ETHNIC MINORITIES AND MIGRATION PROCESSES IN KRASNODAR TERRITORY

Anton POPOV


Anton Popov, Research associate, Center of Pontic-Caucasian Studies (Krasnodar, Russian Federation)


The Krasnodar Territory is a multinational administrative unit of the Russian Federation. Throughout the last two centuries the ethnic situation in the northwest of the Caucasus has been shaped by numerous migrant flows (organized and spontaneous), therefore all ethnic groups there cannot call the area their historical homeland. Russians, who comprise the majority, came there as late as the end of the eighteenth century when the Russian Empire took up the Kuban steppes (the north of the Krasnodar Territory in todays terms). The Black Sea Cossacks who had made up the Cossack Troops of the Line (in the Territorys eastern part) were followed by Russians and Ukrainians who joined the Cossacks. It was at the last stage of the Caucasian War (1816-1864) that Russians reached the Territorys southern parts and the Black Sea coast. The process went on and on after the war when Russians were joined by Armenians, Greeks, Moldavians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Germans, and Estonians.

The majority of the Kuban area and the Black Sea coast autochthonous population known under a blanket term of Circassians (by which the Adighes, Ubykhs and ethnic groups speaking the Abkhaz language were meant) moved to the Ottoman Empire after the war. Those who stayed behind were resettled from the mountains to the valley and became migrants in their turn.

During Soviet times migration in the area continued; the composition of the local Russians changed. A large number of Cossacks emigrated after the Civil War; Cossack families and even villages were sent up to the north while Russians from the center and north of Russia were ordered to make their homes in the Cossack regions during the collectivization campaign. In fact, Stalins nationalities policy spelt tragedies for the ethnic groups of Greeks, Moldavians, Bulgarians, and Germans evicted by force from their homes and lands.

Migration never abated: large groups of people from the Transcaucasus (mainly Armenia and Azerbaijan) arrived; many of those who had left the area for the North on their own free will to earn money came back as old-age pensioners; retired military with their families also favored the area. In 1956 the formerly deported peoples (Greeks, Germans, Moldavians) started trickling back. Crimean Tartars and Koreans who could not go to their homes (from which they had been deported in the 1940s) also came there.

In 1988 migrants from the seats of ethnic conflicts on Soviet territory appeared: they were Armenians who left Azerbaijan and Nagorny Karabakh (1988-1994), Meskhetian Turks from the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan (1989), refugees from the area affected by the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia (1992-1994), forced migrants from Chechnia who came in two waves (1994-1996 and 1999-2001). When the Soviet Union fell apart, former Soviet citizens (mainly from Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Armenia) left their homes for economic reasons and settled in the Krasnodar Territory. This explains why today the impact of migration on ethnic relations and the socioeconomic situation in the area is the most discussed issue in the local academic and political communities.

Today, Russians are the most numerous ethnic group (4,314,800 people, or 86.2 percent) followed by Armenians (242,000, or 4 percent), Ukrainians (198,600, or 4 percent), and Belorussians (39,000, or 0.8 percent).

Starting with 1990 the natural decline of the population number has become obvious which means that the mortality rate is higher than natality. In 1989, there were 4,620,900 people living in the Krasnodar Territory; in the beginning of 1997, according to the Krasnodar Territory Committee for State Statistics there were 5,700,200 people. An increase is easily explained by the high migration rate (average annual increase being over 1.3 percent) between 1991 and 1993. Later, the inflow subsided which completely corresponded to the general Russian trend (in 1992, 926,020 people arrived in Russia, in 1997, 583,260). The migration balance for the Krasnodar Territory is 95,800 in 1994; 68,000 in 1995; 53,200 in 1996; while the general population growth for the same years was 64,700, 9,700, and 26,300, respectively. The Territory fits the general Russian pattern; in 1996 population growth was 0.5 percent.1

According to the State Administration for Statistics of the Krasnodar Territory in January 2000 there were 5,670,500 people living there. Population decreased by 2,100, or 0.04 percent, during 1999 (in 1998 population decline by 5,200, or 0.1 percent was first registered).2

In 1999 population was decreasing for natural reasons compensated for by migration for 93.3 percent (the figure for 1998 being 80.1 percent). Migration brought 28,582 people, or 6,663 (30.4 percent) more than in 1998.

