take into account the CIS’s accomplishments and future advantages while also acknowledging its flaws and detractors. Both the efficacy of institutional processes and the internal problems brought on by disputes and conflicts among the member states are explored. We also look at how the outside world perceives the CIS, focusing on how Russia is seen as the organization’s dominant force and how the CIS is perceived as important and having an impact on global concerns.
Then, we evaluate the CIS’s possibilities while taking into consideration the modifying dynamics among its member states and the transforming global scenario. We look at possible areas for growth and transformation while examining the CIS’s role in solving fresh concerns and promoting deeper regional integration.
This research study aims to increase understanding of the Commonwealth of Independent States and its importance in the post-Soviet era by closely evaluating the group’s conception, structure, functioning, and prospects for the future.
The Soviet Union’s fall in December 1991 is where the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) got its start. Moscow’s centralized control over the vast lands and several republics that made up the union came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union. A number of causes, such as economic difficulties, political changes, and the growing yearning for independence among the Soviet republics, led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Following the Russian Federation’s declaration of independence, other former Soviet republics started down a similar road in an effort to assert their sovereignty and create independent states. In the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a woodland reserve on the border between Belarus and Poland, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus met when the Soviet Union fell.
They approved the Belavezha Accords on December 8, 1991, thus dissolving the Soviet Union and founding the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Creating a framework for coordination and collaboration among the newly independent countries was the CIS’s main goal. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded in 1991 with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as its founding members. More former Soviet Union countries were added as the CIS grew over time to comprise the 12 member states it does now.
In its early years, the CIS faced numerous challenges. The difficulties that the member states faced included economic hardship, political upheaval, and territorial disputes from the Soviet era. The CIS provided a forum for dialogue and collaboration to address these problems and maintain regional stability.
The CIS had problems accomplishing its objectives while being technically created. Some member states prioritized their own national interests over group efforts while others offered varying degrees of support to the CIS. The Soviet Union, which had an intricate web of connections covering politics, economy, and security, was no longer as intertwined as the CIS.
The CIS has changed in terms of operations and organizational structure over time. While some programmes have improved member state cooperation, others have had very little success or have mostly been token efforts. The organization, despite various levels of efficacy and influence, provides a space for communication and collaboration. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, an effort was made to encourage regional cooperation among the newly independent republics by creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, independent nations established the regional organization known as the Commonwealth of Independent Nations (CIS). The CIS promotes intergovernmental cooperation and aims to deepen the links that bind its member nations politically, economically, and culturally. The CIS’s organizational structure is made up of a number of important parts, including:
Council of Heads of State: The Council of Heads of State is the CIS’s highest legislative body. It meets at least once a year to talk about and decide on crucial topics affecting the CIS. The participating nations’ heads of state or government make up this group.
The Council of Prime Ministers, also known as the Council of Heads of Government, coordinates and implements the decisions taken by the Council of Heads of State. It meets frequently to discuss and organize many aspects of cooperation and is made up of the heads of state or prime ministers of the member states.
Council of Foreign Ministers: The foreign ministers of the member nations make up the Council of Foreign Ministers. It acts as a forum for coordination and diplomatic dialogue on issues related to politics, security, and foreign affairs. The majority of the CIS’s foreign policy priorities are established by the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Economic Council: The member states’ economic cooperation is the main emphasis of the Economic Council. It aspires to improve economic integration, trade, and investment inside the CIS. The implementation of joint economic projects, the creation of common economic policies, and the encouragement of intra-CIS commerce are all coordinated by the Economic Council.
Sectoral Cooperation Bodies: The CIS has a number of specialized organizations that focus on particular sectors of cooperation. These organizations represent a wide range of professions, such as those in the legal, judicial, cultural, educational, and medical fields. They promote collaboration, knowledge sharing, and team projects in their specialized domains.
A structure of intergovernmental cooperation and consensus-based decision-making underlies the operation of the CIS. The following elements are essential to how the CIS functions:
- In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), decisions are frequently reached by consensus. Negotiations and discussions among the member nations frequently result in important decisions. All key decisions and initiatives shall be developed and approved by the Council of Heads of State and Government and the Council of Heads of State.
- Cooperation Agreements and Protocols: The CIS is governed by a number of agreements and protocols that set the standards for member state cooperation. These accords cover a wide range of topics, including cultural exchange, economic integration, and security collaboration.
- Working Groups and Committees: The CIS creates a range of working groups and committees to help with the execution of decisions and objectives. These organizations are in charge of planning events, keeping an eye on initiatives as they take shape, and resolving particular problems within their individual spheres of expertise.
- Joint Programmes and Projects: The CIS supports collaborative initiatives that encourage member states to work together and integrate. These programmes cover topics like infrastructure construction, international interchange, scientific research, and humanitarian aid. Bilateral and multilateral agreements among member states are used to implement joint programmes and projects.
- Interaction with International Organizations: The CIS is in touch with other international bodies as well as regional groups. In order to address shared difficulties and advance shared objectives, it cooperates and engages in discourse with organizations like the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
The CIS aims to improve cooperation and collaboration among its member states in different political, economic, and cultural domains by operating within its organizational structure and functional framework. The operation of the CIS has, however, altered over time as a result of changing member state dynamics and a more general geopolitical environment.
Political and economic cooperation
A crucial component of the CIS’s operation is the political collaboration between its member states. It seeks to solve shared security issues, advance regional stability, and foster political and legal discussion. The following are some of the important CIS political cooperation areas:
- Common Security Issues: The CIS focuses on resolving common security issues that member governments encounter. Combating terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, and illegal immigration are included in this. To improve regional security, the member states work together through collaborative initiatives like intelligence sharing, law enforcement coordination, and joint military exercises.
