Staunton, October 10 – In yet another indication that what some are already calling “a Third Chechen War” is about to begin (www.ng.ru/regions/2012-10-10/3_kartblansh.html), Moscow appears about to complete the expulsion of ethnic Laks from a Daghestani region into which they had moved following deportation of the Chechens who had been living there in 1944.
In a letter to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Accounting Chamber head Sergey Stepashin called for Moscow to allocate an additional 6.6 billion rubles (200 million US dollars) to complete the resettlement of the Laks lest their presence spark new inter-ethnic conflicts in the region, according to an article in today’s “Izvestiya” (izvestia.ru/news/537293).
The Republic of Daghestan has had a program to resettle the Laks from this region since the mid-1990s, and Stepashin is only urging that Moscow provide more funds to complete the effort. But the reluctance of the Laks to leave, past clashes between them and the Chechens, and the echoes such population shifts have with past deportations make this an extremely sensitive issue.
Stepashin told Medvedev that Moscow should fund the resettlement program through its South of Russia effort. He said the money was needed to build 788 new homes of a total area of 49,800 square meters and to construct infrastructure for the currently unpopulated area to which the Laks are to be moved.
Daghestani officials agree with Stepashin, “Izvestiya” reported. They had hoped to resettle all of the 170,000 Laks in an area near Makhachkala much earlier. But because they have lacked the money to do so, they have kept delaying the planned date of completion. And because there are ever more Laks, the price tag for moving them continues to rise.
Gasan Akayev, the head of the Daghestani government agency for resettlement and the rehabilitatioin of repressed people, said the program and its delays have generated resentment. “People are dissatisfied. How long should they continue to sit on their suitcases?” And that sparks tensions between the two peoples.
The republic nationalities ministry has tried to maintain “inter-ethnic peace” in the Novolak district, “Izvestiya” reports. “But it hasn’t always been able to do so.” Last spring, republic law enforcement offiers “were able to prevent a mass fight of Laks and Chechens,” but only just because “Chechens arrived from neighboring regions of Daghestan for the fight.The expert community agrees, the Moscow paper continued Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center said that if the situation deteriorates on the Chechen-Ingush border, that could hit the Novolak district “a a ricochet.” So far things are “under control,” but that may not last as there are Laks on one side of the street and Chechens on the other.
But Sergey Markedonov, a Russian ethnic affairs specialist now at CSIS in Washington, said that even though there are problems in that Daghestani region, no one should rush in to change things. Because there are multiple conflicts: “between Chechens and Laks, Chechens and Avars, and Laks and Kumyks.” Taking any radical step could quickly lead to a loss of control.
As “Ivzestiya” notes, the Novolak district “was formed on the basis of the Aukhov district in 1944 after the deportation of the Chechens and Ingushes to Cenntral Asia.” A decade later, members of these two groups returned but found that Laks had settled in what had been Chechen areas.
“Over the last 20 years,” the paper continues, “the number of Chechens in the Novolak region has constantly increased, but that of the Laks to the contrary has fallen. As a result, a deision was taken to reestablish the Aukhov region and resettle the Laks near Makhachkala.” But obviously, the Laks aren’t eager to go unless they are given housing and jobs in a new place
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