Migrants from other regions of Russia were in the majority (52,273 people, or 76.7 percent of all migrants). Those who leave the Territory go mainly to other Russian regions and republics (32,945, or 83.2 percent of those who left). Half of those who settled in the Territory came from the Northern Caucasus, Far East, and West Siberia.

Migration between the Territory and the post-Soviet countries (the Baltic states included) has subsided. In 1999, as compared to 1998, net migration dropped by 2,501 (by 17.6 percent). Kazakhstan accounts for 30.1 percent of population increase in the Territory (out of the total number of people coming from the CIS and the Baltic countries); Ukraine, 22.6 percent; Georgia (including Abkhazia), 17.5 percent.

The migrant flow is multinational: in 1999, Russians were in the majority (24,320), followed by Armenians (2,429) and Ukrainians (2,190); Georgians (278) and Belorussians (171) were not numerous.

Those Russians who came there from other CIS countries or the Baltic states arrived mainly from Kazakhstan (23.4 percent), Ukraine (16.7 percent), Uzbekistan (7.2 percent) or Georgia (6.6 percent). The newly arrived Ukrainians came from Ukraine (46.7 percent) and Kazakhstan (31.3 percent). Armenians came from Georgia (45.8 percent) and Armenia (36.4 percent).

In 1999, 2,772 people got the status of forced migrants. This was 1,144 fewer people (29.2 percent) than in 1998; 22 people were recognized as refugees, that is, 2.2 times more than in 1998. They all came from Afghanistan and settled in cities. From this it follows that the migration favorable balance was 5.3 times higher than Russias average (58 people per 10,000; the country-wide average was 11 per 10,000) and even the highest in Russia.

Russians predominate in the flow of migrants yet the local administration complains about the destabilizing role of the non-Slavic migrants from the near abroad. Throughout the last ten years local authorities established special relations with individual ethnic migrant groups. That can be described as a special regime: certain ethnic minorities had to obey normative acts issued to regulate their stay in the Territory. Such documents are related to the Meskhetian Turks who escaped from zones of conflicts in the Southern Caucasus. The local authorities admitted that these groups could temporarily stay in the Territory but never agreed to register them. This violated human rights: those without local registration cannot start working, there is no chance to get pension or benefits, buy real estate or a car. Such people cannot register their marriages or be admitted to educational establishments. In fact, the conditions are very close to a ghetto.

Between 1989 and 1998 the local authorities passed numerous normative acts that created a legal basis for the law enforcement bodies and other services enabling them to limit access to the area for migrants especially those coming from the Southern and Northern Caucasus. In fact, this contradicts the federal laws. On 23 June, 2000 the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled once more that Art 36 of the Law of the Krasnodar Territory (No. 9- of 23 June, 1995) on Order of Registration of Staying and Settling in the Krasnodar Territory, and Resolution No. 682- of 4 July, 1997 by the local Legislative Assembly On the List of Cities and Districts with a Special Order of Registration and on Rules of Registration in Places of Domicile contradicted the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

The district and city administrations refer to the above documents when they refuse registration in places of domicile to migrants, especially those who come from the Caucasus. An absence of registration causes repressions readily applied to the non-Slavic groups of migrants: Meskhetian Turks (including Khemshilis, Lazes, Batumi Turks, and Terekemes), forced migrants from Azerbaijan (Armenians and Udins) the Russian citizenship of whom the local administrations refuse to recognize, and people from other South Caucasian countries (Armenians, Georgians, Azeris, Kurds, Yezidis, Assyrians, and Greeks). Georgians and Armenians who left Abkhazia during the armed conflict of 1992-1994 are also discriminated against, they have not been given the refugee status.

