Thursday, November 2, 2017

Is Kadyrov Becoming the Ombudsman for People from the Caucasus in Russia?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 2 – Ramzan Kadyrov will certainly attract more media attention with his call for removing Lenin’s body from the mausoleum, but the Chechen leader may now be taking a position that will be far more consequential for the future of the Russian Federation – serving as de facto ombudsman for people from the Caucasus facing discrimination there.

            Following an act of violence in Surgut in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District in August, an act that officials characterized as terrorism, sports clubs and other institutions in that oil-rich region in the Russian north have openly discriminated against people from the Caucasus, according to the leaders of the Chechen, Ingush, Daghestani and Azerbaijani diasporas there.

            (These groups have become especially prominent there as regional oil fields have developed largely because there is a tradition of working in oil and gas production in these three republics that extends back into Soviet times.)

            Bislan Makhmudov, a Waynakh community leader there, says that discrimination against people “with a non-Slavic appearance” has intensified over the last few months, and now the Caucasians in the district believe they have no choice but to appeal to Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov to intervene and correct the situation (

               That such groups think in these terms suggests that the relationship between diasporas and the leaders of the republics from which they come may be changing rapidly, something that could create administrative problems for more than just officials in the Khanty-Mansiisk region.

                Makhmudov says that sports facilities have refused to allow his son, a boxer, to enter. “In general, he doesn’t look like a Caucasians,” the community leader said, but when they found out his nationality, they immediately banned him. We aren’t the Chechens of earlier years. We should not be associated with terrorists, criminals or bandits.” 

                He reports that the leaders of the Daghestani and Azerbaijani diasporas in Surgut have experienced that they have conclude that they have no choice but to ask Kadyrov to get involved and defend their rights. 

            The sports clubs deny they are discriminating and suggest they are simply being careful as local officials have advised them to be. One suggested that Makhmudov’s son wasn’t kept from using their facilities because of his ethnic background but rather because he supposedly showed “aggression” to people at the desk.

            The role of local officials is murky. They deny promoting discrimination; but the URA news agency, in its report, shows a screen shot which suggests that is exactly what they are doing at least by encouraging “vigilance” against outsiders.  Officials have been reluctant to comment, but one says no one has ordered anyone to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or appearance.

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