To Negotiate or to Retaliate – Conflict Resolution in Russia

Many observers of the recent suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport were surprised that despite the carnage, the airport remained open for business. While some claimed that this response was an example of Russian toughness and stoicism in the face of a crisis, Lisa Baglione, Ph.D., chair and professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, believes that something else was at work.

“The word ‘crisis’ in the medical literature means a ‘turning point,’ but Russian leaders have repeatedly sought to avoid turning points and pretend that ‘vsyo normal’no,’ which means that ‘everything’s fine,’” says Baglione. “To admit that these are horrors, and to go through the hard work and soul-searching that this level of civil unrest requires would show the mistakes and weaknesses of the political system. The current leaders – Putin and Medvedev – want to avoid this at all costs, so the airport remained open, almost as if nothing happened.”

Baglione says that while Russian officials promote a ‘business as usual’ front to the public, their preferred method of dealing with dissent has been to meet violence with violence. “Russian leaders have consistently refused to talk to separatists and their sympathizers and have instead sought to intimidate or assassinate. Perhaps not surprisingly, groups from the Caucasus have radicalized and their demands have intensified,” Baglione notes. “The government seeks to obliterate those who perpetrate these disasters, denying that these actions are the reflection of systemic problems that need to be addressed in order to prevent catastrophes from occurring again.”

Baglione is an expert in the transformation of the Russian polity, as well as peace and conflict resolution.

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