As soon as President Putin said that the regional laws should be brought into conformity with the federal laws the local media have been actively discussing the situation. According to the staff of the Presidents Plenipotentiary Representative in the Southern Federal District in June 2000, over 50 normative locally adopted acts contradicted federal legislation. According to Pyotr Kurdiuk, Deputy Chairman of the local Legislative Assembly, who represents it in courts of justice, in March 2001 all contradictions were removed except one law that regulates migration in the Krasnodar Territory. It was in this law that the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation found two articles that contradicted the federal laws. P. Kurdiuk has also said that the Territory authorities are trying to lobby federal laws that would tighten migration policy.

A joint meeting of the State Council (Khase) of the Republic of Adygei and the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnodar Territory that took place in Maikop on 6 December, 2000 decided to initiate a bill in the State Duma of RF On Migration in the Russian Federation. The bill regulates internal and external migration, introduces a strict order of entering the Russian Federation and quotas for foreign citizens and stateless persons who enter the country. It also offers a long list of reasons for refusals to issue visas and stay permits. This project has been already transferred to the expert council of the Southern Federal District and to the State Duma where it was accepted for consideration by the Committee on Legislation and Legal Policies headed by deputy Anatolii Lukianov. Vladimir Beketov, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly, has met Lukianov twice to discuss the problem.

On 21 March, 2001 the 43rd session of the Legislative Assembly passed a Law on Staying and Settling in the Territory elaborated by the Committee for Local Self-Administration, Cossacks, Ethnic Relations and Migration Policies. The Assembly and the Territory administration had the following to say on that score: The law was brought to life by the volatile migration situation that has taken shape in the Kuban area in recent years. Our rich land has attracted waves of refugees and forced migrants from the North and South Caucasian republics. The law intended to institute a better control over migration.

Local normative acts that contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation are still applied to justify rigid migration policies and repressions in relation to migrants and ethnic minorities. Neither the relevant decisions of the Constitutional Court nor the efforts of the staff of the presidents plenipotentiary representative in the Southern Federal District have improved the situation. The local administration refuses to recognize that laws and their application are discriminatory. It offers the following issues to support its opinion: the presence of migrants is a heavy weight for the local budget, the areas social and economic potential is being depleted; there is not enough housing or vacant land for the newcomers; the increased migrant flow of persons of Caucasian extraction threatens economic expansion; their increased number will threaten the Territorys ethnic identity; there is stiff competition on the labor market, and, finally, persons of Caucasian extraction send the level of crime very high.

The local bureaucrats have failed to take into account the negative natural population growth and recognize the fact that migration is the only source of population growth in the majority of the districts. The highly placed local bureaucrats are fond of devising their own theories about a desired ethnic and demographic balance in the area. They are convinced that the local Slavic groups cannot live side by side with people from the Caucasus; to prove their point they distort statistics and facts pertaining to religious and ritual practices. In fact, they are busy creating nationalistic public opinion. Their policies are a dangerous factor that might lead to conflicts and negatively affect ethnic relations in the area.

The Krasnodar Territory, just like all of its North Caucasian neighbors, is multinational; Russians are in the majority, yet there are places where ethnic minorities are concentrated. Armenians (242 thousand) live in the Greater Sochi (14.57 percent), in Tuapse and the Tuapse District (12.22 percent), in Apsheronsk (7.99 percent) and Otradnaia (5.29 percent) districts, in the cities of Armavir (6.98 percent) and Anapa (7.27 percent). Greeks comprise 0.6 percent (29,900 people) of the total population. They live in Gelendzhik (6.87 percent), Krymsk (3.49 percent), Anapa (2.58 percent), Abinsk (1.51 percent), and Uspenskoe (1.28 percent) districts and in the city of Novorossiisk (1.45 percent). There is a more or less same number of Germans who live in Tbilisskaia (6.79 percent), Gulkevichi (3.92 percent), Novokubansk (2 percent), and Ust-Labinsk (1.87 percent) districts and in the city of Anapa (2.47 percent).3 Since 1982, 2,135 Meskhetian Turks have been living in the Krasnodar Territory. Official statistics counts the Khemshilis and the few Laz and Terekeme families who arrived from Meskhet-Javakhetia among them.4 After 1989 over ten thousands of Meskhetian Turks joined them. They are living in the west (Abinsk and Krymsk districts) and south (Apsheronsk and Belorechensk districts) of the Territory.

