Staunton, November 29 – Following an appeal from Makhachkala, Sergey Shoygu, Russia’s new defense minister, has raised the semi-annual draft quota for Daghestan from 179 to 4,000 and promised to increase it further later on, apparently convinced that it is better for young Daghestanis to be in the army than have them join anti-Russian the militants in the forests.
Because many Russian officers believe that North Caucasians undermine military discipline, because the size of the Russian military has declined, and because outsourcing of many tasks that non-Russians in the military had earlier carried out, Moscow has drafted ever fewer North Caucasians in recent years.
But Daghestanis, both official and unofficial, have been outraged because the decline has been so precipitous in a republic which Moscow claims has not descended into violence as Chechnya did. And consequently, Daghestani leaders last spring appealed to then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and now to the new defense minister to change the situation.
Whatever their precise cause – and most Daghestanis seem them as obvious ethnic discrimination – the numbers of draftees from there have fallen precipitously. In 2010, the military drafted 2010 up to 20,000 Daghestanis. Then last fall, Moscow called into uniform service only 179 instead of the announced number of 330 (www.odnako.org/blogs/sow_22348 andwww.bigcaucasus.com/events/topday/29-11-2012/81657-dagestan_army-0/).
Daghestanis believe that Moscow could draft as many as 35,000 from that republic because of high birthrates, and officials want it to because drafting such people will ease the unemployment problem in that North Caucasus republic and reduce the likelihood that such young men will go into the mountains to fight against the Russian authorities.
Sergey Krivenko, the director of the Citizen.Army.Law Rights Defense Group, told “Bolshoy Kavkaz” that Moscow has had the right to make such radical changes since 1993 even though the Constitution specifies that all Russian citizens should equally liable to performing military service.
Each year, he said, “the president establishes a plan for the draft and specifies the exact number of draftees. But the General Staff decides from which region it will call just how many people to military service. Therefore, from the point of view of the law, everything [that has happened in Daghestan] is in order.”
According to Krivenko, what has driven the numbers down for Daghestan in the first instance are cutbacks in the number of officers who deal with socializing new draftees. Rather than deal with the problems that soldiers from different ethnic groups present, Russian commanders have preferred to dispense with the problem by not drafting them.
While Gadzhimet Safaraliyev, a Duma deputy from Daghestan, believes that it was the earlier Daghestani appeal to Putin that made the difference, a variety of other analysts suggested today that Shoygu is the one who made this decision (www.odnako.org/blogs/show_22348/).
Vladislav Shurygin, a military commentator said that Shoygu decided that “everyone must serve” both because of the constitutional requirement and because “if people themselves want to serve, even more under our conditions when things have not been going so well, then they ought to be welcomed.
And Leonid Ivashov, a retired lieutenant general and head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said Shoygu felt comfortable making this decision because the cutbacks were the “illegal” work of his predecessor. Moreover, he understands that if young North Caucasians aren’t drafted, they will “go into the mountains where they will be paid and given arms.”
But Shoygu’s decision does not answer two questions about the Daghestanis. On the one hand, it does not indicate whether Moscow will go ahead with earlier plans to form an “experimental” and purely “Daghestani” battalion – what some are calling a restoration of the tsarist “Dikaya diviziya” (vestikavkaza.ru/news/Dagestantsy-poydut-v-armiyu-tysyachami.html