RUSSIA IN THE NORTHERN CAUCASUS: WHERE DO THE CONFLICTS STEM FROM?
Magomed Ramazanov, Ph.D. (Philos.), member, Human Rights Governmental Commission, Republic of Daghestan (Makhachkala, Russia)
The Northern Caucasus, a linguistic, ethnic, and religious patchwork plagued with socioeconomic and political problems is the sore spot of Russia’s. Considerable positive shifts of the Soviet period notwithstanding, the region is still trailing behind more developed areas. This should probably be explained by the region’s specific features.
Ethnic mosaics and ethnocultural variety caused by its geopolitical situation, migration, armed conflicts, deportations and repressions add ethnopolitical hues to socioeconomic and political difficulties sowing strife both inside individual ethnoses and between them. In addition, Russia’s never-ending revolutions, perestroika and reforms have been stirring up this conservative and patriarchal area forcing the local ethnoses to seek self-preservation. They reject novelties and change of idols and values aggressively; this became especially clear in the latter half of the 1980s and early 1990s when the political situation and ethnodemographic problems had come to the fore. Ethnic tension was mounting for several reasons, the main being lack of understanding of the region’s specifics demonstrated by the central and local authorities; lack of attention to its specific economic problems, a bias toward harsh measures, which were gradually alienating local people from the Center.
Development of democracy, growing national self-awareness and greater political activity added oil to the already smoldering ethnoterritorial, religious, social, and political contradictions. By the end of the 20th century the local ethnic and socioeconomic crises had acquired a political dimension.1 One can say that in the Northern Caucasus the Russian statehood and the new Russian federalism are tested for strength.
The radical economic reforms coincided with the appearance of long-term factors that had worsened the situation in the region as a whole; Chechnia, Ingushetia, Kalmykia and Daghestan were affected more than their neighbors. One of the key factors of the present tension is rooted in the national-territorial division inherited from the Soviet Union that contradicted the historical ethno-confessional division of the North Caucasian peoples. This moved the land issue from the grass-root level to the status of the ethnic and state territorial problem.
Today, there are at least ten territories claimed by two peoples. Three large North Caucasian ethnoses are divided by state borders: the Ossets who live in North Ossetia that is part of Russia and in South Ossetia which belongs to Georgia; the Lezghians live in southern Daghestan and northern Azerbaijan; the Avars live mainly in Daghestan, there are four villages with 5-6 thou people of Kvareli Avars in Georgia, and tens of thousands of Zakataly Avars are living in Azerbaijan.
The problem of divided peoples became especially acute when the Soviet Union fell apart. In South Ossetia it took the form of armed conflicts. Daghestan has avoided this, yet in 1992 the Lezghian national movement Sadval gathered its supporters to demand that the Lezghians of Azerbaijan and their territory be ceded from Azerbaijan to form a Lezghian republic within Russia. In October-November 1998 at mass rallies in Derbent and later at its congresses Sadval called for a Lezghian cultural-national autonomy and a free economic zone.
Administrative borders inside the Russian Federation are not totally accepted: the Adighes are scattered across three RF subjects (Adigey, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria); the Karachais and Balkars are also divided; another large North Caucasian ethnos, the Nogais are divided among Daghestan, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, the Stavropol Area, and Chechnia.
Today, the Kabardins, Circussians and Adighes of the plains and partly of the piedmont stretches form a single linguistically and culturally close economic community of the Adighes. The Balkars and Karachais of the mountains are two kindred ethnic groups that speak the same Karachai-Balkar language. The collapse of the Union left many peoples divided by state or administrative borders contrary to their will. Daghestan acquired six divided peoples: Lezghians, Avars, Tsakhurs, Rutuls, Azerbaijanians, and Nogais. For the first time in its history the republic acquired state borders and five independent states, entities of international law, for its neighbors: Georgia and Azerbaijan on land and Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran across the Caspian. Some of the peoples had been divided in the past—the recent developments worsened their position. Azerbaijanians are living in Azerbaijan, Daghestan and Georgia where there are 500 thou of them; in Iran their number goes up to 20m according to different sources. In Azerbaijan there are not more than 7m people.