Smaller groups of ethnic minorities are prominent in individual settlements. Czechs live in the village of Pavlovka (1,723 people) of Anapa District, the settlements of Tekos (875 people) and Teshebs (649 people) of Gelendzhik District, and the village of Anastasievka (198 people) of Tuapse District.5 Assyrians comprise about half of the population of the village of Urmia (over 1,500) founded by the Assyrian settlers from the Van vilayet of the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Moldavians are mostly concentrated in the village of Moldavanskoe (Krymsk District), in the village of Tkhamakha (Severskaia District), the villages of Defanovskoe and Moldavanovskoe (Tuapse District), and the villages of Moldovka and Veseloe (Adler District of the city of Sochi).

The autochthonous populations of the northwestern Caucasus, the Adighes, live in two places, Shapsugs (one of the smaller ethnic groups of the Adighe ethnos) live along the Black Sea coast in the Lazarevskoe District (Sochi) and the Tuapse District, 6,124 people (or 5.3 percent of both districts total population). Another ethnic group, Cherkessians, live in the mountain villages of Urup, Zelenchukskaia and Kurgokovskiy (Uspenskoe District in the southeast).

It should be said that statistical data do not always reflect the real situation: they are based on the 1989 all-Union population census (the next all-Russia census is planned for 2002). In the last ten years migration has changed the Territorys ethnic makeup. For example, there are practically no Crimean Tartars leftthey all moved to the Crimea. In 1989 they accounted for 0.7 percent of the total population. The number of Greeks and Germans decreased. New ethnic groups arrived: Udins from Azerbaijan who fled the conflict with Armenia (about 700 people), Georgians who left Abkhazia during the conflict with Georgia (there are from 12 to 20 thousands of them living in the Territory). The ranks of older ethnic communities swelled with newcomers: there are more Armenians, Kurds (Muslim Kurds and Yezidis), Assyrians, and Turks.

Since the local authorities refuse to register non-Slavic migrants, they have to live without official registration and are not entered into statistical reports of the Administration of Internal Affairs and the Territory Migration Commission. In fact, bureaucrats take an absence of official figures for an absence of people. The majority of Georgians who left Abkhazia and are living all together in the Greater Sochi do not exist for the local officials, therefore they can ignore the problems the migrants are facing. At the same time, an absence of registration allows the bureaucrats to report higher figures. According to the local administration the growing numbers of non-Slavic groups may tip the ethnic and demographic balance and aggravate ethnic relations.

In the 1920s and 1930s, there were ethnic local administrative and territorial units (village councils and districts) in places where ethnic minorities lived in compact groups: Shapsug (1924-1945), Armenian (1926-1953), GermanVan (1928-1941) and Steingart (1934-1953), and Greek (1930-1938). Some of them survived till the mid 1950s. When the ethnic districts had been abolished the ethnic specifics of the local population were ignored when new administrations were formed. Today, ethnic groups are not represented at any level.

Early in the 1990s ethnic and cultural organizations appeared to educate ethnic groups, maintain their languages and popularize ethnic cultures.

In 1992, eight ethnic associations (Armenian, Greek, Adighe, Kurdish, Assyrian, Jewish, Osset, and Russian) met to form a Kransnodar city public organization called Ethnic Cultural Center registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation on 29 June, 1992. In 2001, the Center included 26 ethnic collective members. There are city ethnic cultural autonomies in Krasnodar: Jewish, Kurdish and others. There are also Territory-wide public organizations of Lezghians, Bashkirs (the Bashkir National Center), Georgians (Iveria, in Krasnodar, Sochi and Novorossiisk), and Koreans (Korean Ethnic-cultural Autonomy).

Ethnic cultural public organizations united into associations in places where ethnic minorities (Armenians, Germans, Kurds, Assyrians, Meskhetian Turks, etc.) are living compactly.

