CAUCASIAN KNOT, Moscow
Andreas Gross: «Russia underestimates the gravity of the totalitarian past»
One of the most significant events of autumn 2006 political life was the
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Forum 'For the Future of
Democracy' held in Moscow.
Though the declared theme of the Forum was the role of political parties in
the development of democracy, the major question under discussion, as at
many other international forums lately, was the destiny of democracy in
Russia. "Caucasian Knot" reporter met Andreas Gross, a Forum participant,
Swiss parliamentarian, one of the most active parliamentarians in the
Council of Europe, PACE rapporteur on Chechnya and until recently on
Azerbaijan. Mr. Gross shared with us his view on the current situation and
the future of democracy in Russia, possibilities of overcoming the
totalitarian past by the Transcaucasian countries, and ways of settling
conflicts in the Caucasus.
Mr Gross, could you please tell us about your impressions of the Forum
'For the Future of Democracy'? What is the main idea of the meeting?
The Forum 'For the Future of Democracy' was established by the Parliamentary
Assembly and the government of ministers of the Council of Europe a year ago
in Warsaw. Its main idea is that we have to be careful and unite our efforts
because democracy is getting weaker and weaker in all Europe. The effect is
very similar, though the reasons are different in every country.
I mean many people in Europe do not believe in democracy any more. The
distance between politicians and citizens is growing. People stop believing
in political life and turn away from politics. The conference is being held
in Moscow because of the presidency of the Russian Federation in G-8 and
COE, so the State Duma organized the second Forum meeting. Our meeting in
Moscow concentrated on the role of political parties in democracy building.
It is important to realize that political parties are not just power
machines, they need to be part of the civic society and express needs, hopes
and interests of the society, of which they are part of. On the other hand,
there has to be a platform where the civic society and politicians meet for
Political party should necessarily be integrated in the civil society. It
is an old concept which was formulated about a hundred years ago also by
Piotr Kropotkin. Today many people are forgetting this old idea of the
party, though it is easier to understand it today because people are far
better informed and understand politics much better than hundred years ago.
Yet parties fail to attract people who would be interested in political
engagement. The discussion was very productive. There were many good
speeches: Mr. Terry Davis, Secretary General of Council of Europe, and Mr
Rene van der Linden, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly, both stressed
the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of media as absolutely
essential parts of democracy.
Both said that they were shocked by assassination of Anna Politkovskaya and
said that assassination of a journalist is an attack on freedom and
Were you asked by the media to comment on the accident?
Two French radio stations and a Swiss news agency called me after
assassination of Anna Politkovskaya. I said that assassination of Anna
Politkovskaya is an attack on democracy and freedom in Russia. We need to
know who is behind it, only when we know who is responsible, it will be
possible to counteract the negative consequences for building and
strengthening of democracy.
Going back to the theme of the conference, do you think there is a chance
for political parties to play a role you have just described?
I think it was a big mistake not to have let two liberal parties be part
of the Duma. Russian democracy needs smaller parties as well. I do hope the
law would be changed, it would become more liberal, otherwise the Duma will
have only parties designed by the Kremlin, and this is not what Russia
needs. I think many people would be interested in a party that Mr. Kropotkin
was thinking of Parties being integrated in the civic society. Perhaps today
when the Russians are better informed this idea is even more interesting
than before. I'm afraid, though, that people do not believe in politics as
much as they had done hundreds years before, but potentially I would not
give up trying to set up such a party in Russia.
Mr. Terry Davis made a statement that Belarus is not the point of
discussion of this conference because democracy is not as well developed in
Belarus as in Russia. How would you describe Russian democracy?
I've always said that democracy is an ongoing, never-ending collective
learning process. You can start from scratch and then you need to have a
very strong will to continue to go in this direction. I want to be very
precise in what I'll say now: in Belarus authorities are not willing to
start this process, though many people in Belarus are not only willing, they
are capable of doing that. In Russia some people in the government say that
they see future of Russia in Europe, they share European values and they
want to follow the way of democracy. In this sense Russia has better
leaders, but that does not mean that the Belarus people are less able to
start and follow this process. They are as able as the Russians, in the
majority, the difference lies in the government. I don't want to make an
impression that I know better what and how to do it and I would not like to
qualify Russian democracy. Evidently, it is very young and weak, but it is
normal because it is the beginning of the process. For five hundred years
Russia had been under totalitarian rule and it seems to me that perhaps you
should think of communism as of continuity of older methods in ruling Russia
than AS an interruption. Now, for the first time people come across the
notion of individual values, of human individuality, and this is very
difficult. At the Forum the question was raised: what comes first - politics
or power? I think it demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the
nature of democratic power and politics. It is probable that the government
of Russia does not fully understand how deep the collective learning process
between power and society has to be, taking into consideration that you face
a five hundred years heritage and tradition going in the opposite direction.
