Friday, October 6, 2017

Kremlin Cautioned against Installing Ethnic Russian Heads in Other Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 6 – Vladimir Putin’s appointment of a Russian to head Daghestan may be justified by conditions in that most Muslim, most multi-ethnic and most corrupt republic in the country, but he would be making a mistake if he were to try to install Russians in other more mono-ethnic non-Russian republics, according to Galina Khizriyeva.

            That is because, the editor of says, Daghestan is very different than the others. It is vastly more multi-national with three major ethnic groups and no one dominant one, has suffered because of that, and thus has a population at least part of which welcomes an outsider to put things in order (  

                Marina Perevozkina of Moskovsky komsomolets spoke with her and remarked that the traditional pattern of having someone from the titular nationality works far better in more mono-ethnic republics and that eventually Daghestan should again be headed by someone from one or another of its own ethnic communities. 

                According to Perevozkina, even now Daghestan’s population is divided into “two camps” about the new outsider the Kremlin has appointed. One thinks that the new man “not connected with any clan or political group and not having any obligations to them will get involved in a serious struggle with corruption and crime. And this cannot fail to make people glad.”

            The other is very much opposed to having an outsider as republic head, “considering this appointment as a sign of a lack of respect to the republic and its residents” and believing that he will have a hard time navigating the complex politics of the republic. Many of the republic bureaucrats have adopted “a wait and see position.”

            Many in Russia like the idea of returning to the tsarist practice of ruling the North Caucasus by governors general, but “up to now the federal center” has remained committed “to another political line” and supports local people. That works in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Khizriyeva says, but “it hasn’t been working in Daghestan.”

            Khizriyeva says that many in Daghestan think that only an outsider can bring order to the republic and some of them even favor the appointment of an ethnic Russian because such an individual would be independent of the local ethnically based political “clans.”  But that should not be read to mean that Daghestani pro-Russian groups are strong.

            “Today in the republic,” she continues, “pro-Russian forces have been marginalized. They exist, but they can’t express themselves. In essence, they are ‘a silent majority’” because “on the whole, the region is pro-Russian, but as a result of the most varied processes, this fact is not manifested,” while other forces have assumed a more prominent position.

            The previous republic head, an Avar, “didn’t block the activities of the federal forces in their struggle with terrorism,” Khizriyeva says, “but he didn’t help them much … There was nothing in Daghestan” like the efforts made in Chechnya and Ingushetia. That is one of the reasons a change had to be made.

            But then she argues that once conditions have been put in order in Daghestan, the practice of having a local figure in charge needs to be restored, via “normal legitimating elections of the leader from local cadres.” One hopes that the new head will be able to do that, to bring order and set the stage for a return to having a member of a republic nation in charge.      

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