Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Eastern Stavropol Now a Seedbed of Terrorism, Recent Trials Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – The ways in which the collapse of the social-economic system, the inactivity and unresponsiveness of officials, and massive corruption have combined to make the eastern portion of Russia’s Stavropol Kray into a seedbed of terrorism have been documented in the course of a series of trials there.

            In an article posted on the “Kavkazskaya politika” site yesterday, Anton Chablin argues that it is these factors more than anything else that are contributing to the emergence of terrorists and terrorist activities in what was once one of the Russian Federation’s most stable and profitable regions (kavpolit.com/vzryv-s-vostoka/).

            Moreover, the journalist says, people in the Neftekumsk district understand that even if government officials do not. They have told him repeatedly that their region is “a territory of the deepest social depression,” one with little or no economic development and little or no government attention to their needs.

            Half of the enterprises registered there are farms and most of them are small and unprofitable, and the larger enterprises that do exist, in their search for cheap labor, are turning ever more often to outsiders “from the neighboring republics of the Eastern Caucasus” to ensure corporate profits regardless of the consequences.

            The largest enterprise in the district, Chablin points out, is Rosneft, but it has been cutting production as a result of the exhaustion of oil reserves, and cutting its local workforce as a result. More reserves exist, but they will require expensive new technologies, something that will require outside investment. But that won’t come because of the emergence of terrorism there.

             The reasons for that, the journalist says, have all come out at a series of trials over the last month which have led to long prison terms for the terrorists who were convicted but which had the same time have shown a bright light on the ways in which Islamist groups from Daghestan, at the other end of the North Caucasus, have exploited the situation in Stavropol.

            Chablin describes each of these trials and what they show in detail, underlining both the ideological influences of Daghestanis, the most Islamic of the North Caucasus republics, on Stavropol and the ways in which people from there have been able to fish in the troubled waters of that kray and especially among the other North Caucasians there.

            The specifics of these cases show that the terrorists are as yet not especially sophisticated – most of their schemes fail less because of official opposition than because of their own lack of skills – but that their number is increasing, not decreasing, in the face of crackdowns carried out by Russia’s special services.

            The fact that open court cases show all that may be one of the reasons that the special services appear to prefer to kill terrorists rather than bring them to justice, but unless Russian officials act to address the problems these trials highlight, the problems they and the residents of this region face will only increase.

            On the one hand, in the absence of official action to address both the terrorist threat and the underlying social-economic problems, there will be more clashes between the indigenous ethnic Russians and the arrivals from the North Caucasus and more militant actions by the latter in the coming months.

            And on the other, if officials do not attend to these problems, there will be even more Russian flight from the area, a development that will reduce still further Moscow’s hold on Stavropol and force enterprises there to import more North Caucasian workers, a process that threatens to become a vicious circle for the authorities.

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