Staunton, November 24 – Vladimir Putin’s language policies are angering non-Russians across the country, but his replacement of non-Russian officials in these federal subjects with ethnic Russian ones may prove to be even more threatening to the future existence of the republics and their titular nationalities.
The most obvious case of this is Putin’s installation of a Kazan-Russian as head of Daghestan, especially given Vladimir Vasilyev’s announcement that he will not maintain the ethnic quota system in appointments but instead choose officials on the basis of their competence alone.
That may sound entirely reasonable, just as it did to many when Mikhail Gorbachev made a similar declaration even before becoming CPSU leader. After all, who can be against competence as a selection principle? But it can serve a cover for an ethnic Russian take-over of positions that the non-Russians had long viewed as legitimately their own.
That is what appears to be happening in many places, and in Daghestan, the independent news publication Chernovik has described the ongoing replacement of non-Russian officials there by ethnic Russians in an article entitled “Operation ‘Russification’” – an indication of how sensitive such shifts are (chernovik.net/content/anons/operaciya-rusifikaciya).
The weekly reports that this russification of cadres has proceeded especially far in the procuracy and law enforcement areas where those now being appointed at various levels are people “who do not have any relationship to the republic” but instead have been inserted from elsewhere.
Such people are routinely presented as being independent of the local clans and thus better fitted to fight crime, but in fact, Chernovik says, regardless of whether that is true or not, it is “at one and the same time” leading to the replacement of Daghestanis with ethnic Russians in positions the former had viewed as their own for decades.
The appearance of this article underscores the fact that many in Daghestan are not pleased by this development. Indeed, they may be inclined to make it more not less difficult for the new Russian arrivals to do their jobs. After all, it is going to take some time for Russians without experience in Daghestan to learn the ropes.
As a result, there may be an uptick in crime in Daghestan – and with an added ethnic dimension with residents of the republic viewing the criminals and the outsider officials in terms of their nationality and not just in terms of their functions. To the extent that happens, this latest Russificatory move could backfire or force Moscow to be even more repressive.