Present situation in the North Caucasus and Dagestan

In an in-depth interview for Kavkazskii Uzel, Emil Pain, director of CEPRS, Moscow, discusses the current situation in the North Caucasus. He believes that contrary to the assertions of some in the human rights community, tensions in the region are not diminishing but actually increasing. He ascribes this to a number of factors, but principally to what he sees as a change in the dynamics of political and religious activity: until recently, the types of conflict were localized: in the 1990s, the conflicts were mostly based on ethnic divisions, while in the 2000s they were predominantly religious in nature, especially focused on the division between Sunni and Sufi Islam. Since 2011, however, the different types of conflict have become combined with one another, embracing religious, ethnic and territorial issues. As examples he points to the Chechen-Ingush conflict, the conflict between Dagestan and Stavropol, and the reawakened hostility between Kalmykia and Astrakhan, dormant since the 1950s.

Pain also thinks that the apparent reduction in the level of tension is only superficial, and is due to a change of tactics by the boyeviki, who, instead of organizing large-scale terrorist attacks which tend to alienate the population, have switched to targeted attacks on individual figures in the power structures. He considers that Moscow is failing to suppress the insurgency because it tries to apply to it the same repressive measures and methods that it uses elsewhere in Russia – primarily against the liberals, who enjoy only marginal support in Russian society. And if such repressive techniques are applied to the nationalists, the result is quite the opposite of what is desired:

…они только увеличивают поддержку населения. В России оппозицию сдерживают тем, что ее обвиняют в сотрудничестве с Западом, то есть с Америкой. Попробуйте обвинить в этом оппозиционеров-националистов в русских краях и областях или нерусских республиках – и вас поднимут на смех, поскольку и те, и другие – еще большие антизападники, чем сама власть. Тот ограниченный набор мер, которым более ли менее удается сдерживать и погашать нестабильность в центральной части России, абсолютно неэффективен на Кавказе.

… they only increase popular support. In Russia the opposition is held back by accusing it of cooperation with the West, that is, with America. Try to accuse the opposition nationalists in Russian territories and regions or the non-Russian republics of this, and you will be laughed to scorn, as all those nationalists are even bigger anti-Westerners than the Russian government itself. The limited set of measures that are more or less successful in containing and suppressing the instability in the central part of Russia, is not effective in the Caucasus.

Pain also has an interesting commentary on the profile of the general social and political situation in the North Caucasus and Dagestan, saying that many observers think it is a form of “frozen traditionalism”:

А это неверно, потому что там происходят разные процессы, в том числе и модернизационные. Увеличивается активность и свобода выражения молодежи, чего раньше не было. Но эта активность молодежи не находит реализации в позитивной форме, и она направляется в сторону радикальных действий. Наконец, играет свою роль общая социально-экономическая ситуация в республике, которая далека от позитивной. Здесь дольше и тяжелее проявляются кризисные явления в экономике. Здесь острее, чем где бы то ни было, проявилась деиндустриализация. Сокращение рабочих мест в индустриальной сфере в Дагестане просто разительное, огромное. И, к сожалению, это не та проблема, которую можно решить за месяцы и даже за годы.

But that is not true, because various processes are taking place there, including the process of modernization. There is an increase in the activity and freedom of expression of young people that was not there before. However, this activity among the young is not finding implementation in a positive way, and it is being directed towards radical actions. In addition, the overall socio-economic situation in the republic is playing a role that is far from positive. The economic crisis is longer and worse here than in other parts of Russia. It is more acute than anywhere else, and there has been de-industrialization. The job cuts in Dagestan’s industrial sector in Dagestan have been sweeping, dramatic. And unfortunately this is not a problem that will be capable of solution within months or even years.

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