And for Russia it is especially difficult, because I think the Russian
society is experiencing an identity crisis. There are supporters and
opponents of that idea in Russia. Opponents say that Russia has a
thousand-year old identity and there is no problem with it. But I think many
people in Russia have a vague idea what is Russia today: is Russia a huge
European country or is it still an empire? Are neighbors of Russia parts of
Russia or secondary players which Russia can influence?
The basic questions of self-understanding, of self-identification are very
acute for Russia now. Russia had been an empire and a world power, it is
still one of the most important powers of the world, it is a VETO -member of
the UN-Security Council, it has nuclear power. With such an experience of
the last fifteen years, with such a history of about five hundred years, it
is difficult to make progress on the democratic road which is difficult to
follow for European countries as well.
You say that Russian democracy is weak, but do you think it is developing?
Is Russia on the way of building democracy or is it on the other way? What
point of view is closer to you?
I'm absolutely convinced that Russia is on the way of building democracy,
but (it) this is not a linear way, it has a lot of setbacks, you don't
always make progress, it goes down and it goes up again. There are moments
of regression and there are moments of progress. But eventually, it is not
Mr. Putin or people in the Duma who define that process, it is one hundred
forty million citizens of Russia, common citizens. I think they are able and
they are willing to follow this way and that's what we should support and we
should do everything to bring them forward. I've met such people in
Krasnoyarsk, in Tuva, in Evenkia, in Chechnya, in Ingushetia, in St
Petersburg, in Moscow - everywhere. We should think of common citizens of
Russia, they are not less human than other Europeans.
Is this optimistic point of view predominant in the West? Haven't the
latest events, such as assassination of Politkovskaya, casted doubt on the
future of Russian democracy?
I think we'd better think ourselves of what is happening instead of looking
at others. There are still many stereotypes concerning Russia in the West.
The majority of people in the West know very little about Russia, as well
as about political situation in other countries. For instance, in
Switzerland there are very few experts on Russia. Many people who call
themselves experts simply have a special interest in your country. If I was
a Russian democrat, I would try to unite all Russian democrats to be
together and not to lose hope for development of democracy, you can never be
sure that everything goes well.
Link between the current politics and the Soviet past
You have touched the historic reasons of the current developments, what is
the link, in your view, between the post-Soviet heritage and major problems
in the area of human rights abuse in the contemporary Russia?
The imperial thing is something specific to Russia, but the
post-totalitarian heritage is of a broader character. It is also common to
the Caucasian countries; you can find it in Ukraine, but also in Poland and
in Hungary. For those countries the notion that every human being has the right
to live his own life, that he has his own will and he is an independent
citizen, is new. I ran several workshops for trade unions dedicated to issues
of democracy in Romania in 1993-1995. And people waited that everyone would
start helping them. It didn't occur to them that it were they who had to
help themselves. If you don't know that you can hit a ball to make a goal,
you would not hit it, and you won't be able to play football. Another
important point is that politics is an interaction between two or four or
one million different people, and every person has his individuality which
has to be respected. But you aim at one and the same goal because you share
the same ideas and perspectives. Power is not that I have the right to tell
you what you have to do and you don't want to do that, but power is that we
try to influence a common existence together. Those are notions of democracy
and human rights which came out of the French Revolution. From the two world
wars the Europeans learnt the lesson that every individual has rights which
do not depend on his citizenship. The right, not to be tortured, if you are a
refugee, the right, not to be sent back to the country where you will be
sentenced to death. Such actions are not admissible in the society where
rights of an individual are respected.
Roots, heritage and traces of totalitarianism are much stronger and deeper
than it seems, and it takes much more time to overcome its effect and
consequences than most Western people think. Authoritarian tendencies in
non-totalitarian countries are very dangerous. The difference between
countries which had had a successful bourgeois revolution like France or
Switzerland and countries which had never had it is very interesting. The
Council of Europe should take into consideration that those former
totalitarian countries are now its members. Russia feels at home in the
Council of Europe, Russia prefers the Council of Europe to the European
Union. It's a paradox that Russia, which has problems with basic liberal
rights, feels so much at home in the organization which is based on those
values and rights. I think for Russia membership in the Council of Europe is
a symbol of being Europeans, though in Russia there are other people who
perhaps do not share European values. But Russia and other Western European
countries underestimate the burden of the totalitarian past.
