Staunton, December 17 – Daghestan is now so much an outlier from the rest of the Russian Federation on a whole range of measures, participants at the Second Caucasus Civic Form held in Makhachkala suggest, it has virtually become almost a foreign country -- even though it remains at least nominally within Russian borders.
Maksim Shevchenko of the Presidential Human Rights Council opened the meeting by observing that participants in this second forum should remember that Vladimir Putin pays close attention to their work. His call to return Daghestan to Russia’s common legal space echoed what the first forum had declared (kavpolit.com/articles/kto_upravljaet_dagestanom-36845/).
Sergey Dokholyan, an economist at the Daghestani Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, delivered the most comprehensive address. He said that Daghestan’s economy after making progress earlier had slipped back into decline, with the share of industry in the republic’s economy only 11 percent of what it is for Russia as a whole.
His key point was that “Daghestan in fact has been transformed into a foreign space inside the country which relies on the financial resources of Russia but lives according to its own laws.” It is “an outlier” even among the other republics of the North Caucasus in economic terms, with small enterprises declining in number by 42 percent between 2011 and 2016.
The average pay in Daghestan is just over have of the all-Russian figure, he continued; but the most troubling aspect of the situation is that “by the most conservative estimates“ from 40 to 60 percent of economic activity in the republic is in the “shadow” sector. The actual figure may be as high as 80 percent.
To the extent that is the case, Dokholyan says, there are now two centers of power in Daghestan, the formal state authorities and the real power which controls the shadow economy, people who have “much greater weight and influence than the formal leaders of the region.” Indeed, the imbalance is so great that one must ask “who rules the republic?”
The scholar added that “the economic situation is close to a catastrophe because many processes are already irreversible – a significant part of industry is already destroyed and the agro-industrial complex is stagnant.” Investments are almost nil, and few business people have incentives to try to change the situation.
Other speakers provided additional details on all these points, noting that Daghestanis expect too much from the state and don’t show initiative, that much of the money that should be going into the hands of workers is being diverted, and that the authorities instead of facing up to the facts are in denial and lie to the population.
“At present,” Magomedtagir Rizvanov, a KPRF member from Buynaksk, said that “We now do not hear the truth from the authorities.” And so the people have stopped listening to them, especially given that they no longer elect their leaders but are compelled to put up with outsiders installed by Moscow.
Zakir Kaitov, a specialist on education, painted a picture of that sector which does not promise improvement anytime soon. There are 348,000 children under the age of seven but space for only just over half of them in the 805 pre-school institutions, about half of which are substandard or even falling apart.
As far as pupils are concerned, he said, there are 1451 schools in which 393,000 children now study. Fewer than have correspond to standards, 581 of these schools remain on doubt shift, and 27 have triple shifts.
And Aida Kasimov, a human rights activist, said that conditions in her sector were horrific: the siloviki not only violate the rights of Daghestanis but together with prosecutors and judges make it impossible for lawyers to defend these rights. Like the others, she called for the convention of a Congress of the People of Daghestan to try to address all these issues.