Staunton, February 10 – Today, Yury Chaika, the procurator general of the Russian Federation, announced the appointment of a new procurator for Daghestan, Denis Popov, an ethnic Russian who has most recently worked in the same position in the Khakass Republic over 80 percent of whose population according to the 2010 census is ethnic Russian.
His installation follows Vladimir Putin’s appointment of Vladimir Vasiliyev as republic head. Of mixed Kazakh-Russian background who earlier served in Moscow and the North Caucasus, the new republic head most recently selected Artem Zdunov from Tatarstan to be prime minister of Daghestan and to oversee the reconstitution of a government in Makhachkala.
The departure and even arrest of so many former Daghestani officials and the introduction of so many outsiders has forced Vasiliyev to declare today that there isn’t going to be any mass insertion of cadres into Daghestan and that “the new leadership of the region is ready to work with local cadres” (newsru.com/russia/10feb2018/popov.html).
Vasiliyev said he was “well aware” of the concerns of some that only outsiders were going to run Daghestan. But that won’t be the case: “we will work with everyone who is already here. Those who don’t do well will be replaced; and in their place, we will prepare and select local talented guys.”
“I apologize to those who feel themselves offended and to those whose national feelings have been hurt; but we must change the situation and follow the desire of people,” the republic head said.ti
That is in its way a remarkable concession to local feelings; but his words must not obscure the fact that Moscow is treating Daghestan and other republics more as colonies than as regions with rights of their own – just as it did in the past. In Soviet times, Moscow put its own people, typically Slavs or otherwise attached to the center in the top positions.
Then, in order to win over some of the non-Russian population, members of titular nationalities gradually assumed the top jobs, but there were always Russian minders as second secretaries in republic CPSU organizations and as heads of key ministries until very near the end of the Soviet period.
Under Brezhnev, non-Russians sought and obtained control of an increasing number of these slots that the Kremlin had allocated to Russians. Gaining this or that ministry for the titular nationality came to be seen as a victory for the local population; not doing so was treated as a major loss. But right up to the end, Moscow still had its people in key positions, although on occasion they went “native.”
After 1991, with the demise of the CPSU, the non-Russian republics except for those where the titular nationality formed a small percentage of the population such as Khakassia or Karelia generally took over the key positions. There was no formal arrangement as there had been in Soviet times for Russian “minders.”
But now that trend is being reversed but with a twist. The Kremlin is using those with extensive experience in one republic or region to run another republic or region, in many cases without regard to nationality but in every case making use of people who have been heavily Russified and thus likely lost to the nations of their birth.
That represents a new kind of colonial service, one that is most visibly emerging in Tatarstan but that is likely to come to other republics as well.