What measures would you suggest for post-Soviet societies for building
For instance, I would establish a post of democracy building minister, a
human rights minister. That minister would have the right to check every
law, to scrutinize every law. The whole education system should be revised:
new school books should be published, lessons of democracy and civic
education introduced. 'How to teach democracy?' was one of the main topics
discussed in the Council of Europe last year. Why not to use oil money that
Russia gains so that every village will have a centre of democracy where
people could meet without having to pay for literature and computers. It
would have helped to make people politically active. I think Mr. Putin is a
clever person, and, unlike Mr. Eltsin, he likes intellectual discussions. I
think at some point it would seem a good idea to him.
Do you think the ministry of democracy or another state body which would
support developments of democracy in the regions, is necessary for, say,
Yes, of course, all Transcaucasian countries would need it. The profile of
work would be different because the problems are not similar. In Georgia
there is more freedom, but authoritarian tendencies of Mr. Saakashvili start
coming to the surface. Mr. Saakashvili is more ready to be criticized than Mr.
Aliev, and it would have been easier to stand for democracy in Georgia than
in Azerbaijan. The difficulty in Armenia is that the country is much
poorer, the economic development is much worse than in Georgia, or in
Russia, or in Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan there are no problems with the
economy, but there you have an oligarchy, an oligarchy which is even worse
than in Russia, in a sense that privatization of public resources is the
worst in Azerbaijan, the oligarchy defends its own interests and doesn't
want to share. The government of Russia is obstructing NGOs activities,
organization of parties, participation in elections. Ministry of democracy
could confront it. The government should not be one-sided; an intelligent
government supports different positions within itself. Besides, the debate
in the Parliament should be diverse, there should not be uniformity and
single way of development.
On conflicts in Transcaucasia
You mentioned Georgian democracy in an interesting way, how do you
evaluate the processes which are under way now?
I'm not absolutely sure, but I think that the situation with Georgia is
the exact reflection of division within the Russian government, between
those people who want to be a normal state and those people who still want
to be an empire. And people from the second camp see Georgia as something
in-between the independent state and satellite. Those who regard Georgia as
an independent country do not agree that Russia can impose its decision on
Georgia. If you want something from Georgia, you need to propose, to
negotiate, but you need to respect the independence of Georgia. Georgia is
an independent country just like Russia is an independent country. The fact
that one country is very big and the other is small does not give Georgia
less rights. It is not fair to discriminate citizens of another country if
you have a problem with that country. The Russian Federation should stop
discriminating Georgians on its territory and lift the embargo. It's a
shame. I'm sure Mikhail Margelov (1) and Konstantin Kosachev will not
overlook those wrongdoings against Georgia. Of course, Mr. Saakashvili is not
an angel, I observed him at the Parliamentary Assembly gatherings, he likes
to provoke. But he needs to be said - you have to negotiate, you can't get
South Ossetia by a military coup. South Ossetia is a difficult problem,
there has to be a compromise. Both sides have to know that Europe will not
accept any military action. The problem of South Ossetia has to be
negotiated by Georgia and Russia. Abkhasia is a more difficult question. I
think disagreement and tensions there are deeper and there are reasons of
which the West is not aware of. I thought 10 years ago that Kosovo had to be
independent, even before NATO's campaign, but it was absolutely impossible
to voice that opinion in the Council of Europe because it would have been
regarded as a provocation. Perhaps it is a similar moment in the situation
Mr. Gross, you reported on Azerbaijan in the Council of Europe for five
years. Which initiatives implemented during your work in Azerbaijan seem the
most successful to you?
