Staunton, November 1 – Daghestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov has issued a decree calling on officials in the cities there to set up druzhinniki units to aid law enforcement. But if any of them do so, that step almost certainly will exacerbate ethnic tensions and further destabilize Russia’s most multi-ethnic republic.
Magomedov’s plan, which has attracted more attention this week since he talked about it at a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev, almost certainly was based on the appearance of such groups in neighboring Chechnya under Ramzan Kadyrov (u-f.ru/News/magomedov-magomedsalam-magomedalievich/647351).
In Chechnya, these units, which have proved themselves in practice subordinate to no one, have helped build Kadyrov’s authoritarian and arbitrary regime in a republic which is ethnically homogenous. But in Daghestan, where no nationality forms a majority and where there are more than 30 different indigenous nations, the situation is very different.
The creation of such druzhinniki almost certainly would follow ethnic lines and that in turn would give each mayor or district head his own “legal armed force,” something he would be far more likely to use to promote himself and his specific ethnic group than to ensure that Daghestani laws, let alone Russian ones were enforced.
In reporting this idea, the F.ru news portal asked rhetorically, “just how great is the probability that the ‘local druzhinniki’ of Daghestan will go along that path of development? Will it not turn out that the [already] unsettled republic will hand over plenipotentiary power into the hands of legalized armed formations?”
And those questions lead to another, not asked by F.ru: will the existence of such “legalized” force structures merge with rather than oppose the growing number of anti-regime militants not just in the rural areas of Daghestan but increasingly in the urban areas of that republic as well?