Caucasus: XIX Century Methods No Longer Effective

vedomostiCaucasus: Methods of Pacification Good for the 19th Century Are No Longer Effective

The Federal Center should come up with new and efficient methods for the Caucasus.

The situation in the Caucasus is precarious. Media reports resemble war bulletins. Security structures operate as before, but gunmen changed their tactic. Attacks on officers of law enforcement agencies and representatives of local authorities were abandoned in favor of actions of intimidation. Attempts were made on the lives of Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and ex-Interior Minister Musa Medov. Minister of Development Ruslan Amerkhanov, Aza Gazgireyeva of the Supreme Court (both -Ingushetia), and Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov were assassinated.

Paying lip service to casualties among noncombatants, terrorists strike at everything and everyone within reach. Dozens perished in the recent explosion in front of the police station in Nazran.(1)  Brutal murder of a Russian family was reported in Chechnya, yesterday. (2)

Deterioration in the Caucasus is attributed to several factors. Two Chechen wars fought, the Kremlin decided to pacify the Caucasus with methods of the 19th century. Instead of introducing common rules for all then, the Russian Empire simply bought loyalty of the local feudal rulers and let them retain power. This semblance of order where all power and finances were concentrated in the hands of a single clan created the illusion of stability that enabled the authorities to utterly disregard the true needs of the population.

These days, this system of rule doubled or even tripled shortcomings of modern life in Russia for the majority of the people in the region: unprecedented difference in income, corruption, selective application of law, etc. With the unemployment averaging 8.5% throughout Russia, it exceeded 50% in Ingushetia, reached 34% in Chechnya and 11-13% in other republics of the Caucasus.

There is more to it than low living standards. Ordinary institutions alone turn out to be thoroughly inadequate when everone is intent on upping his status. College or university education is out of reach for very many youths because of the appallingly low level of secondary education. The student per1,000 residents ratio averages 52 in Russia, 20 in Ingushetia, 25 in Chechnya, 30 in Kabardino-Balkaria, 40 in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and 44 in Dagestan.

Obsolete social system stipulates a specific feedback link between the powers-that-be and the population. Very many unemployed depend on wealthy local feudal lords. Social integration proceeds only along the ethnic principles.

Post-Soviet years revived blood vengeance in the Caucasus. Years of the Chechen wars in their turn developed the custom of regarding violence as the only solution to financial, social, and personal problems.

Experts point out that ethnic gangs in the Caucasus finally gave way to Islamic radicals, local and foreign alike. It is common knowledge meanwhile that terrorists cannot last long without support from and sympathies of the local population. It stands to reason to assume therefore that radical Islam promoting equality and promising Paradise to the warriors who fall in the war on infidels is becoming an attractive alternative to the injustice people see all around. In a word, it is an ideology more effective than the outdated clannish one was in its time.

“Problems of the Caucasus are systemic… Appalling corruption, deformation of the state power at the regional level, extremely low efficiency of administration,” President Dmitry Medvedev said this July.(3)

Vedomosti, 19 August 2009


(1) The death toll of the attack, about 30 persons, were all members of the police forces, people who have chosen a career in uniform.

(2) One Russian family was killed by unknown perpetrators. Normally, when civilians die in Chechnya, the blame should be put on Kadyrov.

(3) So he said, but what did he do? Did he fire Kadyrov?

The federal center has had 400 years to come up with solutions – with several genocides, a massive brutality and enormous corruption being the only visible result.

Maybe it is time to try what independency could achieve for the North Caucasian states? The credibility of the federal center has already declined below repair.

Mikael Storsjö

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