I worked for five years FOR Azerbaijan, from November 2000 until spring
2006, and I was there 27 times in these five years. The main achievement, as
I see it, was releasing hundreds of political prisoners. In Azerbaijan
everyone knows the Council of Europe and many people who know the Council of
Europe have a very positive attitude towards it. Before me, there was my
Belgian colleague, Mr. Clerefyte, and he was the first one to make a
condition of releasing political prisoners as a prerequisite for
Azerbaijan's entry in the Council of Europe. Now it's Mr. Andreas Herkel from
Estonia together with Tony Loyd from United Kingdom. People in Azerbaijan
know that European parliamentarians fight for the rights of common people,
and they are less cynic towards Europe and the Council of Europe than in
other countries where people don't know anyone from the Council of Europe
who is helping them. It is not only our achievement; the ambassador of
Norway did a lot in that sphere too. The point is that there are many people
who believe in values, they don't have a cynic notion of democracy - that is
a big success. Sometimes they despair, sometimes they lose hope, but still
they know that there are other people who share the same views and stand for
them. Of course, the oligarchy in Azerbaijan does not like the Council of
Europe because we are disturbing, we criticize them too much. I'm often
called a Russian spy or Armenian spy by them. They will often find something
to blame me for. But it is not so important because 80% of the Azeri people
know that Europeans can stand for and fight for their rights and values, and
it is a great support for their morale.
To what extent does the Nagornii Karabakh conflict influence the
development of democracy in Armenia and Azerbaijan?
In October we discussed the problem of Nagornii Karabakh with Armenian
Minister of foreign affairs, he expressed great interest and understanding
of our wish to settle the conflict. In fact, the negotiators of Nagornii
Karabakh issue have come closer to a compromise than people in Armenia and
Azerbaijan are aware of. Nagornii Karabah issue is one of the most difficult
issues for Azerbaijan: 20% of the territory is occupied; there are nearly one
million refugees in Azerbaijan and around 50000 in Armenia (2). It
influences democracy in both countries because they run the risk of
forgetting about their own responsibility. One can always say: we are in the
situation of war, so we can't do this or we can't do that. It's a good
excuse not to develop human rights and democracy. In both countries
political forces use this conflict for their own political purposes, they
even develop hatred to get more power. They forget that you are responsible
to prepare your citizens for a compromise. When you hate each other, it's
very easy to make the Azeri people believe that all Armenians are gangsters
or burglars and vice versa. Diplomats should find a compromise. For a
compromise you have to get support of the majority of the Parliament and the
people. But if you don't prepare people, then a compromise will fail. I
think once during their negotiations in Key West in Florida Heidar Aliev
and the former president of Armenia nearly reached a compromise, but Aliev
was not courageous enough to bring it to Azerbaidjan.
Could you specify what agreement do you mean?
The solution of Nagornii Karabakh issue is compromise only - no one gets
everything what he wants, but everyone gets something. The best example of
such solution is the Aland islands (3) case. That was the first and one of
the best rulings of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United
Nations, in 1921. Russia, Finland and Sweden were in a conflict over the
islands. The islands were 40 kilometers away from the Swedish coast, they
had Swedish culture, people spoke Swedish, but they belonged to Finland
which was part of Russia then. They had been demilitarized in 1860. Russia
was afraid that the islands would go to Sweden and then would be used as a
military base against Russia. Finland didn't want Swedish culture, it wanted
to keep integrity of the state and integrity of the Finnish language. Sweden
didn't want to give the islands to Finland. In the result, everyone got
something, but no one got everything. The Finns got the territory, the
Swedish got the protection of the Swedish culture and language, the Russians
got demilitarization and a guarantee of no arms. And no one was happy.
That's a difficult democratic way. If they have had elections then, if they
have voted, the Aland people would have wanted to be part of Sweden and the
Finns would have disagreed. We can learn something from this example for the
solution of the issue of Chechnya. Chechnya would probably be a part of the
Russian Federation, but as a full autonomy. The big country has to be
democratic because autonomy principles only function when there is a rule of
law, constitution and agreements are respected. That's the main difference
with totalitarism, which is a power based on personal relations instead of
the rule of law.
And the second, very important aspect: the Finns and the Swedes agreed to
accept the ruling of the League of Nations before they knew what was the
ruling. It was a carte blanche for the League of Nations because the two
countries had ambitions to show a 'nordic' way of conflict resolution -
without any violence. Arzu Abdullaeva from Helsinki Citizen Assembly in Baku
gave a workshop on the Aland islands inviting people from Nagornii Karabakh,
Georgia, Armenia. I had a small seminar asking participants to find a
solution of the Nagornii Karabakh issue, so that no one got everything, but
everybody got something using the analogy of the Aland case. Recently Disa
Hesgaad, at a workshop organized by Svenska Freds in Stockholm, also shared
this approach saying that a compromise should be sought, and everyone would
be disappointed and politicians have to prepare people to accept that
disappointment. This is the responsibility of politicians to prepare their
citizens to accept something that will be a disappointment. Because there is
no alternative to it. The only alternative is to have a new war. And though
there are some people in both countries who think that they could win a war,
it will be irresponsible to start a new war. The Azeri think that they can
use money because they have a lot of money, the Armenians think that if they
have already tried twice, they can win next time. And both countries are
increasing their military budgets for 30%-40%.