I have already written that the Avars found themselves in Azerbaijan and Georgia; the visa regime between Russia and Georgia, an inadequate number of checkpoints at the state border between the two states worsened the position of the Kvareli Avars to a great extent; on top of this they were also pestered by material difficulties. They were forced to confront the Georgian government with their demands; many moved to the Kiziliurt, Tsuntin, Tliarata, and Kizliar districts of Daghestan.
The Avars of the Zakataly and Belokan districts of Azerbaijan are not better off: there are no conditions for cultural development, teaching their native tongue and development of the media; they are poorly represented in the top echelons of power, etc.
The Nogais remained divided for many years: in the last 100 years the Nogai steppe was six times moved from one territorial unit to another. In 1888-1920 it was part of the Stavropol Gubernia and Terek Region; in 1920-1924 it belonged to Daghestan; in the 1930s, to the Ordzhonikidze Territory; in 1944 it was made part of the Grozny Region. As a result of the last reorganization of 1957 the Checheno-Ingush A.S.S.R. was restored while 60 Nogai auls (mountain villages) were divided between Daghestan (the Nogai, Kizliar, and Tarumovka districts), Checheno-Ingush A.S.S.R. (the Shelkovskaia District), Stavropol Territory (the Neftekumsk District) and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. It is only in Daghestan that they have an ethnic district, the administration staffed with local people and an educational system. Before the war there were about 12 thou Nogais living in the Shelkovskaia District of Chechnia; in 1994-1996 and in 1999 they have to flee the republic.
The ethnopolitical situation in all places where Nogais are living is rather patchy; everywhere except the Nogai District they are in the minority. So far, the desire of the people to set up ethnic districts in other places has produced no results: Nogai schools are closed in the Stavropol Territory, Chechnia and Ingushetia; there are no longer newspapers in their native tongue. The Nogais are also displeased with the fact that a great deal of land in places where they live are used by other republics and districts. For example, nearly 60 percent of the Nogai District of Daghestan is transferred to the mountainous areas to be used as pastures. The ecological situation in the Nogai steppe causes concern: uncontrolled grazing has already caused soil erosion. There are dozens of new spots of moving sands while sand storms have become habitual.
These and many other problems forced the Nogais to insist on an autonomy to re-unite all divided territories.2 So far, under the Law of RF on National-Cultural Autonomy they acquired a so-called cultural autonomy that remains on paper for want of money. Daghestan is doing its best to realize the program of Nogais’ cultural and economic development and to restore the disrupted ecological balance of the steppe.
The Lezghians are also divided: they live in the valleys of the Samur, Giul’gerichay, Akhtychay rivers and on the slopes of Bazardiuziu and Shalbuzdag mountains. In 1866 Lezghians lived in 170 villages of the Kiura and Samur okrugs of the Daghestan Region and in several villages of the Quba uyezd, Baku Gubernia. Today they live in the Kusary, Kuba, Khudat, Kutkashen, and Kunakhkent districts and in eight districts of Daghestan.
According to the 1989 population census, there were 467 thou Lezghians living in the Soviet Union (204.4 thou of them lived in Daghestan; 117.4 thou, in Azerbaijan). Meanwhile, all of them were one and the same people. Early in the 19th century, in 1812, the Kiura Khanate and later all Lezghians joined Russia. In 1839 under czarist administration the Samur Lezghians were united into the Samur okrug, the Quba Lezghians formed the Quba uyezd of the Baku Gubernia that had become part of Russia in 1806. This newly introduced administrative structure divided the Lezghians among several political units. Soviet power did nothing to remedy the injustice. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Lezghians found themselves divided by the state border between Russia and Azerbaijan. This interferes with the traditional life style, the trade, economic, cultural and personal ties and breeds conflicts.3 The problem defies solution despite the efforts of the federal structures of Russia, the governments of Azerbaijan and Daghestan: it is too complicated and has acquired new international-legal aspects.
The deportations of the 1940s made the autonomies of the Chechens, Ingushes, Karachais and Balkars unnecessary. The Karachai Autonomous Region was divided between the Stavropol and Krasnodar territories and Georgia; part of Kabardino-Balkaria peopled with Balkars was transferred to Georgia; the Prigorodniy District of Checheno-Ingushetia became part of North Ossetia while the newly created Grozny Region of the R.S.F.S.R. included the central part of the former Checheno-Ingush autonomy and the Kizliar okrug of the Stavropol Territory.