While they were asserting themselves, the ethnic cultural organizations betrayed high political activity including in the sphere of ethnic policy. Their leaders look at abolition of the ethnic regions (Armenian, Greek, Shapsug, German) that existed in the 1920s through to 1950s as repressive Stalinist measures. They insist on restoring themthis is an important aspect of political activity of the Greek and Shapsug movements in the early 1990s. The Assyrian community insisted on reviving the ethnic village council in Urmia that had functioned between 1931-1954. Today, the political leaders of the coastal Adighe-Shapsug groups are still insisting on restoring the Shapsug ethnic district. This is regarded as a factor to preserve the local population of Tuapse and Lazarevskoe districts.

Today, the ethnic organizations are active mainly in the spheres of culture and education. They help teach their languages at schools. According to the Department of Education and Science of the Territory Administration by the end of 1997 Armenian was taught in 42 schools (six schools in Sochi used Armenian as the only tongue of teaching). It was the main subject in 13 schools, auxiliary subject in 23 schools. The Adighe language was taught in 10 schools as the main subject and in two as an auxiliary subject; Greek was taught in seven schools as an auxiliary tongue; Georgian, in one school in Sochi as one of the subjects, the Cherkessian language, in one school as a subject.6

The people on top are in two minds about the ethnic cultural organizations. On the one hand, when accused of excessive harshness and discrimination of migrant ethnic minorities bureaucrats point out with satisfaction that there are many public organizations of the same minorities. Yet the ethnic cultural associations are public organizations of the sort that have nothing to do with the problems the migrants face every day of their lives. Besides, they do not unite all members of any given ethnic minority.

Some of such societies were indeed supported by administrations at all levels. For example, until 2000 the building of the Ethnic Cultural Center in Krasnodar belonged to the mayors office that paid for its servicing while Shapsugia, the newspaper of the Public Parliament of the Black Sea Coast Adighe-Shapsugs (Adighe Khase) was registered as one of the Territorys publications. In 1998-1999 it was partly paid by the areas budget. In fact, the very logic the local authorities employ is intended to justify ethnic discrimination.7 On the other hand, there is no regular dialog between the Territory administration and the ethnic cultural societies. All attempts of the ethnic minorities to use their organizations to contribute to the local politics and to defend their rights cause nothing but indignation among the bureaucrats and intensify the already obvious confrontation. M. Oganesian, Chairman of the Association of the Armenian Public Organizations of Kuban, was registered as a candidate for the elections of the head of the Territory Administration scheduled for 3 December, 2000. The administration responded with a flood of criticism and anti-migrant and anti-Armenian articles in the press. The official newspaper Kubanskie novosti even described the Armenian ethnic cultural organizations as a destabilizing factor because, to quote the newspaper, the Armenian Diaspora is better organized than the others.8

The Meskhetian Turks living in compact groups on the areas territory is one of the most urgent problems. There are no reliable figures about their numbers. According to the Memorial Human Rights Center there are from 13 to 16 thousands of them in the Territory and according to the local authorities up to 20 thousand (or less than 0.4 percent of the Territorys total population). They are in the minority in all towns and settlements where they are living in compact groups: Abinsk, Belorechensk, Krymsk, and Apsheronsk districts.

Their leaders who represented the Vatan society have many times declared that as soon as the Georgian side settles in a satisfactory way the problem of the Meskhetian Turks repatriation to Meskhet-Javakhetia (from which they were expelled in 1944 by a decision of the U.S.S.R. State Defense Committee) all those wishing to go back will leave the Krasnodar Territory. Until that time, they, as citizens of the Russian Federation, should enjoy all rights of the citizens of the Russian Federation. So far, neither the Territory nor the district administration has recognized their rights.

On 13-15 March, 2001 a commission of the Ministry for the Affairs of Federation and Ethnic and Migration Policies headed by Minister Alexander Blokhin visited the area to look into the situation of the Meskhetian Turks in Krymsk, Abinsk, Belorechensk, and Apsheronsk districts.

