The governor of southern Russia’s Krasnodar krai is conducting a policy toward ethnic minorities that violates the Russian constitution and Russia’s international human rights obligations. Moreover, legislation adopted by the provincial legislature is turning the region into an outpost governed by its own laws, many of which run counter to federal legislation. This is the conclusion of an investigative article in a recent issue of Izvestia. (Izvestia, August 21)
Krasnodar krai is of enormous strategic importance. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became Russia’s southern border. To its multi-ethnic population, which includes sizable communities of Cossack stock, have been added large numbers of displaced persons and refugees from conflicts in other parts of the Caucasus. Under a power-sharing agreement with the federal center signed at the beginning of 1996, the krai negotiated broad powers that include the right to regulate migration into the region, to pass its own legislation on land, and to rehabilitate the Kuban Cossacks. This last right has been interpreted by the local authorities as an invitation to muster what is virtually a regional militia. Meanwhile, local legislation prohibits the sale of land and restricts the size of private freehold plots to very low levels.
Last December’s gubernatorial election was won by the Communist-backed candidate, Nikolai Kondratenko. The portrait that Izvestia paints of the new governor (based on direct quotations) indicates that he is an ultra-Russian nationalist and anti-Semite, obsessed with the idea that Krasnodar krai must be protected from an invasion of foreigners (Meskhetian Turks, Armenians, and Jews). A voluntary Cossack militia has been raised and given the power to maintain order. Kondratenko has warned the local population not to consume imported foodstuffs since, he says, the West has plotted the genocide of the Russian nation through poisoned foods. Izvestia concludes its article with a warning that there are different kinds of separatism: by creating its own legal space, the paper asserts, Krasnodar krai is well on the way to separating itself from the rest of Russia.
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