When the deported were returned home in 1957, the autonomous administrative units were mainly restored within the 1944 borders. However, there were exceptions that are now breeding territorial conflicts: the Prigorodniy District remained within the North Ossetian A.S.S.R.; the Karachai Autonomous Region was united with the Cherkess Region while the Balkar areas of Kabardino-Balkaria were restored on the lands populated mainly by Kabardins. In 1957 the Checheno-Ingush A.S.S.R. acquired several districts of the Stavropol Territory that had not belonged to it before 1944 (the Naurskaia, Shelkovskaia, and Argalinskiy districts).
An absence of a clear idea in the Kremlin of how the repressed peoples’ territorial right should be restored is one of the major conflict-breeding factors. Under the Law on Rehabilitation of the Repressed Peoples Nazran can insist on having back the Prigorodniy District, while its present owner can appeal to the Constitution of Russia that says that any border changes within Russia should be based on a referendum at which the majority of the involved subjects approves of such changes. The territorial issue is equally acute in Daghestan along the border with Chechnia; these lands are populated by the Chechens-Akkintsy who are trying to restore the pre-1944 Aukhov District. Balkars and Karachais also want to have their lands back; at their congresses the Balkars tried to set up a Balkar republic; other ethnic groups did the same (Karachais, Circassians, Abazins, and Tatalpashins). The situation calmed down a bit after the 1992 referendum when the majority voted for a single Karachaevo-Cherkessia. Some people are still insisting on republics of their own; the question of territorial rehabilitation of the Karachais and their restored autonomy is being discussed. The status of their territory was changed several times throughout the 20th century, the changes reflecting the dramatic and stormy history of ethnic dreams and cruel disillusionments. In 1828 their lands were joined to the Russian Empire; on 17 November, 1920 they were made part of the Gorskaia (Mountaineer) A.S.S.R. while on 12 January, 1922 they were united with the Circussians into the Karachaevo-Cherkess Autonomous Region. On 26 April, 1926 it was divided into three parts: the Karachai Autonomous Region, the Cherkess National Okrug, and the Baltashinskiy District. On 2 November, 1943 the Karachais were deported while their land was divided among Georgia, the Stavropol and Krasnodar territories and the Chechen Autonomous Region. Thirteen years later the Karachais came back, yet their autonomous region was not restored. On 9 January, 1957 the Cherkess Autonomous Region was reformed into the Karachaevo-Cherkess Autonomous Region within the Stavropol Territory; on 3 July, 1991 it was transformed into a republic. Many local people look at these changes as bureaucratic maneuvering that has nothing to do with their ethnic problems.
The developments in Kabardino-Balkaria were equally complicated: the “oppression” of the Kabardin majority pushed the Balkars to extreme measures such as underground political activities. The independent Balkar autonomy was short-lived: in 1922 the All-Union Central Executive Committee passed a decision on setting up the Kabardino-Balkarian Autonomous Region that was transformed into an autonomous republic in 1936. On 8 March, 1944 the Balkars were deported; the autonomous republic was restored as late as on 9 January, 1957. In the 1990s the Balkars were campaigning for the restoration of the Elbrus, Cherkess, Chegem, and Khulamo-Besengi districts; several times they raised the question of creating the Republic of Balkaria. The leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria skillfully avoided the issue. On 1 September, 1997 the republic adopted a new constitution; its President Kokov is doing his best to resolve all ethnic and territorial disputes.
The Chechen Crisis
From 1992 until recent times the Chechen leaders demonstrated their desire to separate the republic from Russia; Chechnia was rapidly turning into an Islamic republic.
The crisis has a long history. Chechnia was joined to Russia in the 19th century after a long and bloody war in which the Checheno-Daghestanian state (the Imamate founded in March 1840 when the Chechen teip leaders had recognized Shamil as their Imam) was routed. Its institutions were destroyed; the czarist military administration that took power existed for over 50 years (from 1864 to 1917). In 1917-1921 Chechnia was part of the Gorskaia Republic recognized by Germany and Turkey; later it joined the North Caucasian Emirate. Between 1921 and 1944 it went through all forms of self-determination known in the R.S.F.S.R.—from the Chechen okrug in the Gorskaia Autonomous Republic to an autonomous region and the unification with Ingushetia and the Checheno-Ingush A.S.S.R. In 1944 it was liquidated while the Chechens were deported to Central Asia where they remained for 13 years; in 1957 Chechens and Ingushes “were pardoned” and allowed to return to the restored Checheno-Ingush A.S.S.R.