The local mass media started a brainwashing campaign in an effort to create public opinion that the local authorities would approve of. They carried totally unfounded information about criminal inclinations of Meskhetian Turks, drug addiction among them and widespread robbery and sexual perversions allegedly present in their groups. The authors looked at the Meskhetian Turks as the fifth column that is prepared to separate the Black Sea coast from Russia. Many influential local politicians such as V. Beketov, Chairman of the local Legislative Assembly, supported the accusations.9

All public organizations of ethnic minorities are living under pressure from the administrations at all levels. They prefer not to openly confront the authorities, a situation which becomes inevitable as soon as any of them declares its intention to join in the political process or try to defend the rights of ethnic minorities. (Two happy exceptions are the Territory Department of the International Society of the Meskhetian Turks, Vatan, and the Public Parliament of the Black Sea Coast Adighe-Shapsugs, Adighe Khase.) It should be said that these and other similar organizations do not unite all members of ethnic minorities, therefore they are ignorant of many problems. The new arrivals have to adjust themselves to the local laws on migration and try to ignore the discriminatory practices of the local bureaucrats. The migrants are forced to live and work without registrationthe practices the state authorities describe as illegalor pay bribes for it.

All sorts of Cossack organizations, including detachments of the Kuban Cossack Troops, have been registered as public organizations. The Ekaterinodar Detachment is an associated member of the Krasnodar Ethnic Cultural Center. Today, the Cossack organizations of the Kuban area claim to be descendants of the Kuban Cossacks of the early twentieth century. In fact, they all organized themselves in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the perestroika. The detachments include descendants of the Kuban Cossacks of the past but there are also people unrelated to Cossacks among the members. At the same time, the majority of the local population with Cossack ancestors have nothing to do with the Cossack organizations.

Since 1989 the process of Cossack revival in the Kuban area has been going on actively. It was at that time that their first organizations were registered and it became clear what they want to do and how. At first, there were dozens of spontaneous Cossack groups that competed for administrative funding. In 1996 the authorities recognized the All-Kuban Cossack Troops as the only official organization. In 1998 it received the name of Kuban Cossack Troops.

During the 1996 elections the Troops supported Nikolai Kondratenko as governor. As soon as he was elected he appointed V. Gromov, head of the All-Kuban Cossack Troops, and then of the Kuban Cossack Troops, his deputy for military and Cossack issues. While Kondratenko remained the governor any local administration had a deputy for Cossack problems who had to be a Cossack himself and, preferably, head of the local Cossack detachment.

Legally, the Cossack organizations are identical to ethnic cultural communities, yet the administration of Krasnodar Territory supports them with money to a much greater extent than the ethnic organizations.

Authorities are blending with the Cossack organizations. In December 2000 Cossacks won local elections in Leningradskaia, Kushchevskaia, Slaviansk, Eisk, Kavkazskaia, and Severskaia districts; about 30 Cossacks were elected to local legislatures, seven of them, to the Legislative Assembly in Krasnodar.

Cossacks work hand in glove with the local law enforcement bodies; their detachments supervise public order under Territory and federal normative acts. In 2000, 483 Cossack groups were involved in this activity; 5,930 Cossacks participated in more than 2,000 militia raids when 556 crimes were solved and 144 criminals arrested. They helped call to account 32,400 people for administrative offenses and collected over 460 thousand rubles of penalties.10

The paramilitary Cossack societies are gradually developing into militarist organizations of sorts that claim special rights and privileges from the state. They are partly responsible for the confrontation that existed between the local and federal authorities under Governor Nikolai Kondratenko. In 1997, he instituted the Territory State Register of Cossack Organizations that proved an alternative to the already existing State Register of the Cossack Societies of the Russian Federation. President Yeltsin had to suspend his decision on 8 August, 1997.

The Administration of the Krasnodar Territory is busy planting an image of a Cossack as a typical dweller of the area. Much attention is paid to the Cossacks past, local lore studies are concentrating on the same subject, and the regional symbols are based on the banner and symbol of the Kuban Rada that existed from 1918 to 1920.

