Monday, January 14, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Daghestan’s ‘Deterioration’ Means Moscow Must Intervene Forcefully and Soon, Kremlin Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 14 – Kamil Landa, a professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of Economics and State Service, says that the situation in Daghestan is deteriorating so rapidly that he believes Moscow must and will intervene forcefully and soon there just as it did in Chechnya in 1999.

            Landa’s observations, which almost certainly reflect the thinking of some circles in the Kremlin, came in an interview published today jointly by the Kavkazskaya Politika and Chernovik internet portals in the North Caucasus ( and

            A longtime specialist on nationality issues and federal relations, Landa said that he believes it is absolutely essential to “investigate and identify the reasons why with each year the situation in [Daghestan] has deteriorated” and to that end he has conducted a poll of 160, mostly university educated, Daghestanis in Moscow and in Daghestan itself.

            He said that only 3.5 percent of his sample thought Moscow’s assistance to Daghestan was reaching the people it was ostensibly for, while 75 percent said that the funds were being diverted into the pockets of officials and the well-connected. Given that many of the 160 were members of that category and “know things from the inside,” that is damning, Landa said.

            What is especially worrisome, the Kremlin-based scholar continued, is that Daghestan historically was a region of high productivity, so high that one of its Communist Party secretaries once asked Moscow to make it a union republic because it contributed more to Moscow than “Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Estonia” in Soviet times.

Corruption is eating away at the institutions of the republic, he continued, and people are ever more accustomed to equating the authorities and corruption rather than seeing them as should be the case as antagonists.  Landa said he agreed wth Ibragim Yaganov of Kabardino-Balkaria that now “Moscow is feeding not the Caucasus but its own bureaucrats in the Caucasus.” That, he said, needs to change.

Daghestani bureaucrats, he continued, are “enmeshed in a clientalist-corrupt system” that guarentees them “a piece of ‘the pie’” because they have “protected their rear in advance by working with officials in Moscow offices.”  That has led to the greatest level of alienation of the population from the authorities of any federal subject in Russia.

            Although there has always been corruption, “the degradation in the social, economic and political life of Daghestan is growing with each year, and there is the prospect that at some point it will lose its political independence and be dismembered into petty national-territorial formations which will be divided among the classical conquerors of the Caucasus.”

            “Remember the eample of Chechnya,” Landa continued. “In the ‘pre-Ramzan’ period, one group of top bureaucrats in Moscow supported Zavgayev, another Dudayev, and yet another, Khadzhiyev or Gantemrov … But in Chechnya this anti-constitutional clan system came to an end in the first term of the presidency of Vladimir Putin.”

            Moscow should put a similar end to what is taking place in Daghestan now, and Landa said that he “places enormous hope on the present leadership of Russia” to do what is necessary once again. The time for that is now: 75 percent of his sample say that under the new leadership in Makhachkala the situation will only get worse.

            Indeed, the evidence suggests that in Daghestan there has emerged a kind of “Italian syndrome” in which the bureaucrats and police behave in ways that lead to the rise of mafia structures.” As Landa points out, “over the last 15 to 20 years, not a single major political murder has been solved.” And 61 percent of his sample say they are convinced that the authorities in most cases wanted these people out of the way.

            Asked if Daghestan is now in a civil war, Landa says that he agrees that “there are clearly expressed elements of a civil war” in the republic. There is not a single village or population point where people cannot be killed with impunity or made to disappear. Some of this may be ideological, but two thirds of his sample say it is mostly a reflection of criminal calculations.
            And both they and he agree that the nature of conflict in Daghestan over the last several years has been “transformed from an inter-national to a ‘local’ one” because “there are within Russia forces that are interested in preserving in Daghestan a situation of ‘stable instability’” because they can profit from it.

But this “party of war” is not prepared to do what is necessary to end the conflict because it really does not see how it benefits from that.  The task of those who care about the future of Daghestan and of the Russian Federation is to convince the authorities that they need  to take the kind of action that will invalidate such calculations.

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