The Soviet Union’s disintegration caused economic depression, created shadow economy, rejection of laws by the authorities and the society at large, fusion of criminal and state structures, corruption at all administrative levels and a gap between the elite and the rest of the nation. This could be seen elsewhere in Russia—in Chechnia the process was more painful because of the host of local problems. Unequal economic development, discriminatory treatment of the autochthonous population, the efforts to limit the number of Chechens living in cities and working in industry, as well as the low educational standards in the Chechen countryside added radicalism to the political processes and made them virtually ungovernable. The Congress of the Chechen People, the first during the Soviet period (23-25 November, 1990) was a turning point. It proclaimed a sovereign Chechen Republic; on 27 November, 1990 the Supreme Soviet of Checheno-Ingushetia passed a Declaration of Sovereignty. This created a legal and political problem of the relationships between Checheno-Ingushetia and later Chechnia that tried to escape its national-political subordination to the Union Center by becoming part of the R.S.F.S.R.; some time later it announced that it detached itself from Russia with an intention of becoming a sovereign democratic state.
The radical and aggressive nature of these processes were determined by the involvement of shadow and semi-criminal structures that exploited for their own political ends romanticism of the local intelligentsia wishing to resolve certain overripe cultural issues. The intellectuals, however, failed to consolidate; they never developed into a real force and were finally deprived of any role in power struggle or of a possibility to influence those at the helm. Those who came to power after the 1996 presidential elections proved unable to lead the republic out of the deep crisis. This mainly explains why the Shari‘a was introduced under Dudaev—this was an attempt to resolve all urgent problems of the Chechen statehood promptly and radically.
This step brought opposite results: the Shari‘a governance caused a political crisis, destroyed the judicial system, neutralized the system of prosecutor’s supervision and the traditional law. Chaos and lack of acting laws gave rise to groups of armed people, which the state could not control and which were allegedly busy establishing Islamic order.
One should say here that normally the Chechens guided themselves by different moral categories: “admalla” (humanity), “ozdangalla” (nobleness), and “tsanalla” (inner purity). To a great extent they are still guided in their social behavior by the ancient, pre-Islamic code of honor (“k’onakhalla”) rooted in their historical traditions and the social institutions that were mainly democratic (general meetings and rallies) and representative (councils of all sorts, such as the council of the country, councils of the teips). These traditions cannot co-exist with the harsh rules of the Shari‘a. The entire Chechen people is divided into about 130 teips (or clans); the Chechens are also divided among Muslim groups and the tarekat brotherhoods headed by ustazes, or sheikhs. Each of the murids took an oath of loyalty to his sheikh and his vird.
As a result, in four years after the Khasaviurt agreement Russia acquired a rebel self-proclaimed criminal state supported by extremists from certain Muslim countries. Its territory was divided into zones controlled by field commanders of Maskhadov and Bassaev type. International Islamic organizations (Salvation, Lashkar-e-Tayba, Qatar, Al-Hairiya, the Taliban, and Iqraa) have a lot of authority in Chechnia. In July 2003 Vladimir Boldyrev, Commander of the North Caucasian Military District, quoted the following figures: more than 75 groups of fighters (about 1,200-strong) were operating in the republic. On the other side there are 26 thou Russian military and the republic’s 12 thousand-strong militia.4
The local extremists wanted to turn Chechnia into the Great Ichkeria stretching from the Caspian to the Black seas (that is, across the Caucasus) so that to separate Russia from the Transcaucasus and deprive it of an access to Central Asia. The first step toward this ambitious aim was made in August-September 1999 with an invasion of Daghestan. Armed groups burst into villages of the Tsumada, Botlikh, Novolakskoe districts of Daghestan. The local people fighting side by side with the Russian Army and the troops of the Ministry of the Interior defeated the invaders. One should say, however, that the seats of terrorism have not been totally liquidated.
