Friday, April 19, 2013

Quote from Towers of Stone, by Wojciech Jaglieski

     An account of the politics, and his travels, in Chechnya.

     The [Soviet] Empire's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, never found many supporters outside of the Slavic regions.  He announced the need for progressive reform in Moscow and Russia, but remained dead and insensitive to the requests of the Russian colonies in the Caucasus and in Asia.  The freedom he promised was reserved exclusively for Russians, Slavs -- white people.  From this point of view, Gorbachev in no way differed from his predecessors.  Totally absorbed by his ambitious plans for the reform of the empire and focused on the applause coming from Europe and America, he had neither time nor patience for the Caucasus and Asia.  He was irritated by their sluggishness, their distrust of anything new, their slavish attachment to the past.  He needed quick solutions and quick results.  He had no intention of digging through labyrinths and complexities.  With an arrogant certainty typical of revolutionaries, he believed he woud solve the Asian problems with progressive decrees.  He committed mistake after mistake, blunder after blunder, thus speeding along his own inevitable downfall.

     His successor, the provincial dignitary Boris Yeltsin, promised everyone freedom and ended up dissolving the Empire for the sole purpose of taking Gorbachev's place in the Kremlin.  In this struggle for the power he stirred up Gorbachev's vassals: "I'm telling you all, take as much freedom as you can handle!"  When the gullible Chechens tried to taste their freedom, however, Yeltsin -- by now the lord of the Kremlin -- sent his army after them.

     For the Russians, the collapse of the Empire was not viewed as a joyful or even a reluctant freedom, it was a humiliating degradation.  They jealously and vindictively sowed the seeds of war amidst their recent subjects, whose freedom was born to the accompaniment of machine-gun salvos and bomb explosions.  Russia repaid its subjects' treachery and defiance with war.

     The provinces of the Empire nearest to Europe were the only one spared the conflagrations and chaos: Slavic Ukraine and Belarus, and the Baltic states.  The Russian-fueled civil wars devastated and tore apart the Caucasus and Centra Asia into regions that refused to recognize one another, and Kremlin-supported conspirators toppled their presidents.

     "You are not and never will be our equals," the Russians said. "Nor will we ever allow you to go free."

     The war took Russia up against the Chechens to repay them for having adamantly chosen freedom ended up cursing the Caucasian highlanders of their inferiority complex towards the Slavs.  And the faith in Allah that they had been ashamed of for so many years suddenly became their bedrock.  They stopped their helpless squirming and were no longer tormenting themselves with the question of who they were.

     "We're Muslims," they now proudly replied to the Slavs.  "That means we're different from you."