Staunton, October 7 – Because land in the North Caucasus is so valuable both practically and symbolically, Emil Pain says, there are longstanding territorial disputes within and between almost all the republics in the region and between them and predominantly Russian regions adjoining them.
But things had been relatively quiet of late until the September 9 election results showed that Moscow can no longer win automatically and that protests, either at the ballot box or in the streets can win out, according to the specialist on ethnic conflicts at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (mbk.sobchakprotivvseh.ru/sences/federalnyj-centr/).
The new outburst within republics as in Kabardino-Balkaria and between them as with Ingushetia and Chechnya are thus “a symptom of the weariness of the federal authorities,” Pain continues; and more such conflicts are thus likely especially if leaders take decisions on this issue without consulting with the population, as Yunus-Bek Yevkurov did in Ingushetia.
Indeed, the prominent ethno-sociologist says, “it is possible that a time of protests and an era of populism is beginning” as people below react to what they say as the inattention or lack of concern by Moscow given that the center isn’t moving quickly to use force against those who come out against it.
And consequently, the situation has fundamentally changed from what it was before September 9. “A couple of months ago, siloviki in Ingushetia would not have prayed together with protesters. They would have launched a counter-terrorist action, surrounded the territory, and charged the ringleaders as terrorists.”
The border between Chechnya and Ingushetia is especially fraught, Pain says. It emerged when the two republics broke apart in 1991 at a time when neither Dzhokhar Dudayev of Chechnya nor the Ingush authorities were not focused on questions of delimitation but on other issues entirely, the ethno-sociologist says.
But that division did not solve the problem of the dividing line between two closely-related peoples but simply postponed that. Now it has broken out with real force, and it is far from the only one in the region where the potential for protests and violence currently exists, Pain says.
“Today, the problem of disputed territories is manifesting itself in many regions, not only between republics as in the case of Chechnya and Ingushetia, Ossetia and Ingushetia, and Daghestan and Chechnya, but within them as recently took place on in Kabardino-Balkaria, the ethno-sociologist says.
If others draw the conclusions that the peoples of Ingushetia and the KBR have from the September 9 election results, then even more are likely to break out.