Today, the situation in Chechnia is far from simple. Even though many problems have so far defied solution (high crime level, mass unemployment, the non-existing statehood and legal system), society is able to address most urgent tasks in the sphere of state construction. Wide masses should be taught to respect laws and should be invited to contribute to state administration—this may accelerate the transfer from anarchy to order and rule of law. The most urgent economic problems should receive attention.
Today, the republic is acquiring conditions conducive to a secular parliamentary state that would rely on traditional democracy and local self-administration.
Impasses of Migration
Excess manpower reserves and agrarian overpopulation (the autochthonous population mainly lives in the countryside) is the region’s key feature. It is interesting to note that under Soviet power labor migration was widespread in the North Caucasian autonomous republics: the male part of the local population earned money outside the region. Overpopulation and scarcity of jobs caused intensive migration often of a destabilizing nature leading to ethnic conflicts.
Ideology formed and supported by the political elite is another migration factor. The democratic reforms of the last decade added popularity to the ideas of ethnic and religious resurrection; religious fundamentalists came to the fore. In the Northern Caucasus confessional and ethnic boundaries normally coincide, yet the majority of the local peoples tend to Islam (the Ossets part of whom are Orthodox Christians are the only exception). Today, there are 2,700 mosques in the area, 1,000 schools at mosques, over 100 madrasahs, and about 30 Muslim higher educational establishments. Many peoples are turning to Islam in the hope of resolving accumulated contradictions. Certain political and religious leaders of Chechnia, Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ingushetia are exploiting Islam in their own interests; it is under their influence that Islam is acquiring political bias while politics is being steeped in Islam. This negatively affects the relations among the local peoples and drives the non-Muslims away.
By early 2001 migration had become massive: by that time there were 500 thousands of forced migrants. In the last decades the process was going on in two directions: people were leaving the North Caucasian republics while others were arriving in a wave of migrants driven away by armed conflicts from newly independent states. In 1992-1993 people flocked mainly from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The flow has subsided, yet the problems of migrants remain.
The local authorities cannot but be concerned with the fact that thousands of migrants from the Near and Far Abroad have not been registered, which means that they are living illegally. Governor of the Stavropol Territory Alexander Chernogorov insists: “The demographic changes in the territory are caused by the natural decline of the Russian population. In fact, the territory is living in the de-Russification context. While back in the 1990s we were concerned that the share of Russians among the migrants was lower first by 10 percent and later by 20 percent, in 2001 the difference reached 200 percent. Over 300 thou Russians left the North Caucasian republics in the last decades, mainly forever.”5
Uncontrolled migration from the Transcaucasian and Central Asian countries is potentially dangerous for the local labor market; it sends tension up and creates pre-conditions of direct threats to social safety and security of the Russian state. Governor Chernogorov has pointed out that in the past 10 years nearly 600 thou migrants passed through the Stavropol Territory; some 200 thou settled there permanently; 80 thou got migration cards while others are living without residence permits. It should be added that the territorial authorities are much more concerned with “their,” that is, local Russians while about 100 thou migrants from Daghestan (thousands of them being Russians) are not welcome in the Stavropol Territory.
In other areas the situation is very much the same. In the last 12 years over 700 thou migrants passed through Daghestan of whom about 250 thou settled in Makhachkala, Kizliar and Khasaviurt alone. They have no registration documents and residence permits; about 65 thou were registered.
Fifteen thousand refugees came to the Krasnodar Territory from Chechnia; 11 thou, to the Rostov Region; 22 thou, to the Stavropol Territory. In Ingushetia population swelled more than 1.5 times with forced migrants: over 200 thousands of them came to the republic with the population of 310 thou. Compared to this flow the number of those who trickled to other regions of Russia is negligible. One should say that the anti-Chechen information campaign deprived many migrant families of compassion of the local people while their situation completely depended on the sentiments of the local authorities.
