Volume 48, Issue 1, March 2015, Pages 71-81
How far is too far? Circassian ethnic mobilization and the redrawing of internal borders in the North Caucasus
Available online 2 February 2015.
The idea of redrawing the borders between the republics of the region remains a topic of discussion beyond its borders. While the Kremlin de facto makes the subject of territorial changes in the North Caucasus taboo, the processes related to the rise of ethnic self-consciousness in ethnic republics hardly stopped. The Syrian crisis, which gave Russia a much-celebrated diplomatic victory, threatens its territorial integrity because Moscow’s mishandling of the Circassian issue is radicalizing the Circassian communities of the North Caucasus. Drawing on the dynamics of ethnic mobilization among Circassians, the paper argues that this process may result in the most dangerous consequences of the Kremlin’s policies based on the ancient imperial principle of “divide and rule” – redrawing the administrative map of the entire region. The paper concludes that even though Moscow pretends that the situation is under control, a shift which consequences are hard to predict is already happening. One of them is that the demand for an increased congruency between Russia’s ethnic and administrative borders becomes politically salient; and a protrusion in the battle line becomes more prominent with each passing day.