Being a Cossack is the key identification feature for all living in the areanearly all administration heads insist on their Cossack roots. V. Diakonov ran for the head of the Kuban Rada in 1991, N. Egorov is colonel of the All-Kuban Cossack Troops, while Kondratenko spoke a lot about his Cossack roots. The local press pointed out to the Cossack roots of the present governor A. Tkachev as soon as he had been elected.

Officially, on the local level, Cossacks are described as an independent people or an ethnic group within the Russian nation. Nikolai Kondratenko has personally changed the Territorys Charter by saying the Kuban Cossacks are close to the people and the Christian Orthodox Church (Resolution No. 162, 29 April, 1997). Slavdom and Christian Orthodoxy are two main ethnic-identification features that oppose the Russians to the people of Caucasian origin (Cossacks-Slavs-Orthodox Christians/non-Slavs-People of Caucasian origin-non-Orthodox Christians).

The Charter of the Krasnodar Territory graphically reflects the process of formation of Cossack ethnicity as an aspect of the local ethnic policies. It describes the Cossacks as an autochthonous population, which gives them priority in forming the bodies of power in the area. Art 2, Para 1 of this document a new variant of which was passed by the Legislative Assembly on 4 July, 1997 says: The Krasnodar Territory is a historic area where the Kuban Cossacks appeared and is a historical home of the Russian nation. This is taken into account when the bodies of state power and local self-administration are formed and function. The Charter completely ignores the Adighes, the autochthonous population of the northwestern Caucasus. They live in the Black Sea coastal Shapsugia and Uspenskoe District. Indeed, with the two centuries of history in the area the Cossacks can be described as an autochthonous population group yet the charter fails to mention other ethnic groups that came there practically at the same time (Amsheni Armenians, Pontic Greeks, Kuban Czechs, Germans, and Estonians).

The local authorities are exploiting regional specifics and historical traditions as an ideological instrument; they squeeze the regional awareness of the local Slavic population into a framework of ethnic specifics. At the same time they are identifying the nation with the state while the local government bodies are formed as monoethnic. The Cossacks, the Territorys local myth, are developing into a local reality and part of the ethnic policies preferred by the Territory administration. The local Cossacks are opposed to the non-Slavic groups as an autochthonous people.

The Coordinating Council of the Union of the Russians of the Western Zone of the Kuban that unites the Taman Detachment of the Kuban Cossack Troops, the communists, and the local members of the Fatherland movement of which Kondratenko is member, conducted a referendum in Krymsk and Abinsk districts (October 2000) to find out whether the Meskhetian Turks, Crimean Tartars and other non-Slavic groups should be allowed to live there. Frequent joint raids of Cossacks and the militia to check registration often develop into pogroms.

In this way, the position taken by the Territory and district administrations encourage illegal actions of radical nationalist organizations, Cossacks included, against the migrants.

What can one expect in future? Are there factors that may affect in any tangible way ethnic relations in the Krasnodar Territory?

The visit of the commission of the Ministry for the Affairs of Federation and Ethnic and Migration Policies (that has been liquidated since that time) produced shifts toward temporal registration of certain categories of migrants (ethnic minorities) under a special order of the RF government. The commission suggested a compromise: all Meskhetian Turks living in the Territory should be given temporal registration for one year; all of them should be asked where they were planning to go (Georgia, Turkey, or other countries); European and other international organizations would be asked to influence Georgia to force it to adopt a law that would allow Meskhetian Turks to return to Meskhetia.

This is not a complete solution yet it could improve the migrants situation. All other categories of migrants not covered by the law (for example, refugees from Abkhazia) have found themselves in a legal vacuum. The number of people living without registration is still increasingthe fact exploited by the authorities to tighten control over migration.

The federal authorities should be more consistent to discontinue violations of the right of migrants to be registered. Nongovernmental organizations, both local and international, can help a lot by attracting attention of the public to the position of ethnic minorities in the area.

By lobbying the federal Law on Migration to make the Krasnodar Territory a frontier territory the local authorities will worsen the situation of the ethnic minorities. They aim at limiting the number of people from the Southern Caucasus wishing to enter the Territory. This means that the discriminatory norms in relation to the Caucasian ethnic minorities and other groups of migrants will become legal.