- Regional Stability Initiatives: The CIS contributes to efforts to maintain peace and resolve disputes in the region. In order to resolve territorial disputes and disagreements between member states, it develops procedures for discussion and negotiation. The group promotes peaceful dispute resolution procedures, aids in negotiations, and offers a forum for communication between disputing parties.
- Cooperation on Political and Legal Issues: The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) promotes cooperation on political and legal issues with the goal of harmonizing legal systems among member states. There are initiatives to harmonize legal frameworks, improve judicial collaboration, and advance the rule of law. Through discussion, the sharing of experience, and cooperative projects, the organization also addresses topics including human rights, democratic government, and electoral procedures.
Another important part of the CIS’s operation is economic cooperation, which aims to improve trade, investment, and economic integration among member states. Among the crucial components of economic cooperation within the CIS are the following:
- Initiatives for Trade and Economic Integration: The CIS promotes intra-CIS trade and economic integration through a number of programmes. The establishment of a free trade zone, standardization of customs practices, the removal of trade restrictions, and the mutual recognition of standards and certifications are all included in this. Processes for trade are streamlined, cross-border travel is made easier, and investment flows are encouraged within the CIS.
- Economic Reforms, Market Transitions, and Infrastructure Development are a few of the common problems that the CIS member nations must deal with. To meet these problems, the CIS promotes the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and technical support. Key economic sectors are developed, innovation is encouraged, and economic growth and stability are fostered through joint efforts and projects.
- Joint Energy and Transportation Projects: The CIS places a high priority on energy and transportation cooperation. In order to develop and manage energy resources, such as oil, gas, and power, the member states work together. To improve regional connection and guarantee dependable energy supplies, projects including pipelines, power grids, and transportation networks are launched.
- Financial Coordination: The CIS encourages member state coordination in the financial sphere, notably in the areas of capital markets, banking, and insurance. The region’s financial systems are being strengthened, monetary cooperation is being improved, and financial transactions are being made easier. Initiatives to stop corruption, money laundering, and illegal financial activity are also supported by the CIS.
It’s significant to note that over time and across member nations, the extent of political and economic cooperation within the CIS has changed. While some programmes have produced observable effects, others have run into difficulties because of conflicting national interests, economic inequalities, and geopolitical factors. As member states adjust to shifting conditions and work to further integrate the region, the efficacy of political and economic cooperation continues to change.
Challenges and Criticisms
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has encountered the following difficulties and criticisms:
- The member states of the CIS have a variety of political, economic, and security interests. This could make it more challenging to conduct collaborative activities and achieve genuine cooperation. It could also make it harder to coordinate on important topics and develop consensus.
- Institutional Weaknesses: The CIS’s institutional framework’s efficacy has been called into question. Some detractors contend that the organization’s capacity to respond quickly to new challenges is constrained by the bureaucratic and delayed decision-making processes. Concerns concerning the implementation of cooperative measures are also raised by the absence of enforcement procedures for agreements and protocols.
- Conflicts and Disputes: Left over from the Soviet era, the CIS has had to deal with persistent conflicts and disputes among its member states. Territorial conflicts, separatist movements, and racial tensions are a few of these. Such disputes can erode confidence and make it harder for employees to work together.
- Economic Disparities: The CIS faces difficulties integrating and cooperating economically due to the widening gap in wealth between its member states. Achieving equitable and sustainable economic cooperation may be hampered by differences in resource endowments, diverse economic systems, and varying levels of development.
- Perception of Dominance: There has been criticism and worry over Russia’s perceived dominance inside the CIS. Some contend that the organization’s power dynamics are unbalanced as a result of Russia’s sway and ability to make decisions, which eclipse the interests of smaller member nations.
The case studies below demonstrate the difficulties and dynamics that the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) faces:
Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh: Within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Armenia-Azerbaijan war in Nagorno-Karabakh has continued for some time. Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians, is the focus of a disagreement that has led to a protracted conflict and a precarious security situation. The CIS has attempted to aid in a peaceful resolution of the conflict through its processes and mediation efforts. Despite this, the crisis has brought to light issues like how difficult it is to come to a sustainable peace deal, how different national interests affect discussions, and how ineffective the CIS is at settling conflicts.
Conflict in Transnistria: The conflict in Transnistria, a province of Moldova that seceded, is still active. In 1990, Transnistria proclaimed its independence, sparking a bloody struggle between Moldova and the separatist territory. The Joint Control Commission, a CIS peacekeeping force, has been actively involved in maintaining tranquilly in Transnistria. The issue is a great example of how challenging it is to negotiate with separatist parties and how challenging it is to forge durable agreements inside the CIS.
Relations between Russia and Ukraine have had a significant impact on the dynamics of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have strained relations between the two nations..
Future prospects for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are uncertain and rely on a variety of factors. Within the organization, increased efforts by member nations to collaborate on security, political, and economic fronts may be seen. Increased collaboration in sectors like energy, transportation, culture, and education might lead to greater wealth and advancement for everybody. Along with forging ties with other regional organizations, the CIS may also need to adapt to altering geopolitical circumstances. However, problems such as divergent national interests, institutional shortcomings, and on-going conflicts between member states may continue to have an impact on how the CIS develops in the future.
The organization will need to deal with these concerns, encourage consensus-building, and effectively react to the changing requirements and aspirations of its member states if it is to preserve its relevance and effectiveness in the years to come.
The CIS’s future will ultimately depend on how committed its members are to overcoming obstacles, fostering cooperation, and advancing shared objectives. The CIS has the chance to promote regional stability, economic growth, and interstate peace among its numerous member nations as the geopolitical landscape changes.
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