On Issue of Chechnya
You said that the Aland case could teach us something in the solution of
the Chechen issue.
I think the peaceful solution of the Chechen issue would be that for the
next 20 years Chechnya will remain part of Russia, seeking a real autonomy,
though. If this process is going well, then Russia perhaps allow
independence of Chechnya, not in the beginning, but after 20-30 years. The
success of the Aland autonomy is that this model is open and it's possible
to negotiate any issue at any time. They could negotiate independence from
Finland, there was a party 'Independents' who got 10% at the elections. Or
the case with Farroer islands which wanted to get independence from
Denmark. They had a government which was in favor of independence and the
Danes were ready to negotiate, they said that the Farroer islands could get
independence, but after 3 years Denmark would stop paying any social
pensions to them. And then the majority was against independence. The art of
autonomy is that it is an ongoing, open-ended process, and Mr. Zakaev is
ready to negotiate on that level. Mr. Zakaev does not want independence, he
is for real autonomy with the rule of law and respect of human rights. That
is where Mr. Kadyrov has more problems than Mr. Zakaev.
That brings us to the question of political future of Chechnya. How do you
think goals of the Russian Federation, European Union, those people who are
supporting resistance in Chechnya are changing? What future do you see for
Chechnya taking into consideration those developments?
I can not speak on behalf of European Union, I can only speak for the
Council of Europe and the subcommittee which discussed issues of Chechnya.
It is very important to bring together at the same table different people
who disagree with each other, but who are willing to find a political
compromise without using arms, by way of discussions, negotiations, by
dialogue. This is the main idea of a round-table dialogue; we are ready to
organize it in Chechnya with a condition that those who disagree with
Kadyrov would be able to voice their disagreement openly and they would not
be threatened. In November of last year we had a meeting with human rights
activists in Grozny where we immediately saw that they said not what they
thought but things to please the authorities. Only afterwards they could
tell us what they really thought but didn't have courage to say openly at
the meeting. The idea and condition of a real round-table discussion is that
you can disagree but then you go home and no punishment follows. So far,
those conditions are not observed. At the end of November (2) of this year
we would go to Chechnya to see if the situation has changed. It has really
changed, but how far the freedom of those who disagree with Kadyrov is going
is still an open question which we have to discuss in the peace.
I was told that many things have changed, more houses were reconstructed,
main prospect has lots of nice shops. We would like to check whether those
improvements are deep and real, and are not only for those who could pay
some money to Mr. Kadyrov to be able to open a shop on the Kadyrov prospect.
In November of 2005 we could meet and talk to women on the streets and they
could talk openly to us, 'Alfa' didn't disturb them. They are really good
soldiers, they were 40 meters away from us and the women could say what they
thought. They told us they are not hungry now, though one woman said she
earned her living gathering herbs in the wood, and very often people hit
mines and lose legs. They still have to look for food every day, but it is
not the main problem, she said, the main problem is that they are still
afraid that in the morning, at 5 o'clock some people in uniform would come.
I've just learnt that people from 'Memorial' were arrested and a military
representative said that there is a regression and military situation is
getting worse again. Those are bad signs. I heard Mr. Kadyrov speaking about
the Russians and I was very surprised. He was very offensive to the Russians
in general, it doesn't seem that he respects the Russians so much.
What is your attitude towards some media publications saying that Mr.
Kadyrov would shortly be appointed to presidency?
Mr. Kadyrov's birthday was on October 6, surprisingly, but it didn't
happen. It is a positive surprise, though. Two years ago I asked Mr. Alkhanov
who of the former generals was the best president. He said de Gaulle and then
mentioned Algeria and I think it is a very intelligent remark. There is a
base for discussing interests of the Chechens and the Russians with him. If
you read Anna Politkovskaya describing Kadyrov's behavior, the difference
between them - Alkhanov and Kadirov- will be apparent. And I hope Putin
would not make a decision of Kadyrov's appointment, but I'm not sure.
