LETTER: Despotism is no answer

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The Independent Online
From Mr Abdal Hakim Murad Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien's support for Yeltsin's Chechen adventure proceeds on some dangerous assumptions ("When despotism may be best", 30 December). His notion that the stability of a nation will be enhanced by incorporating ethnic groups which loathe it, rather than releasing them to chart their own destiny, has neither compassion nor the historical record to commend it.

Dr O'Brien's analogy with the American civil war is a specious one, given that in that conflict both North and South shared a religion and language, and could hence be finally reconciled. Chechnya, by contrast, is an ancient Muslim, Turkic-speaking nation which was invaded and suppressed with great savagery under the Tsars and shows no more sign of welcoming the Russian yoke today than it did when Count Leo Tolstoy, serving in the 20th Artillery Brigade in the original invasion of Chechnya, recorde d their passionate loathing of Russia in his novel Hadji Murad.

Victorian English stereotypes of the Irish as a primitive, heretical, violent people on the margins of civilisation were not so very different from modern Russian prejudices against the Chechens. But who in hindsight would regard Dublin's independence asillegitimate?

Yours faithfully, ABDAL HAKIM MURAD Oxford 30 December