The local budgets are groaning under the burden of migrants: schools, hospitals and outpatient clinics, gerontological centers are packed; unemployment is on the rise; housing is becoming ridiculously expensive. This affects the criminal situation. In July 2003 a governmental commission for migration policies chaired by Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Zorin met for its regular meeting in Borisoglebsk, Voronezh Region. It decided to invite the RF Ministry of the Interior together with the Council of Migrant Organizations at the Chairman of the State Duma to draw a list of such organizations, identify their requirements for state support, and draw a draft Law on Repatriates. The heads of the federation subjects were instructed to send all necessary documents to the Ministry of the Interior so that to draw a plan of funding social and engineering infrastructure in places where forced migrants are living in compact groups. The State Committee for Construction was instructed to inform the Ministry of Economic Development about the amount of money needed to complete the still uncompleted projects in 2004. The commission discussed certain other questions. Let’s hope that the decisions will be translated into reality.
For a long time the authorities tried to ignore the “Russian question.” Today, it has become too topical to be ignored any longer. Starting with the early 1990s migration of Russians became massive—tens and hundreds of thousands of Russians are leaving Chechnia and other North Caucasian republics. In May 2003 prominent members of the Moscow Chechen diaspora carried a round-table discussion and a press conference devoted to the situation of the Russian speakers in Chechnia. They emphasized that all those who had left the republic should be offered adequate living conditions; they expressed their conviction that about 100 thou Russians might come back. So far, there is no safety in the republic. The Chechens are more or less protected against Maskhadov’s fighters with their teip connections and blood feud. Russians are absolutely defenseless. The Moscow Chechens believe that the situation can be improved with quotas for the Russians in full conformity with the share of Russians in the republic in 1991. According to the 1989 population census, there were nearly 400 thou Russians living in Chechnia. Before the first Chechen campaign (1994) over 250 thou left the republic6 while those who stayed behind were subjected to beatings, murders, robberies, and rapes. They were taken hostages, sold as slaves, and thrown away from their homes. This was genocide. By the beginning of the second war there were about 29 thou Russians in the republic, over 17 thousands of them old people. Nobody knows how many of them have survived.
In its paper “On the Situation of the Russians in the Chechen Republic” the Ministry for the Federation, Ethnic and Migration Policies pointed out that between 1991 and 1999 over 21 thou Russians were killed (war casualties not included); over 100 thou flats and houses were captured. Under the Shari‘a the Russians were outlawed. Over 800 Russian citizens were kept in the republic as hostages.7
Local administrations in many North Caucasian republics are busy squeezing Russians out of administration, health services and education with the help of the “title—non-title nations” conception thus violating the principle of proportionate representation in the administrative structures. The situation may improve now that the Department of Ethnic and Migration Problems has been set up in the RF Ministry of the Interior.
The Foreign Influence Zone
The North Caucasian geostrategic situation adds another conflict-breeding factor. I mean interests of all sorts of international structures.
Lack of a more or less coherent ethnic strategy and the failure of the “conception of nationalities policy in the Northern Caucasus” undermined Russia’s positions and attracted new players.
In February 1992 the then prime minister of Turkey (who later was elected president) Demirel openly rejoiced at the Soviet Union’s collapse and declared that it offered brilliant perspectives for setting up a “gigantic Turkic world stretching from the Adriatic to the former Great Wall of China.” Ankara concentrated on the Northern Caucasus.
An analysis of international religious contacts, including ties among the Wahhabis, discovered that foreign structures funded extremism and separatism in Ingushetia, Daghestan, Chechnia, and other republics. The media is actively discussing the problem of foreign financial flows designed to support the fighters of Chechnia, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Georgia and North Ossetia.8
Certain unofficial Arabic public and private structures opened their offices in hot spots along Russia’s borders: in Daghestan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Astrakhan. In the Caucasus alone there were eight actively functioning humanitarian offices of Persian Gulf organizations that poured money into all sorts of “humanitarian projects.” Between 1 January, 1996 and 30 June, 1999 the Al-Hairiya charity active in Chechnia, Ingushetia, Daghestan and Azerbaijan received over $1m for the allegedly humanitarian purposes. According to the Chairman of the Qatar Charity Sheikh Abdalla Dabag, Al-Hairiya’s money in Daghestan was distributed in the following way: $413,740 went to Muslim donations (zakat and sadak); $180,808 to all sorts of projects; $235,096, to orphans; $22,802, to feasts during the month of Ramadan; $33,000 came from the Muslims of Qatar; $119,560 were spent on sacrificial animals for kurban-bayram. The officials of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Daghestan, of the orphanages and the Ministry of Agriculture testify that they never received money from “the Arab brothers.” This is what “humanitarian aid” from Islamic extremist centers means.