There is another aspect: the non-Slavic migrants settling in the Krasnodar Territory, the territory of exclusive geopolitical importance for Russia, are considered to be hazardous. The issue is constantly discussed by the local and federal authorities. The governor, the Territorys legislators, heads of the local administrations and self-administrations of Tuapse, Krymsk, and Anapa districts have many times raised the question of making the Territory as a whole or its coastal strip a frontier region with a strictly regulated number of migrants. Kondratenko and Tkachev, two heads of the Territory Administration, have raised the same issue during their personal meetings with President Putin and Minister of Justice Chayka.

It seems that individual officials in the RF government support the idea of tightening the migration laws in the Krasnodar Territory and the Northern Caucasus. The conference Problems and Ways of Developing Ethnic Relations in Krasnodar Territory called by the Territory Administration in Krasnodar on 29 May, 2001 confirmed this. It was attended by the head of the department for ethnic affairs of the Ministry for the Affairs of Federation and Ethnic and Migration Policies Nikolai Bugai. The conference was addressed by academics, local bureaucrats, deputies of the Territorys legislature, officers from the law enforcement structures, and the military and Cossacks. The conference decided to recommend the local authorities and self-administration bodies to address the RF government and the staff of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Southern Federal District with a number of suggestions: to look into a possibility of a federal bill on sending the Meskhetian Turks and Kurds living unregistered in the Territory back to their historical homeland; monitor the ethnic and conflict situation in districts and towns and draw an ethnic passport of the Krasnodar Territory; elaborate the basic trends of the state ethnic policy in the Territory and introduce them as a legislative initiative in the Legislative Assembly...

It seems that the most real solution is to preserve the present situation when under the pressure of the federal center, international organizations and NGOs (including the ethnic cultural societies) the local authorities are forced to introduce half measures, namely temporal registration of individual groups of migrants (such as Meskhetian Turks). So far, when talking to the federal center the Territory Administration and legislature are still insisting on tightening the migration laws. They are saying that allegedly the migrants are potential criminals who tip the ethnic and demographic balance and that there exists cultural incompatibility between the local people (Cossacks) and migrants (ethnic minorities). The anti-migrant public discussion that smacks of xenophobia is going on. In this context one can expect nationalist provocations (from the Cossacks and the Russian National Unity organization) against migrants and ethnic minorities.


The article has been prepared with the financial support of Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation (Grant RSS No. 1179/2000).

1 See: A.G. Osipov, Rossiiskiy opyt etnicheskoi diskriminatsii: meskhetintsy v Krasnodarskom krae, Moscow, 1999, pp. 21-22.

2 See: Goskomstat Rossii, Krasnodarskiy kraevoi komitet gosudarstvennoi statistiki. Ob izmenenii chislennosti i migratsii naselenia v Krasnodarskom krae v 1999 godu (Analiticheskaia zapiska), Krasnodar, 2000.

3 See: Resursy Krasnodarskogo kraia. Spravochnik dlia bezhentsev i vynuzhdennykh pereselentsev, Krasnodar, 2000, p. 10.

4 See: Meskhetian Turks. Solution and Human Security, New York, 1998, p. 8.

5 See: I.V. Kuznetsov, Chekhi (Materialy k izucheniu zapadnoevropeiskikh kolonistov na Kavkaze, in: Arkheologia i etnografia Severnogo Kavkaza, Collection of papers, Krasnodar, 1998, p. 385.

6 See: A.G. Osipov, op. cit., p. 36.

7 See: D. Petrova, Proiavlenia sovremennogo rasizma i problema otritsania. Paper delivered at the Warsaw meeting of NGOs of Eastern and Central Europe, on 15-18 November, 2000.

8 Kubanskie novosti, 4 November, 2000.

9 See: Kuban segodnia, 7 March, 2001.

10 See: Krasnodarskie izvestia, 2 February, 2001.


SCImago Journal & Country Rank
 - Advertorial UP - E-MAIL