Another issue, which we are trying to help with, is disappearing. There has
to be no impunity - one can not be a criminal without being punished. People
who lost their relatives have the right to know what had happened. In this
matter, I think we can use the experience of Argentina, South Africa and
other countries. Otherwise, something has happened to you, but no one is
punished. I think the problem is the weakness of the juridical system in
Russia and especially in Chechnya.
What could be done in the Russian Federation so that people were better
aware of those processes? To bring them to participate in the political
process, talk to the state, build new ideologies?
We are coming back to the question of dealing with totalitarian heritage.
In Russia you don't seem to be ready to speak about the past in the sense
that there are still no monuments to the victims of the Soviet Union, no
monuments to the GULAG victims. The point is - isn't it too early to speak
about this? There are discussions in Germany now about Adenauer's refusal to
discuss fascism (Konrad Adenauer was the first Chancellor of Federal
Republic of Germany in 1946-63). They started to speak about the past and
get rid of fascists in the state administration only after the student
movement of 1968. The moment should come when you start to deal with it. You
have been having 20 years of perestroika, you could observe it from the very
beginning. The civic society should think how to compensate people who lost
relatives or were unjustly treated, who suffered. Perhaps they don't want
money, they want a certain recognition, a certain honour. It is a long
process and a very difficult one. The Russians have to find out when is the
right moment to start that process, if the moment has not come yet, at least
it is important to discuss it.
Going back to the issue of Chechnya, what would be your comment on
granting amnesty to fighters in the effort to set up a bilateral dialogue?
Of course, amnesty is a helpful instrument, but I'm a little bit cautious,
I'd like to speak to people who have been amnestied. For example, to talk to
fighters who came to the Kadyrov unit and ask them whether they are free to
leave military service and choose their own way of living. I'm not ready yet
to give evaluation of amnesty process. Amnesty is an essential part, but it
is not enough.
Mr. Gross, how do you evaluate activities of the Council of Europe in the
sphere related to Chechnya, to human right abuses in Russia? Do you think
they are effective in general?
There is still much injustice, many people are suffering and are not
treated respectfully. I would like to contribute more in Russia. In the Duma
many people would like to do more, and it is not black- and -white, it is
not pro-Russian or against-Russian. In Russia it is hard to understand who
stands for what, you don't understand where are people who share the same
point of view with you. This is the price you pay for non existent public
sphere. At the Forum Russian parliamentarians he said: «We are for democracy,
but every nation has the right to find its own way». This is a typical way
of not saying what you really think and avoiding confrontation. My friends
from the Russian delegation tell me that sometimes they despair because they
don't even know with whom they can discuss situation in Chechnya. There is a
strong internal fight in the Kremlin and between different factions who are
fighting with each other. Mr. Putin has to know this, if he does not let the
press to be open and free, the price he pays will be that he will not know
what is happening in Russia.
Elina Bestaeva, own correspondent of the "Caucasian Knot," talked to
(1) According to the data of the civic society 'Refugees and International
Law' (Armenia), the number of refugees, Armenian nationals, from Azerbaijan
and Nakhichevan region makes up 500,000 people. 65,000 refugees from
Azerbaijan received Armenian citizenship.
(2) Archipelago in the south part of the Gulf of Bothnia of the Baltic Sea.
Belongs to Finland. Space - 1481 sq m. Consists of 6,500 islands (the
biggest is Aland island - 640 sq m), of which around 150 are populated.
Until 1809, the Aland islands, as Finland itself, were part of Sweden. After
the Russian-Swedish war (1808-09), according to Fridrichsgam peace agreement
of 1809, became the Russian territory. After Finland's independence
proclaimed in December of 1917, the question of the islands status was
disputed between Sweden and Finland, the diplomatic dispute was aggravated
by interference of Western countries. On 24 June of 1921 the League of
Nations Council recognized sovereignty of Finland over the Aland Islands. On
20 October 1921 representatives of Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Italy,
Latvia, Poland, Finland, France, Sweden and Estonia signed 'Convention on
demilitarization and neutralization of the Aland islands' in Geneva (came
into force on 6 April 1922). - Big Soviet Encyclopedia.
(3) On 26 November of 2006 started the visit of the Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly' delegation to Chechnya
(http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1127840.html). head of the
delegation is Andreas Gross, chairman of PACE subcommittee on the Chechnya
round table. PACE representatives met leaders of the republic, law
enforcement authorities and representatives of public organizations.
According to President of Chechnya Alu Alkhanov, this round table could be
the last meeting of such kind, with the PACE participation, as 'we are not
talking about settling the Chechen conflict - it is no longer there'.