It is widely admitted in the Middle East that the organizations of political Islam are supporting ethnic and religious strife in Russia, in particular, the separatist movements of Daghestan in a conviction that they are waging a religious war. This threatens Russia’s security and stability and endangers peace in the Middle East as well.9 We should probably take into account that the international Islamic extremist centers have not dropped their intention of reviving their ideology in Daghestan and other North Caucasian republics. The Caucasian events amply confirmed that these centers may challenge Russia’s national security while the measures taken by the authorities are not always sufficient. Some of the structures make use of international religious ties, including hajj-performing pilgrims, to spread Wahhabism in the Northern Caucasus.
For subjective and objective reasons pilgrims fall easy prey to foreign emissaries whose aims have nothing in common with Islam and the Shari‘a. In 1991-2000 over 170 thou people from the Northern Caucasus performed hajj; the majority of them obeyed the Muslim rituals and injunctions with dignity, yet they attracted attention of special services and Wahhabi centers because of gross violations of the border-crossing and transit regime and the rules of temporal residence in the holy places. Today, a large number of pilgrims are kept in transit prisons and detention centers in Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
We should draw a line between the official position of foreign countries and the attempts of nongovernmental extremist organizations to interfere in internal affairs of the North Caucasian republics and Russia as a whole. The events in Daghestan and Chechnia have revealed to the world that international terrorists wanted to destabilize the situation and drive Russia out of the region. Resolute measures should be promptly taken so that to prevent the threat spreading to the entire world.
Today, we have to contain armed tension so that it would not engulf the entire region, we have to resolutely rebuff international terrorists and step up our efforts to quench the conflict by political means. Because of the tension in the Northern Caucasus and in full accordance with the international legal antiterrorist regime emissaries and supporters of religious extremist organizations from more than 20 countries (the Middle East included) find it much harder to enter the Russian Federation. The number of foreigners traveling in the Northern Caucasus with official papers that do not mention the aim of the trip, its route and duration dropped by 2.5 times against 1997. In 1999-2002 over 78 people who arrived from the Middle Eastern countries were deported from the region.
First, we should rely on international experience when discussing the problems of the North Caucasian divided peoples, the refugees and forced migrants and the rehabilitation issue of the repressed peoples. The government of the Russian Federation has to decide which of the tasks belong to the competence of the local authorities and which should be dealt with by the Center or jointly with the North Caucasian governments. The conflicts should be resolved and the republics should be given a chance to develop their creative potentials.
Second, the republics should be protected against encroachments on their sovereignty and territorial integrity within Russia; home and foreign policies at the federal level should be geared to prevent penetration of extremist ideas.
Third, much more should be done to locate and liquidate illegal armed formations in Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Daghestan, Chechnia, and other North Caucasian areas; it is necessary to disarm everybody having unlicensed arms and to publicly denounce the genuine extremist organizations and their leaders.
Finally, time has come to more actively promote the idea of a North Caucasian united antiterrorist front and to inculcate in the local peoples an awareness of their shared responsibility for the future of their republics. This can become the North Caucasian imperative.
1 See: M. Kurbanov, “Severokavkazskie bolevye tochki,” Narody Daghestana, No. 5, 1999, pp. 25-26.
2 See: Daghestan: deportatsii i repressii, Makhachkala, 2001, pp. 144-146.
3 See: A.G. Agaev, Kontseptsia national’nogo razvitia lezginskogo naroda, Makhachkala, 1994, pp. 15-17.
4 See: Kontinent, No. 34, July 2003.
5 See: Kontinent, No. 10, March 2003.
6 See: Ia. Amelina, “Chechnia ostalas’ bez russkikh,” Kontinent, No. 20, May 2003.
7 See: Nezavisimaia gazeta, 6 June, 1999.
8 See: R. Kazimova, V. Altunin, “The Northern Caucasus in Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Policy: Islamic Solidarity Conception,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 2 (26), 2003.
9 See: As-Siasa, 24 August, 1999 (in Arabic).